Fear, uncertainty, and doubt are some things many people are feeling right now. We are all trying to figure out this new normal. Working from home, schooling our children, and finding toilet paper. The last thing people want to do is wade through hundreds of emails, which is one thing that did not change during this pandemic. I actually feel like I am receiving more emails than ever.

As a marketer, if your email does not stand out in the inbox or engage your subscribers, you will be lost in the shuffle.

We are in a new era of information overload and people are turning to content that matters, not digital garbage. I implore you to analyze your email campaigns and make sure that each email you send will resonate with your audience and provide meaning and value.

Before COVID-19 hit, email subscribers were already fed up with SPAM and BACN. Between unsolicited email (SPAM) and irrelevant items in their inbox (BACN), they are fighting back. Mostly by unsubscribing and ignoring your emails.

If you include the following four things in your email campaigns, you will have better results, more conversions, and most importantly, an engaged subscriber base!


1. Create Subject Lines That Matter

The email subject line is the first thing that your audience will see. Make is matter. If the subject line does not catch your subscriber’s eye in the inbox, they will not open it, simple enough.

Use action words to make people feel like they are missing out by not opening your email. Action words draw attention and make subscribers pause to read the rest of the subject line.

Example power words would include:

  • Act now
  • Save
  • Last Chance
  • Urgent
  • Download Now
  • Find Out How

Want some inspiration? Check out iContact’s Ultimate Subject Line Guide. It has 501 examples of email subject lines. It includes the good, the bad, and is broken down by message type and industry!

Now, let’s talk about the pre-header. Using a pre-header in your email acts as a powerful extension of your subject line. It is shown in most email clients right after the subject line. The subject line and pre-header should complement each other. It gives you another opportunity to convince your subscribers to open your email. I see too many marketers waste this opportunity by using verbiage like “Cannot see this email? or “Click here to view in a browser” as the pre-header rather than adding more compelling content.


Email Inbox Example


Another way to stand out in the inbox is using emojis. Make sure they are relevant to your subject line and email body content. They should not be used as click bait, as it will cause your subscribers to lose trust in you and ignore future emails.

Also, use personalization in your subject lines and pre-headers. It is a great way to make the email feel like it is a one-to-one conversion and makes the recipient feel special.

When I create emails, I also like to use personalization in the body of the email. Not just in the opening. Try adding something like “Remember, Hank, you should add more personalization to your emails. 🤓”

The best practice is to plan out your subject lines ahead of time and take advantage of using split-testing. By testing two versions of your subject lines to a small group of subscribers, you will be able to find out what subject lines and pre-headers work the best.


2. Be Relevant

Everyone is hunkered down right now and watching how they spend money. The unemployment rate is climbing higher day by day. This means that people are not buying as much as they used to, but you need to be there, ready to close the deal when they are.

Go above and beyond, and think of ways to strengthen relationships with your subscribers and keep them engaged with your emails so that they think of you when they are ready to buy. During a pandemic, the immediate goal of your email campaigns should not be a conversion. Marketing automation will allow you to nurture your audience and also educate and inform them over a period of time.

If you have not yet set up email automation, now is the time to set up your first one! Start with a simple welcome series. As soon as you add someone to a list, send them a welcome email. This email will set expectations moving forward and should include information like how often you will send them emails and what will be included in future emails.

You can then follow up a few days later with another email that includes an emotional appeal and social proof. Include some information about your business, what you do, and maybe even talk about how COVID-19 has affected your business.

Yet another idea for an email a week or two later is to include calls to action that ask subscribers to follow your brand on social media. You can also offer special discounts. Make sure to include links to your support and return policies.

Here’s an example of a simple welcome series:


Email Welcome Series Example


If you currently have automation set up and have not looked at them in a while, go back and look at the content and timing. See if you need to make any changes due to the impact and sentiment around COVID-19. Now is a good time to make some tweaks for better performance.

Email Automation can help you save time, and it also allows you to send a series of emails or trigger emails and actions based on dates, data, and actions.

You can also create other automations for upsells, donations, company and product information, and more. Watch this video for some inspiration:


The Future is Now: How to Use Email Marketing Automation Effectively 

3. Be Entertaining

Getting your subscribers to open is only half the battle.  Will your email content engage your subscribers or cause confusion and frustration? If your email does not get the subscriber’s attention within three seconds of opening, they are moving on to the next email in their inbox or worse, marking your message as spam!

Emails should be visually appealing and easy to read. Include images, video, and animated GIFs along with text to attract and retain attention.

There is nothing worse than an email that is crowded with products and content. Keep it looking clean and simple by using a lot of white or negative space.

Here are two examples:


Apple and Storied Email Examples


The Apple email on the left makes great use of white space, while the email on the right from Storied uses negative space.

In addition to visually appealing emails, your emails should also hook the reader in and get them wanting to read more.

People love a good story and they should be used in your emails to build trust with your audience. Make your stories relevant and allow the audience to feel like they can relate.

As a speaker myself, I often share stories on stage. It helps me build a bond with my audience and it can also work in your emails if they are executed well.

Here are just a few tips for using stories in your emails:

  • You should not be the focus of the story.
  • “Hero” and “villain” stories are powerful.
  • Stories should be memorable and transferable.
  • Solve a problem in your story.
  • Create aha moments.
  • Solve a need and create a want.


4. Deals and More Deals!

As I mentioned earlier, people are budget conscious right now, and many are unemployed. I know that I am watching what I spend, and when I need to buy something, I am comparing prices for almost everything I buy.

I used to simply go to Amazon for my retail needs because it was convenient, even though it’s not always the cheapest. Sometimes convenience trumps cost savings. But in today’s pandemic world, it is often worth spending more time researching and comparing prices if it means you’ll save a few dollars.

Are your subscribers doing the same? Probably.

Make sure to offer good deals and discounts. If you cannot do that, you need to provide a compelling reason for subscribers to buy from you. Is it the support you offer or your relaxed return policy?

By offering a “COVID Concession,” even if temporary, you can win the hearts, minds, and wallets of your subscribers. Maybe you can make up the cost of the discount by selling more products or services.

Just be aware that your subscribers are looking to save money and feel good about their purchase. You just need to give them a reason to pull the trigger.


Upgrade Your Email Marketing

There you have it – four things that can stimulate your email campaigns during a pandemic. Here is a virtual pat on the back if you are already using these strategies. If you are not, let’s get to it!

Ready to upgrade your email marketing? You’re going to need the right tools. Create, send, or track your next email campaign with iContact.


Hank Hoffmeier Headshot


Hank Hoffmeier is an author, speaker, podcast host, and Sr. Manager of Client Solutions at iContact, a j2 Global company (Efax, PCMag, Mashable, IGN, Ziff Davis, Campaigner, and more). With a passion for all things digital and social, combined with more than 20 years of experience in sales and marketing, he had been dubbed the Digital Marketing Infotainer because he makes marketing fun and successful.