In the modern era of marketing, there are many ways to reach your target market. From more traditional methods like direct mail to the emerging digital trends, marketing is constantly evolving. One digital marketing technique that seems to stay relevant is email marketing. It may seem “old school” compared to social media marketing, but email marketing has consistently proven to be one of the most effective ways for eye care professionals to keep in touch with patients.
What is Email Marketing?
Email marketing can be defined as “the use of email to promote products and/or services,” but in terms of ODs, a more accurate definition is “the use of email to develop and nurture relationships with current patients.” Think of it as an electronic extension of direct mail. For eye care professionals, email can be used to remind patients of current appointments or encourage them to schedule a visit.
When email is used in an optimal way, it can help ODs keep their patients informed and control what messages each patient sees. Using email in a less-than-ideal way usually involves throwing deals at everyone on an email list, regardless of if it may apply or not. An example of this is sending “Get lens frames for 60%” to all your patients, even the ones who don’t wear glasses. It’s important to remember that your patients allowed you access to their email address; don’t become part of the barrage of junk emails they receive.
A couple of big advantages of email marketing are cost and simplicity. Email is a relatively low-cost medium to reach a larger audience, and it allows you to target by specific criteria (i.e. age, whether they visited the practice in the last year, etc.). Email marketing also gives you a chance to track your success in real time, giving you a chance to change certain pieces that may not be working.
You may be thinking, “Isn’t email marketing getting phased out by social media?” You’re not alone, but the truth is, 94% of people on the internet use email, compared to only 61% who use social media. In fact, 75% of online users prefer email as opposed to other forms of marketing. Emails tend to have more variety in terms of formatting possibilities than social media, and they offer an “opt-in” feature to allow patients to have control over what they see. The reporting around email also offers more options for tracking success than many social media marketing tactics.
How Can ODs Utilize Email Marketing?
There are several ways to include email marketing in your practice plan. Appointment reminders are the most common way to use email, but you can also use it to encourage patients to schedule their annual exams. Newsletters are another great way to keep communications open. You can include information about eye health, share updates about your practice, and even give general tips on living a healthy lifestyle. Your patients will appreciate the focus on their well-being, even when they’re not in your office.
Email Marketing Best Practices
As with every marketing tactic, there are best (and worst) practices. It’s important to err on the side of caution when it comes to email marketing because you’ve been allowed into someone’s inbox, or essentially their “house.” Ultimately, you need to be respectful.
Don’t be part of the “email barrage.”
As mentioned before, some companies will send daily emails to everyone on their list, even if the deal doesn’t apply to them all. Though unqualified emails can be annoying to patients, emails that apply to them but come too frequently are also troublesome. When scheduling email deployments, be sure you’re not sending multiple emails on the same day to the same list. If the question “Is this too many emails?” comes up, then you have your answer. (Hint: YES)
Follow the rules of the CAN-SPAM Act.
Enacted in 2004, this act follows the same lines of being respectful, but it has more legal repercussions if not adhered to. A few things covered in this piece of legislation include having a non-deceptive subject line, a method of unsubscribing, and correct “To”, “From”, and domain information in each email. Failure to comply with CAN-SPAM requirements can get you in serious legal trouble, so be sure to follow best-practices when executing email campaigns.
Build your own list.
Eye care professionals can do this by adding an email piece to the registration paperwork. Be sure to have a clear purpose when asking for their emails. Collecting emails with nothing planned for them is a waste of time. You can also offer things in return for emails (i.e. receive a coupon via email). Put yourself in your patients’ shoes and answer the following questions:
- What will you give them for their email address?
- Are you going to spam them?
- How often will you email them?
- Will you offer discounts?
- Will you send relevant offers or more junk?
Set up expectations and stick to them.
Plan a schedule for all your automatic emails and let patients know what and when to expect emails from you. For the initial contact, it’s better to be detailed so that patients know exactly what they’re getting into. Beyond encouraging them to buy or make appointments, you should use email to build the rapport between you and your patients. Include social sharing buttons so they have the option to follow your practice even more closely.
With all these best practices, you cannot guarantee your email will end up in inboxes and not spam. The best way to make sure is to give patients explicit instructions to add your address to their email address book. Adding instructions at the top of each email, especially on the initial thank you and/or follow-up email can help patients ensure your emails are landing in their inbox and not their junk folder.
Our final post will cover the benefits of a referral program. Keep an eye out for it!
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- Ward, Susan. “Why Email Marketing Is Still the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread for Business.” The Balance Small Business, The Balance, About, Inc., 19 June 2018, thebalancesmb.com/email-marketing-2948346.
- “7 Fantastic Internet Marketing Strategies for Optometrists.” WebpageFX, WebpageFX , webpagefx.com/industries/health/optometrist/.
- Hollier, Rob. “Email Marketing – What Is It? Why Do It? And How? – Everything Email.” Crossware Mail Signature, Crossware Limited, 4 Sept. 2011, crossware.co.nz/blog/email-marketing-what-is-it-why-do-it-and-how/.
- Patel, Neil. “A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Email Marketing.” Neil Patel, I’m Kind of a Big Deal, LLC., 25 June 2018, neilpatel.com/blog/beginners-guide-email-marketing/.
- “The CAN-SPAM Act: Requirements for Commercial Emailers Commercial Emailers.” Federal Trade Commission, Apr. 2004.