Building Healthcare Relationships With Email

Posted on by Beth Negus Viveiros

Email has gone through many phases in healthcare marketing since 2001 and remains one of the “meat and potato” communication channels between healthcare brands and consumers. 

Email may no longer be a new and sexy marketing tool, but it is still of great value. Today, making email work is all about flexing creative muscle and finding new ways of leveraging the medium. Recently, SmarterTools gathered and summarized some great data on the use of email versus other digital channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. It clearly shows the significant role email plays in our daily lives relative to social media—there are nearly three times as many email accounts today as there are Facebook and Twitter accounts combined.

Of course, the most accounts may not be the most important metric when it comes to healthcare marketing, especially when it comes to being sure you are marketing to the appropriate target.  But we know that a large segment of the population—including patients and caregivers—are not yet owners of smartphones, tablets, etc., and may not turn to social media for their health information. 

Realizing that one’s email address has become the most common, unique identifier an individual possesses, surpassing things like Social Security numbers, driver’s license, or other traditional means of identity, makes it hard to pass on leveraging the medium.

Tips for Healthcare Email Marketing:

1.    Don’t include the kitchen sink.

Yes, brands have messages to communicate, such as lifestyle education instrumental for those with chronic conditions, core campaign visuals, 800 numbers, reimbursement information or links to patient stories. But often, i’s just too much.  Content and visuals that are repeated in every email become wallpaper, and users’ eyes glaze over even the best offers and links.

2.    Do ask enrollees what content they prefer to receive

Today marketers can serve content-based on user preferences, in combination with the core message they want to deliver.  Provide three choices to the user and it’s a win-win.  Next time they receive an email, be sure to personalize the subject line with the topic they chose and open rates will skyrocket. Plus, the brand now has amazing data on what content resonates with which segments…all feeding back into the content creation loop to optimize future results.

3.    Do design email for mobile

Although smartphone penetration is not 100%, around 40% of mobile users in the U.S. read email on a mobile device.  Mobile email open rates increased 34% in the last six months of 2011, according to a study by ReturnPath, while desktop email opens dropped by 9.5%.

There are many considerations for design including multi-column layouts to make it easier for readers to double tap and zoom in on text, avoiding awkward side scrolling; keeping images small; and making buttons “thumb-friendly” for read more and social media links.

Daniella Koren is founder and president of healthcare relationship marketing firm DKI.

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