10 Rules for More Effective Practice Newsletters

The humble email has been around for decades, and it’s still one of the most effective marketing tools out there. Research consistently shows that email delivers unbeatable ROI, with one recent study finding that it creates $38 in revenue for every dollar you invest. That’s a lot of bang for your buck.

Most dentists already send out periodic email newsletters to their patients. And frankly, these newsletters tend to be lackluster. That’s completely understandable, of course. Dentists are healthcare providers, not marketers! And email newsletters are a non-critical task that may end up pushed aside, or handed off to less-senior staff.

But here’s the good news: You don’t need a slick, professional marketing agency to deliver on-brand messaging that keeps your patients coming back. Sending a polished newsletter you can be proud of is as simple as investing in the right tools and following some basic email marketing guidelines. Here are ten rules to keep you on-track:

 

1. Deliver Value

“Would I read this?”

That’s the first question you have to ask yourself. And it may sound obvious, but forgetting to put yourself in the reader’s shoes is the number one rookie mistake dentists make when writing newsletters.

Remember: This newsletter isn’t about you. It’s about your patients, and what you can do for them. Imagine getting an email from your lawyer, accountant, or plumber. Would you read it? Only if it added some kind of value to your day.

In practice, that means you can write about almost anything. You just have to look at it with a critical eye. Should you summarize some recent dental news? Sure… if it actually impacts patient health. An update about new technology your practice acquired? That’s great… if it affects your patient experience. Want to include a little lighthearted humor? Perfect… if it’s genuinely amusing.

Whatever content you put in your practice newsletters, make sure it delivers something valuable to your patients.

 

2. Use Pictures

There’s a reason Instagram is the highest-engagement social media platform: Humans are visual animals. We love pictures.

If your practice newsletters are a wall of text, patients are likely to click delete and never look back. In fact, one researcher found that adding an image to his email increased response rate by a jaw-dropping 400%. Another study found that choosing a better image improved click-through-rates by nearly half.

Of course, you don’t want to use just any pictures for your newsletters. Make them warm, friendly, well-lit, and high-resolution. You can even take office and staff photos yourself if you have a decent camera and know what you’re doing. 

There are also plenty of free stock photo resources available. Just make sure whatever images you get are licensed for commercial use. And stay away from cheesy stock photos and clip art.

 

3. Give a Call To Action

If a patient opens your newsletter, you’ve got a golden opportunity. They’re giving you a moment of their time and attention. In exchange, you can ask them for something. Marketers dub this your “Call To Action” (CTA), and it can take almost any form.

Find a Lawyer. Customize Your Wedding Card. Search Now. Your web experience is filled with CTAs like this - usually pasted on a clickable button. They’re a fundamental part of how we interact with technology.

What’s an appropriate CTA for your newsletter? That depends on what you want your patients to do. With a patient relationship management suite like NexHealth, you can give readers the option to Book an Appointment Now, and guide them right back to your office.

If you’d prefer to make your newsletters a more subtle form of advertising, your CTA can ask patients to engage with you on social media, or forward the email to a friend. Again, you have the patient’s attention. Make the most of it!

 

4. Be Consistent

Marketing is a game of repetition. That’s why TV commercials are shown over and over (and over) again. Sending infrequent or sporadic newsletters won’t hurt your practice - but in terms of patient engagement, it won’t help you, either.

If you want to see real impact from your newsletters, you have to commit to a cadence and stick to it. That doesn’t mean your patients need to hear from you every week, or even every month. Once a quarter can be very effective. But once you commit, stay consistent.

The goal is to create a steady drumbeat of engagement. The more your patients hear from you, the more they’ll like you - even if they don’t consciously remember you. It’s called the Familiarity Principle, and it’s an extremely powerful marketing tool.

 

5. Stay On-Brand

Branding is a big, complex subject - but don’t be intimidated. Ensuring that your newsletter reflects your practice brand really just means paying attention to two things.

First, make sure it has the right look and feel. Is the logo identical to the one you use on paper mailings? Is the color palette similar to your physical office? Is the font the same as your website and business cards? It’s OK if it’s not a perfect match, but don't send anything that's jarringly different from your existing visual vocabulary.

Second, speak in your authentic voice. If you tend to be warm and affable with patients during in-person visits, let your newsletter mirror that voice. You don’t need to use a stilted, technical tone just because you’re writing.

The key thing here is to avoid giving patients “whiplash” between the newsletter and the office experience. Keeping your newsletters on-brand is how you smooth out that transition.

 

6. Use a Responsive Template

In 2018, more people used mobile phones than desktop computers to get online. So if you’re sending patients an email newsletter, it has to look as good on an iPhone as it does on a laptop.

Technically speaking, this creates an interesting challenge. After all, mobile phone screens are much smaller than normal computer screens. How do you make sure text is large enough to read, buttons are large enough to tap, and pictures shrink down to a manageable size?

The answer: Use a mobile-responsive template. Responsive software is a clever engineering trick that lets your email look right on any screen size. It’s been around for years, but you’d be surprised how many businesses forget to use it.

Whether you download your email newsletter template from a free source or have one custom-built, make sure it’s mobile responsive.

 

7. Be Relevant

A surefire way to make your newsletters more engaging is to tie them into patients’ daily lives. That means taking note of upcoming holidays and planning your content accordingly.

Is the new year coming up? Offer some guidance about how patients can take full advantage of their dental insurance. Halloween on the horizon? Give some cavity-fighting candy tips for kids. Heading into the dead of summer? Teach patients how to navigate emergency dental care in case something happens while they’re on vacation.

The opportunities are endless. Get creative! Remember how we said that the newsletter isn’t about you - it’s about your patient? That’s what topical, seasonal content is all about. The more relevant you are, the more connected your patients will feel.

 

8. Make It Personal

Do you recall the last cookie-cutter advertisement you received? Of course not. You threw it away and forgot about it instantly. If you want to avoid that fate for your practice newsletters, it’s crucial to forge a personal connection. There are several ways to do this.

First, use the patient’s name in the introduction. With the NexHealth campaign manager, this is as simple as dropping in a placeholder. We’ll automatically insert the patient's name into your email.

Second, target your content. NexHealth also makes it easy to send email blasts to patients within a certain age range. Want to send one newsletter to your millennial patients and another to the baby boomers? No problem.

Third, be smart about the patient relationship. If you haven’t heard from a patient in years, it might be time to stop sending them newsletters. Or conversely, you might want to send them a special message. With NexHealth, you can do all that with a few clicks.

 

9. Time It 

Timing matters.

An email that arrives at 10am carries a different message than an email that arrives at 10pm (even if they have the same wording). 

While the 10am-vs-10pm example may be a little extreme, sending out your emails at an appropriate time can have amazing effects on your open and response rates.

Consider using automated tools to help with timing like MailChimp or Mixmax (or NexHealth). Gmail also recently released an update that allows you to schedule when your email will be sent.

 

10. Track Your Efforts

Sending a newsletter without tracking its performance is like oral surgery with no follow-up care. Maybe it got the job done - but are you willing to chance it?

These days, email performance tracking is an art and science in its own right. You can see how many people opened your email (open rate), how many clicked on a link within the email (click-through rate), how many ultimately booked an appointment or completed some other goal (conversion rate), how many emails were undeliverable (bounce rate), and more.

Studying how your emails performed is key to improving them over time. If, for instance, your most recent newsletter had a low open rate, that means you didn’t write a very interesting subject line and you should try a different approach next time. If your click-through rate spiked, your Call to Action must have been effective. Consider reusing it!

With NexHealth, performance tracking is just one of the intuitive tools built into your email marketing platform. We put this data at your fingertips, so you can get better and better at engaging and retaining your patients. Read more about seamless digital newsletters.

The Bottom Line

Newsletters are a powerful marketing tool for your dental practice. They’re a warm, friendly way to keep patients engaged and build your relationship. Here are the ten rules for writing powerful, effective newsletters:

  1. Deliver Value

  2. Use Pictures

  3. Give a Call to Action

  4. Be Consistent

  5. Stay On-Brand

  6. Use a Responsive Template

  7. Be Relevant

  8. Make It Personal

  9. Time It

  10. Track Your Efforts

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