For any healthcare practice, email marketing campaigns are where patient communication and marketing strategy come together. Short, informative, regularly scheduled emails keep current patients attuned to what’s going on at your practice, within your specialty, and in their community. They also act as mini-branding opportunities, reminding patients who you are, and the care you deliver.
Although the large majority of healthcare practices manage their own patient communications, most don’t believe they’re doing it well. In the 2020 PatientPop practice growth survey report, 82.2 percent of practices said they run their own patient communications (instead of relying on a vendor or doing nothing). But of those practices, less than half (48.9 percent) say their efforts are effective.
When patients opt in to receive emails from your practice, you have the opportunity to use email as a key patient retention tool. The ongoing goal is to build trust and maintain a connection with your established patients. The more immediate strategy is to encourage the patient to take action — usually in the form of a booked appointment.
One of the more challenging aspects of email marketing is figuring out what messages or information to share. It’s similar to the challenge of running a blog, which requires an editorial schedule and a firm set of tactics to know which subjects to write about, and when.
That comparison leads to our first of five tips for developing content to include in email marketing campaigns:
1. Decide on email content using the same approach you use to choose blog content.
When PatientPop helps practices select content for their blog, we use tactics that engage patients and search engines. These tactics can also be used for newsletter emails or emails that feature topical, healthcare-related subject matter.
Consider the following when planning content: Share information specific to a medical condition related to your specialty, a service you provide, or an approach to care. Answer questions that patients ask you most often. Highlight a service or procedure for which you want more booked appointments. Align subject matter with a seasonal interest or holiday.
Consider the above and make a list of topics to include in your emails. Overall, you want to share your expertise on subjects you think patients most want to know about. That will keep them interested and more likely to seek you as the healthcare leader in your specialty.
2. Promote your blog posts within emails.
Your emails are a great communication channel to share blog posts with patients. You’ll gain more pageviews on your website, educate more people, and drive more opportunities to add appointments to your schedule.
Within your email, tease the blog topic with just a sentence or two, and link directly to your blog post. For the teaser message, the meta description you already created for the blog post often does the trick.
3. Prioritize your email subject line.
A patient can’t read your email if they don’t open it. That’s why your subject line is the single most important aspect of your email content.
There are a variety of strategic approaches you can take when creating a subject line: make it unusually short in length or unusually long, ask a question, tease information, make a promise that’s one step away (opening the email).
You might employ any of these strategies. But it’s imperative that you’re clear and honest. That single line of text represents your practice and your brand, so you don’t want to look spammy or hint at information that isn’t properly paid off within the email. Work with the messaging to cut through the inbox clutter, but avoid being flashy (“reminder!” “last chance!”)
4. Segment your communications and email delivery.
Not all email campaign messages will pertain to all patients. The most successful emails often target a particular segment of a patient population, for a message customized for, and delivered to, only that group.
In a study of email list segmentation, segmented email campaigns enjoy a 14 percent increase in open rate, and double the click rate of non-segmented emails.
You might segment your patient base by any number of variables including age, date of last visit, a condition, or recent appointment type.
A pediatric practice might email information about a flu shot clinic for higher-risk patients. An orthopedist can send exercise recommendations to patients who’ve recently undergone a specific procedure. An OB/GYN can share good health and sleeping tips with first-time expectant moms.
The more your practice can segment email communications, the better chance patients will feel they’re being cared for and listened to.
5. Always offer a call to action.
Whether you’re discussing a medical condition, promoting products or supplements, or listing office hours, always encourage patients to take action. That action is almost always in the form of a click — to book an appointment online, primarily — and occasionally encourages a phone call.
These calls to action (CTAs) are the only way to use your email content as a working retention tool, to convert a person reading your email into a patient returning to your practice.
Employ this and the other four quick tips before deploying your email marketing campaigns to patients. Track your results, adjust your content and delivery strategies as necessary, and use email marketing as a key facet of strategic patient communication