Why You Need an Email List

What is an Email List?

An email list is a list of names and email addresses of people who give you permission to email them. That’s it. Simple.

The magic is how you get that permission and then how you use your list effectively to build your practice.

In this article, I am going to address the reason to use email to attract potential patients to your practice. Email is even more effective for building and maintaining a relationship with your current patients. However, that is a different strategy which I will discuss in another article.

Email is very direct and very personal. You may be sending a thousand copies of the same email to your entire list, but each member on your list receives it as a private and personal communication directly from you.

Why is an Email List so Powerful?

Email is Personal

This helps you build the feeling of intimacy and rapport with your prospective client. When executed properly, your prospective client feels he has a relationship with you and this builds trust over time.

When your prospective client finally decides to go ahead and seek out a service provider to get treatment, you are his obvious choice. He already knows you.

You’ll Easily Get Messages to Prospects

Your email list is a list of the names and addresses of potential clients who are interested in your services and what you have to say. They have traded their contact information because they hope to hear more from you.

They have taken the first step in establishing a relationship with you. They want you to communicate with them. They are saying to you, “tell me more.”

All you need to do now is to tell them more, in a way that is interesting to them and informative.

That is a lot easier and a lot more effective than plastering your face on a billboard on the side of the highway, like I have seen some practices do.

Get Visitors to Return

The average client needs multiple contacts before they decide to move forward. I don’t have any data specific to medical services, but in other businesses the average customer takes seven contacts before making a buying decision.

There are a fraction of highly motivated customers who act immediately, but these are rare. Usually they have been on other sites before and have done extensive research. If they are ready to move forward with you, then you probably were not their first stop.

Most of your patients will need multiple exposures to you before they decide to move forward. They will want to understand the procedure, what the risks are, and how they will benefit. They will need to trust you and feel that you can deliver on what you promise. They will need to have their concerns addressed. Then they will have to think about it.

That is a lot to accomplish on a one time visit to your website. And even if you could, 70% of your visitors will leave and never return. They may love what you do and think you are the one for them. You may have all but convinced them to go ahead. But then something comes up, and they need to leave the computer.

Later when they return they have lost your web address and can’t find it again. You have sold them on the procedure and they are ready to go forward. But they can’t find you, so they end up using someone else.

How common is this? I do this all the time. You probably do, too. So do your potential patients.

Email is Targeted

Email allows for segmentation. That means you are able to divide your list into various groups based upon their interest and send specific messages that address their interest.

Here is how it works:

Let’s say you are a cosmetic surgeon. Among your services are liposuction, blepharoplasty, and rhinoplasty.

Janet is a twenty something who is moderately successful, but is embarrassed by the shape of her nose. She comes to your site while researching rhinoplasty. You can entice her to sign up for your email list and selectively send her information on rhinoplasty; what it is like, how she will benefit, testimonials from past patients who praise you for improving their lives.

Susan is an active executive in her mid sixties. She doesn’t like the way her eyes are aging. She found you while looking for information on blepharoplasty. When she signs up for your list you can send her information on how blepharoplasty can change her life, improve her appearance, and give her the confidence to be more effective professionally.

Tom is a young successful actor. After being turned down for a number of movie roles his agent informs him that unless he can trim some of the fat off his belly, his future is limited. He has heard about abdominal etching using liposuction. He lands on your site trying to find out more.

Susan doesn’t care at all about rhinoplasty. Janet has no interest in blepharoplasty. Tom is only interested in his abdomen.

When you have a segmented email list you can tailor the information you share with each of your prospective clients to fit their interests exactly.

Janet will read only about rhinoplasty, Susan about blepharoplasty, and Tom about liposuction and body contouring.

Your emails will be open and read. And when it comes time to make a decision to go forward, it is likely your prospects will choose you rather than go to another provider who has had no contact with them.

Email is Personal

Email is like having a private conversation. Your prospects can ask you questions in confidence and you can reply. This helps build trust and a connection.

Email Can Increase Traffic to Your Website

Here is a little nugget that most people do not know.

When you search for a term on search engines part of the algorithm they use to determine what to show you is by where you have been in the past. That means if you visit a site regularly and you search for a term that is relevant to that site, Google will push it up the top of your search results.

I have never seen anyone talk about this. However, I discovered this early on with my website on parenting and ADHD.

One of my tasks in running this site was to determine where my pages fell in the search engine rankings. However, since I was on my site several times a day, Google determined that I had a special affinity for that site. Every time I searched for terms related to one of my articles or posts, my site came on top. It was great for the ego but really bad for determining how I was really ranking compared to the rest of the world.

For you it is an advantage.

You can use your email list to send subscribers to blog posts on your site. Later when a prospective client decides she wants to do a bit more online research before her final decision she will do a search.

Because she has been to your site frequently, Google will push your site up in the rankings. The higher you are on the search page, the more positively your prospect sees you. Google is in effect giving you their endorsement.

Frequently, that little extra push is all your prospect needs to choose you as the service provider.

Email Let’s You Maintain Engagement Over Time

This is really powerful. You can set up a series of emails to go to prospective clients. You do this one time and then let it run on autopilot.

In my site, I created about a year’s worth of articles and blog posts and sent my email subscribers to them. At the end of the year, I repeated the cycle.

It took some prospects 3 years of reading my emails before they reached out to me and became clients. If I had given up after one email or 10 emails or even after six months, these people would never have become clients.

This didn’t cost me anything to do, it was easy to set up, and once up it ran for years.

People Use Email Several Times a Day

91% of consumers check their email on a daily basis. Your prospects will see your emails.

Email Gives You Feedback

We are all blinded by what we like. With email, you can track what is important to your clients by which messages they read and which they ignore.

Here is an example from my own practice.

Originally, my focus was on ADHD. Most of my writing provided information for parents about treatment options for their ADHD children. I am a physician and that was my interest.

However, the parents who were my client base were much more interested in behavioral issues. The response rate was 500% greater for parenting help. By tracking email open rates and article views I could realign my content according to what my client base needed.

Email is Proactive

In a normal practice, you wait passively for patients to seek you out and come to you. With email you control that process.

After a client subscribes to your newsletter, you may contact him or her as often as you wish. You can do this on an individual level, with a group on your list, or to the entire list. You determine the frequency of contact, the type of information shared, and who on your list receives that information.

This allows you to push certain services you wish to provide.

Here is an example.

Let’s say one of your services is a weight loss program and you know from past experience that interest picks up as summer is approaching. You can send out a series of emails beginning in the spring showing all the benefits of your weight loss program.

You can include testimonials for past satisfied clients describing how your service changed their lives and praising you for helping them. You can address all the fears patients have concerning programs and show them why they should not worry. You can target selectively only those subscribers who have already demonstrated an interest in weight loss.

The result is you will be in regular contact with patients who are already thinking about your program, edging them forward to make a decision to go with it. And when they finally decide to go ahead, since you having been in continuous contact with them, your name is the one that comes up when they decide to move forward.

Do this correctly and you will see a boost in the number of patients consulting you about weight loss and deciding to go ahead with your program.

That’s the first year.

And what happens next year and the year after? The exact same thing.

In fact, as long as the weight loss is relevant, and it always will be, you can use the same exact messaging sequence for as long as you like. And the best thing is that once it is set up, it goes on automatically and costs you nothing to run.

Year in and year out, more clients come to you seeking you out, and you do nothing more to keep the flow of business coming.

What You Need to Build an Email List

1- A Website

You need a way online to attract potential clients to your practice. The easiest way is to develop a website and a blog which provides excellent information. Most people use the internet to find information. Your goal is to be the “go to” source of information for what they seek.

But that is only the first step. If that is all you do and even if you have excellent content, most people will not return to your site.

You’ll get lost among the 2 billion websites out there and they will probably not find you again. (It isn’t quite that bad. There may be 2 billion websites but only 400 million are active.)

That is why it is critical that you capture their contact information immediately so that they are not lost to you forever.

2- An Email Marketing Service

I am not going to go into this in detail.

There are a lot of services available. The main thing you are looking for is deliver rates and ability to segment. Beyond that you do not need to go overboard.

Some businesses send hundreds of thousands of emails a week. For them, all the bells and whistles that come with a premium service makes sense, as does the extra expense.

For you it does not. What is important to you is that the service is reliable and is easy to use. You also need a company that gives great support for those times when something is not working.

You may be thinking you can do this with your own website email, and technically you can. In 2003, when I first started out using email to contact potential clients, I used my website email. However, I quickly saw a need to switch over to a service.

Why? There are two categories of people who send emails to clients. There are those who send spam and there are those who are accused of sending spam. There is no third category.

By 2005, my web host locked my email account and froze my site pending a review, which never came. I was forced to move my site to a different web host.

This eventually happens to anyone who sends email from their website. You don’t have to do anything wrong. You just have to be accused and I guarantee someone is going to do that.

In 2003, I was a pioneer. No one told me this would happen and back then, no one knew.

You are not a pioneer and now you know. Use a service

3- A High-Converting Opt-In Form

This is what every health provider site gets wrong. Everybody.

The average internet user spends a few seconds on a website before deciding to move on. If you don’t grab their attention and get them to opt in to your email list, they are gone. And they are probably never coming back.

Here are the biggest mistakes:

1- Not having an email list at all

Most health provider websites don’t collect emails. Their websites are a list of hours, locations, and phone numbers. It’s like a sign they would post on their office door, only it is online.

But their sites are beautiful. It is as if someone convinced them that they need to have a website, but no one explained to them why or how to use it. They just shelled out thousands of dollars to create a website that does nothing to help their practice. And who knows how much it costs them to maintain it. Still, their sites are beautiful.

2- Hiding their opt-in form

Do you want to make sure almost no one ever signs up for your email list? Put the opt-in form at the bottom of the page or some other place where no one will ever see it. That is what a lot of health websites do.

3- Giving No Reason to Opt-in

Once upon a time, during the Jurassic period of the internet, people were excited about getting email. All you had to do is say, “Subscribe Here to Get Our Newsletter” and people did.

Not any more. Now people guard their email address like it’s their Swiss Bank account.

You must give potential clients a reason to subscribe to your email list.

In the last hundred health provider sites I saw, the vast majority had no email list. Most of the ones that did have the sign in form hidden somewhere on their site so no one would find it. And of the ones who had a form in a prominent place, no one gave a reason why anyone should want to sign up. Zero.

And this is great news for you. Because when everyone else is getting it all wrong you only have to do a little bit right to come out on top and dominate.

All you need to do is to offer something of perceived value that your prospect will get in exchange for their email address. It doesn’t need to cost anything, but it must have a lot of value for your prospective clients.

Below is an example of one of the opt-in forms I used on my website for parenting information. This worked well for years and also helped me to begin segmenting my list.

This appeared front and center on my website. Any parent that was struggling with a difficult child, and that was basically everyone – that’s why they came – needed to find out what that “one word” is.

Even though the “one word” was the same for children and teens, my follow up sequence was not. This is how I segmented the list to provide information targeted to my prospects’ needs.

There are a lot of elements that made this offer work. I am not going into that now. The point is that it did work. And a similar offer will work for you, too.

Anthony Kane MD