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Is email a significant part of your practiceâ€™s marketing strategy? If not, you might want to take another look at that strategy.
The key benefit of email marketing is that it is measurable.
If you’re looking to buy a luxury car, and receive an email that promotes pickups and SUVs, how helpful will that email be? Not very, and chances are you might not even open it, and eventually that type of email will wind up in your Junk folder. But done well, email can be an important component to an overall marketing strategy and provide a high return-on-investment.
According to a survey by MarketingSherpa, email is a consumers preferred communication method, chosen by 60 percent of respondents, compared to only 20 percent who chose social media, and 17 percent who chose text messages.
Mitch Lapides, president and CEO of FulcrumTech, an email marketing agency, is not surprised by the results. He does not believe email is being ignored as an important marketing tool. The problem, however, is that it’s often not used effectively.
“You can’t just get a Constant Contact account and off you go,” Lapides says. “It’s just not that straight forward.”
Lapides explains that just because a dental practice sends out 20,000 emails doesn’t mean it’s effectively reaching 20,000 current or potential patients. With a growing number of businesses using email marketing, email service providers are using algorithms to examine how recipients interact with your email. In other words, are people clicking on and opening the email? If not, those emails will eventually be labeled and placed in the Junk Box.
“The more engagement you get and the better your emails are, the more likely they’re going to end up in the inbox,” Lapides says. “If you keep sending emails without really good permission-based practices, the more cluttered someone’s inbox gets with stuff they don’t want to see.”
Lapides says that in order to be effective with permission marketing it needs to be anticipated, personal and relevant. Too often, small businesses—and he includes dental practices in that category—buy a list and start emailing. More often than not, he says, that effort will not be a positive return-on-investment venture.
“Is [the email] anticipated?” he asks, rhetorically. “Nope. They did not anticipate an email from you. Is it personal? Nope, because they don’t know you. And is it relevant? Probably not. So you’re violating the three most basic tenets of effective permission marketing by buying lists.”
Done well, email can have a very positive impact on your practice’s bottom line. Studies indicate that every dollar spent in the U.S. on email marketing has a return-on-investment of $44.
“You won’t find much out there that is more cost effective than email from a dollar standpoint,” Lapides says.
Lapides says one of the key benefits of email marketing is that it’s measurable. You can measure open rates—how many people open or view a particular email—and click through rates—the ratio of users who click on a specific link to the number of total users who view an email.
“If you’re trying to sell something or have people schedule an appointment, these are all things you can and should measure,” he says. “You can see what’s resonating, and then use that for feedback into what you do next.”
Dental practices are not in the email marketing business, Lapides readily acknowledges, so it’s unlikely an entire department is dedicated to doing email marketing. That’s fine, he says. It’s not important to hit on every cylinder at once. Start by identifying the challenges or goals the practice has, such as too many no-shows, or patients not being compliant.
“Put together a campaign map, a visual depiction of all the emails you should have in your program,” Lapides says. “Sit down with your staff, talk about the challenges, and then highlight the ones that are Priority One, Priority Two, and so on. Walk before you run.”
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A good place to start developing or refining an email marketing campaign is with your practice’s website. What kind of content is resonating on the website? Prospective patients may be checking you out, wanting to learn about you but not ready to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment.
“They may just sign up for a white paper,” Lapides says. “You can follow up by sending them three emails as part of a welcome campaign. That’s part of building trust, confidence, and credibility with prospective patients.”
And for current patients, there are nurturing emails—the ones sent in between appointments to encourage good oral health habits.
“Now you’re helping with retention as well,” Lapides says. “You’re not only trying to stay in front of people in a very helpful way, but you’re reminding them that it’s time for their six-month visit.”