By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
On the surface, a medical marketing email campaign is appealing, in part, because it is immediate and low cost. The proliferation of high-speed Internet connections, computers, laptops, smartphones and other mobile devices rapidly connect healthcare providers and hospitals with constituent audiences.
Although a single email is fairly simple, creating a successful email marketing effort with a large group of recipients—one that achieves its goal—is not always so simple. Here are some of the essential DOs and DON’Ts for successful results.
If you don’t know CAN-SPAM, it can be mighty expensive. When was the last time you looked at the Federal regulations governing commercial email? (Stop and do it now.) The friendly folks at the Bureau of Consumer Protection have an easy-reading summary of the main requirements on this page. Their rundown has only seven points, but there are penalties of up to $16,000 for each violation.
Your list has definitely changed. There’s a dynamic force that’s constantly at work on every mailing list, no matter how “clean” you think it is or how recently it was used. People opt-in, opt-out, move, die or whatever all the time. Always update your list with corrections or adjustments, and review the data for clerical errors, transpositions and/or typos that can be avoided.
Think one-to-one, not one to many. Although you may be sending hundreds of messages at the same time, there’s only one recipient for each email. Compose your message with a single-reader focus. You’re not addressing a crowd, you’re writing to an individual.
Personalize, individualize and/or sub-divide. Whenever possible, address an individual by name or include text that relates specifically to the person being addressed. (Software programs do this easily.) If necessary, slice your mailing list into smaller groups so, for example, a message of interest to women is sent only to women, or to women who have previously expressed an interest in that topic.
It’s all about the reader, not about the sender. People have little interest (make that zero interest) in matters that don’t relate somehow to their own lives, interests or needs. Whatever you have to say to the reader, it must communicate some reason for them to care. Remember those call letters: “WIIFM.” They need to know, “What’s In It For Me.”
Keep it short, sweet and to the point. Long blocks of text invite rapid tune-out in mail messages. Distill your message to a minimum length. (Rewrite several times, if needed, to condense what you want to communicate.) Break up text blocks with sub-heads, and use visual elements judiciously.
Link into action. One of the benefits of email is the ability to embed links that connect to action steps. Insert a link to an online appointment page, for example, or to a landing page of additional information. (Hint: make the links clear and apparent.) Email software programs are able to track the number of times links were used.
Write a winning subject line. If it’s not interesting, enticing or relevant to the recipient, the subject line of your email might kill the message without being opened. For more on that, there’s an article in our free library titled, 7 Tips to Writing the Perfect Healthcare Email Subject Line.
Plan, test, tweak and test again. Sending your intended email message to yourself or a few internal (seed) recipients may reveal errors, omissions or formatting problems to correct before they are sent and seen by the full list. In some situations you may want to test various offers or messages.
And one more thing: make it interesting, engaging and worth the reader’s time. Most people have a self-defined “email tolerance zone” (our name for it) that says, “I’ll look at your email if I know you, like you and/or I believe the message contains something of value.” We all have an expectation that opt-in or subscription email messages, eNewsletters or special notices will continue only as long as they deliver value. (Otherwise, delete or unsubscribe follows swiftly in a click.)
For additional reading on this topic, read: The Curious Origin of Unwanted Email.