By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Ten tips to putting it all together for success from the start
Our previous article about “permission-based e-newsletter” puts you on safe ground in getting started – you know how to compile and safely use your opt-in email list for good marketing and good email etiquette.
An email newsletter, or E-newsletter, can be a useful tool as part of your internal marketing plan. This kind of practice-to-patient communication may not be appropriate in some situations, but for many, there are strong benefits, including:
- E-newsletter is an extension of your website. Think of the E-newsletter as a digital means to reach out to friends of the organization and even link them back to the information on your website. Both the e-newsletter and the website are more effective when they work together.
- E-newsletters are quicker and lower cost than a printed newsletter. There is no printing-folding-stuffing-mailing cost with an E-newsletter and that’s typically a big savings in time and dollars. It is not, however, free – good planning and preparation still requires advance planning, staff time and creativity.
- E-newsletters are dynamic and flexible. You can include links for the reader, provide useful attachments and generally use the e-newsletter as a window to online and internet tools to benefit the reader.
- E-newsletters offer real-time tracking. Email distribution service bureaus (discussed in the first article) manage your opt-in/opt-out and list corrections, and are capable of providing data reports about the number of e-newsletters received, opened by the recipient and their clicks on included links, etc. This information is immediate and helpful to tracking effectiveness and response.
- E-newsletters reinforce your branding message, awareness and word-of-mouth. In addition to the specific contents, an e-newsletter is a reminder of you central brand message, sustaining audience awareness and inspiring referrals.
So how do you put it together? In this second of two articles, here are ten tips for creating an effective Healthcare Organization E-newsletter for patients and friends. Let’s roll-up our sleeves.
- Make a commitment to time, resources and regularity. Preparing and sending an interesting e-newsletter isn’t free or easy…but the task becomes manageable and productive when you dedicate for staff time. We’ve seen more than one good intention disappear in the activity of a busy office.
- Once a month is a realistic schedule. Sending an interesting message once a week, which is a common standard, is usually not practical for most healthcare practices. Set an editorial schedule to “publish” your e-newsletter at least monthly.
- Plan your Editorial Content first. Establish a primary topic and one or two secondary topics for each edition. This means you’ll need twelve interesting and timely topics to be your lead items if you have a monthly schedule. (These may change in the course of the year – drop one, add one, or move as needed – but start with a full line-up in mind.)
- Prepare at least three before you send one. Create your first e-newsletter, put it aside and create at least two more. Not only will you learn some things in the process (and maybe make the first one even better by the experience), but you will have at least two “draft” e-newsletters prepared in advance. Try to work well ahead of schedule, but having an editorial cushion will help when the busy office gets more hectic than usual.
- Plan your layout and format. Unless you have special graphic skills, look for a template from your email service provider or webmaster. Stay consistent with the look-and-feel and the color pallet of your website. Keep it simple and easy to ready; it’s not necessary to be fancy or elaborate.Plan for an HTML page, but be aware that some recipients will prefer plain text messages and not see graphic elements. Fortunately, an email service provider will typically provide the option to send both and automatically determine the preferred format of each recipient based on their system set-up.
- Focus on benefits to the reader. What’s interesting to you may not be of benefit to the reader. Think of each e-newsletter as a means to present something that can be useful to the recipient. For example, the benefit in a change of office hours would be the convenience of early morning, late day or Saturday appointments. Think benefits.
- The importance of the SENDER and SUBJECT lines. We all scan email inbox before selecting and opening messages. For a greater likelihood of being opened, use a person’s name to identify the sender, rather than the practice business name. Also, have a compelling subject line that relates to the main topic. If your template or system permits, personalize the inside message with the name.
- Keep it concise. Three or four brief articles are more likely to be read than one or two long articles. With an e-newsletter, you have the ability to imbed a link to “more information.” Brief but interesting allows for a quicker and easier reading of what’s most important, plus more info is immediately available via the link.
- Encourage “pass-this-along.” The common term Viral Marketing seems a poor choice of words for healthcare. It’s also been referred to as ripple marketing, exponential marketing, organic marketing or simply referral marketing. By any name it is an effective and common online technique where Internet users who receive your message are invited to forward it to others.If your e-newsletter has compelling content, a useful offer or a timely benefit, readers will spread the word for you. Include a message such as: “Please tell a friend. Feel free to forward this e-newsletter and the information (about ___) to someone you know.”
- Something to tell and something to sell. E-newsletter content requires balance. Include at least one item that’s educational, informative or instructional. Choose a topic that tells the reader something new and useful. Also include at least one item that supports a marketing objective such as an offer that highlights a featured service or benefit. In both instances, make it interesting.
More about Internet Marketing
Your e-newsletter will be just one slice of your Internal and overall Marketing Plan. If you need help about using Web-based marketing for your practice, or for more about how we can help with your strategic planning, reach out to us.