eNewsletters are one of the most cost-effective ways to strengthen a dental practice. (You can learn more about the benefits here.) But, like any form of dental marketing, your strategy and deployment will make all the difference in your ROI. On this page, we’ll break down nine things to keep in mind as you launch and refine your e-newsletter strategy to ensure you’re maximizing the results.
1. Choose Metrics That Matter and Monitor Them
In order to gauge the success of your campaigns, you’ll want to monitor a few stats, compare them against industry benchmarks, and push for continuous improvement against your own history.
As the name implies, the “open rate” relates to the percentage of recipients who opened your email. A typical open rate in the healthcare industry is 21.48% per Smart Insights data, so that’s the minimum number you want to aim for. A few factors that influence your open rate include:
- Your Subject Line and Sender Info
- The Cleanliness of Your List
- Creating Content That Evades Spam Filters
If you’re using pwNewsletter, your open rates will be automatically tracked for you.
Each of your emails should have a call-to-action. Think of it as the next step the patient is supposed to make, along with a link that will help them take that step. That might be a link to your online scheduling portal, your patient portal, or even a blog you’ve shared on your practice website. The percentage of patients who click one of these links is represented in your clickthrough rate (CTR). Per Smart Insights, an industry benchmark is 2.69%. A few factors that influence clickthrough rates include:
- How Compelling Your Offer Is
- How Clear the Link or Button Is
- How Scannable Your Messages Are (keep copy short and use bullets and headlines to break up text)
Clickthrough rates are also automatically tracked with pwNewsletter.
In marketing terms, the conversion rate is the percentage of people who viewed your deal and took action. For example, if your practice advertises a 50% off tooth whitening deal in your newsletter, 100 people saw the offer, and 10 people booked consultations, your conversion rate would be 10%.
Some of the benefits of sending patient newsletters relate to things like patient retention, treatment plan acceptance rates, referrals, and adherence to recall schedules, so it’s not always easy to gauge ROI and it can take several months of sending regular newsletters before you start to see an uptick in these areas. However, as email campaigns are incredibly inexpensive (each send is pennies and it only takes a few minutes to design and send a message), most practices will recoup any expense and then some if even a single patient takes action.
2. Brand It
Branding is an essential component of newsletters because it gives them a professional look and, ensures your emails are instantly recognizable, and creates a cohesive appearance throughout your practice marketing efforts. If you already have a practice website, take a cue from that and use the same branding elements seen there. A few things to focus on include:
- Practice Logo
- Image Styles
If you don’t have a practice website, spend some time creating a style guide that outlines these branding elements, so you and other team members can duplicate them with ease later.
3. Maintain Your eNewsletter Mailing Lists
Naturally, you’ll need the right email address to reach a contact and avoid “bounces” (undeliverable messages), but it’s worth noting that a high number of bounces can also send a signal to email providers (Gmail, Outlook, etc.) that you’re not a reputable sender. When this happens, how they process your messages can change. You may find that more of your emails wind up in spam folders or that they simply go undelivered by the provider.
One of the nice things about pwNewsletter is that you can keep your mailing list fresh just by updating the list. It’ll pull in contact details directly from Practice-Web. If you’re using Online Forms with the email field, your database will always be current, so it’s easy to maintain accurate email lists.
However, if you’re using another email service, you’ll need to make sure you’re handling these processes manually.
4. Develop Clear, Clickable Subject Lines
When your email arrives in an inbox, three things will impact whether the person opens it or not: the sender name, the subject line, and the preview line.
Use Power Words
Try to integrate “power words,” or words that can convey ease or urgency as well as those that can evoke emotion. Some examples include:
- Limited Time
Watch Your Counts
People will be reading your emails across a variety of devices and email platforms. Each one will display a different amount of text, with some cutting you off at around 30 characters and others giving you 90 or more. That in mind, it’s generally best to minimize the number of words and characters included in your subject lines. Expert advice on this varies, but most agree you should target 60 or fewer characters and some say 40 or fewer is better. You can experiment with counts to see what works best for your audience.
Be Mindful of Your Preview
Generally speaking, the first few words of your email will display as a preview before someone opens it, though some services allow you to create custom preview text too. You can use this text to expand on your subject line and give people another reason to open your email.
Experiment with Emojis
Everywhere you look you’ll see conflicting data on the use of emojis. Some sources say they’ve run tests that conclude emojis will boost your open rates exponentially, while others conclude it can lower them somewhat, but most seem to agree that they can boost your clickthrough rates. Perhaps some of this has to do with differences in audience opinions, but either way, it’s worth experimenting with emojis in your subject lines to see how your patients respond to them.
5. Make Your Links Clear
As mentioned earlier, any links your email includes should be clear. If you’re nudging patients toward a single call-to-action, try using a button in a bold color to help make it stand out and increase your clickthrough rate.
6. Focus on Education
Newsletters are a form of content marketing, not mediums for promoting sales. They should be used to help educate your patients and provide them with valuable information; all the better if you can make them timely and relevant. For example, you may want to provide tips for keeping kids’ smiles healthy as the school year starts up or use your newsletter to explain why certain trends like DIY braces aren’t a good idea when you see these things pop up on social media. Keep a pulse on what’s happening with your patients and tailor your content to them.
That’s not to say you can’t include promos in your newsletters, but if you’re going to mention sales, try to keep it to a 90/10 mix: 90% helpful content, 10% sales-related content.
7. Be Brief & Regular
If you look up stats on how long your emails should be, the sweet spot is usually around 200 words or less. The catch: most of these stats relate to sales emails, not newsletters. Newsletters get a bit more wiggle room because you’re educating your audience. Even still, you’ll want to try to start out with content that’s 400 or fewer words and monitor how your patients engage with the content. You can go higher or lower depending on how much they’re reading and clicking.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re creating a mailing schedule and sticking to it. People will start to look for your messages and engage with them more once they’re accustomed to receiving them, provided you’re delivering information they want to read. While there are no hard rules on frequencies, once per month typically works well for most practices.
8. Avoid Spam Triggers
To avoid having your emails get caught by spam filters, you’ll want to follow a few quick dos and don’ts.
- Verify your domain.
- Use “alt image” tags on your images. These help people who are visually impaired understand what’s happening in your graphics and are a big component of usability.
- Send yourself a test email before running a mass mailing to ensure everything displays properly.
- Use spammy words, like free, $$$, problem, miracle, medicine, and deal.
- Change the email address you send from often—your patients might not recognize you and may report you as spam.
- Purchase email lists. You’re likely to get a ton of bounces and spam reports.
9. Never Settle
Even if you’re sailing past industry benchmarks, there’s always room for improvement. Keep experimenting with different techniques, words, and different subject lines to see what resonates best with your audience.
pwNewsletter is a Practice-Web Smart Tool that integrates with our dental practice management software, so it’s easy to reach your patients with all types of mass emails including newsletters, promotional offerings, and practice updates. It’s sold as an accompaniment to pwConnect (text messaging), creating a powerful, yet affordable, dental marketing and communications system. Visit our pwNewsletter page to learn more. You can also contact us if you’d like to sign up or reach out to us for a complimentary demo to see it in action or explore all Practice-Web has to offer.
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