11 cringe-worthy email phrases you should avoid during the COVID-19 crisis

11 cringe-worthy email phrases you should avoid during the COVID-19 crisis

My inbox is full of emails about COVID-19 and how it affects my business.

Some of them are genuinely helpful emails. Others are a cheap, slightly desperate effort at making a sale during a difficult time.

Let’s face it: the majority of the emails we’re receiving are complete crap.

Knowing this, you’re probably a bit gun-shy to send an email to prospects or customers right now. You might be wondering how they’ll take your email.

If you’re doubting how to phrase your emails during this time, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, you’re going to see:

  • 7 real-life examples of terrible emails we’ve received during the pandemic
  • 11 phrases you shouldn’t be using in your emails right now
  • What phrases you can use instead to avoid offending your prospects

Here’s what not to do: 7 terrible email examples

Don’t make the same mistakes these people have made. Here are some examples of what not to do, as well as a discussion of what these emails are doing wrong.

1. The self-centered pitch

Subject: Our agents want to hear from you!

Hi Steli,

The global events over the last two weeks have caused vendors like Close who provide critical products for real estate agents to rethink how best to reach potential customers. The sales and marketing channels traditionally used to access agents are compromised or have completely disappeared.

[Company] recognized this urgent need and began rapid deployment of new advertising/partnership solutions. Our solutions were designed specifically to help companies like Close communicate effectively with the 250,000+ real estate agents in our growing and loyal community across the US.

[Company]’s unique access to agents can support your product with a strategic, timely, scalable and cost-effective platform that reaches agents when they need your product most.

Let us share the range of vendor marketing solutions with you by scheduling a quick conversation using the calendar link in my signature and I will make sure to follow up with you directly as well.

Looking forward to speaking soon

What went wrong?

The writer of this email seems to have forgotten that he is sending this to another human being, someone whose life has most likely been affected by the pandemic.

Instead of being genuine and understanding, this email jumps straight into a pitch (and a pretty tone-deaf one at that).

Next, there’s the issue of the pitch itself. Instead of looking for ways to provide genuine help in a difficult situation, this pitch starts with a self-centered comment about how they’ve deployed their solution and what they’re doing. This pitch doesn’t appeal to the reader because it comes off as brash and self-serving rather than genuine and helpful.

How to avoid this

The subject of your sales email is always your prospect. Don’t spend one line talking about your company or your solution, especially in a cold email like this one. Instead, focus all of your attention on the person you’re writing to.

In your introduction, it’s essential to remember that there’s a real person on the other end. Find out who that person is. Think about what kind of situation they might be in right now in their personal life. Then you’ll be able to start your email with genuine empathy.

Pro Tip: Want to see examples of fantastic emails that are getting good responses from prospects and customers? Download our Good Crisis Email Templates, and you’ll also get a list of the best subject lines and a best-practices checklist.


2. We support you (hopefully)

Subject: A message of support.

Dear Steli Efti,

In difficult times, we must work together to support each other. [Company] realizes that many businesses are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re here to assure you that we do not expect disruption to book reviews, email support, ticket closure, reporting, or other operations. If you have any issues, contact us.

With so many people struggling, it’s important to remember that books can be an escape and source of comfort to readers around the world. As always, we’re here to support you and our community of authors and publishers in the days and weeks ahead.

The [Company] Team

What went wrong?

This company claims not to expect disruption to their services in this email, but no one really expected a global pandemic either, did they?

This email falls short because it doesn’t solve a problem or offer real reassurance to the reader. Instead, it’s an empty email that means pretty much nothing.

How to avoid this

Don’t send an email to your prospects or customers unless you have something real to say. In this case, the company would’ve done better not to send anything at all.

Before you send any email during this pandemic, answer this question: What value are you providing customers or prospects with this email?

The answer to this question is not the solution you’re trying to sell them. To be heard through the noise that’s currently rolling around your prospects’ inbox, you need to give them real value from the moment they open your email.

By focusing on the value within the email itself, you’ll have a clear purpose for every word you type and will increase your chances of getting a response.

3. It’s more fun than Netflix

Subject: In quarantine. Got an idea

Hey Christof

I hope quarantine is not driving you crazy.

Christof, let’s connect. I’d love to do this for 2 reasons: (1) I have an idea for positioning your value offer at Security Research Labs within the Information Technology and Services industry that may be new for you + worth exploring. And (2), it’s more interactive (read: fun) than Netflix.

What went wrong?

For such a short email, it’s amazing how much went wrong.

While this email avoids the general “hope you’re doing well” introduction, it still falls flat. The pitch seems like a simple copy/paste that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

The biggest blunder is that this email assumes it will find the reader sitting on the couch binge-watching Netflix. It then offers to connect as a way to have more fun, as if having fun is the reader’s main concern during a global pandemic. (And let’s face it: unless this guy is Jerry Seinfeld, I don’t think connecting with him will be more fun than Netflix.)

How to avoid this

Never assume you know your audience or what they’re doing right now. And, more importantly, NEVER assume that they’re sitting at home watching Netflix.

Whether or not this assumption is true, it’s obviously tone-deaf (and kind of insulting).

If you’re doubting how to approach your prospects, try talking to some of your current customers. Get a feel for what’s happening in their world, and what problems (business or personal) they’re currently facing.

Then, you’ll have a better perspective on the current situation of your prospects.

4. The survey says...

Subject: quick q on cyber education

Hey Steli: Hope all is well! How are you doing in this crazy time? Hope your family is healthy in these times. We are in Pennsylvania with the kids, working remotely.

I had a quick question to ask: I am advising FullStack academy on creating a cyber education curriculum. Would you mind taking a few minutes to fill out this 7 question survey:

Thanks in advance

What went wrong?

Survey says… nope!

While making an attempt at a more human introduction, this email falls a bit flat because it lacks genuine empathy. (I’m not even sure I believe he’s really in Pennsylvania with the kids.)

Next, what was promoted as a ‘quick q’ in the subject line becomes a 7-question survey in the email. This is a lousy attempt at click-bait, and certainly too much to ask from a busy CEO in the middle of a pandemic. (And it violates one of the rules of writing good sales email subject lines: keep your promises!)

How to avoid this

Try adding real empathy to your emails. Are you sitting at the kitchen table with the dog barking out the window while your teenage daughter blasts Green Day and your wife cooks yet another delicious pie? Then talk about that! Right now people are facing the merge of their home life and their work life, and that merge isn’t always smooth. Acknowledging that with a personal twist will open more doors with your prospects.

Next, make sure you never ask too much of your prospects. Now is not the time to ask the CEO of a startup to fill out a survey. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

5. The panic inducer

Hi Kevin,

Did you know that San Francisco is drastically under-equipped to handle the rising COVID-19 cases? San Francisco’s Mayor fears the city could face a coronavirus crisis as big as New York’s. This means that the lockdown will go on longer and many businesses might suffer. Hope you are doing well and keeping safe in this situation.

What went wrong?

While we only have the introduction of this email, I’m pretty sure no one is reading past this first paragraph.

This email uses sensationalism to capture the attention of the reader and proceeds with a pitch that is entirely unrelated to the situation. This is the lowest form of a sales pitch and takes advantage of the fact that people are consuming news about COVID-19 more than they’re consuming other content.

If your business or solution is not directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no reason to go on talking about it for whole paragraphs of your email.

Lastly, this introduction ends with a disingenuous “Hope you’re doing well”, which is in complete contrast to the rest of that paragraph.

This whole email reeks of sleazy sales tactics and desperate measures to close deals.

How to avoid this

Unless you are the CDC, the WHO, or some other authority figure, don’t use cold emails to spread information about COVID-19.

If you use the pandemic as a gimmick to sell more of your product, that is 100% guaranteed to backfire. Not only will you lose credibility with your prospects, but you’ll probably lose some of your current customers as well.

6. The jargon-laced monologue

Hi Ryan,

I hope you are keeping safe.
I am emailing you with regard to a possible interview with [name], Founder and President of [Company], about how COVID-19 has prompted a shift in digital innovation landscape. [Company] is a digital innovation and transformation company that helps companies with tech adoption and the tools needed to grow in these challenging times.

While COVID-19 is causing an unprecedented economic slowdown, it is also prompting widespread innovation as businesses move quickly to adapt in the face of the crisis. With decades of experience using the latest tools, technology and data, [name] can offer insights into how companies across sectors such as healthcare, financial services, pharmaceuticals and financial services and more can adapt and create new value.

Tech expert and consultant, [name] can discuss a number of issues, including:

  • Emerging innovation patterns
  • How innovation is the secret sauce to bridging the gap between ideas and products
  • The advantages of dependable innovation in the current climate
  • What inspired him to establish [Company]

Would an interview with [name], Founder of [Company] be of interest?

Please let me know and I will arrange it for you.

What went wrong?

Right from the opening words, this email sounds like a PR pitch that’s been copied, pasted, and sent to a long list of recipients without previous research or any personalization.

Next, the pitch itself is completely centered on the proposed interviewee, with no information about how this offer will benefit the reader. And although the pitch goes on for three paragraphs, I still don’t really understand what he does or why he wants to be interviewed.

Lastly, this email is obviously just a slightly modified version of a PR pitch that has been sent hundreds of times over. In a time when being a genuine human counts more than ever, this email comes off as mechanical or false. What's even more egregious about this particular example, is that this email came in to blogger and podcaster Ryan Robinson, who's written extensively about how to improve your blogger outreach.

How to avoid this

Before sending any type of cold email, it’s more important than ever to do your research. Find out who you’re talking to, and find specific ways to help them. This could mean offering a specific solution or including a relevant resource in your email.

Either way, make sure your email is personalized to each recipient. Otherwise, it will come off as ingenuine.

7. The exaggerated data


My apologies for invading your online presence as the world is taking care of COVID-19.

However, it’s the right time to hit the markets and companies to introduce your products and services. As we can see, most of our decision-makers are working from home and emails are reaching the client’s inbox with a 100% deliverability rate.

So, would you be interested in reaching out to key decision-makers from your targeted industry to promote your product/services?

Our list contains Company Name, Contact Name, Contact Title, Telephone Number, Verified Email Address, Mailing Address, Fax Number, Revenue Size & No. of Employees Size, SIC Code, Industry Type with Social Profile links of LinkedIn, Twitter, Crunch Base, and Facebook.

If you are interested, please send me your target audience and geographical area, so that we can discuss further.



Job Titles:

Let me know your interest for further communication.

If you would like to schedule a call, please send me your calendar. I could schedule a call to discuss how we can help your company yield more results.

Let’s not wait for the customers to reach us. Let’s reach out to customers first.

What went wrong?

This email starts with an apology. While it’s important to recognize we’re living in extraordinary times, apologizing isn’t the way to start. This gives the impression that what follows isn’t worth the reader’s time.

Next, the email makes a preposterous claim: that because of COVID-19, you can get 100% email deliverability to decision-makers. Not only is this wildly false, it actually makes no sense whatsoever.

Lastly, this email does nothing to show how the solution helps this prospect in particular. There is no personalization, and the writer didn’t even do enough research to find out their prospect’s target industry. They’re asking far too much from their prospect without proving the value of responding.

Looking to enhance your sales email engagement? Delve into the world of technical email setup to create a strong foundation for your campaigns.

How to avoid this

Never start your email with an apology. If, after writing your email, you feel the need to apologize to the prospect, then something is wrong with your entire email. Make sure the email gives the reader some value, and you won’t need to apologize for sending it.

Next, never make claims you can’t back up with hard data. (100% deliverability rate? I don’t think so.)

Finally, don’t make it difficult to respond to your email. This email required a response to three different questions, plus the prospect’s calendar link. That makes it harder (read: less likely) for prospects to respond.

Give your prospects an easy way to respond, whether that’s asking one simple question or giving them your calendar link so they can book a time. Just don’t make it difficult.

Wondering how to word your emails to build trust and develop real relationships with your prospects?

11 cringe-worthy emails phrases you should avoid (and what you can say instead)

Here are examples of phrases we keep seeing in cold emails during the pandemic. If you ever feel tempted to add one of these phrases to your emails, check this list for ideas on what to say instead:

1. Hope you’re well

Try this instead:

  • First off, I hope that you and your family are staying safe during this time of uncertainty.
  • We’re living in crazy times, so I want to start by saying that I hope this email finds you safe and well.

2. We’re here to support you

Try this instead:

  • This is what our business is doing to support you...
  • To support your business during this time, we’re offering...

3. Can we schedule a 20-minute call?

Try this instead:

  • Do you think it makes sense to schedule a quick call to talk about…
  • I’ve been talking with other [industry] business owners and sharing ideas on how to [solve problem]. If you’d like to chat, here’s my calendar link...

4. Our solution can do X

Try this instead:

  • We’re looking to help anywhere we can during this time with our expertise in [solving problem].
  • During this time, businesses like [current customer] have found that [specific feature] has helped them [solve problem].

5. Did you know that COVID-19…

Try this instead:

  • While I’m certainly not a medical expert, it’s easy to see that this pandemic is going to have serious repercussions.
  • I don’t intend to be another source of COVID-19 news, but I do know that the world has thrown us a curveball.
  • While I’d like to leave it to medical experts and professionals to advise on how to respond in your everyday life, [Company] will continue to support [type of business] in our area of expertise.

6. I know this is probably a bad time...

Try this instead:

  • We’re a few weeks into this quarantine now, and to be honest, I’m still finding ways to adapt. I’m guessing you are too.
  • I’m working from home for the first time, which means I’m at my kitchen table with my 8-month-old in my lap and the dog at my feet. Guessing you can probably relate.

7. Although we don’t know each other, we share several mutual connections

Try this instead:

  • My colleague Hugo attended your recent webinar and really enjoyed it.
  • I was talking with your friend Frank from Acme Inc. the other day, and he mentioned that you two had chatted about [current problem].

8. Sorry for sending you a sales pitch during this time, but…

Try this instead:

  • While I’m part of the outreach team here at [Company], I’m a family member first and fully recognize that this is a sensitive time for everyone.

9. Businesses are facing serious challenges due to COVID-19

Try this instead:

  • Talking with some other [industry] businesses, I noticed that a lot of companies in this space are struggling with [problem] right now.
  • While the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to make serious changes in our personal lives, it’s also had some unexpected results for businesses. For example, other [industry] companies I’ve talked to recently have mentioned...

10. I hope your family is doing well

Try this instead:

  • I’m writing this email while my 7-year-old does homework at the kitchen table next to me. While COVID-19 has completely changed our world, I have to admit I’m grateful for the extra time with my kid. Here’s hoping your family is doing well and staying sane during this time.
  • I’m guessing this email finds you at home with your spouse, the kids, the dog, and the turtle. If you’re trying to run meetings and finish projects in that kind of chaos, believe me: I sympathize with you.

11. Stay safe/sane during this time

Try this instead:

  • If you’re struggling with [problem], I’d love to hop on a quick chat and share some ideas I’ve gathered from other [job title] in your industry.
  • Here are some resources I found recently that have helped me stay sane while working from home...

Write better crisis emails

Yes, it is possible to keep cold emailing your prospects during this time. A crisis situation isn’t the time to hide from them: in fact, by reaching out to prospects right now, you could provide value to them and help their business survive the coming economic downturn.

You can also get started with our AI-based cold email generator tool, and create persuasive email templates with ease for your sales or outreach efforts.

Want more advice on how to send emails during this time?

Check out our Good Crisis Email Templates, a downloadable resource that includes 19 real-life cold emails that are working now, subject line suggestions, and a checklist of best practices for sending emails during a crisis.