I can see your eyes glaze over. And I can hear the chorus of but…but…HIPAA says we can’t do that, which is just nonsense. If understood correctly, a hospital can manage the marketing of clinical services with cost efficiency and effectiveness and handle the engagement or experience for the provider. It’s cost effective and efficient with an ROI that is over 4,200 percent.
From providing useful and relevant information, wellness programs like webinars and marketing hospital outpatient as well as inpatient clinical services, it’s one of the few mechanisms that hospitals can control in the market. It’s a marketing tool to build brand loyalty, enhance the experience, and engage while driving growth and revenue.
For example, a clueless hospital system.
The hospital system that is the network in my insurance plan has never once engaged me in an email, social media or any other inbound tactic to engage and manage the healthcare consumer or patient experience. Even though I have used them, as well as my wife and family, the system has no clue regarding me or who we are as a family. The provider system still focuses entirely on interruptive outbound mass marketing with the non-targeted shouting look at us making baseless claims, and non-needed services marketing like ads, and radio commercials all the while opening brick and mortar facilities in areas that over saturated and where the population is already existing primary care physician relationships.
But then, I do everything possible in my power to use more cost-efficient and higher quality providers that are far more convenient, cost-effective and provide a better quality experience to me that any system hospital-based services.
Don’t you think the system might want to engage me?
Better than outbound interruptive marketing where your messages are simply broadcast to the widest possible audience in the hopes that someone will respond, email can be a part of your inbound hospital marketing program.
But it just not a mail merge program to put a name at the top. And it’s not buying an email list either.
A word of caution is in order. Never buy an email list. These people have not consented to receive an email from you. Purchased lists damage the brand for that matter, end up in the junk folder or marked as spam. At some point in time, the Internet Service Providers will flag your emails as spam, impacting your ability to send emails.
And emails marked as spam and unopened will eventually affect the deliverability of the email.
And I know a few who think that by asking people to whitelist their email address, that will solve the problem. A temporary fix at best, they need to repair the content, design, and CTAs to make them more responsive to the receiver.
There are plenty of touch-points in the hospital experience that can be used to obtain their email address and have the healthcare consumer or patient opt-in to receiving emails.
In the interest of blog readability, I won’t go into all the detail of how to create a successful healthcare hospital email program. But what I will do is provide some useful tips for creating an engaging email and email program.
10 Steps to start the journey to an engaging email program.
1. Start with a primary goal. Deliveries, clicks, and opens are metrics, not goals. What do you want the email to accomplish? Send someone to their patient portal? Attend a wellness webinar? Download some useful information? Attend a wellness program? Make the goal measurable.
2. Write the copy. One of the few controllable factors in an email by the marketer is the copy. But structure and design are crucial, and it doesn’t matter how great the copy is if the design is all wrong. Every point of text should support the goal.
3. Write for scan-ability. Use the right tone. Personalize when appropriate. Proof read, proof read and then proofread some more.
4. Use the inverted pyramid structure to - grab attention, build anticipation, call-to-action.
5. Have only one call-to-action (CTA). You may have several links in an email, but each link must lead to where you want the reader to go. Multiple CTAs confuse the reader and result in inaction. But in case you just can’t help yourself with multiple CTAs stack your content. In the event of emails, the choice is not okay. The only difference is a newsletter, but that is a subject for another time.
6. Design creates a consistent user experience for everyone who receives your email. The design also helps to remove the friction in delivering your email. You have the opportunity to leverage branding and recognition to capture the reader’s attention. Use headers and sub-headers, font bolding, italics, numbers or colored text, but do not underline. Be deliberate about the top 25 percent of your content.
7. Reduce information density and add white space. White space is good. Use a single column layout.
8. Email design and web design are different. While there are only a few common web browsers, there are thousands of email clients. Each email client will render your email differently. Make sure you provide a link to an online version. 600 pixels is the ideal width. Stay away from HTML/CSS-based positioning and stick to table-structured positioning. Add alt text to your images. Avoid creating emails as a single image and don’t use background images. Remember to define the width and height of your images. Oh and don’t use multiple images. I know people say that they like images, but the data proves otherwise. The more images you have in an email, the fewer opens and clicks. This one does not design around what the consumer says, but a design based on what the data shows how they act.
9. Now really pay attention here. Create the email for mobile. That’s right design it for mobile. Here’s why: 54 percent of emails are viewed and opened on mobile; 81 percent of smartphone users say reading email is an activity that they use mobile for the most, and 41 percent say they want emails readable on mobile devices. (Source: Experian, OFOMC4, DMA) Think about how you use your smartphone. Looking at emails between meetings or a restaurant etc. people may not always be sitting behind desktops all day either. Less is more and designing your email for mobile as it makes you explain the idea with greater clarity and gets you to the point faster.
10. Use mobile-friendly templates. The call-to-action should be above the fold; Navigation goes in the footer. User 14 point type. The call-to-action should be 44 by 44 pixels.
There is a lot here in creating a successful inbound email marketing campaign. But this is a good start. If anything, it may give the system pause and hopefully reconsider its been doing for the last 20 years or so.
Oh, and don’t forget the marketing automation system like Eloqua or Marketo for example. Without it, your email marketing will fail.
Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries. He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.
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