If there’s one sound that elicits instant nostalgia for the 1990s, it’s the fuzzy whirring and techy chirps of a dial-up modem. To an entire generation, this sound heralded the dawn of a new age and connected people over all over the world through email. By the late ’90s, many businesses had gotten on the email bandwagon, which provided them a speedy and effective way to connect with their target consumers—and it didn’t take long for rehab therapy practices to follow suit.

Two decades later, email is one of the most powerful tools a practice can have in its marketing toolbox. Here’s why:

  • In the US alone, 89% of people check their email every day. And while some people don’t have a social media profile, it’s fairly common to have an email address.
  • Plus, as we mention in our marketing e-book, Modern Marketing Decoded, “Users report an average of 222% ROI on their email services.” That’s a big return for a small price tag.

Unfortunately, some practices miss out on this opportunity, as they assume that email marketing requires a lot of time, money, and coding know-how. Don’t fall into this trap! You don’t have to know the difference between HTML and CSS to capitalize on the power of email. Ready to get down to business? Follow this guide to get your email marketing program off the ground:

Pick the right tool.

Assuming you have a marketing budget, you need to decide how much of it will go toward email. Fortunately, email marketing is one of the most cost-efficient forms of digital marketing, so you only need to devote a small percentage of your budget to it.

Next, you need to choose your email marketing platform. You’re likely familiar with common email services like Office365, Gmail, and Outlook, but these major-league players aren’t ideal for true email marketing. That’s because:

  • one-to-one email services produce plain-looking messages that don’t exactly scream “professional business email”;
  • they don’t allow you to schedule emails in advance, forcing you to carve time out of your day to write and send messages individually; and
  • you can’t segment and target specific groups of patients.

Fortunately, software that’s designed specifically for email marketing can make it super-easy to craft beautiful, professional-looking emails; save templates; schedule emails; and segment your recipients. These are the platforms WebPT’s marketing team recommends, along with some of their features:

  • Constant Contact
    • 60-day free trial (for up to 100 email addresses).
    • Discounted pricing for prepayment.
    • Limited pricing options.
  • MailChimp
    • Pay-as-you-go options.
    • Free version available with limited capability. No phone support.
  • Emma
    • 30-day money-back guarantee.
    • Phone and email support (Monday through Friday, 5:00 AM – 7:00 PM CST).
    • More expensive than other options for small-to-medium businesses.
  • Campaign Monitor
    • Flexible pricing plans.
    • Email and phone support (Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM PST).
    • Pricing based on the number of contacts you have (not the ones you use).
    • Limited template-editing capabilities.

Looking for more options? Check out this list from G2 Crowd of the best email marketing software, compiled by analyzing thousands of real-user reviews.

Craft your message.

Next, you need to figure out what kind of content you’ll send. As a rehab therapy provider, your email strategy should revolve around retaining current patients and reactivating past patients. Here are some examples of different emails you can incorporate in this strategy:

Once you know what kind of emails you want to write, it’s time to put pen to paper—or fingers to a keyboard—and jam out some email copy. But, you want to make sure people actually open and, more importantly, read your emails. So, as you write your emails, make sure you’re following these basic tips:

  • Write an eye-catching subject line. Your subject line is the first part of your email people see. But, if your subject line is too spammy or long, it’ll be the only part they see—because they won’t bother opening it.
  • Keep it short and sweet. People have busy lives, so when they’re checking their email, they’re more likely to read a short message than a long-winded essay. Have a lot of information you need to communicate? Use bullet points to get your message across succinctly.
  • State your purpose. Every email you send should have a clear, concise message (e.g., “schedule an appointment” or “rate your experience”), otherwise known as a “call to action.” Make sure that every message has one—and only one. (Some newbie email marketers make the mistake of having more than one call to action, and you don’t want to be one of them.)
  • Put a face on it. Who are you more likely to open an email from: a real person or a faceless corporation? Chances are, unless you’re anticipating an email from a business, a real name is more likely to earn your trust—and your click. The same goes for your audience. So, consider making yourself or the practice manager the sender.

Email marketing got you stumped? Does planning your marketing budget leave you with analysis paralysis? Wish there was a simple, comprehensive guidebook with everything you need to know about marketing your rehab therapy practice? If so, you’re in luck: download your free copy of Modern Marketing Decoded: A Guide for Rehab Therapists.

Get permission.

It’s not glamorous, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it: before you can do anything marketing-related with email, you need to make sure your processes adhere to HIPAA rules. So, follow these guidelines to avoid getting yourself—or your practice—into hot water:

  • The HIPAA rules around marketing aren’t exactly straightforward. That’s why we advise that practices err on the side of caution and include a marketing communications opt-in form as part of every patient’s intake packet. That way, it’s crystal clear to your patients that you’ll be using their email addresses for marketing purposes—and you’ll have their permission to do so.
  • Within your opt-in form, lay out the types of communications you’ll send (e.g., appointment reminders, announcements, newsletters, and announcements of discount and specials).
  • If a patient is iffy about opting in, explain how those communications will benefit them. And if patients still choose not to opt in, respect that decision and don’t press the issue. After all, they can always sign up at a later date.
  • Legally, you must provide patients a clear way to unsubscribe from your emails at any time. And should you receive any requests to opt out, you absolutely must comply.
  • Verify that your email software vendor understands HIPAA and that it’ll keep you compliant.
  • Remember: Email addresses are considered PHI, so you must handle them like you would patient names, addresses, or other personal information.

Consider total automation.

If you’re not keen on spending your time writing emails and creating recipient segments, there’s a simple, easy solution: you can totally automate the process by using a patient relationship management (PRM) platform. With PRM software, you can send:

  • intake forms to patients before their first visit to speed up the intake process;
  • targeted marketing emails to reactivate past patients;
  • educational content relevant to specific patient diagnoses; and
  • NPS® surveys to track patient loyalty and satisfaction.

The icing on the cake: If you use a PRM platform like WebPT Reach, all of that information is housed right in your EMR, so you know it’s secure and easy to access.

The rise of the Net opened up doors that were once invisible to PTs, OTs, SLPs, and their patients. And while our ears are rarely graced by the sound of a dial-up modem anymore, one thing remains: the Internet is connecting businesses to the people who need their products and services most—and rehab therapy practices are no exception. Does your practice have an email marketing strategy? Tell us about it in the comment section below!