Contrary to popular belief, email is not dead—nor will it ever be. Or so says Scott Hebert, WebPT’s Director of Product Management. In Hebert’s eyes, other methods of consumer communication—like direct mail or text messaging—are useful, but they have serious limitations that email does not (cost and opt-out rates, respectively). In other words, email marketing is a powerful tool that every physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology clinic should have in its back pocket—but email can get complicated and time-consuming when done entirely by hand.
As such, automation is an email marketer’s best friend. Every clinic that sends emails to acquire, retain, and reactivate patients should take to segmenting audiences and setting automatic triggers at scale. Uff da—did I lose ya? If so, no worries—because in this post, I’ll explain the basic tenets of email automation and the features your email software must have to allow you to maximize your efforts.
1. Focus on forging relationships.
The first principle of successful email automation has less to do with the software you use and more to do with how you approach your marketing efforts. Consider this insight from Alexie Chavez, WebPT’s Marketing Automation Specialist and our resident email savant: “When someone gives you their email address, it’s almost like they’re giving you permission to have a relationship with them,” she says. “It’s an opening into their life.”
It’s absolutely crucial to provide value with each and every email you send. Patients are giving you their email address—and ultimately, their ear—so you need to give them something in return. Consider your patients’ wants and needs as you craft your campaigns and draft your email messages, and try to deliver relevant and helpful information or resources to specific segments of your patient population.
Look at it this way: would your current patients benefit from knowing that you’re running a new patient intake special? Probably not. But would your current sports-oriented patients (especially those near the end of their course of care) be interested in your new cash-pay physical training services? You betcha.
Chavez’s advice? “Don’t send out frivolous updates,” she says. “Make sure your emails are always relevant and valuable to patients. And remember, not everything that’s relevant and valuable to you is relevant and valuable to your patients.”
2. Segment your email list.
Personalized emails are the best way to provide value to your patients and build positive relationships with them. While it’s not feasible to draft unique emails for each and every patient you want to stay in contact with, you can still offer personalized, pre-drafted content by segmenting your email list.
In this context, segmentation is literally just dividing email recipients (i.e., your patients) into groups. You can segment your patients based on any piece of data that you’ve collected—be it age, gender, body treatment area, ZIP code, or even treatment start date. Once you create these groups, you can target each one with specific messages, thus making your email content feel both relevant and personalized—even though you’re sending it to a big group of people.
So, let’s say your local BCBS plan recently began covering dry needling—a highly requested service in your clinic. To get this information out to the public, you decide to send an email blast. At this point, your best course of action is to segment your patient email list by insurance carrier and blast all current and past BCBS patients, informing them that they can now receive insurance-covered dry needling services at your clinic.
But that’s only one example. Feel free to get creative with your segmentation—and with the information and resources that you provide. The more you hone in on your target groups, the more effective your email marketing will be. Hebert believes that, despite its name, email automation is far from robotic. “It is automation, but if you structure it the right way, it can feel very personal and can be a great way to build a foundation of communication with patients,” he says.
3. Nurture your segments.
Marketing is more like a marathon than a sprint. While you can wave around discounts and special sales to encourage patients to dash in the door, Chavez suggests taking your time and slowly nurturing (or “dripping,” in email-marketing speak) your segments and encouraging them to visit in small increments.
Say, for instance, that a group of newly designated work-from-home patients are interested in reducing their newfound back, neck, and finger pain. You could nurture this segment of patients by sending them resources (e.g., videos, infographics, or blog articles) that demonstrate how they can reduce their pain. Eventually, you could pitch them on your in-clinic services.
Nurturing the patients you already have is easier than you might think—but it’s no less important than acquiring patients in the first place. Hebert points out that 20% of patients drop out of therapy after their first three visits, and “this has significant consequences to your success as a business.” Putting resources into targeting this audience is also cost-effective, as it’s five times cheaper to retain a patient than to get a new one.
Consider building a nurture campaign around the patient journey. Draft an introductory email to new patients that expresses your excitement about treating them. Set clear expectations for their first appointment. You may even consider putting them on a customized drip based on their reported condition or injury. Throughout their course of care, nurture these patients by sending them emails with helpful tips about treatment for their injury type. If they fall off the schedule, send them a check-in email so they know you noticed their absence.
All of these touchpoints will help you retain your patients, because the messages provide real value—and help you strengthen your relationship. (To see some examples of therapy-specific email templates, check out this blog post.)
High-quality nurture campaigns can also reactivate past patients. After all, 50% of all adults get a new musculoskeletal injury each year, practically ensuring that some of your former patients could once again use your help.
Nurturing this group is a little tricky, as it’s harder to predict what content these patients will find valuable. Consider checking in with patients to see how their old injury or treatment area is faring. Or, promote services that they have previously shown interest in.
4. Choose an email automation software that does it all.
I get it; email automation sounds intimidating. Crafting nurture campaigns requires a lot of strategic planning—not to mention time spent writing emails and segmenting email lists. That’s exactly why, in Chavez’s words, “If you can afford an automation software of any kind, I think it’s worth it.” You don’t have to break the bank; Mailchimp and Constant Contact are both low-cost email automation platforms that work in a pinch.
Fulfilling Healthcare-Specific Needs
But PTs, OTs, and SLPs are much better served using an email automation software like WebPT Reach, which was built specifically for rehab therapy providers. Systems like Reach are guaranteed to be HIPAA-compliant. Plus, Reach fully integrates with several EMRs, thus empowering users to leverage detailed patient information to build highly targeted email lists and nurture campaigns. In addition to coming pre-loaded with email templates that you can customize to your heart’s content, Reach will automatically trigger email sends for you based on the data that flows over from your EMR. That way, you don’t have to worry about monitoring that data and manually deploying each email blast. Reach also enables users to customize the visual appearance of their emails, making it look like emails were sent directly from specific therapists.
In essence, Reach can solve all of your email automation needs—and more. Check out how Reach can also help you build landing pages, rake in better online reviews, and manage your leads. It’ll totally transform your practice into a digital marketing powerhouse. Goodbye empty appointment slots—and hello, full treatment schedule!
Email marketing is very much alive, and now is the perfect time to try your hand at using it to increase and maintain patient volume. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained! Are you ready to automate your email marketing process? What questions do you have? Let us know in the comment section below, and we’ll tap our experts for more great advice.