Email Marketing Is Alive and Well… Is Yours?

The email showed up in my inbox this morning. It was from my longtime doctor’s office and the subject line couldn’t have been more direct: Annual Physical Reminder. As you can imagine, it didn’t take a lot of internal debate before I opened it and clicked on the link to schedule an appointment.

That’s the funny thing about email. Despite regular claims to its demise — it’s ineffective, overwhelmed by spam, made obsolete by social media — timely, relevant emails still get people’s attention. That’s true for many industries but, as a study from Marketo suggests, medical practices that utilize the platform effectively may be some of the biggest beneficiaries of its continued health and marketing prowess.

The study looked at 16 industries and, drilling deeper, three major types of marketing emails defined as:

  • Batch emails: Equal-opportunity messages that go out to everyone on your subscriber list.
  • Nurture emails: More targeted messages based on where a recipient is in her decision journey and designed to move her further along it.
  • Trigger emails: Personalized messages based on specific actions a recipient takes — filling out a form, perusing your before & after gallery — that provide more detailed insight on her particular interests.

Healthcare, it turns out, notched some of the highest click rates of all:

  • Batch emails: 6.2% (second highest)
  • Nurture emails: 9.5% (second highest)
  • Trigger emails: 21.2% (fifth highest)

It should come as no surprise that trigger emails earn more clicks than their counterparts. In healthcare, for example, they earn twice as many clicks as nurture emails and three times as many clicks as batch emails. Such messages, after all, are personalized — a proven motivator toward action — and directly address an individual recipient’s concerns so it’s only natural that she’ll click a link to learn more about how to resolve it.

Alas, sending out nothing but trigger emails isn’t likely to have patients beating a path to your door. For one thing, just because someone willingly gives you their email address doesn’t mean they’re close to a decision or ready to commit. For another, it takes time and money to create personalized messages for every action a recipient might take. Airlines, hotel chains, and Amazon may have that kind of marketing muscle; the average medical practice, not so much.

The better strategy is to utilize all three. Imagine, for a moment, that a potential patient visits your practice website, blog, or Facebook page. Liking what she sees, she opts in to receive your newsletter or social updates by providing her email address. At this point, you don’t know much about her, so simply ensuring she’s on your general (batch) email list is the way to go.

Now, let’s say she’s been reading your emails for a while. Chances are she’s further along in her decision journey and, while she still may not be ready to commit, she’s interested in gaining a better sense of who you are and what you offer. Emails incorporating general interest topics — the latest news about fillers, for example, or a video on how to prepare for surgery — demonstrate your interest in sharing your expertise while nurturing the not-yet-ready along their way.

Assuming your email marketing has effectively managed the above, our hypothetical patient should be ready to take action. Filling out a consultation request is the obvious one but hardly the only one. Maybe she watched your tummy tuck tutorial video, downloaded your ebook on breast augmentation, or visited the seasonal discounts page of your website. Whatever the particular action is, it’s an indication of her heightened interest and, therefore, a signal that it’s time to pull the trigger on a personalized, subject-specific message.

Ultimately, it’s all about recognizing that today’s patients have access to unlimited information at the same time they’re inundated with unwanted marketing messages. They have more power, but less time, and they’re exceedingly quick to delete or opt out of messages that don’t help them accomplish their goals. Conversely, the right message to the right person at the right time will keep her reading until she’s ready to take action.

Doctor Takeaway

Email marketing isn’t dead, but it has gotten more complicated

In today’s market, a great email campaign requires more than just compelling content. It also requires an in-depth understanding of both consumer behavior and the back-end technology that can help address it. A good email service provider (ESP) should provide a comprehensive approach that incorporates segmentation, personalization, analytics, and regular reporting that shows what’s working and what isn’t. If your ESP isn’t, it may be time to opt out of the relationship.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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