If you’re checking the top of this page to check the date of this blog, you are not mistaken. Yes, it is in fact, a blog about email marketing in 2016. And yes, email marketing is still very much a relevant and effective medium in 2016. In truth, email marketing is still one of the marquee mechanisms for online marketing today, a surprising longevity considering that online marketing has some of the quickest shifting sands in terms of standards and trends.
Not a bad combination of effectiveness vs. difficulty.
Despite this, email marketing’s basic tenets have continued to work since its inception; it’s exceptionally inexpensive, has very specific targeting, customized frequency and personalized content, and all automated, sent from and to anywhere in the world. In this article we’ll go through the must knows (and some of the definitely don’ts) of email marketing, and how it can attract new clientele to your practice.
There Are Rules to This Stuff
First and foremost, the FTC has something called the CAN-SPAM Act; it’s essentially a list of rules you need to follow to ensure you’re not spamming people, for example, promising to enlarge or reduce body parts with a pill. The basics of it are as follows:
- Don’t use false or misleading header information.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines.
- Identify the message as an ad.
- Tell recipients where you’re located.
- Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you.
- Honor opt-out requests promptly.
- Monitor what others are doing on your behalf.
You can read the full set of rules here.
Know What You Want to Achieve
It’s all well and good to reach out and say hello to your clientele, and it might even get you some top-of-mind awareness; however, we’re here to get proper, measurable results. Figure out what your goals are for your email campaigns. Is it more Facebook followers? More patient referrals? A call to action for a special deal at your practice?
Have a singular objective in mind before writing every email. When you have a tangible goal, you can measure specific results and the ROI of your campaigns.
Provide a Call To Action
Make sure it’s clear to the reader what you want them to do. For example, sign up for an ebook, a presentation or consultation. And keep it simple; one call to action per email! Imagine someone is throwing you a bunch of tennis balls — you probably won’t catch any of them. But if they lob you just one tennis ball, chances are you will catch it trouble-free.
Make it easy for them to follow through on your call to action; make it clear where to click, and include a postscript reminding them of the link and benefit, eg: “P.S. Remember, this offer is only available for 4 more days; if you’d like a whiter, brighter smile for a fraction of the price, don’t delay! Click here to make an appointment.”
Get an Email Client
An email client is software that manages and measures (more on metrics soon) your email campaigns. It manages your subscribers, creates campaigns and automatically sends them out according to your schedule. Once you get your head around it, it’s all pretty straightforward stuff and will make the whole email marketing thing so much easier. There are plenty of email clients out there, all with their pros and cons; your particular needs will dictate which one is best for you. Here’s a comparison of the top email clients, compared by PCMag.com.
Creating a new campaign in Mailchimp’s email client.
Create a Schedule
Once you pick the email client above, automate a schedule to send your emails. How often to send emails is reasonably subjective, and you’ll be able to figure out what works with the metrics from your email client. This report by SmartInsights suggests that 21% of companies send emails to their contacts 4 to 5 times per month.
According to Mailchimp, pretty much any weekday is as good as another (although Tuesdays and Thursdays are slightly better). The best time of day is around 10am. That being said, you can always test your market to see what works best.
In general, if you have not enough people opening your emails, you’ll want to adjust the schedule. If plenty of people are opening but not clicking through to your site or your offer, you’ll want to adjust the content. We’ll cover how to measure your results in more details later in the article.
Write a Compelling Subject Line
Many of your readers will open the email almost totally dependent on the subject line. Make it concise (under 25 characters) and compelling; don’t spend too much time crafting something cute or creative, it’s the simple, straightforward subject lines that get opened. For example:
Get 43% percent off your next dental hygiene appointment
Will work better than:
Check out our flossify on getting a cheaper dental hygiene appointment.
Giving the reader a concise and measurable sense of value will yield a better psychological response than a witty pun. After all, they want to know what’s in it for them.
If you have a direct call to action, tell the reader clearly that it’s a time-bound offer requiring urgency, e.g. ‘This offer will expire in 3 days’, ‘This offer will expire tomorrow forever!’. The fear of missing out is often more compelling than the actual offer.
You would have also seen email subject lines like ‘This one weird habit will cut your risk of gum disease in half.”. These really do work because they create a sense of curiosity in the reader. After all, no one wants to miss out on something that will save them money. Just be wary that a subject line doesn’t undermine the professionalism of your practice for the sake of sensationalism.
Keep it relatively clean, minimalist, and go easy on the corporate branding, as you’ll want it to look more like a personal message rather than a corporate broadcast. Branding is good for professionalism, but you want the reader to feel that there is a human behind the message and that you, a busy doctor, are taking the time to reach out to them.
Keep paragraphs short and use bullet points to keep the content scannable. People are short on time and attention, so give them every opportunity to get all the information they need as quickly as possible before they move onto the next email.
Also, make sure that you have a plain text version for the reader to choose in case their browser cannot display your fully fledged email correctly.
Check out this article for more information on what works and what doesn’t work in email design.
Your email client will have a range of design templates to choose from.
Must Be Mobile
There are officially more smartphone users than desktop PC users globally, and this will translate to more mobile data/traffic/internet use in the not too distant future. According to Litmus.com, 53% of emails are now opened on mobile devices; this means that you simply must make sure your emails are mobile friendly, or you’re just not going to get the results you desire.
Percentage of emails open among Desktop, Mobile, and Webmail.
Most of the email clients mentioned above will cater to this requirement, but double check the mobile formatting is clear and easy-to-use. Send an email to yourself and open on your tablet and smart phone. If it’s hard to click the links or it’s awkward to navigate, you should find a more mobile-friendly template.
Make sure your design is optimized for desktop and mobile devices.
Use Your Information Wisely
Assuming you are using your patient database as a mailing list, use the demographic information wisely. There’s probably not much point in sending an email about braces to elderly patients, or male pattern baldness emails to young women. Nothing gets unsubscribes as much as irrelevant emails — don’t waste readers’ time. Use the information you have at hand to create tailored email campaigns targeted to specific demographics. You have specifics on each patient and lead; don’t waste the opportunity.
The information you have on hand will also help you personalize your emails, e.g. including their name a few times in the content. Studies show that including a first name in the subject line of the email (e.g., “We Haven’t Seen You in a While, Kristy” is
Talk to the Reader, Not at Them
In terms of tone and what words to actually use, think of it as talking to a friend. Use a second-person narrative, e.g. “you’ll love your new smile.” Keep it light and reasonably informal, while still representing your practice’s values. Everyone has buttons to push, and they are nearly always emotive things. Appeal to their vanity (e.g. cosmetic procedures), their fear (e.g. immunization), their greed (e.g. saving/making money), love for family (e.g. little Jimmy’s braces) etc.
As calculated as that may sound, we’re all human, and as much as we like to think we make our decisions logically, we nearly always decide on things emotionally and justify our decisions with logic. Appeal to your readers’ emotions (don’t go overboard though, it’s not a soap opera!) and you will have a much better chance of converting them from a reader to a clicker or a buyer.
Make Sure You Provide Value to the Reader
The eternal WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”) question reigns supreme here. Again, put yourself in the shoes of your reader, and think what they have to gain by reading the email. If it’s a deal, make it a good one. If it’s information about a service or product, make it educational, and make it relevant to their wants and needs. 5% off just won’t cut it!
Include Social Media Sharing Buttons
You can almost be guaranteed that everybody that receives your emails uses social media in some form or another. According to the Pew Research Centre, 72% of American adults internet users are on Facebook. The idea of a sharing button is that your email contains information that your reader thinks that their social media friends might appreciate. They share it the link to their friends, and a few of their friends share it, and so on and so on. That cascading effect can provide dramatic results with emails that readers find valuable and want to share — e.g., contain information or an offer.
There’s no shortage of ways to share content.
Metrics – Track and Analyze Your Results
The metrics are what we are all here for — the results. The things you would usually measure your email marketing success by are the open rates and click-through rates. Your email client will be able to generate reports for you that will give you a host of information for you to drill down and find out what is working and what isn’t. For example, you may find a selection of recipients that all clicked through in the email to get more information. This group of people would be ideal to send a follow-up email, giving them more information and another touch-point to encourage further consideration. And best of all, that can (usually) all be automated with your email client.
Drill down to find out what is working.
See What Works with A/B Split Testing
Once you’ve measured the results, you can then experiment with creating different approaches through split testing. Split testing allows you to compare two emails against each other to see which one yields the best results. For example, if you send an email out and you get underwhelming results, change one aspect of the email. You might change the subject line, you might send it at a different time of the day, or you might send it on a Thursday afternoon rather than a Monday morning.
While it might be a bit of guesswork initially, some quick Googling and continual tweaking will find the right combination that gets the best result for your particular audience. The golden rule is: if it’s not working, adjust it, compare, rinse and repeat.
There is an absolute wealth of information available online, and you can get into ludicrous detail if you so desire. However, if you just do the basics well, you’ll get results. Most importantly, remember, test, compare, tweak and repeat!