Make marketing your practice easier with paperless systems

October 9, 2012

Going digital with your marketing can bring clear cost savings, but other advantages of email newsletters include convenience of reading on tablets and smartphones; ability to share articles easily; and reports that show you which recipients opened and shared specific articles.

Going digital with your marketing can bring clear cost savings, but other advantages of email newsletters include convenience of reading on tablets and smartphones; ability to share articles easily; and reports that show you which recipients opened and shared specific articles.

As owner and president of a newsletter marketing company, I have helped pediatric dentists, orthodontists, endodontists, oral surgeons, periodontists, prosthodontists and other dentists market their practices with newsletters for more than 20 years.

Recently, many of these dentists have shown an interest in marketing with electronic newsletters-and we have responded by developing new email marketing programs to suit their needs. While email newsletters offer many benefits, they also bring unique opportunities and challenges, which I am happy to share with you.

Perhaps the biggest advantage to electronic newsletters is cost. While printing costs can add up for paper newsletters, the cost of an electronic newsletter will likely remain the same whether you reach 50 or 250 people. Other advantages of email newsletters include convenience of reading on tablets and smartphones; ability to share articles easily, including via social media; reports that show the sender which recipients opened and shared specific articles.

Many professionals have discovered these benefits. As a result, dozens of companies now offer email marketing solutions for small businesses. Who among us hasn’t heard radio ads for Constant Contact? As I listen to these advertisements, I wonder what percentage of well-intentioned new customers subscribe and then never use the service-or even how many use it once or twice but not again.

Publishing an electronic newsletter is hard work and often frustrating. From dealing with technical issues to generating content on a regular basis, I can tell you from years of hands-on experience that email marketing is not as easy as the radio ads suggest. If you choose to undertake an email newsletter program, here are your keys to success:

Build a solid email list
Without a good list, your newsletter will be like a tree falling in the woods. It won’t matter what happens; no one will be on the receiving end. Ask every patient or referring health care provider for an email address, and build your database. Describe the content you intend to send, and assure them that you will not bombard them with emails, share their addresses or send spam, ever. Also, place a prominent “subscribe” button on your Website and social media pages. Make the process quick-don’t ask for a wealth of information.

Develop excellent content
You know first-hand from your own email in-box that it’s a challenge to get readers’ attention. Many emails go unopened or unread. Fortunately, there is a reliable antidote to this problem: high-quality content that’s meaningful to your readers. Focus on material that educates your readers, whether the recipient comes into your office regularly or is a referring dentist you rarely see. The objective of any newsletter program is to teach, not sell. When done effectively, a newsletter will leave readers with one conclusion: They need your expertise!

Be conscious of your brand
Stay close to the logos, colors and fonts that you use in your current marketing materials. This will help establish your brand, and the email will look familiar and trustworthy to your recipients. As a reflection of your brand, your newsletter should be professional, high quality and reiterate your expertise.

Be consistent, but don’t bombard
If your newsletters are high quality, your readers will not only become accustomed to receiving them but they’ll anticipate them. Building this loyalty takes time. Be patient and keep at it. At the same time, don’t send so many emails that your readers become annoyed and unsubscribe. We have found that a monthly email newsletter works best for patient audiences and a quarterly frequency is more appropriate for referring health care providers.

Craft a good subject line
A good subject line will get a reader’s attention; a bad subject line can help the email land in a trash or spam folder. Like a good newspaper headline, an email subject line should let the reader know what’s inside. “Can potato chips cause cavities in your child?” will get more attention than “Jones Pediatric Dentistry eNewsletter.” Avoid “urgent,” “act now,” “free,” TEXT IN ALL CAPS, or repeating punctuation (????) or dollar signs ($$$$). A poorly written subject line can cause your email newsletter to end up in the spam folder. The best email subject lines are short, descriptive and targeted, and they provide the reader with a reason to explore your message further.

Measure your results
Most quality email marketing providers such as Constant Contact or iContact provide useful reports regarding who is reading the email, links clicked and forwarding rates. This can help you shape content for future newsletters. When new patients call your office, ask them where they heard about your practice. If existing patients call about a procedure highlighted in a recent newsletter, ask if they saw that topic in the newsletter. These answers can provide a wealth of information about the success of your marketing tactics. Record this information; it will be crucial to planning your ongoing marketing efforts.

Final thoughts
Finally, remember that all marketing efforts are an investment, and with email newsletters this is certainly true. For many of the professional practices with which we work, one or two new patients pay the cost of a newsletter program for an entire year. But remember that responding to a radio ad and signing up with an email service provider is just the beginning. You may save on printing costs, but don’t skimp on content, design or distribution. Treat your newsletter like the investment it is.