Many people are working from home right now, and so many businesses having dispersed the workforce, email has never been so relevant. However, based on the emails I’ve been getting lately, a lot of companies are blowing things up with their customer emails.

Though there are several posts about email and email marketing, today’s situation is unique to my experience. However, here are a few common-sense guidelines for emailing during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Six Emails You Should Not Send During a Pandemic:

It's too easy to appear as being insensitive if you email with the wrong intentions.

1. Any mass email sent to dormant customers.

In the future, you’ll either reactivate inactive accounts or trim them from your email list, but that’s not the point. Right now, your former clients have more significant issues to deal with than being reminded that you’re still in business and asked if they want to be on your list.

2. Any email sent just to show unity.

Yeah, we’re all in this together. Still, it also comes across as opportunistic if you’re trying to use the national crisis to establish rapport, in the expectation that you’ll be fondly remembered once the crisis is over. You’re going to be thought of as phony, not fondly.

3. Any email that starts “hope you’re doing well during this crisis.”

Under normal conditions, an email that starts with a compulsory health inquiry — and then immediately moves to your interests — is always offensive. In a pandemic, the faux interest appears beyond insensitive.

4. Any email that has just the smallest touch of sales-talk.

Sales emails are paradoxical because the more you sound like you’re selling it, the less likely you are to make the sale. During a pandemic, sales-specific words (e.g., safe, guaranteed, of the highest quality) sound foreign, as if they were actually from another planet.

5. Any email requesting payment (even if it’s past due).

Indeed, you are concerned about your own cash flow. Yes, your customer was expected to pay you two months ago. Yes, you want to be paid first, and you’d prefer they are late with someone else. You really can’t go there, though. At least nor for a while.

6. Any email that’s even a little optimistic.

Over the past seventy years, thousands of business books and blog posts have illustrated the importance of positivity in the face of tragedy. Okay, obviously, that’s all just cr*p because now that we really are facing hardship, a lot of people find it unnerving.

The 2 Emails That You Should Send Out:

1. “What can I do to 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 believe you may be in a position to support them, it’s entirely reasonable to offer support to them.

2. “Here’s what I can and can’t do right now.”

When your customer relies on your product or service and, as a consequence of the pandemic, you won’t be able to offer the product or service ultimately, then you MUST let your customer know as soon as possible. However, that might mean they find an alternative provider.