Here's Why Nobody is Reading Your COVID-19 Emails

Posted by Adrian Dayton on Jul 25, 2021 6:31:19 AM

As originally seen on Forbes


Ignored. That’s the fate of most emails that have been sent out in the past month or so. What a waste of time and effort. General subject lines, irrelevant copy. Why are so many companies and people sending emails if they are just going to be tossed aside? Why isn’t the average company better at connecting in this crucial time? In the past two decades, we’ve never experienced such global anxiety, fear, heightened emotion, and unparalleled need. So why aren’t the majority of the messages hitting the mark? It comes down to specific empathy, or to describe this in more basic marketing terms, it comes down to understanding the personas you are marketing to.

“Personas have developed over the last decade as a replacement for the old way of marketing,” explained Amy Knapp, marketing expert at Knapp Marketing. “Think about TV commercials that said, ‘here’s what we have, you should buy it?’ When we do persona marketing, we understand our target customer at an in-depth level. We know their personal goals and career goals. We know the criteria they use to make decisions. We understand things that influence their decisions that are not immediately obvious. Personas help unlock true marketing empathy. We are trying to view the world from their perspective. What impacts their sales decisions? What are the concerns they have as they approach a need they are going to fill? Every business, no matter how small has multiple personas they are speaking to,” Amy continues. “Buyer personas help businesses empathize with their customers so they can do a better job of serving them.”

Personas Changed in the Face of Covid-19

Have you ever experienced a true tragedy among your family or close friends? Even the most casual acquaintance will say to you, “let me know if there is anything I can do to help you,” or “I’m here if you need any help.” That is a perfect example of generic empathy. Specific empathy is your neighbor who shows up with a lawnmower and starts mowing your lawn.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, the vast majority of the emails sent provided similarly generic offers of support. “We are here if you need us.” “We are open and ready to serve you.” “You can continue to rely on us to provide you with domain hosting services.” Every single company did a great job of staying in front of the crisis by getting a message out; or did they? Most of the emails were self-serving, and they didn’t show an understanding of their audience, many of whom weren’t sure if their business would survive the next month.

“It isn’t just that the messages lacked sensitivity or caring,” explains Knapp, “the persona should be a living breathing thing for you, and if that is true, you might be able to know what that persona is feeling right now. Given what you know about them, what can you say that is relevant to both them and the service you provide?”

Think back to the example of the lawnmower versus the generic “if you need anything, let me know,” in times of grief. What are the people you sell to specifically going through right now? Are they scared about losing their jobs? Are they trying to find ways to add more value in their business? Are they barely keeping it together balancing work and home life, schooling children, caring for pets, and maintaining sanity? If you really know your customers persona, offer them specific empathy for their unique situation.

What does that look like? The messages that resonated the most for me, were related to my unique position as the Founder and CEO of a software company, that wanted to keep my team motivated and focused. One email offered a free four-week leadership course put on by an executive coach I work with named Crawford Cragun. The title of the email and the program was, “Executive Leadership in Uncertain Times - Showing Up with Peace and Purpose.” I opened the email, and I signed up. It was the right message at the right time.

Other great messages that showed impressive specific empathy towards specific personas were emails breaking down the Payment Protection Plan (PPP) from accounting firms, and timely workplace and HR advice provided by law firms. The right messages at times like these demonstrate three things. First, that they know what their customer personas are worried about. Second, they provide actionable information to help immediately. Finally, they aren’t promotional or about the company- they are completely focused on the needs of the personas they are marketing to.


When pitching to investors, a common question asked about a product is this, “Is this a must-have, or a nice-to-have?” In times of crisis, every product and every relationship is reconsidered under a microscope. How does your business show-up as a company and a relationship that your customers need to have? If every message you send isn’t providing that value, you may not have what it takes to survive.

As originally seen on Forbes