With so many people working from home, and so many companies having dispersed workforces, email has never been so important. However, based upon the emails I've been receiving lately, a lot of companies are blowing it wit their customer emails.

While I've written extensively about email and email marketing, today's situation is unique to my experience. Nevertheless, here are some common sense guidelines:


1. Any bulk email sent to inactive customers.

At some point in the future you'll to either reactivate dormant accounts or prune them from your mailing list but is not that point. Your former customers have bigger fish to fry than being reminded that you still exist and asked whether they want to be on your list.

2. Any email sent just to express solidarity.

Yes, we're all in this together, but it comes off as opportunistic if you're obviously trying to to use the national crisis to to build rapport, in the hope that you'll be remembered fondly once the crisis is over. You'll be remembered fake friendly, not fondly.

3. Any email that begins "hope you're doing well in this crisis."

Even under normal circumstances, an email that begins with an obligatory inquiry about the recipient's health--and then segues immediately to your own agenda--is always offensive. During a pandemic, the faux concern seems beyond insensitive.

4. Any email that has even the tiniest hint of sales-speak.

Sales emails are paradoxical in that the more you sound like you're selling something the less you're likely to sell it. During a pandemic, sales-specific words (e.g. free, guaranteed, highest-quality) sound absolutely alien, like they're literally from another world.

5. Any email asking for a payment (even if it's late).

Yes, you're worried about your own cash flow. Yes, your customer should have paid you two months ago. Yes, you want to be paid first and you'd prefer your customer stiff somebody else. Nevertheless, you just can't go there. Not for a while at least.

6. Any email that's even slightly optimistic.

For the past seven decades, thousands of business books and blog posts have touted the value of positivity in the face of adversity. Well, apparently that was all just happy horsesh*t because now that we're actually facing adversity, many people find it ghoulish.


1. "How can I help?"

Chances are your customers, especially if they're other businesses, are struggling to figure out how to function under these extraordinary circumstances. If you think you might be in a position to help them, it's entirely appropriate to offer them help.

2. "Here's what I can and can't do right now."

If your customer depends upon your product or service and, because of the pandemic, you won't be able to fully provide that product or service, then you MUST let your customer know as soon as possible, even if that means they might find an alternate source.