Across the world, the coronavirus pandemic has altered the way many businesses are operating. For the past couple months, we've witnessed many unexpected alterations to our lifestyles, as well as changes in our perception of what is vital.

As we slowly do our best to adjust to the "new normal," some states are flattening their curve and, as a result, loosening lockdown measures. Slowly, we are returning to work and a semblance of normalcy. For now.

And with some version of reopening on the horizon, marketers are having to rethink their marketing efforts, especially email marketing—since so many have been relying on digital communication more than ever.

Start With 'What Kind of Message Am I Sending?'

Even as shutdown measures begin to ease, it's important to remember that these are still times of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety for many. Some of your customers' businesses and livelihoods have been negatively affected by the coronavirus or are still at high risk of being affected.

At the beginning of this crisis, communicating with empathy was an essential step nearly every company made, and our inboxes were quickly filled with generic emails wishing us (and our loved ones) well.

And, while it remains critical to convey empathy through your emails as we enter the next stages of reopening, it is also vital not to overdo it.

We are all still anxious, and perhaps even a little scared, to learn what this "new normal" is going to be. Unfortunately, we don't have a crystal ball to tell us how the world is going to be different in the coming months and years; however, a positive tone that also exudes strength and perseverance is what we all need. So, be positive and strong.

In addition to conveying empathy, you should also lay out the upcoming steps your company will take as you reopen or bring staff members back onsite. These are the questions you need to consider before hitting the send button:

  • Is your subject line carefully worded with a determined and empathetic tone?
  • Does your message differ from those that your competitors are sending?
  • Does it clearly define the actions your company is taking?
  • Are you either underestimating the present situation or jumping too quickly back to the "old" normal?

There's also an opportunity to capitalize on the amount of time people are spending reading their emails right now. During the past few months, emails have become far more interesting (and important) than they were before. B2B customers spent an average of 118 minutes reading emails in February, but that number rose in April to 241 minutes.

How to Create a Subject Line

Even though emails containing information about COVID-19 in their subject line are being opened more often than those that do not, you should be mindful of how you are phrasing your content. Remember: positive and strong.

Your subject line should reflect the situation appropriately and address it directly. The success of your email strategy rests on how effective your subject line is.

To capture the customer's attention when communicating your message, it is not enough to have a catchy subject line that simply includes "COVID-19" or "Coronavirus." Your subject line should entice the recipient to open and promise to deliver something of value, such as solve a problem your customer has.

In fact, using semi-urgent phrases like "Don't miss out," "Time's running out," and "Limited supply" prompts people to open emails more than the words that convey immediate urgency, such as "hurry," "critical," "alert," or "rush." Such subtle urgency increased B2B email open rates 28%, on average.

We want people to be interested in the email and read it, but, perhaps more important, we want them to feel good after they read the email. That positive feeling will stick around, and the next time they see your email in their inbox they'll be more inclined to open that one, as well.

Also, words like "Free," "WFH," and "Jobs/Careers," are resulting in increases of 22-37% in open rates. As noted earlier, these words indicate there is a solution inside the email to a problem the email recipient is having.

They key takeaway? Avoid using vague language by addressing the situation up front. But, it's also important to remain positive. As the situation continues to evolve, keep your eyes on trending topics that are relevant to your customers and focus on these in subsequent communications.

What Should the Email Body Look Like?

If you've crafted your subject line properly, your audience members have opened the email you've sent them. The next step? Crafting an appropriate email body.

Here are four elements to consider as you draft your email.

1. Updates on Your Services and Product

If you have discontinued, altered, updated, or created a new product or service because of the ongoing situation, let your customers know via email, detailing how those changes will affect them. Outline the benefits these changes may have for them, as well as any other details you can share about how the products or services will work moving forward, and ask for their feedback.

2. Causes You're Supporting

Many of us are doing all we can to help support our communities, healthcare providers, and others on the frontlines. If you haven't communicated this already, do it now.

And if you've kept your audience updated on what you are doing to help, it might be a good idea to ask them what features of your service or product would help them deal with the problems they have been experiencing because of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, 26% of B2B clients would like to know how their partners are providing support to their customers right now.

3. Personalization

Sending mass, generic emails won't drive conversions. Your audience wants to know how your product or service is going to affect their lives in the midst of changing conditions. With personalized emails, you can reach out to different segments of your audience based on their profiles (their age group, job title, industry, job role).

4. Direct Intent

As businesses reopen, measures loosen, and things start getting back to normal, you do not need to be shy about selling your products or services. However, keep in mind that your sales message must be adjusted for the situation in which we've found ourselves.

The latest research has shown that B2B businesses have incurred some hard losses during the past two months as the result of the pandemic. Revenue performance consultancy LeadMD conducted a study about what B2B customers want to hear right now and learned that nearly half simply wanted to know how they can get the most out of their current situation.

Your Company's 2020 KPIs Are Still Important

In the midst of all the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, one thing is clear: It is no longer "business as usual." Marketing strategies that were drawn up for 2020, or at least its first two quarters, should be comfortably nestled in the garbage can at this point.

The good news? Every business is in the same metaphorical boat, and every marketing department has had to quickly come up with a new strategy to meet the current situation and customers' current expectations.

As measures are relaxed around the world and, hopefully, the curve continues to flatten, you should not be afraid to introduce the products and services you had planned on releasing before the outbreak of the pandemic.

But, you must show why it is important for the customer, tailor it to their needs, and highlight how your product or service might help them achieve their goals, even as customers craft new goals themselves for the year.

Finally, appropriately convey both empathy and joy, providing a bright spot in your audience's inboxes.

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image of Natasa Djukanovic

Natasa Djukanovic is the CMO of Domain.ME, the company that operates the .ME Internet domain. She is a co-founder of the NGO, a personal-branding expert, and a startup mentor.

Twitter: @natasad

LinkedIn: Natasa Djukanovic