6 Ways to Stay in Touch with Email Subscribers When You Can’t Sell

Use these subscriber engagement tips keep customers supported and engaged.

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Use these subscriber engagement tips keep customers supported and engaged.

Whether your own company is shut down for now, operating on low speed or beginning to contemplate a cautious return to ‘normal,’ email marketers face a lot of unknowns these days. We’re all hopeful for a quick recovery; but when that will happen, and what it looks like, remains uncertain.

Even with all the ambiguity about the future ahead, we know one thing for sure: Your customers want to hear from you! 

Twilio survey finds consumers are eager to get brand emails that explain what’s changing, what to expect and how the company is faring:

  • 67% of respondents, all U.S. residents, prefer email over other channels (social media, at 45%, is second in line) for communications.
  • Less than 8% say they don’t want to get any commercial emails.

Your marketing plan likely has changed considerably since January. Traditional promotions-heavy campaigns are less viable now, whether due to logistical reasons (stores and locations are closed, supply chains are disrupted) or more due to the sensitivity of the situation (it just doesn’t feel right to Sell Sell Sell!’ right now).

But don’t scrap all your ideas yet. Instead, retool your campaigns with content to keep your customers in the loop on your operations. Show them how much you value them, and remind them about the support you have to offer.

This use of email is becoming extra-important now that some states are beginning to allow certain businesses and public spaces to reopen. You must be able to respond fast to changing situations.

6 ways to stay connected with email  

The Twilio study found customers want to know how your company is taking care of them, your staff and your community. They’re looking for information, for reassurance and even for help and distraction. This six suggestions can help you stay connected until you can open your doors again

1. Keep customers up to date on what’s happening with your company

If you operate physical locations like stores, restaurants, entertainment and fitness centers and other public spaces, keep customers in the loop about openings, hours, special conditions and anything else customers need to know. Customers want to know this crucial information:

  • Which locations are open and where their nearest open location will be (include the street address and a live map, especially if you are not opening all locations immediately)
  • Options for delivery or curbside pickup for locations remaining closed
  • Opening dates, hours, sanitation practices and safe-shopping requirements for both staff and customers in locations you can reopen
  • Changes in product availability, both near- and long-term
  • Changes in your shopping policies such as returns and exchanges, gift cards and expiring offers and customer-service hours.

If you use dynamic content modules in your email templates, add this content there and update it in real time using moment-of-open technology that refreshes the content each time your customer opens the email.

One last thing: Customers want to know what your company has been doing to support workers and to your local communities. Share what your company has done or what you’re doing now, and be specific about what you’re doing and the organizations your company supports. We love this powerful, authentic message from Everlane featuring a program to support Feeding America.

2. Ask people what’s on their minds

What do they miss most about visiting your locations or shopping in your stores? What’s their favorite stay-at-home activity now? What do they look forward to doing first once you’re back in business?

Add a live polling function to your emails to let people vote in the email and then see immediate results. This lets people express what they’re thinking and also gives you a fresh source of customer feedback. Or send subscribers to an interactive quiz to get in on the fun.

3. Use video to create virtual events

Add video content from influencers or company experts for demonstrations and DIY uses of your products. Fogo de Chao, which is selling home meal kits based on its menu, includes a video of one of its chefs demonstrating how to prepare one of the items on its special menu. It’s a smart move because it will help customers get more satisfaction from preparing the meals.

Or, shoot video footage of daily life while your business doors are closed and cut them into four or five videos. Show what your employees are up to behind the scenes, or what you’re doing to keep everyone safe and healthy. Embed one in each of your next email campaigns. At the end, use a poll to let customers vote for their favorite video. 

Important: Use a video service that operates on moment-of-open technology to determine whether to play the video in the email or serve a screenshot with a link to view it online based on the reader’s browser. 

4. Send personalized content based on loyalty programs and engagement

Recap their past year of activity with your brand with a personalized chart showing visits to your physical locations, purchases, total spent, membership tier in your loyalty program, how close they are to the next tier and the benefits they’ll gain.

Then, send an offer that’s personalized to their engagement levels for something they could buy now and use later, along with a default offer for members for whom you have no purchase or loyalty data.

5. Freshen up emails with social media feeds

Social media is a great way to keep your audience informed with your brand’s latest official updates and up-to-the-minute policy changes It’s also a phenomenal source of fresh content. 

Keep your emails updated with the latest news, as well as new material from your social media team or user-generated content, with a live feed embedded in your campaigns. We love how Drizly uses social content here to build a sense of community and “in-this-togetherness” for customers adapting to the work from home lifestyle:

You can extend that capability to the auditory senses, too. Design a music playlist for your brand (or ask your customers for requests!) and embed it right in your emails so your subscribers can see what tracks you’re recommending.

6. Start the clock ticking

Got a firm reopening date? Or maybe another big event planned; like a huge sale at your ecommerce store, a digital concert, even a cooking class? Send an add-to-calendar invitation that people can use to add your event to their digital calendars.

As you get closer, add a countdown timer to your regular emails showing the time remaining until your doors open again. If appropriate and safe to do so, add a live map showing the nearest open location based on where your subscribers are when they open your emails. This will be essential if you are doing a rolling open, or if you have last-minute changes.

Pivoting is the ‘next normal’

Keep track of all the responses to your new initiatives, from open and click rates to unsubscribes and spam complaints. We’re all learning about what works and what doesn’t. 

Everything you do now to understand and connect with your customers can improve your email marketing down the road when you’re ready to start promoting again. Who knows – your email program could end up stronger than ever!

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Michelena Howl is VP Client Success and Services for Liveclicker, providing email marketers real-time data driven solutions for their digital marketing needs. Michelena is a leader in the ecommerce project management landscape, with a diverse background ranging from producing celebrity entertainment at E! to Yale University classrooms, e-commerce analytics, site optimization and creative management.

Michelena Howl
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