For a reputation-driven business like a veterinary clinic, email communications with pet owners are more than a way to send appointment reminders and other pet healthcare information. Where public perception can easily attract or discourage new clients (and influence existing ones), email is an extension of a clinic’s brand identity, and that means one important thing.
In a world where people have definite likes and dislike about email, sending out the wrong kind of email can harm a clinic’s identity and discourage pet owners from becoming or continuing as clients.
Today’s lesson is all about email marketing.
What do you think of when you think of email marketing? Is it the pile of messages in your spam folder? Or maybe the pile of offers that you get on a daily basis from that newsletter you signed up for forever ago?
The thing is, email marketing doesn’t need to have that effect. Done properly, it’s an effective way to communicate pet health information with your clients—and that’s valuable for your practice.
Why should you consider email marketing?
Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch with existing, active clients. By giving them newsletters, regular updates, and more, they can keep up with the goings-on at your practice effortlessly.
While social media—another powerful marketing tool—is a great way to open up a two-way conversation with your clients, email is a better way to engage people with your practice. Both have their advantages, but each serves a different purpose.
Here are some great email marketing tips that you should keep in mind for better vet client communications.
1. Create great emails
There are all kinds of online services at various price points that help you create stunning emails. Depending on the platform you choose, you can use their predesigned templates or make your own, track opens and clicks, test different subject lines, and manage your email list with ease.
If you have a small email list, check out Mail Chimp. It has a lot of great features, and if you have under 2,000 subscribers, and send fewer than 12,000 emails per month (that is, if you have 1,500 subscribers, you can send up to 8 emails to the entire list each month), you can use it for free.
Mail Chimp also offers a free Subject Line Researcher tool that allows you to test the effectiveness of different keywords based on actual open rates collected over time.
2. Write Using Conversational Language
Research supports a strong link between veterinary communication style and client compliance.
According to 2017 studies published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS One, veterinarians tended to communicate with clients in a directive, paternalistic style, and a more mutualistic, relationship-centered style of veterinary communications better supported core psychological elements of client motivation.
To say it another way: As a pet healthcare professional, you may be used to a degree of detached professionalism in client communications, and that’s not a bad thing. After all, clients came to your clinic to find professional care for their pets, and a directive style certainly reassures clients and strengthens trust. Yet when you choose appropriate times to inflect yourself into client communications—to speak as a real person to another real person—clients feel a more personal connection to your clinic. So they’re more motivated to comply with pet healthcare recommendations for improved patient outcomes.
3. Design cool graphics
You don’t need a degree in design to create great graphics. Canva is a free online graphic design tool that is really easy to use. You can buy their premium images and design elements for about a dollar each, but this is certainly not necessary since they have a robust library of free elements, and you can upload your own pictures. Then, just add the text, shapes, and other elements and you’re on your way to a beautifully designed graphic!
If you’re not a fan of Canva, or looking for more of a photo editor than a design tool, check out our list of free online design tools for veterinary practices.
4. Simple & Relevant Content
If your email content is not relevant to the pet owner, it holds no value and will not yield any click-throughs. It can help to personalize emails whenever possible. Since not all clients own the same pets, some marketing emails will not apply to all your subscribers.
When crafting an email to a targeted audience, try to avoid the “laundry list” of features or services you’re promoting. Instead, focus on how a particular product or service will benefit the client and their pet.
Also, don’t forget to stick to the bare bones. While there’s no magic word limit to ensure a high click-through rate, nobody wants to read a lengthy email. Keep it brief – opt for short sentences and concise wording, and avoid over-the-top marketing jargon or veterinary terms.
Pet owners will skim their emails, so it’s best to make your point quickly. Use action-driven language to create clarity and urgency, both of which can be accomplished through your call-to-action (CTA).
Your CTA should tell the reader what you want them to do and drive them to click the link. The link should lead to a specific page on your website that explains the campaign, product or service you’re promoting. Stick to one CTA per email, to avoid confusion.
5. Check Your Spelling to Maintain Trust and Credibility
Spelling mistakes can dramatically reduce credibility and trust toward any business. In a joint 2015 study by the American tech company Neustar and the Ponemon Institite (an independent U.S. research firm), 750 adults were asked what most created distrust for them in a company’s website.
- 55% said a lack of security safeguards
- 63% said a history of company data breaches
- 91% said spelling mistakes and other errors
As incredible as it sounds, more people were put off by company websites because of spelling errors than the risk of identity theft or divulging sensitive personal information in a potentially unsafe environment. And this high level of mistrust toward poor spelling also applies to emails. So double-check spelling and grammar before sending out client communications—and this includes taking a second look after running any spell-check program.
The sentence “It’s flea and tick season,” for example, contains no spelling or grammar issues. As a result, spell-check apps will tell you (if they could talk), “Thumbs up! It’s good to go!” However, without the correct word “tick ” in place of “trick,” clients will receive a puzzling email that leaves them wondering, “Trick season? Is it Halloween already?”
6. Be Conservative With Your Font Choices
Simplicity equals better readability and improved engagement when it comes to making font choices for your client communications.
Saturating emails with all kinds of fonts, sizes, colors and other formatting typically creates a confusing, discordant experience that can quickly cause clients to abandon emails. And that can impact patient health if you’re sending information that you really need clients to read.
To better ensure that, choose one font for headlines and another for email copy—and stick with them—and use bold fonts, italics and underlines sparingly.
7. Limit the Number and Size of Email Images
There’s a reason why images are important in client emails. Studies show that images significantly help people retain more of what they read. Yet research shows that more doesn’t always equal better.
According to research by Hubspot, as the number of images in an email increases, an email’s engagement value tends to drop. As well, overuse of images can trigger email filters to send clinic communications into a client’s spam folder.
If you have a collection of images that you want to share with clients, like photos from a special-event day or clinic celebration:
- Post one or two images in an email to whet client curiosity
- Invite clients to see the rest of the images by providing a link to the complete photo album on your clinic’s Facebook page or other social channel
This way, you retain email impact and broaden your reach for client engagement.
Also, keep images small. Large images increase file size, and certain ISPs disallow emails to people that exceed certain sizes. Plus, large file sizes can block up the inboxes of clients.
The prevailing email image-size rule of thumb is 600-700 pixels wide with a proportional height.
8. Keep Your Content Short
While the ideal length for email content remains a widely debated subject, research places the ideal number between 50 and 200 words, which makes sense. Where clients can get dozens of emails each day from friends, colleagues and businesses, their time is at a premium. So they’re more likely to read a short email than one the length of an essay.
When applied correctly, these five vital elements can go a long way to strengthen your client base, increase profitability and improve patient outcomes, and sure. It can all seem like a lot to remember and can detract from time spent caring for patients. Yet as hundreds of veterinary clinics have discovered, there’s a simple way to optimize your client communications and clinic profitability without sacrificing your time for patient healthcare.