This article originally appeared in the July/2018 issue of the Academy of General Dentistry’s AGD Impact magazine.
Email marketing is still a useful strategy — especially when it comes to staying in front of current patients. But in a time when people receive more and more spam every day, it’s important to know how to use it wisely.
What Is Email Automation?
Most email marketing today is performed by services that offer automation. Email automation involves sending templated emails on a predetermined schedule to a specific audience. As “automated” as they are, you still control to whom you send emails, what content appears in the email, when (day of the week and time of day) it arrives in their inbox, and how long before the next automated message goes out — the automation system simply acts as your personal digital post office. A predetermined set of emails and their triggers to send — whether it’s a certain time or an action taken by a user — is called an email campaign.
When Is Automation Appropriate?
The last thing you want is to inundate the inbox of a new patient with spam. Automated emails are best used when you are running ad campaigns. If potential patients show an interest (through online surveys or information provided on forms) in the treatment you are promoting, you can create a campaign of two or three automated follow-up emails. This increases the likeliness of patients committing to more involved treatments and gives you the opportunity to stay in front of potential new patients.
The Heavy Hitters of Email Automation
There are several companies that provide highly-rated automation services at reasonable rates. Companies such as Constant Contact and MailChimp allow you to customize content. When you customize your content, you ensure that the right people are receiving the right message. For example, potential patients that respond to your practice’s Invisalign® ad campaign would only receive automated emails about Invisalign® instead of general messages about the services you offer.
How Automated Emails Help Your Practice Someone who clicks on your online ad for dental implants and completes a survey may be interested, but that does not mean that they are ready to commit to treatment. One of the perks of automated emails is they can help you determine how effective your messages are by using data — how many people open the email, how many people click the “learn more” link and how many people click the “request an appointment” button. This data can help refine your messages in order to stay in front of the new patients you are trying to recruit.
Ready, Set, Go?
Before you incorporate automated email into your marketing campaign, consider what you’d like to achieve. Are you interested in patients who are seeking a long-lasting relationship or patients who want a specific treatment and nothing more? For the biggest payoff, be sure to keep the end goal in sight. That’s not to imply that the two types of campaigns are mutually exclusive, by any means. Potential patients who have responded to an online ad for a particular service but otherwise know nothing about you may be put-off if their inbox is inundated with what they could consider spam. On the other hand, patients who are more interested in a dentist who is invested in a long-term relationship and their overall health may appreciate an email or two that provides a gentle nudge and reminder that you are available for whatever their needs might be.
Ultimately, your email automation methods and messaging should be determined by what you’re looking for. If your goal is to increase your number of Invisalign® cases in order to become a preferred provider, then you’re safe to appeal to those who are interested in Invisalign® and not finding a new dentist. If your goal is to bring in a new patient, their friends, and their family members, then your approach should use a balance between information and benefits related to Invisalign® as well as the benefits of becoming part of your practice’s family.