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March 2020

Adapt your email marketing strategy in a crisis

Email Marketing in a Crisis: How to Adapt Your Strategy

By Uncategorized

As an email marketer, your role is to create relevant and interesting email content for subscribers. This usually involves vast amounts of advance planning. However, when it comes to email marketing in a crisis, you're forced to forget the content marketing calendar and instead, need to think on your feet.

The ongoing Coronavirus crisis has left many firms now drastically rethinking their content marketing strategy. Here is our best advice on how you can effectively adapt your email marketing strategy during the ongoing coronavirus crisis and avoid alienating your customers...

In times of crisis, it's often necessary to ditch the content calendar and start adapting your email marketing strategy.

Adapting email marketing campaigns in a crisis

When crisis strikes, your business needs to be ready to react in a calm and collected manner. Here's how you can get started with adapting your email marketing strategy.

Identify campaigns which are no longer appropriate

As many businesses plan their promotional content and email campaigns weeks (if not months) in advance, it's impossible to know what is coming in the future.

In the event of a crisis, it's important for your marketing team to be flexible and be able to rethink their entire content marketing plan.

Look over the upcoming promotions you have scheduled and determine which are still appropriate. Here are some key things to look out for:

  • Messaging - Does the message fit the current mood amongst your target audience?
  • Context - Does the context of the campaign still apply during the crisis?
  • Availability - Is the product or service being promoted still available in the crisis?
  • Achievability - Is the main goal of the campaign still achievable?

The campaign is not appropriate at this time:

If you've decided not to go ahead with a campaign, you have two options:

  1. Postpone or
  2. Axe the campaign

Generally speaking, you should only need to axe a campaign if it is time-sensitive or based on a particular seasonal event; meaning it would not make sense at another point in time. Otherwise, you should be able to postpone it for a future date and run the campaign once the crisis is over.

The campaign can go ahead:

If you have decided a promotion can still go ahead, you may still need to adapt the email campaign to take the current crisis situation into account. In particular, you should think about adjusting your messaging to reflect what is happening.

Try and integrate themes like solidarity, sticking together and community in to your email copy, so that your readers know you care and that they are not alone. This Mother's Day campaign by Virgin Experience Days is a good example of how to adapt a planned seasonal campaign to be more respectful of the current situation:

Example email during a crisis by Virgin Experience Days

Adapting the message of a pre-planned email campaign during a crisis is an effective way to show solidarity.

Flowchart: Should my campaign go ahead?

Flowchart for when to adapt email marketing strategy in a crisis

More tips for email marketing in a crisis

As well as adapting existing campaigns, it is also important to be reactive and come up with new content to suit the current circumstances. Here are some ideas of ways your business can produce effective email content during a crisis...

Release a statement

In times of crisis, your words are important. Although you don't want to add to the panic, it's important to also acknowledge the current situation, so that your business doesn't come across as insensitive or tone deaf.

In this instance, carrying on as normal is not the best strategy. In fact, it could lead to you alienating many of your customers as they cannot relate to your content.

Releasing a statement about the crisis is one way to show your customers you are aware of what is happening. It also gives you the opportunity to demonstrate what your business is doing to help. Here are a few examples of effective company statements which have been sent out during the current Coronavirus crisis.


Coronavirus crisis statement from ASOSReebok:

Coronavirus crisis statement from Reebok


Coronavirus crisis update from Superdry

Focus on supporting the community

Businesses such as yours are a big part of the community, whether locally in your town or city, or online amongst your customers. For this reason, you should try where possible to use your email campaigns to show support for your community.

Think of ways - big or small - that your business can help out during the crisis. Then, use email to spread the word to subscribers.

This thank you message by Morrisons is a thoughtful way to show support and reassure customers during difficult times:

Using email marketing to support the community in a crisis

This email was followed up by a second email, showing how the business is helping the community.

Crisis email by Morrisons giving back to the community

Create relevant and useful content

Circumstances change massively during periods of crisis. The current emphasis during the COVID 19 crisis is on minimising contact with others. This makes it difficult for many businesses to find ways to keep their content relevant.

In this email by restaurant chain Giraffe, the focus is changed to home delivery rather than visiting the restaurant. This is just one example of how your business can still continue creating promotional content which is relevant to your target audience.

Email campaign by Giraffe adapted for the COVID 19 crisis

Changing the focus of your email campaign to represent the current situation is an effective and more appropriate response to a crisis.

Similarly, in another example by Rent the Runway, the fashion brand concentrate on promoting clothing for home office - which is a highly relevant topic at present.

Although this may not seem like a super serious topic to cover during a crisis, it does help to provide customers with interesting content that serves a useful purpose.

Home office email by Rent the Runway

No matter what your business specialises in, there's bound to be a way you can provide relevant email content during a crisis.

In this last example sent out recently in response to the Coronavirus crisis, department store Selfridges are using email to promote fun, nostalgic activities to do indoors.

This example shows how, during a crisis, a little bit of creativity goes a long way and helps cast some light on an otherwise dark and depressing situation.

Email campaign sent by Selfridges during the Coronavirus crisis

Be creative and find products to feature which will suit your customers' circumstances during the crisis.

Using Mail Designer 365 to create emails to send in a crisis

Hopefully these tips will prove useful while you are adapting your email marketing strategy for the Coronavirus crisis.

Key takeaways from this article:

  • Reassess all planned content to determine whether it is still appropriate.
  • Adapt the messaging of your existing email campaigns to suit the current climate.
  • Send emails to update your customers and other stakeholders during a crisis.
  • Create new, useful email content which is relevant for your target audience.

If you need to adapt your email strategy for this crisis, why not check out Mail Designer 365? With a range of customisable HTML email templates, including crisis communication emails, you have everything you need to continue your email marketing in a crisis.

Email template to update customers about the coronavirus crisis

Email template to update customers about the coronavirus crisis

Sign up for free today to get started.

Until next time,

Your Mail Designer 365 Team

Get started with the Mail Designer 365 service today for free...

Mail Designer 365 helps you and your team create stylish, professional HTML emails.
Sign up free today to see what you can achieve.
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Business communication tips during a crisis

Business Communication Tips During the Coronavirus Crisis

By Mail Designer 365 Newsletter Academy

Sometimes events can occur that force your usual business schedule to grind to a halt. During these periods, it's critical that you continue to communicate with and reassure your customers. Here's how to use email to keep your customers informed of your business's activity during the coronavirus crisis.

Coronavirus crisis email template for businesses

Now is the time to send an email to customers to keep them informed during the corona virus crisis.

Business Communication During the Coronavirus Crisis

While your business can't be prepared for everything, it's good to have a contingency plan in place for when crisis hits. Here are 5 effective measures your business can take to keep things going during the coronavirus crisis, plus two email templates you can use to keep your customers informed.

1. Update your opening hours

If, like many businesses around the world, you have had to make drastic changes to your opening hours due to the coronavirus, this should be the first thing you communicate.

Update your opening hours on your website and any other locations on the internet where they may be listed, such as:

  • Twitter,
  • Google my Business,
  • Facebook

This small act will prevent confusion and keep both new and existing customers up to date during the crisis.

2. Increase your support capacity

In times of crisis, your customers will no doubt have increased questions and concerns. Naturally, this will also see a rise in the number of support emails and calls you receive.

Be proactive and make sure you have enough support staff available to deal with the increased demand. Team members working from home can also get involved if you need extra help.

To take the pressure off, you could also consider creating an automated email template to reassure customers that you will be getting back to them as soon as possible.

3. Put together a list of FAQs

Think about which of your business activities (e.g. delivery times, services, opening hours, stock availability) will be affected by the coronavirus and briefly summarize the answers on a dedicated FAQ page on your website.

This will help your customers find the information they require faster, while also reducing the strain on your support team.

Tip: Provide a temporary link to this page on the support area of your website to help answer common support queries before your inbox and phone lines become overloaded.

4. Promote your online store

If you've had to close your physical store due to the coronavirus crisis, you may be worrying about your sales and how this will negatively impact your sales.

Use the crisis as a way to promote your online store to customers. In the same way that you are concerned about not making sales, customers will be frustrated they can't visit your store.

Direct customers to your website and let them know they can carry out all of their purchases there.

Tip: If you are expecting a large influx of traffic to your online store or a lot of deliveries to organize, be sure that your systems are prepared for this.

5. Reach out to your customers via email

Once the necessary adjustments have been made and you have a plan of action, communicate this to your customers as soon as possible. The easiest and most direct way to keep customers updated is via email. 

Quick tips for your email communication for the coronavirus crisis:

  • Use the appropriate tone. This is a worrying time for many. Stay calm and make sure you aren't adding to the panic, but at the same time, remember to keep the tone serious and sincere.
  • Get straight to the point. Too much text will confuse and overwhelm your customers and you want the information to be as clear as possible.
  • Keep images to a minimum. The aim of this email is to inform. Forget your usual email marketing techniques and only use images which are absolutely necessary (e.g. explanatory screenshots.)
  • Include key links and information. This email needs to be the source of all important information. Include links to your FAQs and store, as well as your new opening hours and contact details.

How to create a crisis communication email for your business

We've created two new crisis communication email templates suitable for keeping your customers up to date during the corona virus crisis:

Email template to update customers about the coronavirus crisis

Email template to update customers about the coronavirus crisis

These templates are ready and available to edit now in Mail Designer 365. Simply update the messaging to fit your business and send to your entire mailing list to keep them informed.

We hope you have found these tips helpful. Remember to keep calm and work proactively. The crisis won't last forever and your customers will appreciate you keeping them informed. If you want to use one of the above templates, sign up to Mail Designer 365 free to get started today.

Until next time,

Your Mail Designer 365 Team

Get started with the Mail Designer 365 service today for free...

Mail Designer 365 helps you and your team create stylish, professional HTML emails.
Sign up free today to see what you can achieve.
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Keeping on top of your email list maintenance

Why You Need to Keep On Top of Your Email List Maintenance

By Mail Designer 365 Newsletter Academy, Mail Designer 365 Newsletter Academy

We talk a lot about the importance of building up your email list and improving email lead generation. Having a never-ending list of email subscribers surely means the world is your oyster when you want to start contacting potential customers, right? Well... Wrong.

When it comes to your email list, size doesn’t matter - yes, really. As the old saying goes, it really is quality over quantity. 

Naturally, you can apply this logic to many things in life, but your email marketing strategy is a good place to start. 

Maintaining your email lists is a crucial part of your email marketing success.

Achieving your email marketing goals

As an email marketer, your main goal is to create relevant and interesting email content and to drive the recipient to complete a certain action. This may be a sales-based call-to-action, or, it could be something completely different. Whatever it is, you want to turn as many opened emails as you can into conversions to make all that hard work pay off. 

Seems pretty straightforward? That’s because it is - if you have a solid strategy in place. 

One big part of your email campaign strategy is analysis. Speaking from personal experience, when analysing campaigns post-send, we are looking for three crucial metrics:

  • Target audience - Everyone who received the email.
  • Open rates - Everyone who opened the email.
  • Click rates - Everyone who engaged with the email.

Once we have these metrics, we can determine how successful the campaign was in terms of helping us reach our goal.

Let’s say you’ve got a target audience of 50,000 contacts. Pretty impressive, right? That’s a potential 50,000 people you can convince to buy your new fragrance, sign up to your dating service, book a holiday, etc. 

If only it were that simple.

In reality, it’s a common misconception that this starting number should be as large as possible. In fact, the sheer size of the number tells you nothing at all. What is important are the kinds of leads that make up your email list and contribute to the end number. 

Why do we need email list maintenance?

Forming a high quality target audience

When an email lead first signs up to your list, they’re actively showing an interest in your business, making them prime candidates for receiving your emails. Of course, the aim is that all your subscribers will stay engaged thanks to high quality content, but in reality, a number of factors cause them to become inactive and disengage. 

The scenario...

You’ve created an awesome email design, followed all the best practices (subject line, kickass graphics, bold CTA, etc.) and sent it to your target audience of 50,000 contacts. You’re now hoping to at least match average open rates of around 20%.

There’s two ways this could go:  

  1. Your list is up to date and made up of active, engaged subscribers in the correct target group. Your content is interesting and you see open rates of 20%+, and click-throughs of 2.5%+.  You will deem the campaign a success.
  2. Your list is out of date and made up of inactive, lapsed subscribers in the wrong target group. Your content is no longer relevant, or is landing in spam. You see disappointing open rates below 15% and few to no clicks at all. You will deem the campaign a failure.

Having a strategy in place for list maintenance helps you ensure that your email list is only made up of contacts who are 

  1. well-suited to your content, and
  2. ...still engaging with your business. 

Carrying out more accurate post-campaign analysis

Not only will better list maintenance help you improve the quality of your audience drastically, it also stops your post-campaign analysis from becoming distorted. As shown above, if a huge chunk of your target group is out of date, your campaign will appear to perform a lot worse than it actually did. However, weeding out inactive & lapsed subscribers may mean you see a totally different set of results.

Let’s take the example of 50,000 contacts again. Assuming this is an out of date list, it’s safe to assume that a fair percentage of these contacts will be dead leads. This means they will not be engaging with your email. Removing these dead leads from your list will potentially leave you with much better open rates in future. 


You’ve gone through your list to remove dead leads, inactive subscribers, incorrect email addresses, etc., you now have a total of 35,000 contacts. It might seem like a drastic cut, but assuming you were to send out the same campaign again and have the same results, your open rates will look so much better and will be a more accurate representation of your campaign’s success.  

The maths:

Out of date list: 50,000 contacts, 7,000 opened, open rate = 14% (below average) 

Up-to-date list: 35,000 contacts, 7,000 opened, open rate = 20% (on target)

After tidying up your email list, you now see that your campaign did in fact hit the open rate target you were aiming for. 

The main point to take away from this is simple: Having a smaller list made up of quality leads who engage with your emails is far more beneficial than having a large list of inactive contacts who will not engage with your emails. 

Preventing bounces

The more out of date your email list is, the higher the risk is that bounces will occur after you’ve sent out a campaign.

An email typically bounces if the recipient’s email address is no longer valid, or if it was recorded incorrectly. In addition, emails can bounce if the recipient’s inbox is full. This generally indicates that an account is old and not being used by the owner.

Email deliverability is important, as a high bounce rate is never perceived well by ESPs. In fact, many email service providers have strict guidelines when it comes to bounce rates and if you don’t adhere to their standards, you could risk receiving a sending ban. After all, it’s not just your reputation on the line, it’s theirs as well.

Amazon Web Services deem a bounce rate under 5% as healthy and over 10% as a significant risk.

Unsubscribe prompts: Friend or foe? 

Tighter GDPR regulations, the Promotions tab in Gmail, and increasing unsubscribe prompts are just a few examples of how life appears to have been made much harder for email marketers in recent years.

Unsubscribe prompts pick up on a user’s lack of interaction with a certain sender and act as a service to the user to prompt them to unsubscribe from your list. Sounds like a nightmare? Ultimately, Gmail and co. are probably doing you a favor! 

Unsubscribe prompt from Gmail for better list maintenance G

Unsubscribe prompts like this one from Gmail may not be so bad after all.

As disappointing as it is to see customers unsubscribing from your list, it is a better alternative than having 100s of inactive subscribers skewing your open rates and click-through stats. The prompt will hopefully have one of two effects:

  1. The subscriber sees the prompt and realises they’re no longer interested in your content and chooses to unsubscribe.
  2. The subscriber sees the prompt and is reminded they are still interested in your content and will start to look out for your emails.

Both of these scenarios are favorable to your business and will help you with the maintenance of your email list.

Email list maintenance: How to start cleaning up

You’ve got this far, which means we must have convinced you to start taking better care of your email list... Glad to hear it! ? You may now be wondering where to get started. 

Filtering based on bounce rate

We’ve already talked about bounce rates, but they’re certainly a good place to start. Luckily, regular bounces can be dealt with pretty easily. 

Most ESPs are able to distinguish between a soft bounce and a hard bounce. Hard bounces occur when an email is not delivered due to reasons which cannot be rectified (e.g. incorrect email address.) If you are noticing a high amount of hard bounces, it’s wise to filter out these contacts and completely stop sending them emails. 

Soft bounces, on the other hand, aren’t as defining. A soft bounce usually has a more temporary cause (i.e. the recipient’s email server is down.) Best practice here is to only remove contacts from your list when you notice they are still experiencing soft bounces after a set period of time. 

Filtering based on subscriber activity

As well as looking out for high bounce rates, you should also be thinking about customers who are receiving your emails on a regular basis but still choosing not to open them. 

Many email service providers offer options to help you filter out your least active subscribers into their own segment. This is a useful way of removing potential dead leads from your main email lists without completely deleting their contact information from your records. You can then use this segment to try and get to the bottom of why subscribers aren’t engaging. 

Alternative Solution: Reengagement campaign 

Before you completely remove inactive contacts from your list, it’s definitely worth giving it one more shot to try and get them back on board. One of the most effective ways of doing this is by launching a reengagement campaign to try and win back your lapsed subscribers’ attention.

A reengagement campaign will specifically target those email subscribers who either haven’t opened your emails in a long time, or haven’t interacted with them. Think of a concept which you consider effective enough to convince these subscribers to open your email and carry out the desired call-to-action. 

Here are three useful tips for a successful reengagement campaign:

  • Work hard on your subject line: Your subject line needs to be interesting enough that it creates a sense of intrigue that makes even the hardest to convince subscribers curious enough to open.
  • Offer lapsed subscribers an incentive: Win back subscribers and show them what they mean to you by offering them a special offer, discount, or other exclusive benefit they won’t be able to resist.
  • Use personalisation: Consider using first name placeholders to make your email speak directly to the recipient and increase your chances of seeing a positive result.

You can use the Mail Designer 365 app to build an effective email template to use for your reengagement campaign. Once you are done, export the email design to your ESP and set up to send to your inactive subscribers. You can find a list of all our ESP export guides here.

Key takeaways

Removing contacts from your email list is never something to be done lightly; however, it is sometimes the harsh reality of email marketing. Here are the most important things for you to remember when you are dealing with your email list.

  • When it comes to your email list, a large number of subscribers is not an indication of high quality email leads.
  • Email providers’ unsubscribe prompts are usually working in your favor if they encourage inactive, disengaged subscribers to remove themself from your list.
  • Removing invaluable, dead leads from your email list will positively affect your open rates and prevent your post-campaign analysis from becoming distorted.
  • Use your ESP’s tools to analyse the results of your campaign in detail. As well as open rates and click-throughs, you should also be looking out for bounces.
  • Before you completely remove inactive subscribers from your list, consider running a reengagement campaign to try and get them back on board.

We hope you have found this article useful and will consider these tips when cleaning up your email list in future. Want to try reengaging those inactive subscribers? Sign up free to Mail Designer 365 today and start working on your reengagement email campaign!

Until next time,

Your Mail Designer 365 Team

Get started with the Mail Designer 365 service today for free...

Mail Designer 365 helps you and your team create stylish, professional HTML emails.
Sign up free today to see what you can achieve.
Sign up
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