Article

COVID-19: 10 Things You Can Work On Right Now

Alex Williams, Scott Burdsall

As we continue to learn more about COVID-19, email marketers must quickly adjust to the new normal. Current market conditions are demanding marketers shift priorities and make last-minute strategic changes. We must now reflect on our current programs and decide whether or not we should send that COVID-19 email at all.

We are embarking on a time where there are no playbooks, no easy answers, and no crystal balls that can say exactly when and how the COVID-19 crisis will play out. As marketing leaders, we’re obligated to rethink our value proposition and how we engage with customers to ensure our businesses’ long-term stability.

This an opportunity to maximize your productivity and position yourself for future success – accelerating your digital transformation. What processes can you optimize or update to make these campaigns run more smoothly in the future? How does your product evolve for the foreseeable future? Where can you drive growth through testing and innovation? Embrace whatever downtime you may have to help your company and ultimately help those that cherish your brand and values the most – your customers.

Here’s a checklist you can follow to ensure your email program continues to run smoothly, even after this pandemic:

Document your processes, business rules, and overarching email streams.

There is no better time to dig into your current documentation to make sure it is accurate and up to date. What’s working? What hasn’t worked in the past? Your future self (and teammates) will thank you.

Benefits: Reduce Tribal Knowledge

Review your automated & transactional business rules & messaging.

Triggers and automated streams are often left on auto-pilot and can become stale with age, or worse, can silently develop unnoticed issues and errors. Go back and check the emails that have been automatically firing for years. Are those links still live? Has your messaging changed?

Also, remember to keep the current situation in mind. Review your images and copy to ensure you aren’t sending tone-deaf emails to your subscribers. These automated messages should comply with what’s going on in the world at the moment. If you want to go above and beyond, swap out images of people too close to each other to adhere to today’s social distancing etiquette.

Benefits: Decreased Deployment Errors, Updated/Current Content, Social Awareness

Review and update opt-out/opt-down policies/options.

Preference centers don’t tend to see much love once they are functional. Now is an excellent time to revisit preference management, soft opt-outs, and the overall unsubscribe user experience for opportunities to update. (For example, can you let someone snooze for 30-90 days?)

Benefits: Decreased Complaints and Unsubscribes

Do a competitive analysis to see how similar companies are pivoting their strategy.

How is your competition handling this crisis? What are they doing well? What could they be doing better? What could you be doing better knowing what is out in the marketplace?

Benefits: Increased Insights, New Content/Program Opportunities

Audit your content and rank by most useful/least useful in the current climate.

A link-level analysis of existing campaigns can provide useful details on what information you should keep and what you should ditch moving forward. This analysis can help facilitate discussions for new baseline or ad-hoc campaigns that may be more helpful now than they would have been a few months ago. Example: Providing a dedicated send for at-home recipe recommendations, brain games, at-home workout routines for healthy mind and body. Before, this information may have been included within an existing baseline campaign as secondary or tertiary content.

Benefits: Increased Email and Site Insights

Dig into your data.

Develop or refresh an email segmentation strategy based on the data available. Who are your top performers? What percentage of your list is passive? How does your messaging evolve based on the subscriber segment? Create a subject line word regression analysis and subscriber churn analysis. Do a source-specific performance analysis to see who you’re appealing to, and where you could do better. The average churn rate for an email list is anywhere from 30%-50% per year. What are your site terms and search terms doing to help compensate for this continual loss of subscribers?

Benefits: Increased Insights, New Content/Program Opportunities

Plan new programs. No better time to get those ideas out of your head and into production.

“Captive audience” is an understatement. Are there new programs that you can develop in place of existing campaigns? Travel sites have shifted to virtual tours. Hardware stores are providing virtual home improvement planning. Airlines are automatically giving subscribers airline points along with future-trip-planning pointers. Remember, this moment isn’t about the transaction. Make it about connecting with your subscribers instead.

Benefits: Increased Email and Site Engagement, Social Awareness

Review your email templates.

Are all of your templates fully responsive? Are they accessible? Do you have a template management system? Have you fully QA-ed your templates recently? Taking the time to look this over will have a significant impact on your user experience moving forward.

Benefits: Standardization, Efficiency, Decreased Deployment Errors

Plan a testing strategy for 2021.

Create a testing plan for each of your primary programs. Testing plans are often secondary to getting the email out the door, but they shouldn’t be. We’ve found success in using a testing hub to prioritize future tests based on past performance.

Benefits: Increased Insights, New Content/Program Opportunities

Use an Email Program ROI Calculator.

More than ever, it’s crucial to prove the value of your work to your managers. An ROI Calculator can help prioritize multiple internal initiatives. If you’re looking to determine the potential of a new segmentation schema, use your current sending metrics as your initial inputs, then estimate what your segmentation schema initiative will provide in terms of email performance lift and resulting business impact. Quantify the value that the email program provides, and speak in dollars and cents when talking to management.

Benefits: Level of Effort, Cost and Business Impact Prioritization

Conclusion
So now what? At some point, life and business will normalize. However, the process may take some time, and people will be changed. This is indeed an indelible moment for us all, and it should be for your company and its marketing. Let’s take advantage of the time we have now to internalize our customers, clients, and partners and make sure we come out of this with a better perspective and quality of marketing. Taking a look at what you’re doing now and using this time to make meaningful changes and improvements will better serve your customers.

Additional Resources:

Accenture: COVID-19: Navigating the Impact
CMI: 7 Brands Getting Email Right During a Crisis
Only Influencers: Round-up: CoronaVirus and Email Marketing
Trendline: How Should Your Messaging Change in Response to COVID-19?

About the Author(s)

Alex Williams, Scott Burdsall

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