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Email marketing: The 'old-school' practice growth tactic with a 3700 percent ROI

Email still rules over the younger, sexier social media marketing channels. With an average ROI of 3700%, it's definitely worth prioritizing.

The introduction of social media changed the way most businesses approach marketing, and for good reason. Social platforms allow you to interact with consumers, manage your reputation, and offer visitors an alternative option for finding your practice. However, while Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like are the newer, ‘sexier’ marketing tools, they still have nothing on good old email marketing.

Yes, email marketing may seem dated, but it still leads the pack — EConsultancy’s Email Marketing Industry Census 2014 shows that email is the best digital marketing option in terms of ROI.

On average, for every $1 spent on email marketing, a company makes $38.

Clearly, email is a cost-effective way to keep the lines of communication open with your patient long after they’ve left the waiting room, build your brand by being a helpful resource, as well as encourage return visits with discounts and offers.

Here, we’ll show you how to start an email marketing campaign, how often to send emails, what to write about, and how to ensure your email gets opened and read.

Start by Building an Audience

Build a Contact List

Getting your patients to sign up for or opt into your email marketing campaign is crucial. It’s a turn-off — and, actually, illegal — for a business to send emails to someone who has not agreed to receive them.

The ask can be simple: Add an opt-in checkbox on new patient forms and your website. Include a subscription link on email appointment reminders. Have your staff ask during intake or on the patient’s way out whether they’d like to be added to your email list. You can also give out opt-in perks like a gift card or free checkup. Remember that to spend a little time and/or money to obtain an email contact could lead to a large return.

And always, always ensure they can opt out with an unsubscribe form on the footer of each email.

Organize Your Mailing List

Make sure that all of your patients are organized in your database and that you have extra details that can help you with targeting your emails (such as name, age, medical history, etc.). Comb your list to ensure you don’t have the same patient registered with multiple emails.

Segment Your Email List

Email marketing is not a one-size-fits-all tactic. Ensure that you’re only sending emails to those who will find the topics and information valuable. No one likes getting irrelevant emails, and sending them can result in unsubscribes and annoyance with you and your practice.

Segmentation can be based on the information a patient has asked to receive, age, gender, medical condition, and/or if they are current or potential patients. This way, you’re not sending an email about senior health to someone in their twenties, or an article about a condition to patients who don’t have it.

Create an Email Schedule

While your email content will vary a great deal depending on your practice, it always helps to set an editorial calendar so that you commit to sending out content consistently. If you’ve promised a weekly newsletter, it looks bad don’t stick to that or stop altogether. Creating an editorial calendar is easy; brainstorm topics with your team and use a spreadsheet to organize them.

Create Content

Must Have: A Welcome Email

Send a welcome email out immediately after they’ve subscribed. Welcome patients to the mailing list, tell them what news and updates to expect, how frequently you’ll be sending, and, if you’ve promised anything to get them to sign up, deliver that.

Direct patients to your social media profiles, make sure they know your contact information, and thank them for staying in touch.

In a p.s., tell your new readers to add your mailing address to their address book so you don’t end up in their spam folder. If they have Gmail, show them how to drag your email over to their ‘Primary’ tab so you don’t get lost on the ‘Promotions’ tab — it helps to include a screenshot with directions.

Always make sure you’re offering something of value to your patient — whether that be important health information relating to your practice, discounts, or news about your practice or the community.

Email Frequency

While you want to stay top of mind, emailing more than once per week can be excessive — and could quickly lead to an unsubscribe. And be consistent: if you’ve committed to sending out a regular newsletter, make sure you deliver on time, on the same day, at the same time.

What's There to Write About

There’s plenty of timely and relevant health content to share, so if you have writer’s block, think about trends you see in your practice or the time of year.

Topics Related to Your Specialty – Rather than promoting yourself in your newsletter (which no one likes unless it’s followed by a discount), provide value-add content that relates to your specialty or healthcare in general. Content marketing (what your newsletter and updates are considered) is less about traditional marketing tactics and more about providing engaging content that helps your readers.

You probably already have tons of topics at hand. If you’re a dermatologist, write a list of your five favorite affordable face washes or when patients should start worrying about a mole. If you’re an OB-GYN, write about which foods you should eat during pregnancy, or something seemingly out of your purview, like a list of maternity photographers in the area.

Flu Season – Remind patients that they need a shot, tell them where to go, and how much it will cost. Even if you don’t offer flu shots, they’ll appreciate the reminder.

Summer Vacation – Wish your patients a happy summer, and add that if they’re traveling out of the country they’ll need vaccinations and immunizations along with where they can get them. If you’re traveling, mention your days out of office, and refer your patients to another practice if they’re having an emergency.

Holidays – Send a “Happy Holidays” message where you share a personal message such as what you’ve learned this year or what you’re grateful for. The holidays are a great time to build an emotional connection by showing your patients that you’re more than just their doctor.

Discounts and Offers – If you have an offer or special discount, email it to your patients. If you have segmented your mailing list based on age, gender, and medical condition, you can tailor your offers towards your patients. For example, if you’re marketing to contacts who have signed up for your newsletter but aren’t a patient yet, offer a discount on coming in for a checkup or a free walk-in.

Email promotions can be strategic: Offering referral gifts and discounts on services can boost your patient intake during slow months.

The Cardinal Email Rules

Keep it short – According to Litmus, 53% of emails are opened on mobile devices, so scrolling through long pages of content isn’t ideal. Try to keep most emails to 300 words or less.

Be Consistent – Establish your brand by using the same aesthetic, logo, voice, and contact information in each email. Send the same number of emails each month, on the same days, so that readers know when to expect you.

Invite Referrals – Ask readers to share or forward your email — it never hurts to ask. If you’ve created a referral marketing program, make sure your readers know about it.

Get Whitelisted – Have your patient add your email to their address book to ensure you don’t end up in the spam folder — which can negatively affect your delivery rates.

Clean Up Your Mailing List – Remove people who consistently do not open your emails; they’re negatively affecting your delivery rates by making email service providers think you’re spamming recipients.

Use Percentage-Based Discounts in the Subject Line – If you’re offering discounts, offer a percentage-based discount rather than a dollar discount in the subject line — studies show it greatly improves your open rates.

Include Social Media TriggersEmails with social sharing generate 30% more click-throughs.

But Wait… Are You Sending These Two Basic Emails?

The above email campaigns are great for your marketing efforts, but there are two basic emails you should be sending before you even think about creating a campaign: reminder and post-appointment emails. If you’re not doing so, start asap.

Reminders – Reminding your patients that it’s time to come in for an annual or bi-annual check-up is a great way to ensure that they come back. A platform that automates check-up and recare reminders ensure that no balls are dropped or patients forgotten.

Post-appointment Feedback – Emailing patients after appointments to request reviews or feedback on your website or other social platforms can help boost your other marketing profiles and personal brand. Automation ensures that review emails are sent soon enough after the appointment for it to be fresh in the patient’s mind and offers easy, low-barrier publishing to a few social platforms at once.

(Reminders and post-appointment follow-up emails don’t require a list opt-in as they aren’t mass emails.)

Creating an email marketing campaign for your practice opens channel of communication with your patients, even when they don’t need to see you and allows you to reach potential clients. It establishes your brand as a thought leader and caretaker, as well as builds a patient base by netting patient reviews and offering discounts. It takes a little effort in terms of set-up and content creation, but with a $1 to $38 ROI, we promise it’s worth it.

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