Email is a powerful tool for any digital marketer. Brands across healthcare can leverage it to drive engagement, nurture leads, and onboard customers to their product or service.
In the healthcare industry, email is ubiquitous through its versatility. Individual physicians and practices use it for disclosures and to remind patients about an upcoming visit. Healthcare consumer brands, on the other hand, use it as a marketing tool to drive brand awareness and consideration within competitive fields.
Its versatility and low cost allow email to have the highest ROI of any marketing channel. In fact, one study found that it returned $38 for every dollar spent, while 59% of respondents to a recent survey considered it their most effective tactic.
At the same time, email marketing needs to be executed well. Used incorrectly, it can have a negative impact on brands, spamming inboxes of potential customers with messages that have little to no relevance to their interests, questions, and pain points.
Healthcare companies and professionals who leverage email in a positive way can see thebenefits that email marketing brings within the context of an integrated engagement plan. Good email marketing means applying best practices such as identifying specific goals and defining the right audience. Here are six steps to get started with email marketing for healthcare.
1. Establish Your Goals
The best marketing emails are purpose-driven to accomplish your marketing, sales, and business goals. They take into account the customer journey, the various steps any audience goes through as they move from awareness to consideration and the eventual sale.
Email plays a core role in that journey. It can position your brand in context of its competition, make a convincing sales pitch, or onboard new customers to build awareness and education.
Setting goals not only helpscompanies ensure the impactof each message but also its role within the business objectives. For instance, for a business goal of increasing customer loyalty, an email goal might be connected to signing up for a loyalty program after the initial purchase.
The goals you set will influence:
- The types of campaigns you send
- The audience you will target
- The content of the email
- The cadence and frequency of emails
- The success metrics and KPIs you focus on
Your goal might be to increase brand awareness, drive leads through the sales funnel, or make sure that new customers actually use your product or service the right way. It could also be connected to retention and staying top of mind of existing customers.
The versatility of the tool makes this first step absolutely crucial. Rather than sending emails with ad-hoc messages, establish your goals in a defined way that guides all of the steps below.
2. Build Your Email Database
Your goals define your audience, which in turn gives you guidance on how exactly you should build your database of recipients for future message. Most healthcare businesses already have a basic list in place, such as existing customers and/or patients.
In most cases, that basic list provides a foundation. At the same time, it's important to go beyond. Here, the concept of allowing your audience to opt in is absolutely vital. Every email you send should only go to recipients who have specifically raised their hands about receiving that type of email.
To accomplish that goal, modern marketers have turned to a value exchange that gives the audience something in return for opting into receiving emails. In other words, your audience needs to feel that what they're giving up (their contact information) is reciprocated with something of equal value and relevance to them. A variety of marketing touch points can offer these types of value exchanges help you grow your database:
- Forms on your website, often connected to so-called lead magnets that provide an incentive for your audience to give you their contact info.
- Offline events, where you can gather email addresses through the sign-up process or at the event itself.
- Lead generation campaigns, often driven through networks like Facebook that allow for processes like lead ads.
- Any other subscription opportunities at which you can successfully gather email addresses of current and future customers.
3. Decide What Types of Email Campaigns You Want to Deliver
The right type of email campaign for any business is largely dependent on the goals previously set. Every member of the target audience, in healthcare as in other industries, travels through the customer life cycle:
- Brand awareness
- Content engagement
- Competitive evaluation
- Purchase decision
- Product experience
- Repeat/Loyalty purchase decision
The goals set in the first stage determine which of these life cycle stages to should focus on. That, in turn, builds an understanding of what types of emails and email campaigns to build.
One example of a company doing email well in a variety of life cycle stages is Kindred Healthcare. An operator of hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, Kindred was able to drastically increase its ROI from email marketing due to a conscious strategy to personalize content, engage potential referrers, and leverage data to better segment its customers for more relevant outreach.
A focus on customer retention lends itself to an onboarding sequence including a welcome email with several follow-ups offering help and guidance on how to use your product or service. Converting more customers, on the other hand, might require a conversion email sequence that subtly moves leads down the sales funnel, potentially through offers like a free trial for your product.
Engagement emails are another popular focus in this environment. Healthcare providers can benefit from announcing and introducing a new physician or featuring some of their existing personnel to personalize the practice. Engagement emails don't typically lead to a hard sales goal, but keep potential and current patients involved as they build a closer attachment to the business.
4. Follow Best Practices for Creating Emails
Marketing emails run on a fine edge between relevance and spam. Every business benefits from making sure its messages fall into the former category, which is how a number of best practices have emerged:
- A simple layout that makes the information easy to follow and digest, even for those just skimming it.
- Short subject lines that are relevant, and actionable, relating directly to the content featured in the email itself.
- Personalization, such as including a customer's first name in the greeting or highlighting a specific healthcare interest in the body copy.
- A singular focus. If the email aims to convert a customer, include a specific call to action. If engagement is the focus, that call to action should not drive towards a sale.
- Clear calls to action. Many email marketers find success separating their CTA in a separate line or even a button for easy integration.
- Focused Visuals that add value to the content. All visuals should include alt text to convey the same message for email clients that can't show pictures.
- A friendly tone of voice that engages recipients on a personal level.
A clear understanding of healthcare email best practices is always beneficial. In addition to the above, that might include sending emails at the right time and only to targeted audiences.
5. Measure Your Email Marketing Efforts
Even marketers who follow all relevant best practices might still not be successful in this channel. Healthcare customers tend to be cautious to give out their private information, and don't always respond as positively to email marketing as their counterparts in other industries. Measuring the results of each email sent is vital to track the return on investment.
Some of the common metrics tracked in email marketing include:
- Open rates, which show how many recipients have at least a cursory interest in the message and respond to the subject line.
- Click throughs, which determine how convincing the email content is to convince the audience about taking the next step.
- Shares, a crucial engagement metric for softer goals that aren't directly related to sales.
- Bounces, or how many emails were not delivered due to bad addresses. This metric provides information about the health of an email list.
- Unsubscribes, allowing marketers to see the relevance and connection between email topic and content and the list to which it is distributed.
Each of these metrics has important implication. A high bounce rate , for instance, might cause more of emails even to accurate addresses to end in spam folders. It's also beneficial to tag any email links appropriately, allowing you to follow your recipients from click through their user journey. That can lead to vital information about the types of information they look for, where they convert to leads and customers, and more.
6. Learn, Iterate, and Improve Continually
The second reason for measuring the success of your marketing emails is that it presents an opportunity to improve what your efforts over time. Every metric can become KPIs that allow you to determine where your messages succeeded and failed. That information can then be leveraged to establish a culture of continuous improvement where every email sent is based on what lessons learned from past messages.
That's how email marketing becomes so powerful. Each message you send is an opportunity to improve future messages, and you can clearly determine where you succeed and fail for each of these messages. Through these six steps, you can turn email into a powerful marketing tool for your healthcare brand. Contact us to start partnering on email campaigns that can gain you customers and drive your business forward.