My previous post provided seven key reasons why your clinic or center needs to become a publisher to better engage patients and prospective customers to grow your community. Following is a practical guide to get up and running quickly.
First Choose an Email Vendor
I’ve been using Campaign Monitor’s email marketing system for FON’s newsletter, but there are quite a few additional quality vendors to choose from with many offering free distribution services for smaller lists.
Each vendor below (and this is just a partial list) offers a host of services, including graphic templates, social sharing options and solid analytics reporting. You can also work with an outside designer with expertise in creating custom newsletter templates informed by your clinic’s unique brand identity.
Take the time to compare what each vendor offers to meet your center’s needs.
Now that you’ve chosen the best email vendor for your needs, it’s time to think about your list—your newsletter subscribers! There are several ways to grow your list and no single magic bullet tactic you should rely on. It’s best to consistently apply multiple methods and efforts over time and track results. Following are a few core proven approaches.
Add a subscription form to your website. Prominently place your call-to-action and subscription form button on the top half (aka top of the fold) of your home page and throughout your website. Pop-ups—those pesky “ads” that take over a website and block the content until an action is taken—are annoying, However, research shows they’re typically quite effective in converting visitors to subscribers. These can be set to appear at specific times. Most can also recognize whether a visitor already received the pop-up during a previous visit and can thus be set not to redisplay.
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Offer a free piece of additional premium content for new subscribers only. Exclusive content increases conversions dramatically. An autoresponder (see Verify New Subscribers below) can be set to deliver a note and link to your special content upon completion of opt-in confirmation. Always promote bonus content both textually and graphically within the context of your subscription form.
Send letter or “one time” textual email asking patients to opt-in to your list. A physical letter to your customer (aka your active patient panel) and prospects database is as good way to communicate your brand-new newsletter and ask folks to sign up. You might want to include a sample article (a tickler) to show your patients what to expect in future newsletters.
If you’ve collected customer email addresses without explicit permission to send a newsletter, it is fine to send one email asking patients to sign up to be kept abreast of your center’s news and to receive expertly written informative articles, Keep your message to the point, without selling or overt promotion, and you’re golden.
Have front desk staff ask patients/clients to sign-up during appointments. Make sure your front desk staff asks all patients if they would like to receive your newsletter featuring interesting articles and email-only special offers. Have a clipboard ready for easy signup serving as your opt-in process. Simply enter new email addresses into your email system.
Collect names and email addresses wherever your representatives give talks or participate on panels and workshops. If your staff present educational talks in-house or participate in community experiential educational opportunities, make sure to circulate a clipboard and capture email addresses. If you’re not doing talks and presentations in the community around your areas of expertise, then you should be!
Collect names at conferences when participating as an exhibitor. Meet and greet customers with your services brochure and, even better, with a more effective paper newsletter repurposed from your existing content! Ask if you can follow up with additional great content via your e-newsletter. Have your clipboard ready. Better yet, have them enter their information directly into your display laptop.
Include social sharing and “forward” buttons on your newsletter. All major email marketing systems include social media share buttons and “forward options. You should encourage content sharing within the actual content itself. Use social sharing and forwarding options to grow your list. Ask and often you shall receive!
Print Newsletter Option
I am a big fan of repurposing newsletter content to create a printed version because you will not get your entire patient panel to opt-in for email and your customers often bring significant others or a friend to their appointment. Having paper newsletters available in your office, circulated at key venues and at likeminded health-directed business locations all help to expand your distribution footprint and draw in new clients. If you choose to do a printed newsletter, always include a web address so folks can sign up for the digital version.
Note: Print newsletter designs don’t need to be expensive. Hire a professional to create a solid template matching your center’s “look and feel” and reuse it time and again..
Verify New Subscribers, Offer Thanks—and Engage
Most email marketing systems feature autoresponder options used for verification of new subscriptions with what’s called a double opt-in process. Some services like MailChimp require a double opt-in that cannot be disengaged.
An ideal time to engage a subscriber is typically within the first few minutes of establishing the new relationship. Most autoresponder systems allow for a customized thank-you note after completion of the opt-in process.
This is a perfect opportunity to introduce your new subscribers to your brand, service or product, while providing details on the type of content they should expect to receive in their newsletter. It’s also an occasion to ask your new subscriber what she would most like to read about in the weeks and months ahead. Don’t miss this vital front-end opportunity to set the tone and expectation for meaningful customer engagement.
Your goal is to retain current subscribers while building your list daily. This can only be achieved through creation and consistent delivery of helpful, informative or entertaining content.
Your subscribers will be moved to sign up for you newsletter because they’re interested in what they see from your organization. Perhaps they spent time reading your blog, were referred, connected with other content on your site or heard one of your providers speak at a conference.
Less is More!
Don’t be concerned about developing tons of content for each newsletter. As a matter of fact, less is more… and better. Shorter newsletters with stories and features using brief intros and “snack-able” nuggets are best for busy folks on the go. But do give them plenty of entry points to click down into deeper content.
It’s better to publish your content-rich newsletter consistently and frequently. Bi-weekly or monthly is perfect, but it largely depends on your content-making and content-organization bandwidth. Note: bi-monthly efforts do not allow ample frequency for effectively engaging prospective patients and moving them to action.
Types of Content
Repurposed blog posts. Blog posts should comprise your clinic’s core original content repository. If you don’t have a large RSS following, a newsletter is the perfect medium for expanding the distribution of your content. Your newsletter can feature short excerpts from the post itself or newly crafted content to introduce readers to the subject. Always create direct and pithy descriptions followed by a call-to-action, i.e., READ MORE>>>. And always include powerful, engaging images.
(Read FON’s 16 Blogging Basics for Your Integrative Medicine Brand)
Integrative medicine news. This can be news from your center or local news about likeminded, non-competitive companies and providers, and even national or international news. Set a few Google Alerts [http://www.google.com/alerts] with carefully chosen keywords for your local community and start collecting viable news items to share.
Calendar of local health-oriented events. Are you on top of your local holistic health scene? Your newsletter is the perfect vehicle to share this wealth of information about farmer’s markets, a new health educational series (hopefully yours!), a Thanksgiving tasting at the local organic co-op or free Pilates event at the local YMCA. Google Alerts is a terrific service to help you populate your community events content.
Provider showcase. If your practice delivers services across disciplines, highlight a different provider in each edition of your newsletter. Go beyond boring bio-sketches and credentialing (these things can be linked) and provide insight into personal hobbies and interests, including volunteer work and other community contributions. There were motivating factors outside of earning a living that compelled you to practice integrative and holistic care. People connect best with human interest stories. Speak to these.
Staff contributions. The best content contributions for your blog and newsletter can often come from your staff. While content topics are endless, start by asking your clinicians to submit blog topics (to be repurposed and linked to your newsletter) within their area(s) of passion and expertise.
Seasonal content. Recipes for in-season fruits and vegetables are always Popular. So are short pieces on seasonal allergy relief and natural remedies for warding off colds and flus during the winter months. Scheduling ahead for seasonal content development is always helpful.
Patient contributions & testimonials. Your patients can be encouraged to submit their own success stories under your care. They can also be encouraged to submit before and after stories regarding the positive impact of behavioral lifestyle changes they’ve made.
While patient content contributions can be textual, they can also be audio-based or delivered via full video segments. Video testimonials are exceptionally powerful referral mechanisms for building patient volume.
Think about it: you can promote your services with tight messaging on your website and advertisements, but these are your words. Nothing is as powerful as reading, seeing and hearing actual patient testimonials telling the world how your brand of care solved their chronic or complex medical condition and changed their life.
Expert Content. Although the medical director and other practitioners across disciplines within your clinic is best positioned to generate content for your program, asking local or even national experts to contribute to your blog (and by extension, your newsletter) is a terrific option. Asking an expert to make time for a short phone Q&A or to answer questions via email is a quick and easy way to create quality content.
Curate and annotate content. If you struggle to create original content in-house, or are too busy as a solo practitioner to write enough material to create a regular blog, then consider curating content from other sources. Similar to linking to content on Facebook or Twitter, you can simply share the content as it appears, or better yet, work up a unique title, craft a few custom lead-in sentences, add a short opinion, refer to the piece and link to the story.
Keep track of these story ideas from Google Alerts and other sources and you will have plenty to write about. There are much more sophisticated tools and platforms to seek out viable content but Google Alerts alone should feed more than enough leads and story ideas to fill your newsletter each month.
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Create a content/production calendar. Regardless of what type of content you choose to include each month, the best way to track the various content pieces and images is by creating a simple spreadsheet. Make sure to include your target publication dates, the list of pieces assigned to your contributing team and, importantly, production deadlines.
Over time this important tracking and organizational tool can be expanded to capture a whole host of additional analytics and metrics such as open rates, click-thru rates and content engagement.
Publish content online. All blog posts and other core content to be linked from your newsletter first needs to be published on your site before you can grab the URL. (Make sure to check all of your links twice before clicking “publish”!)
The primary goal of the newsletter is to move folks from your interesting content titles, headers, subheads and storylines to the full pieces (and in the case of special promotions, your e-cart). The more quality content that lives on your site, the more time folks will spend there, engage with additional content and respond to your calls-to-action, i.e., schedule a clinical appointment, purchase supplementation or sign up for 10 weeks of Pilates classes.
In general, your blog and video content, especially patient testimonials and features like “meet the practitioner”, need to be published and hosted on your website (video should be hosted on your YourTube or Vimeo channel and embedded on your site) to maximize the value of your media-making efforts.
(See: Using Video to Grow your Integrative Medicine Practice: A Guide)
Tastefully Advertise and Promote
By all means highlight one or more of your monthly service or product specials, but make sure that any selling is done tastefully—in a manner that does not overwhelm the page. A good rule of thumb is to keep all promotional sales efforts to 10 percent or less of the newsletter’s total page real estate.
Analyze Your Results
One of the most useful aspects of publishing a newsletter with a solid email marketing system partner is the comprehensive analytics report. Once a newsletter is published you’ll be able to see in real time how many people are opening the email and what they’re clicking on. Your reporting will show exactly who is clicking on what. You’ll easily see what information is most popular based on the links and click-through activity to longer content, your landing or squeeze pages and e-cart. Close review of the monthly analytics measured against industry averages for open and click-through rates will allow you to adjust your content and subject lines. And, show you the best timing for delivery of subsequent newsletters.
While it may seem like significant work to get started on the path to developing a regular newsletter, with correct preparation and clear methodology—hopefully provided here-—you can get started with your newsletter development and become a bona fide quality publisher within just a couple months.
Create a relevant, informative and helpful newsletter to engage your customers and prospects, build trust around your brand, and sell more services and products.
Does your clinic or center currently publish a newsletter? If so, how successful has it been and what types of content have garnered the most positive response? Please leave a comment below.
FON is a leading integrative health and medicine business development and strategy consulting firm. FON specializes in custom solutions for growing patient volume, developing programs, and increasing product sales. Our practical business models are driven by innovative marketing, clear messaging, and customer engagement via branded storytelling.
Contact us today to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your business development or personal brand needs.