Maximize your Patient Newsletter Effectiveness

Written by Nicole Frens, originally published on Patient eConnect

In an on-going survey, 80% of highly successful NDs rate their patient e-newsletters as a 4 or 5 on a 5 point scale of importance to their practice.  Even if you stink at it, a regular connection with your patients has benefit... they won’t forget you’re out there.  But if you’re aiming higher than just mere existence and really want your patient e-newsletter to work for you – and allow you to better serve your patients – follow these newsletter tips to maximize the health of your patients and your practice.
Of Critical Importance

  1. Writing Style: Your patients have a personal relationship with you – write as such.  Keep the prose friendly, not news-wire, this-is-going-out-to-the-entire-nation cold and clinical. And if writing ain’t your thang, get someone else to do it. There’s nothing inherently magical about the doc doing all the writing, especially if it comes off as choppy, sloppy, or rough.
  2. Images: Ten years ago you could look professional with a small image or clip art as eye-candy for your patient newsletter. That’s a good way to look out of date today. The current trend that gets the best results is to use a few good sized images – not to exceed 75% of the newsletter.
  3. Website linking: Your future patients ask that you please link your archived newsletters to your website. It keeps your website fresh, so it’s easier for them to find you, and it builds credibility with lurkers who just might want to turn into real live patients. When linking your newsletter, include specific topics in each issue to inspire people to actually click through. “Top 5 Ways to Beat Brain Fog” is a lot more compelling than, ‘June 2014 issue’ (same goes for email subject lines).
  4. Call to Action: If you want results, this is your heavy-hitter. It’s not enough to share the stuff you know. You must also share that you can do and treat it and encourage readers to take action. Have them click to share, click to order, call to schedule, print out a coupon and bring it in, or come in to buy. Give them something to do…and the track the results so you know what worked and should be repeated and what flopped and should be dropped.

Best Practices
  1. Links within the newsletter: Overwhelmingly long newsletters make most folks glaze over. Keep the actual email portion of the newsletter shorter by only including a topic-teaser that is then linked (with a compelling read-on) to the full article that’s either on your website or an online pdf. Then…track the clicks! You’ll learn what topics are interesting to your patient base so you can then write more on that topic, create promotions around it, or create full programs around it to give the people what they want.
  2. Hello Beloved Patient blurb: Even if you’ve outsourced your patient newsletters, you need to write the opening section. It’s not critical to have one, but the warm-fuzzy connection is enhanced with even just a few sentences of greeting from a provider.
  3. Vary the info: KISS (Keep it Simple, Silly). You don’t need to offer up 5 full hard-core articles every month. But you should provide a little something for, hopefully, most everyone. One full article, maybe two if you’re feeling peppy, is fine. Add in one fluff / fun something or other – quick tips, fun facts, recipes, DIY instructions, etc. Include a dash of office announcements if any, and a featured product and promotion, and you’re done!
  4. Staff fun facts: Build on the Know, Like, and Trust factor for your whole office by occasionally sharing some info on staff members. But take note! “Mary plays chess in her free time” does not make her very endearing.  Spice up staff bios with details. “Mary likes to crush her chess opponents, claiming victory, or near-victory at least, on a weekly basis at Waldon Park.”
  5. Coupons: Silly or not, people love a good sale. Give ‘em what they want – occasionally discount something relevant to the rest of the newsletter. Have them either print out a coupon, show you on their smart phones, or just mention it for their discount.  And of course –track how successful each promotion is to help guide you with future efforts.

Advanced and Awesome
  1. Segment your list: If you take the time to segment your patients into different lists you can serve them more deeply.  Keep your whole patient base on your general newsletter list, but send the segmented list/s a relevant topic-specific newsletter once, twice, or four times a year. You can categorize your patients into: male, female, pediatric, cancer, acupuncture, overweight, x disease…you get the idea. And you don’t have to go back and look through all of your current patient charts to figure out where to put them – send out an email asking them to self-identify for one of your special edition lists, and then move forward with the new patients. But this is where tracking linked articles can help you, too…if you run an article on, say, cancer, and someone clicks that link, you can add them to your cancer list since they apparently have a desire to know more on the topic and possibly have someone they might want to refer to you.
  2. Referrals: If you’re not openly inviting patient referrals, you’re not getting as many as you should. Once patients know that you want them to share your name with their friends and family, they’re more likely to do so. Patient newsletters are an easy, non-queasy-inducing way to ask. Don’t forget to thank them after they’ve sent someone your way!
If you haven’t yet taken the dive into patient newsletters you can start by either outsourcing them in part or in full, or tackling it yourself. To DIY, check into the various email marketing companies like Constant Contact, MailChimp, iContact, or Vertical Response.  Click here for an online review of the top 10 email marketing providers for 2014.
A well done, strategically crafted patient newsletter can and should generate more appointments, more product sales, and get you more referrals… all while building credibility and deepening relationships so you can better connect with and help the people you’re meant to serve.  Is it time you upped your game?

Nicole Frens creates patient e-newsletters for doctors who want to give, and receive more. She smooshed together her love of helping physicians win at business with her writing talent to form Patient eConnect. Check out the website for more articles on growing a medical practice.