Email Marketing for a Decision-Fatigued Audience


We have navigated some big shifts in the sales and marketing industry over the past 20 years, but the psychological impact of the pandemic on audiences across industries is like nothing we’ve seen before. The ways that people process emotion and make decisions are always evolving, but in March of 2020, the trends we relied on to create effective marketing strategies went out the window. Unless you were in the toilet paper business, there was no telling what messages your audience would respond to.


In those first few weeks of lockdown, we learned a lot about how high stress and limbic fatigue (overworking the area of the brain that regulates emotions) change our thought patterns. “The new normal,” before we even called it that, was exhaustion and survival mode. As a result, audiences started to show analysis paralysis, heavy rejection of that which is not critical to their day to day needs and a limited ability to absorb what they are reading or experiencing. And though there is a light at the end of the tunnel, this widespread exhaustion will take time to heal from, even after we have a vaccine. Purchasing decisions are primarily emotional, so marketing to these emotionally drained audiences means that your communication needs to change in dramatic ways. 


The good news is that people are still checking their email, so this continues to be one of the most effective marketing tools in your arsenal. Here are a few quick shifts that you can use in your email strategy that will increase traction with stressed-out, overwhelmed audiences immediately:

1. Video

Our ability to create impactful communication is all in body language and tonality; the specific breakdown is 55% body language, 38% tonality and only 7% words. If you are relying on words alone to get the sale done, you are leaving 93% of your ability to communicate out of the equation. Though we typically think of written messages when we think email, the mention of a video in your subject line will skyrocket open rates. The key is to make it feel personal and intentional. No one wants another commercial, so create video experiences that speak directly to your consumer and what THEIR pains or fears are. Be clear about the action you want them to take, and try to do it in 60 seconds or less.

2. Call to Action

The CTA is a longstanding best practice of marketing, but with the increase in fatigue, the ability to figure out the next best step is even more likely to elude most of your audience. Break things down into very small, actionable steps that have a low barrier to entry. Be crystal clear about what you want them to do and what is on the other side of that action, including how much of their time will need to be invested. Your audience will have a much more positive experience with your brand if they know what to expect and you make good on that promise. After the year we’ve had, you can understand why nobody likes surprises anymore.

3. Segmentation

Getting the right message to the right recipient is critical. The more you know about your audience and what their specific motivations are, the more concise and direct you can be. If you don’t know a lot about those on your list, send out a survey and let them tell you what’s important to them. Remember, what you know about your business, services and products means nothing—it’s what they know about you and what they need that really counts when it comes to taking action. 

4. No More Features and Benefits

Many companies will only speak to the shiny happy parts of what they provide, but when people are tired and stressed, what they really want are solutions. Pain, Fear and Gain are the only three things that will get your audience to make a decision to engage, and they go in that order. Speak to the pain and fear that they are experiencing right now long before you talk about the result. This will allow your audience to self-identify and emotionally engage with your content. 


And last but not least, be AUTHENTIC. In this upside-down world, your audience wants to know that there is someone on the other side of the transaction who is real and invested in solving a problem. No amount of polished pictures or silky smooth sales copy can make that happen. Put your heart where your money is and show them some ‘Professional Love.’

Still stumped? We hear you, and we’d love to hear more about the marketing goals you’re working on right now. Take a look at what we can do for you and let’s get in touch.