Dental practices are aware that the email channel can have a big impact on their businesses. However, it can be tough to know the best way to get started with dental email marketing. Below, we’ve outlined the highest-impact email marketing tactics for dentists, explained how to get started with email marketing, and shared several valuable best practices to help your email program succeed.
Table of Contents
- Why Email Marketing is Important for Your Practice
- The Most Effective Email Marketing Campaigns for Dentists
- How To Get Started With Email Marketing
- Email Marketing Best Practices
- Bottom Line
Why Email Marketing is Important for Your Practice
Email is one of the most important marketing channels for nearly all businesses. Dental practices are no exception. There are a few reasons that the email channel is so valuable:
- It’s cheap: sending 1000 emails usually costs less than 50 cents.
- It’s personalized: patients can receive emails written specifically for them based upon their recent behavior.
- It’s measurable: like other digital marketing channels, you can easily determine the impact of your email campaigns.
- It’s a two-way conversation: unlike search and referral traffic, you can have two-way conversations with patients via email.
Put together, these characteristics form a marketing channel that can have a significant impact on both your business and the patient experience. As a benchmark, most ecommerce companies get between 5-20% of their sales through email.
Building a high-impact email channel takes time. There’s a lot of domain-specific knowledge to learn. You have to find an email software provider that you like, import your customer data, and master its features. You’ll also need time to design, test and scale several email marketing campaigns that layer on top of each other to create a high-quality patient experience.
As you launch campaigns and add patients to your subscriber list, the impact of your email marketing channel will grow. The more email addresses you can collect from your patients, the larger your email marketing database grows. If done correctly, email marketing will become your practice's most important marketing channel.
The Most Effective Email Marketing Campaigns for Dentists
There’s an unlimited number of ways you can use email to improve your patient experience. At the same time, there are a few email marketing campaigns that are broadly used and proven to work. If executed properly, the campaigns below are almost certain to have an impact on your business.
No-shows have a large negative effect on your practice’s productivity and patient loyalty. Appointment reminder campaigns are a commonly used mechanism for reducing no-shows, and getting earlier noticed of upcoming cancellations.
Dr. Henry Hackney of Authority Dental, told SoftwarePundit that his practice used a combination of email and text message reminders to reduce cancellations by 50%. This has resulted in a more stable calendar, a higher utilization rate and less confusion in the office.
As you’re probably aware, it’s more cost-effective to get business from an existing customer than from a new customer. Recall campaigns are a popular, high-impact dental marketing tactic for this reason.
To build a recall campaign, create a segment of patients who should have returned for a visit, but did not. Then, send those individuals an email that reminds them of the missed appointment and educates them about why the service is valuable to their dental health. According to Dr. Hackney, "educating customers about the consequences of poor oral care is an absolute priority. If you know you have a visit but don't see the point, you won't come."
Dental Newsletter for Patients
Some practices also send newsletters to their patients each month or quarter. Newsletters are an effective way to stay top of mind, share the latest updates from your practice, and give a boost to your business. Keep in mind that your newsletter must provide real value to the reader – make sure that you aren’t just creating and sending it because of your internally-imposed deadline.
Deals & Promotions
Email is a fantastic tool for getting the word out about any deal or promotion going on at your practice. As long as you don’t send them more than once a week, these emails are relatively safe to send to your full list. The biggest risk with promotions is that your patients learn to expect them and no longer pay full price for your products and services.
Teeth whitening services are a very common promotion that practices advertise via email.
How To Get Started With Email Marketing
There are a few different ways to approach your email marketing program. Here are the three most common paths:
The best approach depends on the size of your team, their skillsets, and how much control you want over your marketing systems. Overall, unless you are an experienced marketer, we believe that onboarding a dental patient communication system is the best option.
Email Marketing Best Practices
The best practices below should come in handy as you get started on your email marketing journey. They will help you avoid common mistakes and get the most value from your email marketing program.
Start with Templates
Unless you have experience editing HTML, you will probably start out using a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG, pronounced whiz-ee-wig) editor. These tools make editing email templates as simple as using PowerPoint. You can use your email system's pre-built templates or hire a developer to build your own.
Here's a screenshot of Demandforce's dental email template library:
Make Sure Your Emails Are Mobile Responsive
Today, over 50% of all emails are opened on mobile phones. As a result, it’s critical that your emails are mobile responsive and optimized for the mobile-first patient. Mobile responsive is a technical term that means that the email will automatically adapt when opened on a mobile device. Here’s an example of an email that is mobile responsive:
Segmentation is the process of creating a sub-group of customers based upon their characteristics or actions. Common segments include:
- Customers who’ve had their first appointment in the past week
- Highest spending customers
- Customers for each of your practice locations
- Customers for each product and service that you offer
- Individual customers vs. families
- Customers who used to be loyal, but have not visited in the past 6 months
An email marketing best practice is to use these segments to increase the relevancy of your marketing and the impact of the email channel. You should use segmentation in your most impactful email marketing campiagns, and use these segments to come up with new campaigns to test. Here’s a few campaign ideas:
- A welcome series for new patients
- An appreciation campaign for your top patients
- A coupon for long-time patients who have not visited recently
- A promotion for your practice membership plan to send to cash-paying patients
Every email marketing tool includes the ability for you to segment your customers. Typically, you create the segments in one part of the application, and then select your target segments when you schedule your campaign. You can see the option to choose segments in Demandforce's interface below.
Ensure Your Email Provides Value to the Reader
Once begin working on a new email marketing campaign, it’s easy to lose focus. As you’re building the campaign, ask yourself if the reader will find the email valuable. If you don’t think that at least 50% of your target audience will be thankful that they received, opened, and read your email, don’t send it.
Choose One Call-to-Action
A call-to-action is the action that you want your email recipients to take. In emails, the call-to-action is typically a button that takes the reader to an optimized landing page. For example, in an appointment reminder email your call-to-action could be “confirm your appointment”. Common mistakes made by email marketers include having more than one call-to-action in an email, and not having a clear enough call-to-action that is linked to a relevant landing page.
Understand Email Marketing Analytics
As mentioned above, the email channel performance is easy to measure. To learn from your data, it’s vital to understand the email marketing funnel and the most important metrics.
The email marketing funnel is a marketing term to describe the journey taken by each patient who receives your email. Here are the major steps in the email marketing funnel:
- Email is sent
- Email reaches the inbox (not spam folder)
- Email is opened
- Email is clicked
- Patient converts on website (e.g. schedules appointment, purchases product)
Here are the most important email marketing metrics with corresponding benchmarks:
|Send volume||How many emails has your practice sent in a given period of time?||You probably want to send each of your active patients 1-2 emails per month.|
|Open rate||What percentage of emails that you sent were opened?||20% or higher is good for most marketing emails.|
|Click rate||What percentage of emails that were opened were clicked?||20% or higher is good for most marketing emails.|
|Conversion rate||What percentage of website visits from the email resulted in a conversion (e.g. new appointment)?||The conversion rate from your email channel should be the same or higher as your overall conversion rate.|
|Unsubscribe rate||What percentage of patients who receive your email unsubscribe?||A good unsubscribe rate is under 1 in 1000, or 0.1%.|
|Spam rate||What percentage of emails do not reach the inbox?||A good spam rate is under 8%.|
Don’t Become a Spammer
The email marketing channel is fun and effective. However, it also has several rules that are in place to keep spam out of inboxes. Here are the most important rules that you should follow to make sure your emails don’t end up in the spam folder:
- Don’t buy lists. It’s tempting to spend a few hundred dollars to buy a list of potential new patients that you can email. While you might be able to get a new patient or two from this marketing tactic, it is a terrible email practice that’s likely to send your emails to the spam folder. The two primary reasons are 1) that many of these emails are not active & will bounce, and 2) a few of these emails are probably honey pots.
- Always include an unsubscribe link. The CAN-SPAM Act explains the legal guidelines for email marketing. One of the most important practices is the use of an unsubscribe link in all marketing email messages. That means that every recall email, newsletter and promotion should have an unsubscribe link.
- Use an exclusion segment. When you are sending each email, take a moment to ask yourself if there is a segment of your audience that is definitely not interested in receiving it. If the answer is yes, build a segment of that audience and exclude them from the campaign. This will improve the performance of your campaign as well as your patient experience.
- Clean your subscriber lists once a quarter. Throughout the quarter, you will have some patients that open and click all their emails, and some that open none. If you’ve sent over 10 emails to a patient over the past six months and none have been opened, it’s probably time to remove that person from your mailing list. This will improve the performance of your campaigns, and make it less likely that inboxes mark your messages as spam.
The goal of email marketing is to strengthen your patient relationships and profitably grow your practice. This can be accomplished through campaigns like appointment reminders, recalls, newsletters and promotions.
Building, testing and scaling several email campaigns takes time, and your email channel will become increasingly complex as you layer one campaign on top of another. Fortunately, there are software solutions like Demandforce that help dental practices automate these processes and manage this complexity. We recommend evaluating a short list of patient communication systems to find the one that’s best for your practice. Alternatively, you could partner with a marketing agency to outsource your email marketing operations.