According to popular wisdom, we are impatient about reading on computer screens. We hate scrolling, and we won’t tolerate more text than what fits on a single screen.
While the dictum is far from proven (studies show that if content is interesting enough, people will read it wherever they find it), it’s been taken to heart by solo professionals who have stopped sending out proper e-newsletters. Instead, they blast e-blasts. These “blasts” contain brief blurbs of information along with event announcements and/or discounts.
There’s a problem with this formula. It throws the baby out with the bathwater. e-blasts remove the meaty content from patient communications, leaving only shallow “hooks.”
Soon, these e-blasts will backfire.
How? They only appeal to price-shoppers. Everybody else opts out, and now your professional’s list is made up of bargain-hunters.
By definition, bargain-hunters go where the bargains are. The minute Doctor A stops giving discounts on Juvéderm, they will look for someone else who does. These savvy discount shoppers will find a new cut-rate provider, and Doctor A is soon a distant memory.
GET BACK TO BASICS
It’s time to get back to the original purpose that newsletters were invented for: sustaining client relationships.
Professionals have been sending out newsletters for decades, and it’s never been about spiking this month’s business. Professionals—whether lawyers, financial advisers, or doctors—have unique and long-standing relationships with clients. They’re on intimate terms with the people who buy from them.
The professional newsletter arose to keep such relationships alive. The digital age hasn’t changed the purpose of the newsletter. The only thing that it has changed is the medium that delivers it.
Unfortunately, the medium that delivers today’s newsletters has been allowed to distort its purpose. In the interest of spiking short-term profits, it’s given up on inspiring loyalty.
HOW TO REVIVE THE E-NEWSLETTER
Some kind of compromise is needed. A long-winded newsletter won’t work online. But today’s discount/blurb style wears out its welcome too quickly. We need a formula that inspires loyalty while driving immediate business.
Here’s my easy-to-follow, five-step formula for making sure your e-messages won’t backfire:
1) Forget Blurbs
Blurbs may work on restaurant menus and apparel Web sites, but when you’re talking about something like a minimal-incision facelift, people expect and deserve more. Surgery is serious business. You can’t sell it like shoes. Any serious procedure deserves at least a 300-word description.
2) Respect Your Reader in Your Writing Style
A sober tone of voice is appropriate for a doctor’s message. Don’t let your ad agency or copywriter discuss cosmetic procedures in a breezy and breathless voice. Your reader won’t take it seriously. She’s willing to read your mail because she believes you have an inside track on cosmetic medicine. Your professional opinion is worth more than the hype in women’s magazines.
3) Use Skimming Aids
You can take the sting out of long stretches of text with some simple formatting and design tricks.
- Write short paragraphs (two or three sentences, max).
- Bold key words in each paragraph.
- Create subheads after every three or four paragraphs.
- Use bullet points.
- Alternate background colors.
- Use plenty of photos and illustrations.
These visual aids not only make it easy for readers to skim your messages, they are also visually appealing.
4) Go Easy on the Discounts
In addition to self-selecting a readership of bargain-hunters, discount-heavy messages hurt you in other ways. Most important, they put you in a horse race with the least-accredited providers in your area. That laser center down the street doesn’t have a fully accredited surgical center like you do. With lower overhead, they can offer deeper discounts. Medspa doctors can’t hold a candle to you. When you offer multiple discounts to your patients, it cheapens your education and experience.
There’s no strict rule of thumb about how many discounts you should offer in a single message. Here’s a handy benchmark: when your e-mails start to look like flyers from a mattress store, you’re heading in the wrong direction.
5) Take Careful Note of Your Monthly Opt-Outs
IMPORTANT FACT: Unsubscribes are permanent under Federal CAN-SPAM laws. You cannot resend bulk e-mail to someone who’s opted out of your list.
Check your monthly reports. If there are more than five opt-outs for every 1,000 subscribers, you’re doing something wrong. Adjust your formula. Move in the direction of more relevant, well-designed content and fewer discounts.
Following these five tips will make sure that your message blasts off.
Joyce Sunila is the president of Practice Helpers, providing e-newsletters, blogs, and social media services to aesthetic practices. You can contact Joyce via firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Practice Helpers Web site at www.practicehelpers.com.