Blog Series: Marketing in uncertain times
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In this article we are going to look at one of the first tactics you should consider when marketing your company in an economic downturn: Email Marketing using Marketing Automation.

There are many tactics we could consider, so why start with email marketing? The reason is simple. Start with what you know. It’s safe to assume that most companies utilize email marketing in some form. You may not be using it to its fullest potential, but you are at least familiar with how it works. It’s also safe to assume that you have an email list of some sort you can start with.

In this article we are going to look at three ways to tap into the power of email marketing. First, we’ll look at how to improve your email marketing strategy and how to connect to your customers in a deeper way. Second, we’ll look at some tips to improve your email campaigns. And last, we’ll dive into some of the technology available that will take your email marketing to a whole different level.

Improving your email marketing strategy

There are two primary audiences that should be the focus of all your email marketing efforts. 

  1. Your Current Customers
  2. Potential New Customers

Email marketing is a powerful way to build stronger relationships with your current customers. You know them and they know you. Talking to them in a personal and relevant way can strengthen that relationship and encourage them to buy from you again.

Email marketing is also a powerful way to develop relationships with new customers. You are able to reinforce messages you are currently delivering on your website and provide your visitors with additional information that is relevant to what they have shown interest in. We’ll talk about list building a little later in this article.

So how can you improve your overall email marketing strategy? Here are some things to think about.

What types of offers are you sending?

  1. Are your offers relevant to current situations?
  2. Do they encourage positive aspects of difficult times? (ie. Family, relationships, positive outcomes, etc)
  3. Do they focus on a need or desire that your customers might be feeling at the moment?
  4. Do they provide value to your customers?

Focus on the cadence of your communication.

  1. Are your emails sporadic?
  2. Do you send them too often?
  3. Are you sending appropriate messages at key stages of the conversion funnel?
  4. Do you know what those stages are?

Think about the topics you are writing about.

  1. Are you always asking for a sale?
  2. Can you provide valuable information to your customers that is not focused on selling something?
  3. Can you promote other products or businesses that are not competitors but provide services that are complimentary to your business?

Spend some time mapping out the types of communications you’d like to send to your customer. Pretend they are sitting across the table from you. What would you say to them? How would you say it? When you are talking with your customers in person, you’re not always asking for a sale. Often our communication is focused on them, not us. Mapping out your strategy will provide you with a strong guide as you begin to craft your messaging and schedule the messages you’d like to send.

List Building

In order to utilize email marketing for new customers, you need to be focused on strategies that will get your business in front of new customers. Once you do, implementing a lead-nurturing strategy is the best way to build relationships and develop new customers.

List building and inbound marketing deserve an entire article but here are a few tactics to consider:

  1. Use content as a way to collect email addresses. You can ask for an email address to access a piece of content that has value to the visitor. This is often called gated content.
  2. Maximize social media to allow your current customers to share content with potential new customers. Content, again, is important to create this type of social sharing.
  3. Promote your business or content on other websites that provide similar or complementary services.
  4. Utilize some highly targeted paid social campaigns to expose your content to likely customers.

Improving your email campaigns

Once you have your strategy developed, it’s time to create your campaigns.

There is more to creating your first campaign than throwing some content into a template and hitting send. Email marketing has some gotchas that you need to be aware of if you want your campaigns to be as effective as they can be. Here are a few things to think about.

Tips for effective email campaigns

Optimize for Mobile

  1. Because half of all email opens happen on mobile devices, keeping your designs mobile friendly is critical. Your choice of graphics, fonts and layout needs to be mobile-friendly.
  2. Load Times are critical. Long load times will cause your visitors to abandon your email.
  3. Optimize pre-header text so your email stands out in the inbox. The headline in your email design is not the first thing your customer will see. The pre-header text usually appears above the first line of your email copy so make sure they work together.

Get personal.

  1. Acknowledge the current situation we are in and relate to your customer. Act as if you know them. People want to feel connected and understood.
  2. By Location: Tailor your messages based on your customer’s location. If they are in a different part of the country or a different section of town, there may be an opportunity to tailor your message based on location that will make your customer feel as if you know them and understand them.
  3. By Activity: Send emails based on the activities of your customers. If they open a specific email or visit a specific page, those actions can trigger messaging to those visitors based on their interests.
  4. By role: Having personas and job titles can help you tailor relevant messages to your groups. The more personal and relevant your messaging is, the more effective it will be.

Combine emails with social media.

  1. Email and social can be a powerful combination. They should complement each other. Make sure you have social sharing links in all of your emails. Encourage your customers to share your content and also connect with you on social media.
  2. Marketing automation can help with distributing content to social channels along with monitoring conversations that are happening about your brand.

Develop a nurturing strategy.

  1. Nurtured leads make larger purchases. Create a rhythm of contact with your customers and keep the line of communication open.
  2. Stay top of mind with your customers. Create webinars and events. Create abandoned shopping cart campaigns.

Create triggered actions.

  1. Send messages at the right times when your customer is showing they are interested in something or maybe not interested. Responding quickly means you’ll catch someone at the time they’re still actively thinking about the product or topic that caused their action – and your email.
  2. Use date-based messages: Birthdays, Anniversaries or expiring subscriptions are just some examples.
  3. Send messages when your customers engage with social media.

Your email campaigns should also be combined with other marketing tactics. They become a vehicle to begin a conversation with your customers as well as continue a conversation based on other marketing initiatives.

Use email marketing to support your content marketing efforts.
Say you create an amazing piece of email-gated content that is getting a ton of downloads. Without marketing automation, all you know is this piece is generating a lot of leads. That’s pretty much it. You might be able to reach out to a few leads and possibly add them to an email list, but chances are that your options are limited. With marketing automation, you can create an email drip campaign around that content piece, so any leads who download it will be further nurtured based on their interest in that type of content. Then once you close a sale with one of those leads, you can confidently attribute the sale to that content piece, validating its purpose and proving its ROI.

Create campaigns for your traditional media and combine them with drip campaigns.
Let’s assume that you have a billboard or radio ad that is driving your customers to your website. Utilizing marketing automation tools to add those visitors to a drip campaign will continue the conversation well past their initial visit to your website.

Marketing Automation

You now have a strong email marketing strategy and have taken steps to build effective campaigns. But how can you implement drip campaigns, trigger emails based on social media activity or web browsing behaviors? This is where Marketing Automation platforms come into play.

Marketing automation tools are important because the buyer’s journey has shifted from a generic, seller-controlled process to a buyer-powered, self-guided tour. In the past, a majority of the buyer’s journey was controlled by the seller. A seller would build awareness for their brand but they also would control the information needed to move the buyer from consideration to decision. The seller could not find that information anywhere else.

Now, the buyers manage 85% of their own journey without talking to a human (Gartner Customer 360 Summit). They move themselves from awareness to consideration with little or no interaction from the seller. They only make contact with the seller when they are ready to make their buying decision. Truly engaging, two-way communications between buyers and sellers are few and far between.

Marketing automation allows you to engage in those two-way conversations by providing tools that allow you to send emails based on user needs, create hyper-personalized relevant emails, qualify leads based on behavior and use custom sales-nurturing tactics based on your customer’s stage in the sales funnel.

The result is a wider sales funnel with considerably higher conversions and a deeper engagement with your customer.


When you are marketing in a difficult economic environment, making use of every marketing dollar you spend is critically important. One of the most advantageous but often overlooked aspects of email marketing is the ability to prove ROI. Emails are trackable and can be measured. Campaigns can be optimized based on user actions, making sure every dollar spent is working to your advantage. Under-performing campaigns can be changed or paused quickly, reducing wasted budget.

With a sound strategy, effective creative and a little technology, your email marketing efforts can develop stronger relationships with your customers and drive more sales. As you begin, keep these guiding principles in mind:

  • 1
    Start small and grow over time.
  • 2
    Deploy, measure, optimize, repeat.
  • 3
    Manage expectations and stay committed for the long term.

We have covered a lot in this article and you may feel a little overwhelmed by all of it. It’s important to understand that Marketing Automation platforms are powerful tools with a lot of complexity. They can be intimidating from both a technology and financial perspective…but they don’t have to be. Marketing automation platforms, with the right training, can be easy to use and they are not all expensive. There are affordable platforms that are easy to use and will not break the bank.

As a 100 year old agency, we have seen plenty of difficult times. If you are interested in learning more, or have any questions, we’d be happy to schedule some time to talk with you. We’re all in this together but with some sound strategic thinking and effective messages, you can find success…even in a difficult economy.

Executive Vice President