Matt is WebPT’s email marketing specialist. His monthly column covers all things email marketing and how it can help your clinic.

Collecting Email AddressesWhen it comes to personal information, these days it doesn’t get much more personal than your email address. This might seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but just think about how often businesses try to get you to dish out your email—there has to be a good reason, right?

The email address is practically your digital social security number. Sure, you can abandon it and get a new one, but when you consider your email history and all of the contacts you’ve amassed, it’s not as simple as it sounds. It’s the importance of this piece of information that makes it so critical for businesses to collect it—and why you should be doing so as well.

For months I’ve droned on about the importance of email marketing and how it can help your clinic’s bottom line, but what good are all my rantings and ravings if you can’t acquire (and hang on to) an email address?

So what’s the trick to getting someone to hand over one of the most personal pieces of online information? Here are three things to keep in mind:

  1. Make it worth their while.
    What’s in it for the patients who give you their email address? Are you just going to spam them with irrelevant information and promotions? Make it clear what benefits they’ll receive by handing over their email. Maybe it lets you send them email appointment reminders, helpful recovery information, even coupons—whatever it is, they should feel like they are going to benefit from—not regret—the decision to entrust you with their email address.

  2. Be trustworthy.
    The guiding principle for just about everything in business is to build trust with your customers. The same applies for email collection. In 2012,
    68.8% of all email traffic was spam. That’s close to 100 billion spam messages every single day. (Tweet this!) So a vital part of collecting emails is assuring your patients that you won’t send them anything they don’t want. How? Just try to be very upfront with them about what they’re signing up for and include a reassuring disclaimer about valuing their privacy and not sending spam.

  3. Maintain your reputation.
    Your clinic’s reputation is everything, so don’t risk it over something as silly as violating trust with an email address. Every part of your practice affects its overall reputation, so if you purchase a list of emails in the area (big no-no), sell the ones you’ve collected to local businesses (
    bigger no-no), or if you don’t honor unsubscribe requests (biggest no-no), these things can greatly damage all the hard work you’ve put in. Just like your reputation as a therapist, you have to maintain your reputation as an email marketer.

With those in mind, all you’ve got to do is actually collect the email addresses—which is, believe it or not, the easy part. If you’re not already doing so, start requesting the patient’s email and asking if they’d like to receive marketing emails from your practice during the new patient intake process. Just make sure this form is totally separate from your other medical paperwork; that way you’re playing it safe when it comes to new HIPAA regulations. Furthermore, add a newsletter subscription form to your website as well (and if you don’t have a website, get one). Finally, check out other businesses and see what creative methods they’re using to collect email addresses—imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.

Soon enough you’ll be up to your neck in these incredibly valuable pieces of information. Just keep the three tips above in mind when you start thinking about what to do with them. Are you collecting email addresses to help market your clinic? Let us know about it in the comments below.

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