The way people communicate has changed dramatically over the last few decades. Today’s communication has evolved from letters and telephone conversations to mediums such as email, text, chat, social media, and even video. And what sometimes took days to relay between two people has evolved into messages that appear in seconds (there’s a reason they now call it “snail mail”). Keeping up with this ongoing evolution is crucial in helping to create sustainability and relevancy for your practice in the next trend of patient communication and marketing. Regardless of whether you are using your email list today, you will absolutely need to in the future.
But why email specifically?
People use their email several times a day.
According to Statista.com, 63% of users check their email inboxes anywhere from a few times a day to as many as “in real time,” or as emails arrive. This leaves only 37% of users checking their inboxes once or less per day, and this isn’t limited to just the younger generations. Statista.com also reports that 85.5% of our 65-and-older population use email in relation to the 95.5% of 45- to 64-year-olds and 93.4% of 25- to 44-year-olds. Email is truly a part of our daily culture and continues to become more important as time passes. Bottom line: Our patients use email today and they use it on a regular basis.
You “own” your email list.
When you possess a patient email, that email is a part of your database. It is an invaluable point of patient contact that you can control. And the competitors in your market are unable to access that personal point of contact. Your competitors are generally limited to targeting your patients through more traditional means of direct mail, newspaper, TV/radio, and online advertising. These tactics are not generally a personable means of communication because they are targeted to the many as opposed to the one.
Email is personal.
By holding a patient’s email address, that patient is allowing you into their inbox; an inbox where you are most likely prioritized only by date and not by relationship or personal preference. Not unlike a phone number, an email address allows you to connect easily with a patient individually and on a personal level, a luxury your competitors most likely do not have. You have the ability and permission to communicate one-on-one with your patient.
Moving beyond the general value of email communication with patients, the ability to utilize this piece of your database when providing automated patient communication allows for an even more effective channel of contact. This becomes exponentially more important if you’re able to connect with a larger portion of your patient base. This holds true when it comes to marketing your services to existing and prospective patients.
Stay in contact with your patients.
Email communication can be a great tool for your practice to communicate proactively with patients quickly and to keep them up to date on events within the practice, new products, future appointments, follow-ups, and other important announcements. Emails can also be written or read at any time of the day or night, potentially making it easier for those whose circumstances might make it difficult to communicate during your regular business hours. Whether you need to send messages about impact to events/inventory/services or simply to say things are operating as usual, email makes it easier to stay in contact with your patients.
Email addresses are key for Marketing Automation.
If you plan to use patient email addresses at all for marketing in the future, now is the time to start building that database. It goes without saying that an email address is essential for email patient communication or email marketing. According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing on average sees a 4,300% return on investment (ROI) for businesses in the USA. That translates to $43 earned for every $1 you spend.
Email is targeted.
Believe it or not, an email can be even more targeted than a home address or a home phone line. Whereas multiple people within the household might check the mailbox or pick up a ringing landline, email tends to be much more specific as to whom it is specifically intended for. This makes communicating one on one with a specific individual, for a specific reason, much easier and intentional.
Improve patient care and sales conversions.
With Marketing Automation, communicating with patients through triggered emails could also save your team time, allowing them to focus on outbound calling by assisting with contacting tested-not-treated patients, warranty-expiration patients, and appointment reminders, to name a few. It can also allow you to keep in touch with patients you’re unable to connect with or who simply don’t engage with your practice on a regular basis. Furthermore, reminding patients of their appointment beforehand could also lower no-shows for your practice. And setting up providers for success before the patient even arrives for their appointment by creating expectations beforehand allows for a more meaningful interaction for the provider and an enhanced patient experience.
Increase website traffic.
What are you doing to drive patients to your website? Are you aware of how often your patients are visiting? Through Marketing Automation, you can utilize the information and education on your website as the source for most of the content being sent. Using emails that link back to the relevant information on your site builds your site as the place for all education. And by building awareness of this destination for answers, you help cement your and your practice’s brand as the authority in your market.
Build on your brand awareness.
We know that building your brand is a very important piece of your success. And differentiating your practice in your market is an important piece of that puzzle. The ability to brand your practice as the go-to expert in your community — as the hearing health care experts and resource for all things hearing — should be a goal for your practice. Opening that communication channel of email allows you to more easily accomplish this by being more accessible to your patients’ one-off questions as they arise. And through Marketing Automation efforts, most calls-to-action are driving patients directly to the website for the specific content they are looking for at that moment without having to search for it via Google or within your site itself. And driving this traffic to your website with the intentionality of what your patient is specifically interested in at that moment adds to the ability of building that brand — the brand of being the expert in your market.
So work with your SBU teams to create a standard operating procedure in your practice to collect as many patient email addresses as possible and to funnel your engagement and retention activities through email communication. It’s as easy as this: If a patient leaves their email blank on the intake form, ask them if they want to fill that in. When a longtime patient visits your practice, double-check to ensure their contact information is still correct. If you’re missing their email address, ask them for it. Beyond emails, ensure you have a patient database with as much clean and correct information as possible available for the patients you care for. And put in place a proper data-governance process so that your patient data remains clean for years to come.