May 31, 2012 Leave a comment
The nation’s eye care providers provide primary diagnostic screening and corrective lens fitting to millions of people every year. The ways in which these professionals communicate with their clients and market their services is rapidly changing. This post explores how eye care professionals may use email to retain clients and grow their practice. The intent is to introduce the topic and provide the basic information needed to get an email marketing program going.
Why email marketing is important
Email remains the most cost effective and pervasive way to communicate with your customers. Email is tops for customer engagement and retention. Social media has not dimmed the value of email to marketers, in fact all the major social media sites embrace email to communicate, engage and sell to their user base.
To get started with email marketing you need two basic things.
- A list of email addresses of your customers with permission to email them
- An email service provider to manage your list with the tools to create, segment, send and track your emails.
The second point is the easy one. Obtaining email addresses with the appropriate permissions requires more planning. and thoughtful execution.
Building an ‘Opt-In’ Email Marketing List
A simple way to get started building your permission-based email list is to build the collection of the client’s email address and related marketing permissions into your normal practice protocols. New patient forms are a way to ask for the patient’s email address. There should be two places where the patient may check to specifically opt-in to receive emails from the eye care provider. The first box would be one where the client may choose one or more preferred methods of being contacted by the practice. This will give the practice permission to send normal communications to the user. The second place on the form would additionally ask if the client would like to receive eye care information and special promotions from the practice.
Existing returning patients may also be asked if they would like to be contacted via email. In either case, all emails sent should fulfill a legitimate need for client communication or provide real value to the client in regards to the eye care provider’s expertise and practice areas. It should be noted that email communications are not generally secure so email is not recommended for personally identifiable medical information especially in the context of HIPAA regulations. HIPAA compliance is outside the scope of this post and all communication practices need to evaluated in the context of HIPAA compliancy.
An email service provider will also have an email sign up form that you may use to link from your website to allow clients who visit your site, or your practice’s page on Facebook, to sign up for your email communications.
Selecting an Email Service Provider
Email marketing service providers have become mature in their technologies and services and they are quite reasonably priced. There are self-service to fully managed email marketing service options. Below are links to two low-cost email marketing platforms that you may want to look at. Both have free trials so you can get started and get familiar with their interfaces and reports:
Features of Email Marketing Service Providers
An email marketing platform will help you do several things:
- Easily import, create and store email lists
- Create email templates for different types of email messages. Support for HTML and Text formats.
- Purchase custom email template creation services
- Create and send an email to a list or multiple lists
- Segment your email list(s) based on customer type, performance, frequency of communication or other criteria
- Manage the collection of emails from an email subscription form
- Manage email bounce and unsubscribe requests so your emails get to people who want them
- Track the open rate and response rate of emails among other usage statistics
- Utilize tutorials, forums and live support
I hope this brief discussion has helped to demystify email marketing. Email is a proven tool that you can use to engage your clients more than you may be today.
For a more information, I would recommend the book E-mail Marketing for Dummies by John Arnold. This addition to the ‘for Dummies’ series of books has great information in it for the seasoned and novice email marketer alike.
Embedded below is a video of the author, John Arnold, talking about his book and some recent trends in email marketing for small business.