Marketing with High Technology
Put away the envelopes and try your hand at direct e-mail marketing.
By Richard Hom, O.D., F.A.A.O.
I'm constantly looking for new and more efficient ways to capture patients. Inevitably, I'm drawn back to my patient list, which I maintain with practice management software (PMS).
Whether you have the latest PMS or no computer system at all, your patient records are a treasure trove and the quickest and straightest path to better profitability.
Focus on what you already have
Customer retention is a primary source of profitability because it's cheaper to retain and develop current patients than it is to recruit new patients. Unfortunately, marketing to the current patient segment of your practice can be laborious and confusing. But a strategy from modern customer relationship management
(CRM) may clarify and focus your efforts.
PMS systems vary widely in their ability to analyze data. But it's this quality that will make your strategy effective. Depending on your objectives, you can create lists of patients to meet the needs of your particular marketing program. The following are examples of ways to categorize patient lists.
- Gross revenue per patient. (The threshold value is above your variable plus fixed costs.)
- Patients who've purchased a second pair of glasses or a second pair of contact lenses.
- Patient's who've renewed their contact lens support agreements.
- Patients who've visited your office more than twice.
- Patients who've visited once.
- Relatives of patients who consistently arrange visits and accompany a patient to the office.
- By ICDM-9 codes for periodic health surveillance.
Sending e-mail blasts
Stuffing envelopes has been the traditional method of sending out these letters. Now we're sending "e-mail blasts," a short-focused e-mail that the recipient has consented to receive. Direct e-mail marketing is much less expensive and usually garners three to five times the response rate of traditional postal mail marketing.
Start out slowly
For your first blast, try a sample set of 240 to 300 names (or 1 month's worth of patients), a size manageable for most office staffs.
When you feel that you've worked out the major issues, you can either tackle successively sized campaigns or try a larger sample size of 500 or so. With sample sets of more than 1,000 patients, consider delegating the campaign to dedicated professionals.
Try something new
Direct e-mail marketing works! Any office that has the right tools and computerized office records can use this method of reaching patients to increase profitability in their practice.
DR. HOM IS A PRODUCT MANAGER FOR NETWORK APPLIANCE, INC., AN ENTERPRISE DATA AND STORAGE MANAGEMENT COMPANY BASED IN SUNNYVALE, CALIF. REACH HIM AT
Reaching Patients Electronically
How to construct a direct e-mail marketing message
- Format your message in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Some people still prefer plain text, but fully 60% of the public has HTML-capable e-mail clients that automatically recognize your message as HTML.
- Use a compelling subject line. This can improve "open rates" by 30%.
- In the first several lines of text, remind the recipient that your office received permission to send out periodic e-mail messages of interest.
- Next, write a short pitch (50 to 100 words) that encourages the recipient to do something (contact your office for an appointment or purchase).
- Repeat the "call for action."
- Provide active Universal Resource Locator (URL) links that automatically launch the recipient's e-mail client to create an e-mail reply or a Web site.
- Create a link so recipients can unsubscribe from the e-mail blast.
Optometric Management, Issue: June 2002