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A simple guide to email marketing for your practice

May 1, 2018
Email marketing expert Stacey Hunsdon shares some strategies for email marketing to help your dental practice improve, grow, and increase revenue.

Stacey Hunsdon

Email is an essential marketing tool for informing your current patients and attracting new ones. Using some strategies for patient email marketing just might help your practice improve, grow, and increase revenue.

First, let’s go over the basic functions of email. Email can provide information, promote products or services, create interaction between you and your patients, and keep your patients engaged. You should not overuse email, but you also should not ignore it. Here are a few things to consider when sending out emails.

Get consent

Some patients do not want to receive marketing messages, so make sure you get their consent before you contact them. If you don’t do this, you could be found in breach of opt-in regulations and be prosecuted and/or fined.

Send the right message at the right time

Make emails relevant to the people who will be receiving them. Create segments of your patients who match the type of message you want to send. For example, do not send an email about dentures to a 20-year-old patient who just had braces removed. Likewise, do not send someone who just had a root canal an offer for 25% off of a root canal after they just paid the higher price. By using this strategy, you will keep your patients engaged and feeling as though you are speaking to them directly.

Personalize it

Make sure you write to patients in emails like you would speak to them when they walk into your office. Use a pleasant greeting, such as “Dear Stacey,” or “Hello, Stacey.” Do not use a generic greeting, such as “Dear Patient.”

Use a good subject line

When you are sending email, a subject line is the first thing you “say” to the patient, so make it good. Here are some dos and don’ts for subject lines:

  • Don’t use words like “free,” “save,” “sale,” or “subscribe.” These are identified by email service providers as spam words and can cause your email to go into a junk folder and never be read.

  • Do incorporate personalization. Use the person’s first name as the first word in the subject line. For example, “Stacey, take a look at our new products.” This creates that sense of personal messaging and is more likely to be opened by your patient.

  • Do ask an open-ended question. Asking a question in your subject line can pique interest and push your subscribers to open the email. For example, “Stacey, did you know we offer implants?”

  • Do focus on a benefit. You need to let your patients know what’s in it for them. Whether the email features an offer or information, make it seem like they will benefit from opening it.

  • Do keep it short. Emails have, on average, less than 10 seconds to get the reader’s attention, so keep your subject line short with fewer than 49 characters.

  • Do create a preheader. The preheader is a secondary message that follows the subject line. It should contain additional information about the content of the email in a short sentence. In some inboxes, it will show up next to the subject line, and in others, it will show at the top of your email. It is just another opportunity to grab the patient’s attention in those few seconds you have.

Now that we have those basic functions covered, we can talk about the message you want to send to your patients. The email should represent your brand and practice.

Craft your content

Write what you want to tell your patients, and then think about it as if you were them. You don’t want to be pushy or insensitive in your messaging. You want to make sure you are still carrying on that personal conversation by talking to them about relevant information.

Keep the messaging clear and concise. Do not waffle on about small details when you really want to entice them to learn more or make an appointment. Don’t get too technical or detailed either. Keep the message short and punchy to keep engagement and tell your story easily.

Get their attention with a bold, catchy headline: “Stacey, we haven’t seen you in six months!” Or maybe you just have an announcement: “Our office holiday hours for your convenience.” Keep it simple, but get to the point.

Use calls to action to make patients click. Put these throughout your email—don’t just have one “click here” box or button. Make words or photos hyperlinked to drive patients to your website in as many ways as possible. You want them to do something, so make it as easy as possible for them to do it. You got them this far—now don’t lose them by making it complicated.

Use images

Images draw the reader’s eye into the message. Make the image relevant to the content. You wouldn’t put a picture of a pineapple in an email about carrots, would you? Make sure your image is clear and not fuzzy. Make sure it fits in the area of the email you intend for it to fit. There’s nothing like a fuzzy image to make something look unprofessional.

Test everything

Make sure you have tested all of the aspects of your email in a live setting. Send test messages to yourself at email addresses from different email service providers. Send your message to a colleague for review. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Make a checklist of things to proof—subject line, images rendering correctly, links working, etc.—and go through it as you review the test.

Use a clear “from” line or address

This is an important one. Make sure your patients know it is actually you sending them email, not a spammer. Don’t get this far and fail by not putting your practice name in the “from” line of the email.

Be compliant

Lastly, you need to ensure that your emails are compliant with the laws of email marketing.

Make sure you provide the patient with a link to opt out from receiving your emails. This is not an option—this is a requirement. You should also be able to prove how someone was added to your mailing list and when, if asked. If you are using an email service, it should offer a built-in unsubscribe tool that will keep track of these users automatically.

Put your company address at the bottom of the email so the patient is fully aware of who you are and how you can be contacted. This is also a compliance issue and can’t be ignored. You should provide a contact email at the bottom too.

If you can follow these easy rules, you should be able to keep your patients engaged, informed, and wanting to hear more from you and your practice. Happy emailing!

Stacey Hunsdon is the email marketing specialist for Implant Direct, a Danaher company. She has more than 15 years of experience in the digital marketing field in the United Kingdom and United States, with a specialty in email. She has served on the Email Marketing Council in the United Kingdom and was an active contributor to the growth of the email data marketing efforts in the United Kingdom. If you would like to reach her, email [email protected] or call (661) 705-8308.

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