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Email Marketing 101
Jump-start your practice’s email marketing campaign with these tips on content, design and frequency.
Email marketing is one of the leading ways for businesses to connect with customers and build loyalty and brand awareness. Veterinary practices are no exception.
“A newsletter can be a very effective way of communicating with pet owners,” said Karen E. Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, CVA, founder and president of PantheraT Veterinary Management Consulting. Even more, email newsletters serve as a reminder.
Emails are an extension of your brand and should be composed with that in mind. They should be also unique to your practice and will take a bit of trial and error to perfect, but this simple guide can help get you started.
Your first instinct might be to fill your digital newsletter with information about how wonderful your practice is. As true as that may be, it’s not what your clients want to read. Instead, a good rule of thumb is to provide content that is about 90 percent educational and 10 percent promotional. Your email campaign should be viewed as a way to further your relationship with clients rather than to blatantly pitch them on services.
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As you develop email content, there are a few key factors to consider. First, think about the tone of your email and any content on your website that you intend to link to. It’s important that you brand yourself as an expert, but steer clear of using overly clinical language filled with medical jargon that might be misinterpreted as being pretentious or, worse, fly over the heads of your audience. Clients want the best of both worlds: a veterinarian who is a knowledgeable expert but one with whom they also feel comfortable speaking.
Focusing on pet owners doesn’t mean you can’t write about important animal health topics; you may just need to rephrase how you present the idea or action item.
“You need to make sure it’s something people want to read,” Dr. Felsted noted. “Pet owners don’t want to read an entire article about the cellular impact of a preventive you are recommending. What they really want to read are patient success stories that incorporate and reinforce the recommendations you’re making. So maybe you talk about a heart- worm-positive dog that was treated successfully at the practice, noting that the patient did well but it’s important to prevent heart- worm infection and here’s how.”
Other content ideas include profiles of staff members and how-to guides. Keep a running list of the questions your clients regularly ask or interesting topics you see online. This will help ensure that your content is always fresh and you’re not struggling to find some- thing new to write about.
You specialize in protecting animal health, not graphic design, so putting together an email newsletter can seem daunting — but it doesn’t have to be. A number of online programs make it easy to upload audience lists and design beautiful emails through provided templates. You can explore the features and even take advantage of free trials with companies like Constant Contact, MailChimp and Benchmark.
Once you decide on the email marketing program and template you want to use, lay out your content based on a hierarchy of importance, leading with your clinic’s name, contact information and logo. Dr. Felsted suggested incorporating eye-catching graphics or imagery and not being afraid of white space. Be conscious of not making emails too copy heavy either. Provide a few lines of text that can serve as a snippet of information or a preview of a larger article that the email’s recipients can click through to. The idea behind an email newsletter is to get people to act — either by visiting your website for more information or by making an appointment for their pet.
When planning your email newsletter campaign, it’s important to consider the frequency. It’s OK to send an email related to a product release or news of particular importance, but for the most part your email deployment should follow a predetermined schedule.
If you send emails too frequently, you risk annoying your clients. On the other hand, if you send them too sparsely or randomly, your clients might not remember that they signed up for your newsletter to begin with. As a starting point, plan to send an email once a month.
Test. And Then Test Again
Before you hit “Send” to share an email with your clients, make sure you’ve tested it thoroughly. Email programs allow you to send a test version to your personal email address as one of the final steps in the creation process. Click on all links in the email to confirm that they work, and run content through a program such as
Grammarly to help ensure everything is spelled correctly. Broken links and misspelled words will distract from your message and create a poor impression of your practice. Only after you’ve rechecked your work should you deploy the email.
It might take some time to construct your first few emails, but you’ll soon learn what layout you prefer and which types of content your audience responds to best. And that will lead to more appoint- ments, better client relationships and increased revenue.