How many of your patients’ email addresses does you practice have?
I hope that the answer is most!
Email is the cost-effective way for your practice to:
- Encourage patient loyalty and ensure that they keep coming back even in the current economic climate
- Educate and inform patients about new and long-standing treatments
- Engage in ‘soft marketing’ – i.e. Not hard sell and coming in under the cynics radar
- Encourage referrals to friends and family
I will elaborate…
Many practices take this as a given and risk losing committed patients through apathy and inactivity. Picture this…
A patient who has been coming to the practice for years and has spoken to you about treatment X but put off until now for financial reasons. Bright and shiny new website/leaflet from nearby practice OR personal recommendation from friend. Many will visit the alternative practice if only for this specific treatment – much more common than you think.
A regular email will show that you value patients’ custom and that they are not just another number.
Educate and Inform
I can probably pre-empt what you may be thinking – “We regularly talk to our patients about available and suitable treatments whether in the chair or in the practice.” I am quite sure that you do! However, if I stopped 100 of your patients in the street and asked what treatments your practice offered, I am quite sure that many services past ‘check-ups’, ‘hygiene’ and ‘tooth whitening’ would be forgotten.
As with all marketing you have to keep telling people. Even if you have told patients 5 times before, that doesn’t mean on the 6th occasion they won’t be interested – in fact by this time it will have sunk in and they are more likely to be interested.
Secondly, you may have made the decision that treatment X is out of the budget range of patient Y (we shouldn’t make these assumptions, but most of us do). If you create enough want and desire in a patient for a certain treatment, they will find the finance.
Frankly, the dental chair is one of the worst places to interest patients in an elective treatment! They are very probably uncomfortable, nervous and wanting to leave as quickly as possible! An email will be received in the comfort of their office or home and will allow them to read at their leisure. And remember, more people respond to pictorial and visual stimuli than auditory.
Soft marketing is a reflection of the fact that today’s consumer is far more sophisticated than those of yesteryear and won’t generally react so well to the ‘Buy now, get 20% off’ message that used to be so prevalent.
By using regular email (and other items such as PR, blogs and social media) you can get across the message that to your patients you are the ‘expert’ and the person to come to with any oral health queries. The patient probably won’t even recognize that they are being marketed to – but they are, just more subtly.
Email allows you to adopt a newsletter-y and informative feel – you aren’t selling to patients, you are informing and educating them.
I am sure that your patients are very happy with the care that you provide for them. But, to really encourage referrals you need to give that little bit extra. The customer service in the practice needs to be exemplary and a regular email communication will back this up further.
Ask for feedback – this will mean that each subsequent email becomes more and more relevant to your patients.
Email as a form of patient communication has 3 key advantages over many other media:
- Ease of measurement – there is a huge amount of software that will allow you to track how many emails were bounced, opened, clicked on etc. This makes it one of the most measurable forms of marketing there is.
- Most people check their email every day – if you place an advertisement in the local press or on radio, the majority of people will miss it.
- Increase awareness of other channels – by using links and coding in the email, you can link to your website, Facebook page, blog etc., and make patients more likely to visit them.
And of course, as it is internal marketing, your return on investment is likely to be much greater than any external avenue you may pursue.