B2B email campaigns are a great way to share company news, useful content, upcoming events and more. Email marketing keeps the line of communication open with current clients and re-engages potential leads that might have gone stale. 

From leadership changes to new partnerships, you can use a newsletter as a way to share business wins and improve your company’s reputation. Well-run and consistent email campaigns have a high click-through rate and establish you as an industry authority by giving engaged subscribers relevant information that they actually want to read.

But what do you do when, for so many companies, business has dried up or been put on hold due to the pandemic? How many emails have we all received that start with, “In these unprecedented times…”?

Cutting-and-pasting half-baked sympathies can leave a sour taste in customers’ mouths, especially for those that are struggling in the current economy. It can seem tactless and predatory to exploit an issue like COVID-19 in an effort to generate more revenue. So how do you acknowledge the universal challenges of navigating a pandemic with care while also reminding contacts of your services?

Here are some ways to empathetically and effectively utilize a B2B email marketing campaign right now.

Find out how your clients are actually doing

First and foremost, build a personal relationship with clients and try to really understand their businesses. Whether in the midst of a pandemic and historic social and political movements or not, this is a no-brainer best practice for marketers (and ordinary people, too). Everyone wants to feel remembered, and as technology and remote work increases, personal touches make a business stand out.

After the last year, some businesses have grown, and many others have endured tough times. If you plan to reach out to current and prospective clients with personalized emails in 2021, check their social media and website. Are they announcing a new at-home product line because they are in an industry that thrived during lockdown? Are their storefront hours reduced? Information like this allows you to avoid an awkward interaction as you check in, and shows that you’ve taken the time to follow their journey.

Create an email survey with a human touch

A simple way to gauge how your clientele is coping is by creating an email survey. Offer multiple answers as well as write-in options that go beyond just asking for their input on your product or service. You can make this as formal as you’d like, but using more casual phrases can take the robotic feeling off of a mass email survey. Then, check which contacts said what and use the data later to connect one-on-one. Here’s an example of a survey that allows for a variety of answers:

“How have things (really) been going for your business the last few months?”

A. Terrible, I’m not sure what to do…
B. Meh, as well as to be expected.
C. Doing OK, but planning to improve.
D. Actually, great!
E. (Other)

“Is there anything we can do to help support you right now? Reply to our email and we will schedule a call to discuss working together in this difficult time.”

Tailor your subject lines and body copy

Even when writing a mass email, use your general sense of how clients are doing to inform your tone and language. Offer sincere sympathies and strike a balance between being too generic and explicitly specifying individual struggles. 

Mention that you are available to offer some free advice if they need it or just to chat. Include links to information about business grants and loans, mutual aid services, support and community groups, mental health services and more. If possible, speak to your own experiences during the pandemic or a low point in your brand’s history, and offer insight on how to navigate it. More and more, people are deciding which businesses to support based on how in tune they are with the needs of their community. Creating an environment of mutual support and a sense of partnership can only only help amid adversity.

Numbers speak volumes

Use your email engagement analytics to read between the lines. Has a once-affable client gone radio silent over your last 12 emails? Is a contact that rarely asks for additional services suddenly reading more of your newsletter content or clicking through to the blog? These could be signs of changes in their business or circumstances. 

Perhaps a client is suddenly understaffed and they could use additional support. Maybe your fair-weather client is trying out a new strategy and is investigating your services more closely. Monitor open rate, engagement, click through and other email marketing metrics and use the data to follow up with customers.

Combine modern technology and a personal touch

While the benefits of email marketing analytics and a savvy newsletter campaign cannot be overstated, don’t forget to follow up individually the old-fashioned way, over the phone or with a handwritten note. Be compassionate and offer support outside of your usual services. Take an extra few minutes to find out how the business owner’s family is doing, or how a customer is coping with loneliness. 

Businesses are composed of people with their own personal lives and unique challenges. You will leave the conversation with a broadened perspective, more interconnected and feeling even closer.

Go above and beyond

Once you learn more about your contacts, make an effort to communicate your compassion. If a contact just had a win for their business, send them a message of genuine congratulations. Send a note of condolences or flowers to those dealing with some kind of loss. People with whom you professionally interact daily may be grieving a family member, feeling upset about downsizing or experiencing financial turmoil. 

Simple gestures demonstrating sincere interest and humanity will stick with your customers far beyond the pandemic. Not only will it strengthen your business relationship, because they’ll fondly remember your care when they’re doing well again, but kindness is also contagious. Perhaps your acts will inspire your contact to pass on the support and encouragement to the next person.

Offer additional services to clients who are thriving

Don’t forget about your struggling business contacts and make sure to check in periodically, but also give them space. When your previous and prospective clients are back on the up and up, they will appreciate how you treated them and reconnect. As you were drafting your email campaign, you may have found some of your clients pivoted their strategy during the pandemic, and maybe their risks paid off. 

The sudden change of pace as many businesses open back up again means many actually have more work than before – and perhaps less help. This is the ideal time to get reacquainted and fill in those gaps. After sending a more general email, follow up individually and mention that you noticed their latest development. Express excitement for them, and offer your services as they transition into their new operation. You can create an email template for these messages that can be customized to fit the situation so it still feels personal.

When all else fails, seek out leads in previously unexplored industries

When your current contacts projects are on hold, don’t panic. Many businesses are rebranding or making small adjustments to navigate the pandemic. Consider who else might benefit from your services outside of your usual target market. Make an effort to reach them by promoting your page on social media, and offer incentives for signing up for your emails. Whether that is a coupon or a free consultation, there’s never a better time to cast a wider net, or even a different one entirely. 

Consider breaking up email campaigns by industry, so you can track which contacts engage the most, and tailor your content to their interests. As you grow your email list, you will have more opportunities to connect with leads that you would never have thought of before COVID-19.

Are you interested in creating a well-run email campaign that makes your contacts feel heard and supported during and after the pandemic? Connect with the PowerPublish team of brand journalists to craft a high-quality, branded newsletter with highly shareable content that serves your clients’ needs.