In any face-to-face job, sensitivity is a must. Yet we often forget that with email, we’re face-to-digital-face with readers. Mastering sensitivity in email marketing is a key skill that every email copywriter, designer, and email-using business owner should work on developing. It helps to bridge that digital divide and connect with your audience in a way that engages your audience and gets results.
Empathy can be a make-or-break thing for brands. If your brand comes across as they don’t care much about the reader, you’ve already lost them as a customer. But show empathy for the person, their needs, wants, and situation, and you’re on the right track to becoming a brand known for their people-centric approach.
Sensitivity in email marketing can be a tricky thing to nail down. Let’s dive into the topic and cover some of the ways you can cultivate a sensitive approach in your email campaigns when needed.
What Exactly is Sensitivity in Email Marketing?
The basis of sensitivity is remembering that your readers are humans and not bots. They have emotions, fears, and stress. You can’t separate the human from their feelings, so mastering sensitivity in email marketing is a must if you want to connect human-to-human, and not just seller-to-buyer.
This kind of marketing—known as empathic or empathetic marketing—is essential in times of crisis. The pandemic, natural disasters, tragedies like shootings or the recent Palestine, Ohio train accident all call for sensitivity in your emails.
But don’t make the mistake of forgetting smaller, more “everyday” topics that could be potentially sensitive. You need to meet the reader where they are, NOT where you are—which means things like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and cultural days may be a painful occasion for some that requires sensitivity.
The Challenges of Sensitivity in Email Marketing
Mastering sensitivity in email marketing isn’t as simple as it may sound. It comes with a variety of challenges, including getting your timing right when responding to a sudden crisis, crafting your emails in the right tone to convey your message genuinely, being sensitive to different cultures, and including everyone… Except when they don’t want to be included.
Nobody wants to anticipate a crisis and it can be hard to step into the shoes of everyone in your target market. While the majority of them tick certain boxes—a particular gender, age, interest, etc—in reality, they’re a vast group of people with different lives and varying situations.
So how do you get sensitivity right… To nurture that human connection instead of coming across as a cold, unfeeling brand? Here are a few tips to tackle email sensitivity effectively.
Best Practices for Writing Sensitive Emails
Empathy is often closely linked to thoughtfulness. Being considerate of your audience is the first step to crafting emails with appropriate levels of sensitivity.
1. Provide an Opt-Out
This is an excellent idea for those occasions that are generally accepted but may be difficult for some people, eg. Mother’s Day. There’s no need to avoid the celebrations entirely, but offering a subtle opt-out is considerate and can smooth things over with certain subscribers.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Something like “Don’t want to receive Mother’s Day promotions and news? Click here to opt-out. We’ll still send you regular emails, but you won’t get anything related to Mother’s Day.”
It’s simple but thoughtful. It’s an amazing way to show sensitivity and the best part is, the rest of your list still gets their normal emails, so they can still get excited about occasions.
2. Keep It Short
If you do need to send out a sensitive email regarding something that’s just happened, don’t use your email as a chance to share your deep thoughts about the occurrence. Keep it short and to the point—express your heartfelt feelings but don’t waffle.
Address the issue, share your feelings, and send support to those who need it. Avoid going into deep philosophical content. Keep it as short as you can while getting the point across.
3. Use Positive Language
As difficult as the sensitive situation may be, avoid using negative language or sounding like a downer. Be careful, though—maintaining a positive tone doesn’t mean being upbeat or cheerful. You do need to tone down your tone to a somber one, but maintain an undertone of positivity rather than focusing on the negative.
Your language should focus on support in these times. Remember, you’re dealing with humans who may have been immensely affected by whatever crisis has occurred. Sensitivity in email marketing is about choosing your words carefully.
4. Avoid Jargon
It’s hard to console someone using business language. If your brand voice is more on the formal side, we recommend putting the jargon and formal language aside and being more conversational in your emails when writing about difficult topics.
Showing sensitivity in your email marketing and the human side of the brand can display empathy to your subscribers. It can help them to feel supported, cared for, and understood. On the other hand, addressing sensitive topics in formal language can come across as insincere. Show your human side!
5. Use Plain Text With Very Little Design
Difficult topics don’t need fancy designs. Plain text emails are appropriate for these kinds of situations, perhaps with a simple but meaningful picture as a banner. Tone down on colors as well—muted colors are more appropriate for sensitivity.
Overdoing it on the design can make your message come across as phony and insensitive instead. There’s no need to deviate from your brand, but tone it down during these times, particularly if your brand design is typically bright, cheerful, and fun.
6. Add a Personal Note From the CEO or Founders
Consider sending an email from your CEO or founder. Once again, you’re humanizing your brand and creating a deeper connection with your readers. They feel more cared for, more supported, and more understood when there’s a personal message coming through.
7. Consider Toning Down the Selling For a While
We’re not saying you need to avoid sending out emails during difficult times. We know… Business goes on, bills must be paid, and families need to be taken care of. But sensitivity in email marketing can also mean toning down on the selling during difficult times, in the spirit of empathy.
Sending an empathic email in hard times can be undermined if you continue on with your regular happy emails afterwards, like nothing happened. That doesn’t mean you need to halt all emails, but continue to monitor your tone, design, and content to make sure it retains a spirit of empathy and support for the foreseeable future.
Avoid a hard sell and reevaluate your campaigns so they don’t sound insensitive. For example, sending out a campaign about the importance of great skincare when there’s been a natural disaster might seem out of place and insensitive. Find ways to promote your products in a timely and sensitive manner, while maintaining a sense of respect.
Ready to prioritize sensitivity in email marketing?
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