Are you using email effectively to market your practice? Email offers many advantages over the media of the old days, such as direct postal mail or ads in the newspaper, including cost and ease of deployment. In this article, I’ll review some key points that can make email a successful part of your marketing plan.
External vs. internal marketing
I will focus mostly on internal marketing, but there may be times that you want to send an email blast to people in your local market who have never received services from your practice. Be aware that the response rate is vastly different for these two groups. You will enjoy a fairly good response to your own patient email database and the response will be extremely low if you rent a general list from an email service.
Sending an email blast to unknown people can be viewed as spam and may not make it through the recipient’s junk mail filter. Spam email is often looked down upon and you may want to avoid the image of being part of it. If you choose to venture into the use of external email lists, choose a company that has a good reputation and that abides by the CAN SPAM act, which promotes ethical email practices.
Electronic communication services
The best way to send an email blast to your patient base is to subscribe to one of the electronic marketing services in eye care that can merge the addresses stored in your practice management software with the message template. These companies work on a monthly subscription basis and they are a very good value for most practices. Some of the better known companies include Solutionreach, Websystem3, Demandforce, 4PatientCare and there others. Among many other marketing features, these firms provide the vehicle for you to send email blasts.
How is your email database?
Of course, the technology that sends mass emails is only as good as the database it pulls from. Email is now a traditional, standard method of communication. Even for your older demographic, email is not a new-fangled thing that people are trying to figure out. You should have thousands of active email addresses in your electronic files. This is a good time to check on that number.
If you are not collecting email addresses from at least 90% of the patients you see each day, you should review the process with your staff. Make the email address a priority of each patient visit and be sure to confirm the existing email address you have on file because they do change. The email address is as important as a phone number and we tell patients that if needed. We assure them we will not share the address with anyone and we tell them we need it because we confirm appointments that way. Push for it and patients will give it to you.
Ideas for marketing
Here are some great ways to use email marketing:
Invitations to special events, such as a frame trunk show.
Announce an in-office seminar for patients on any eye care topic or specialty you wish. The doctor can give a 15-minute presentation. Serve refreshments and consider offering a discount on a service or give away something.
Send a special offer. For example, Alcon currently has a fantastic rebate offer on daily disposables. This rebate makes the cost of wearing Dailies very close to the cost patients would pay for monthly or two-week lenses. We sent an email flyer letting our patients know about this opportunity and we were instantly busy!
Newsletters about what’s new in your practice. Try to avoid generic pieces like optical illusions or eye trivia; your patients want to know what is going on with your office and staff.
Happy birthday greetings are always a hit, even though patients know it is managed electronically. I just received a birthday greeting from my own office and it made me smile! The system works!
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.