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Coronavirus Crisis : Emails to Customers With Templates

By Jason Freely / a couple of weeks ago
Coronavirus Crisis : Emails to Customers With Templates

Have you already sent out one of those lame customer crisis emails?

  • Telling customers how much you care about them
  • Showing customers what you’re doing in your company to take care of your employees
  • And then offering some vaguery about what they are supposed to do in the meantime?

And are you sitting there wondering how you’re going to keep your business afloat during a crisis?

I thought you might be.

Here’s What Your Customers Want to Know

When in doubt, check out Google Trends to see what the general population is searching for. As you can see by a recent screen capture of Google trends, three out of five trends have to do with daily life adjustments, updates and rules.

In other words, your customers have questions about getting access to your products and services. The question is, do you have answers?

Here’s How to Communicate With Customers in a Crisis

You can read straight through, or you can hop around using this table of contents:

We are now a couple of weeks into this COVID-19 virus and physical distancing.  Isn’t it funny how priorities change, and what we think is important just shifts on a dime.

Two weeks ago, I was thinking about lofty content strategies and this week, I’m wondering where I’m going to find toilet paper.

There’s nothing like a crisis to outline what businesses, products and functions are critical.

It’s ok to realize that your business isn’t the first thing folks think about in the middle of a crisis.

But it’s even more important to realize that your business is a little more important in a crisis than you thought it would be.

Each morning, my inbox fills with corporate emails explaining what they are doing during the COVID-19 crisis.  Many of them are brands and companies that I use and depend on;

  • The office supply store — telling me they will deliver an order of any amount
  • One of my marketing resources opening the doors to paid content
  • Software offering free subscriptions through July

These are all super helpful.  After all, I DO want to know what the status is on certain businesses.  

But I’m noticing that a lot of companies are still pretty self-centered. In every email

What Basic Need do You Fill – Your Crisis Email Should Focus on That?

Does your business feed people, protect people, connect people? There aren’t a lot of primal needs, so which one do you fill.  Focus on that because that’s what your customers need right now.

Not fancy copy. Not pretty pictures. Just basic needs.

For your reference here is a list of basic human needs:

  1. Physical needs (Food, shelter, clothing, air, sleep,etc)
  2. Safety
  3. Social/Relationship
  4. Self-esteem
  5. Self-actualization

Take a look at the list and see where your business lands.  If it hits 1,2 or 3 — stick to the basics.

Crisis Emails Come Naturally to This Local Restaurant

I live in a storybook tourist destination town with a gazebo on the square surrounded by beautiful buildings and unique small businesses.

Medina oh shops around the square -

There is a sense of old-fashioned Norman Rockwell community here. The restaurants and retailers and bars are all part of a business community.  The owners know each other and they know their customers.

One restaurant, however, stands out because of the one simple thing they are doing.

Here, let me show you.

Thyme2 is a local fine-dining restaurant and pub with a location just off the square.  The upstairs is fancy, the downstairs is more casual and they even have an outdoor patio to die for.

thyme 2 outdoor patio.  serving customers

But that’s not the point.

They’ve been collecting customer emails since they opened.  And whenever they had a food special or wine tasting, I’d get an email from them.  Nice.

But then this happened.

gmail screenshot of crisis emails sent by restaurant

I started receiving almost daily emails from them.  

restaurant email to send in a crisis

So what?

Well, think about it.  People are stuck at home on a day they would usually go out to eat.  

This restaurant has FOOD – inventory that has to go.  So what do they do?

Do they cry in their soup? No.

Do they wring their hands about food spoiling? No.

The send an email to their list of customers and start taking orders.

But here’s what’s really amazing about Thyme2 — their crisis emails have ZERO fluff.  Just what matters to their customers.

  1. We have food
  2. Here is what we have
  3. Here’s how much it is
  4. Come and get it.

The only thing they don’t do is put their phone number in the email or tell you what to do.  But this is minor.  I mean you know the restaurant, you just look up the number and call or you reply to the email.  It’s not that big of a deal.

This must have been working because the emails got a little better…

crisis email restaurant example with coupon

Only after their initial “we have food, come and get it” email are they actually telling their customers what we want to know.  

Then, we’re back at it.

crisis email example from restaurant
covid-19

It’s about feeding you.  No more, no less.

You likey?  Yeah, I thought that you would.

So now, let’s do something like this for your business!

Because everyone’s business is relatively unique, I’m going to give you questions to answer.  Each of the questions is a great subheading for your email.  And your answers are the email itself.

Don’t overthink this.  You don’t have to wordsmith this.  People want to hear YOUR voice.  Be plain spoken.

Get out of your business and into your customers’ world.

  If you’re not sure how to do that, just check your email and read through the COVID-19 crisis emails you’ve already gotten.  

  • When you read the subject line, what comes to mind?
  • What do you say to yourself when you read the email?
  • Was there something they should be talking about but don’t mention?

Make Basic Needs the Focus

When a crisis hits, all of the fancy marketing messages go out the window.  Because when humans go into crisis mode, our lizard brains turn on and we focus on the basics.

Your business needs to make this shift as well.  Cut out the crap and get real.

  • Do you provide for a basic, primal need such as food, shelter, security, relationship, connection, security, caregiving, cleaning?
  • Businesses that easily fall into this category; healthcare, supermarkets, restaurants, phone companies, business software.
  • Maybe your are in this category, but your product or service isn’t an urgent daily need: security company, financial expert, attorney, counselor
  • Or, is your business is a bit higher on the “needs” list (although that’s debatable) such as beauty or nail salon, manufacturers, consultants, coaches, freelancers, etc.

Email Templates and Sequences for Businesses

Your business has its own personality. So, rather than give you specific words, I’m going to play movie director and give you a situation and then ask you to answer some questions.

The questions are the headers in your email and your answers are the text.  It’s as simple as that.  

Email Templates for Restaurants, Food Retailers and Essential Businesses

If you’re a restaurant or retailer, caregiver or cleaning service provider, you can send daily emails because your customers will need and want your product or service daily.

#1: Goal: Alleviate fear of the unknown – tell them what’s going on

What is the “status” of your business?  Yes, we know you care about us and your employees and your community.  Just tell me what I really want to know.

  • Are you open?  If so, when and how?
  • Have your hours changed? What are your hours?
  • How can customers buy products?
  • Tell customers “how it’s going to work” in the foreseeable future. If employee interaction is part of your business – then tell us what your “protection” procedures are.  Don’t dwell on it.

#2: Goal: What’s happening today?  It’s ok — look at this!

Again, if you’re a restaurant, then you’ll list your specials, if you’re a service provider and doing something that involves a schedule, you’ll want to share that.

You don’t need to send this email daily, use your judgement based on the cycle of your business. If you’re a butcher shop it might just be every 2-5 days.

This is simply a quick status update.

  • What are you doing today?
  • Where will you be?
  • What will you be doing?
  • Who can you help?
  • What do you want us to do?
  • How do you want us to contact you?

Keep sending this type of email to keep your customers informed of what’s going on.

#3: Goal: Something has changed and you need to know about it

This is an email you send when something big changes.

  • Have your hours changed?
  • What are your new hours
  • Are you delivering in a new area?
  • What area did you add
  • Are you offering something new or different?
  • What’s new and different
  • What do you want me to do to order and pay?  Be specific and offer instructions

Email Templates for Service Providers and Non-Essential Businesses

Not every business provides for a basic need.  And if you’re lucky enough to be part of what we call non-essential services, then your challenge is different.

First, non-essential is open to interpretation.  What’s essential to one customer at one point in time, may not be essential to someone else.

You will have to take it on a customer by customer basis. This is where segmenting your customers based on products, services, etc. would come in handy. But if you don’t have that, don’t worry.

Depending on the size of your business, your email strategy may have to be different.

The kinds of businesses I’m thinking of here are; insurance agents, travel agents, accountants, financial planners, and any business that is NOT a daily requirement for living BUT may have customers “in process” that are impacted by a crisis.

#1: Goal: Alleviate fear of the unknown – tell them what’s going on

What is the “status” of your business?  Yes, we know you care about us and your employees and your community.  Just tell me what I really want to know.

  • Are you open?  If so, when and how?
  • Have your hours changed? What are your hours?
  • How can customers buy products?
  • Tell customers “how it’s going to work” in the foreseeable future. If employee interaction is part of your business – then tell us what your “protection” procedures are.  Don’t dwell on it.

#2: Identify customers and clients who are immediately impacted by the crisis and address the following

  • How the current crisis is impacting your (the customers)  transaction/project/etc
  • How will this change your (customers)  original plans, goals, process
  • What we (the business) are going to do to manage this
  • What you (the customer) need to do as part of this process
  • What’s the best way to reach us (the business)
  • How to schedule an appointment

#3: Goal: Something has changed and you need to know about it

This is an email you send when something big changes.

  • Have your hours changed?
  • What are your new hours
  • Are you delivering in a new area?
  • What area did you add
  • Are you offering something new or different?
  • What’s new and different
  • What do you want me to do to order and pay?  Be specific and offer instructions

Conclusion

The most important thing you can do in a crisis is step out of your own fear (and greed) and into your customer’s world.

If you focus on your customer first and what they need or want to see.  Putting your focus on other people will not only give you creative ideas, it will make your business the one your customers will chose during and after a crisis. 


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