How to Create a Patient Newsletter that Builds Relationships
One of the easiest and most direct ways to stay in touch with current, new, and prospective clients and to build your audience aside from social media and blog articles on your website is to send out targeted newsletters as part of your marketing efforts.
When we talk about patient newsletters, most people think of them as strictly marketing tools to promote your services/procedures or retail products.
We get a lot of questions from aesthetic practices across the country about newsletters:
…How often do I send them?
…What content should be included?
…How do I use them to increase sales or offer specials?
Gary Vaynerchuk (Gary Vee), one of the top marketing/communication experts in the field, has a quote that I love:
“Saying hello doesn’t have an ROI. It’s about building relationships!”
I’d like to challenge you to shift your mindset regarding newsletters from SELLING to SERVING and building long-term relationships with your current clients, new clients, and prospective clients.
Why Do I Need a Patient Newsletter?
The point of a newsletter is to deepen the relationship you have with your clients/patients. It’s not to overtly sell them something.
Whether you have an existing newsletter or want to start one, you need to re-evaluate or clearly define your newsletter goals. Successful newsletters SERVE an audience by being helpful and educational. Newsletters that solely focus on the practice or are strictly promotional are the ones that typically fall flat or are not read by the people receiving them.
Think of your newsletter as an editorial publication for a specific audience (your patients). You should already have some brand recognition if the recipient is on your mailing list. It’s a slight mindset shift, but now instead of telling them what you are selling and asking them to “buy” something or try to speed up the buying journey, create a newsletter that gives them something they look forward to receiving. Not only will you be offering valuable information they can really use or learn from, but you are also keeping your brand top of mind.
If your newsletter becomes only a vehicle to sell, patients may unsubscribe and then will not receive anything you send in the way of email marketing.
How Often Should I Send a Patient Newsletter Out? (Reach and Frequency)
If you have been an APX Platform member or a part of my community for a while, you have probably heard me talk about reach and frequency.
Reach is the size of your client list or audience – literally the number of people you “reach” with your newsletter. Frequency refers to how often you send out information to them (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly).
Ideally you have both a large reach and can send out newsletters frequently. However, the reality is resources and bandwidth are often limited in a busy practice. If you don’t have a designated in-house marketing team member, getting a regular newsletter written and distributed can be a challenge.
Although it seems counter-intuitive, frequency (more touchpoints) is more important than the size of your reach or list size. Ideally a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter works the best, but monthly newsletters are often more feasible and definitely better than not sending one out at all.
Prospective clients are exposed to an average of 10 marketing messages before making a purchase decision. After they start receiving your newsletters on a regular basis, your brand will be on their radar to buy from when ready or book a service/procedure.
Reach without frequency is usually a waste of money. Marketing is the process of building a relationship with potential customers. Think about going out on a date with someone for the first time. It’s highly unlikely you will marry them after one date. Relationships take time to build, and they grow and deepen over time as you get to know each other and spend more time together.
Seth Godin, another marketing expert, uses the example of planting seeds with regards to reach and frequency. If you have 100 seeds but only enough water to water them each one time, they are unlikely to grow. However, if you plant 25 seeds and water them each four times, they have a much better chance of sprouting.
Remember, it takes time to create a rhythm with people, so establish a cadence that works with your team’s bandwidth and stick with it. For example, send out your newsletter on the same day each week, so clients expect it. You can experiment with which day of the week and time of day gets the most open rates by tracking in your email marketing software.
What Kind of Content Should Be Included in a Patient Newsletter?
The rule of thumb is to keep your newsletter content focused on insights and resources that help your patients, not solely focus on your practice.
- Does every bit of content serve them?
- Does this newsletter deepen the client relationship?
- Is it a quality client touch point?
- Would you read this content if it came to you? (Put yourself in your patient’s shoes).
- Does it convey that your practice cares about them?
- Does it provide resources to support them?
- Does the tone feel like it was sent by a friend, not corporate speak?
- Does it establish your “know like and trust” factor?
- Does it deliver quality content that earns you the right to be promotional down the road?
Let me explain…once you become a trusted source of information, it earns you the right to throw in a bit of promotional content, especially if it relates to one of the articles you include. Think of
it is like a bank – each time you send out a newsletter with valuable content, it is like putting a deposit in the “trust bank” of your prospects or patients. That way, when you send out a strictly promotional email or have a special offer to make, your clients are not turned off by it. It is almost like taking a small withdrawal.
Patient Newsletter: 10 Dos and Don’ts
Here are some tips of Do’s and Don’ts for patient newsletters:
1). Don’t make it all about your practice. Serve your audience. How does your practice fit within their story? Your client is the hero, and you are the guide. How do you solve their problems? What information or industry news might be important to them? Perhaps it is a new service you offer or new technology. If so, explain the benefits to them as you educate them.
For example, if you want to introduce or spotlight a team member each issue, do it in a Q&A for that makes that staff member human. Don’t just write a bio. It is fine to credential them, but profile their “why” they are in the aesthetic industry and how their skillset can help patients.
2). Do make it easy to navigate and skim. Keep in mind that most people are going to get the email on their mobile devices and quickly scroll through it, so it helps to break the content up into sections. Not every segment might be relevant to them so they can quickly jump to what they want to read. It takes fewer mental calories to digest content when it is clear and shows readers you respect their time.
3). Do show your readers that your content is helpful to them. That way you are training them to expect emails they want to read. As a result, when you do send a promotional email, it will likely perform better as they are happy to be in a relationship with you.
4). Do supplement your original content with curated content (content from other sources) that is of interest to your readers. This helps your team increase their bandwidth to produce a newsletter more often. It is ok to share a relevant article with your readers from another source. For example, if there is a new cutting-edge treatment hitting the market or some great advice you find from another source such as summer skincare tips.
One tip for finding curated content is to sign up for newsletters from industry sources that you like to read or branded newsletters you find valuable. If there is a website that covers topics in depth, sign up for their mailing list or skim their latest blogs for information you can share (giving credit to the source).
Another idea is to sign up for Google Alerts. By going to alerts.google.com, you can choose to follow certain keywords or phrases. You get daily or weekly alerts (you can decide how often) sent to your email that may contain news or interesting articles. You might have to sift through some junk, but you can bookmark various articles or save them to a newsletter folder for future use.
Subscribing to YouTube channels you find valuable in your space or podcasts that put out great content are great resources you can share with your patients. You can also search LinkedIn articles or twitter posts for content you think would be useful for your audience.
5). Don’t make it sound too corporate. You want to humanize your newsletter, so your reader feels like a friend is talking to them. Write like you would talk. It is also very important to use the word “you” throughout, so the reader feels like you are talking personally to them.
6). Do give them a path to purchase if they want to. Make sure there is a call to action or contact button to book an appointment or phone number listed for them to call.
7). Do get creative and test out new ideas. If you decide you want to add on a new section, ask your audience for feedback and bring them along on the journey.
8). Do tell a story in multiple parts. For example, if you have a bigger topic, you can split it up over the course of several newsletters. That teases the audience and entices them to look forward to the next installment.
9). Don’t optimize for desktop views only because 42% of emails are opened on mobile devices. If you optimize for mobile first, you need to test how it looks on other browsers your audience might be using. Try to keep paragraphs to one to two sentences. It might feel awkward to do that, but when you read an article on a mobile device, five or six sentence paragraphs take up the whole screen. A huge copy block is not enticing to read.
10). Don’t treat your patient newsletter like a burden for your team. Do the work together. Make it fun and pick content categories that you think will resonate with your audience. Videos are always great to include as well as before/after photos if patients consent to using them. You can highlight any events you have coming up. Remember newsletters don’t just take off overnight. They take time to build an audience who is inspired by the content and wants to read them.
If you have the budget, you can outsource your patient newsletter creation. Just make sure whoever you outsource it to has a clear understanding of your practice, your ideal client persona, your brand look, feel, and voice, etc.
As always, our APX Platform team is here to help. If you have questions or would like to solicit feedback about your patient newsletter, our Aesthetic Insights Facebook Group is a great place to share resources, solicit feedback, ask questions, and connect with other aesthetic professionals. You can join the group here.