Why a Patient Email List?
Benefits of Collecting Patient Email Addresses Include…
- YOU Own Your Patient Email List – so no matter what policy changes are made by Facebook or Twitter or Google or anyone else, you still have a list of people that you can connect with any time you choose.
- Email is about Relationships – studies show that nearly all of us check our email every day at least once. That means you don’t need to wait for your patients to visit your website to get updates about your practice: you can update them any time.
- Email is Wanted – because the people on your professional email list (“subscriber list”) were added using a “double-opt-in” protocol (see below), they want to receive updates from your practice! They may or not be your patients already, but they are interested in what you have to say. If they are not already your patients, chances are they are your future patients!
- Email is Relaxed – email is not urgent: Instead of hoping that a first-time visitor to your website notices what a great resource you are, that you are an expert and authority in your area of practice, you can gently persuade them over time by providing value in your emails.
- Email is Direct – your emails go directly to their inbox, without SEO. That is, you don’t need to achieve a great ranking by some algorithm to connect; you simply send your email. And thanks to smart phones, email reaches people wherever they are.
- Email Connects – email from your practice on a regular basis keeps you engaged with those who have expressed an interest in your practice. It keeps you and your practice in mind as they consider their healthcare needs.
- Email Demonstrates – providing useful information in your emails helps establish you as an expert in your area of practice; it helps elevate your professional brand.
Please visit Russ & Randy for new article on building your patient email list to grow your practice here. And be sure to listen to Russ & Randy talk about building your patient-email-list on our podcast, at iTunes.
HOW TO get people on your patient email list?
Two Methods to Grow Your List:
- Manually – simply request their email address on you new-patient intake form, or perhaps on their check-out paperwork. Be certain to have a box they can check to request “occasional email updates” from your practice. This authorizes you to contact them by email.
- Opt-in Form on Website – include an opt-in form on your website so visitors can sign up to receive updates. This is usually accompanied by a “value-offer,” or something that you give them (by digital download) as an incentive to subscribe. In marketing terms this is also called a “lead-magnet,” because it is used as a magnet to generate “sales leads.”
Double-Opt-In is Essential!
Note that you should use the “double opt-in” method to collect these names. When adding people to your email subscriber list manually, you should send them email updates only if they have checked the box to request those updates.
When using the opt-in form on your website, your email service provider will allow you to easily set up a double-opt-in mechanism. More on details of doing this in future articles.
Why? Because without a double-opt-in to confirm that people truly want to be on your patient email list, your emails will be considered spam! And as people begin clicking on the SPAM button when they see your emails, your emails will be “black-listed” and nobody will receive them. Not good.
The Value-Offer (aka Lead Magnet)
I will cover the how and why of using an opt-in and value-offer in a future article, but you are likely already familiar with the method: you are visiting a website and are offered a free eBook or other incentive to download something in exchange for giving your email address – this is the value-offer.
In healthcare, the value-offer is usually a how-to guide or information sheet; also valuable are eBooks or single chapters of books that you may have authored. These items must provide value to your potential patients, and they must be relevant to your practice.
Think about the kind of information that patients find must useful in your practice. Consider developing some of that information into a brief guide or eBook as a value-offer. Build your email subscriber list, and start sending them emails…
WHAT to Send to Your Patient Email List?
So now that you have a professional email list of existing patients and anyone interested in your practice, what now?
Whether they are already your patients, or considering your practice for their care, the people on that email list are interested in your practice. Here are some considerations for things to include in your email updates:
- Personnel changes – include updates about new additions to your practice: any new docs, nurses, technicians, etc. Include a first name, perhaps even a simple photo. These details personalize your practice, making it more human and accessible. This counter-balances the common impression that healthcare (and doctors) are cool and unapproachable.
- New services – be sure to let inform the people on your email list about new treatments or new tests that you provide. Update them on any change in focus of your specialty, perhaps as the result of a shift in interest or additional specialty training.
- New colleagues – consider updating you subscribers about new associates that you refer patients to for specialty care. Be sure to notify your associates when you do this as a matter of courtesy; they will appreciate it, and often reciprocate by including your practice information in their own email newsletter or website.
- New technology – keep your subscribers updated on any tech improvements in your clinic or hospital: for example, electronic record systems seem to always be evolving. Patients appreciate being updated; even if these “improvements” don’t directly affect them, their awareness can improve their tolerance as your office adjusts to the upgrades.
- Educate them – more than any other type of information to include in your emails, focus on educating your subscribers on the health issues in your area of practice. Answer their questions. This continues to provide value, and continues to demonstrate your expertise.
Unlike the rest of the world – other industries – “email marketing” in healthcare simply involves providing value to your subscribers. What we do is not marketing. You never use your email list for “selling.” You use it for optimal connection: to build relationships and serve your community. Your reward is that they will grow your practice!
WHEN to Send to Your Patient Email List?
This process will at first seem daunting. Most of my clients begin enthusiastically trying to send out a huge digital newsletter every month. This most commonly trickles to a halt after only two or three months. The problem is usually not the frequency, but the complexity.
The solution for this is to keep it simple. Don’t make these “digital newsletter” emails from your practice any more complicated than the simple email updates you that would send personally. Sure, it would be great to publish a fancy, multi-colored, multi-media, twenty-page newsletter. And you may even get there one day. But right now, simply look at the list above and include one or two items about your practice in one email. How often? Keeping it super-simple enables you to produce an email more often – even one every week!
For example, send out an email that tells people who they will be talking with when they call your clinic for an appointment (be sure to include the phone number!). Keep it simple. Keep it to just one person, or limited to the people who answer the phones. Include only a first name. Include a photo if possible. Include one personal bit of information. Try to provide a single educational item, in at least every other email (increases chances that subscribers will open and read your email):
Hey, just wanted everyone to know that when you call our clinic (at 800-555-1212) you will most likely be speaking with either Ron or Mandy. They are both certified experts with our new EMR system, and will help streamline getting you registered. Ron is a bicycling enthusiast and often bikes to the clinic, and Mandy trains leader-dogs in her free time.
Also please note that our nutritionist, Jane, will be offering classes in Heart-healthy Cooking for the Holidays starting next month. Call for more information.
We look forward to seeing you at XYZ Clinic.
Then, the following week, mention that you are now providing flu shots on a walk-in basis; or that you’ve just added an acupuncturist to your clinic practitioners; or introduce a nurse or technician; or some other single item of information. The week after that, include a simple checklist of the signs and symptoms for an ailment that you commonly treat. Rinse. Repeat. Grow your practice :)
When to Build Your Patient Email Subscriber List?
Right now! It’s never too soon to start adding subscribers to your email list.
Future articles will cover the details of:
- Preparing a value-offer to build your email subscriber list
- How to use your value offer to build your email list
- What is an autoresponder? How is it used to stay connected?
- How to set up your emails: subject line, headings, links
Looking for more? Visit the beginner’s guide to email marketing over at Kissmetrics.