Email marketing for medical practices – 9 compelling reasons to use it and how to make it effective!
Would you ignore an email from your doctor or healthcare professional?
Most people wouldn’t dream of ignoring a message from their doctor. So if your medical practice uses email marketing, you have a captive audience, competitive advantage and the opportunity to improve your practice’s income and patient care.
Email marketing for medical practices – Find out the 9 reasons why you should be using email marketing for your medical practice and follow this step-by-step guide to implementing successful email marketing campaigns.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a new or established medical practice. Email marketing is one of the most powerful and cost-effective marketing tools you have at your disposal.
Why – Lets look at the statistics:
- 77% of people prefer to receive permission-based communications through email – Exact target 2014
- 50% of your email list will be active – Opening or clicking through on your emails – Epilson 2014
- 64% of people open an email because of the subject line – Chadwick Martin Bailey 2015
These alone make a very compelling case to use email marketing. Here are the reasons why email marketing is so effective:
Relationships are the key to every business. Your practice is no different. People prefer to use the services of someone they know and trust. Ensure you make your emails personal in three ways:
One – Try to use your patients name in the subject line of the email.
Two – The obvious, make sure Dear <<Patient’s Name>> kicks the email off. Not rocket science.
Three – Use images of your practice’s doctors in your email. Why? It builds trust. Patients like to see a real face behind marketing efforts.
Reason 2 – It allows you to keep in touch with your patients to reinforce and build your relationship.
Do you have certain organisations in your life that only contact you to renew their services or pay the bill. I do:
- Most of my insurance companies – Car and health
- Car servicing
- Gym membership
- Telephone and internet providers
Given how competitive all these industries are it’s easy for me to exchange one service for another. Don’t think for a minute that your medical services aren’t in danger of falling into this category –
- The rising costs of medical care are leading patients to shop around for their healthcare professionals
- An increase in the number of medical providers and rise in their competitive marketing efforts
- Changing patient wants and needs – “Want it now mentality!”
As a result patient/healthcare professional loyalty is on the decline.
If you would like to read more on local and international healthcare trends and how they may affect your medical practice visit – Medical industry research and trends 2015.
Here lies the opportunity
This situation provides a fantastic opportunity for your medical practice to utilise email marketing. It all allows you to keep your patients up to date with your practice’s events and happenings. Think health messages such as:
- Flu shot reminders
- Health tips
- Department of health messages and statistics
- Local events and news – Walks and fun runs
- Changes to opening hours and marketing your other services
The list is endless. You’re providing your patients with a great service, enhancing your reputation and differentiating your practice’s services.
Most people lead busy lives. It’s great to have a friendly and helpful reminder about useful health messages and the services you provide. It shows patients you care, provides important reminders which in turn encourages repeat visits.
Reason 4 – Build awareness of your allied health services
Most medical practices offer a number services under the one roof. Email marketing allows you to raise awareness of your wide range of health services.
Reason 5 – Encourages referral business
Email and social media are todays word of mouth marketing. Email is easy to forward onto friends, family and work colleagues. In your email ensure to remind your patients to feel free to forward your email on.
Reason 6 – Builds your medical practice’s brand
Every touch point a patient has with your medical practice builds your brand and keeps your medical practice front of mind. You are taking time and effort to provide quality information to help patients improve their health.
In terms of an inexpensive way to connect with your patients, email and social media come in at the lowest cost of any of your potential marketing efforts.
Reason 8 – Easy to implement
In terms of putting together a message from within your current email system or using any number of email service providers such as MailChimp or Constant Contact. Email is easy to use.
Reason 9 – Quick to deploy
Email is up there with social media as one of the fastest ways to mass communicate with your patients.
Email marketing for medical practices – What do you need to do to implement successful email marketing campaigns?
What goes into making a successful email campaigns? To help you succeed, here is how a successful email campaigns are developed:
Step 1 – What do you want to achieve from your email marketing program?
Top reasons include (some covered above):
- Raising awareness of your full range of services
- Improving patient care and health awareness
- Building and reinforcing patient relationships
- Building a loyal database to market your services to
- Community service
- Encouraging repeat visits – Increase income
- Welcoming new patients
- Reconnecting with lapsed patients Lay out your goals and what you want to achieve for your medical practice.
Step 2 – What items and topics can you put in your email newsletter?
Your newsletter needs to work on a formula. It needs to be focused, uncluttered and:
- Relevant to your patients
- Interesting and entertaining
- Well written and contain images
- Great subject line/s
- Work on the 90/10 rule (90% educational and 10% promotional)
- Relatively short and specific in what it contains and covers
Developing content ideas:
For your next team meeting ask everyone to bring some topics along for the newsletter. Take 5-10 minutes of your meeting to write down and brainstorm topics relevant to your patients.
Step 3 – Develop your email newsletter schedule and calendar
How often are you going to email patients your newsletter? This is usually determined by a number of factors including:
- Human resources and time available to develop the newsletter
- The number of topics you want to cover in your newsletter
- What times of the year do you tend to have high/low patient numbers.
I consult to medical practices who develop newsletters for their patients ranging from seasonally to monthly. An effective strategy is to work on seasonal topics such as flu shots, skin checks or back to school messages and work it in with the ebb and flow of your practice.
It works well no matter what medical speciality you cover – General Practitioners, Dentists, Chiropractors and Physiotherapists.
Once you have topics and scheduling in place put them in a calendar.
1. Sending out emails during slow times may be a great way to help increase business at your practice.
2. Another great feature of having an email newsletter is that the topics and content can also be used in your social media accounts and they can link back to the information on your website.
3. Segmentation – For a new patient, consider sending them an automated email straight after their first visit, welcoming them to your practice, services and social media profiles. Or, if a patient has not come back to your practice for a while, you can send them an email to remind them to come see you again.
Step 4 – You have to sell your newsletter to your patients so they are eager to sign up.
Most people receive more than 25 emails a day. They don’t want to be spammed, so they are cautious about giving out their email address.
It’s important to have a clear purpose when asking for your patients email address. You need a strong call to action and well written copy. Simply posting “enter your email for our email newsletter updates” isn’t going to get anyone excited, so outline what the benefits will be to your patients – For example:
Our monthly newsletter will provide you with:
- Useful health education hints and tips – Flu shots
- Health messages – Diet and exercise
- Appointment reminders
Capturing email addresses with your patient’s permission is the most important step.
- Sign up feature on your website.
- Have an ipad at reception ready to sign them up straight into your database. This is by far the preferred method. It means you don’t have to double handle the data and input it manually.
- Manual sign up sheet with name, mobile number and email address.
There’s nothing stopping you from capturing patients email addresses now, so start immediately.
Step 6 – How are you going to send your email?
This seems like an odd question but bare with me. If your practice’s software has the ability create databases and send emails then you have a great solution in place and are ready to go.
If you don’t then here are some items to help you:
a) Choose an email platform.
The basic function of all three of these email platforms is very similar. All offer full-service emailing so that you can start a campaign quickly, allowing you to focus your energy on your practice and your patients.
1. Keep the language simple – Use terms patients can easily understand.
Avoid medical terminology unless you provide a definition in simple terms.
2. Keep the email relatively short – If your message is too long, they often will not read through it.
Remember that your emails should direct your patients to find out more information on your website or social media profiles.
3. Use the word ‘you’ so that it directly connects to the reader.
This will help the patient feel that the email is coming from a trusted, friendly source, making them more likely to read and interact with your message.
Ensure your email is developed to look great on both a desktop, laptop and mobile devices – All of the stated platforms do this automatically (MailChimp, Constant Contact etc.)
What are the most important parts of your email?
1. The headline – 64% of people open an email because of the subject headline. As a medical professional most people will be inclined to open your email.
But, don’t be fooled. Your email headline must provide the incentive for your patients to open it and read further. Some great headlines that have performed well for some of my clients include:
- <<Patient first name>> – 10 ways you can fight off colds and flu this Winter
- The best dental health care tips for your kids
- Rehabilitation tips for knee, hip and shoulder injuries
Make it simple for your patients to take action. Whether its to click through to your website, forward your email to a friend or call to book an appointment – Make it clear what you want them to do and easy for them to do it.
Tip – Do not pepper your email with calls to action. Be as single minded and focused as possible.
3. Email design and copy – Keep it simple.
Go for the clean uncluttered look. Give your patients just enough information to want to read the rest of your article on your website or contact you if that’s your goal.
4. Use of images
If you have a good image that relates to the topic and adds value to your newsletter then definitely use it. But remember:
- Keep the image size in terms of kilobytes small – Under 30kb if possible
- Some website browsers won’t have images enabled so use Alt text to name your images.
5. Make sure you have these two items at the top of your email:
a) Why is your patient receiving this email?
Spell it out – You are receiving this email from<<Insert practice name here>> having given your email address and permission to receive useful health hints and tips .
b) Unsubscribe information
If you no longer wish to receive these useful health tips and information please see the unsubscribe information at the bottom of this email.
Here is an image of the footer in my email newsletter. Note the unsubscribe link at the bottom left.
The great advantage of platforms such as Mail Chimp and the others is that built into the platform and the email campaign process is the ability to measure how your email newsletter is performing.
There’s no point putting all the effort into a newsletter and you have very few people reading it. To measure how your email campaigns are doing check the following statistics:
Click through rate – How many clicked through to your website from your email. If you monitor this from the start it is a great way to set a benchmark for your email newsletter.
Conversions – What was the aim of your email and how many people took the action you wanted them to. Develop a way to measure your success. Some of my clients ask each patient at reception or when they book in or have a separate phone line that is exclusive to the email newsletter and website.
List growth – Set a goal to grow your list by a certain time. I have clients that capture email addresses of their patients at their time of visit and have them sign up via an ipad at reception. Even 10 people per week will give you 520 subscribers by the end of the year.
Delivery rate – This should be above 95%. If it’s not you should clean out the email addresses that are not being delivered or contact the patient to update their details.
List segmentation – As with any email marketing, the content in your email newsletter should be relevant to your audience. This doesn’t happen without list segmentation.
The problem is, often email newsletters are sent as the catch-all content — it’s so generic, it can apply to everybody on your email list! The key to doing this is to marry the interests of your segments.
Avoid information overload – Too in depth or too much information can be overwhelming for the reader to digest.
Limit the text in your email and have a link to the information on your website. This makes the content in your newsletter easier to consume and it drives visitors to your website where you can convert them. This tactic also provides more useful content for Search Engine Optimisation on your website.
Consistent design and layout – Try to use a consistent design and layout. A standard format will make it recognisable to your patients, minimise formatting time and provide balanced content.
Always ask these questions:
- So what?
- What does this mean?
- What will the reader learn?
Remember it’s the educational, useful and interesting information patients want. And if you come up with blank answers after asking these questions then redevelop your content.
Email newsletter checklist
- Determine your goals/what you want to achieve
- Brainstorm topics
- Develop content calendar
- Develop selling points for email list from a patients perspective
- Determine how to best capture email addresses
- Determine email provider platform
- Build email template
- Determine how you are going to measure your email marketing efforts
- Test and improve
Here is a sample of one of my newsletter drafts:
Catchy headline for my target audience of Practice Managers
Image – It’s me. It’s my business and it builds trust.
Contact social profiles and website address links and icons.
Easy to read information with sub headings.
I hope you enjoyed this blog – Email marketing from medical practices – 9 compelling reasons to use it and how to make it effective!
“These strategic tips have proven very useful for the majority of the practices we help.
If you have any questions please feel free to call me.”
David Douglas – Medical Website Solutions