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Issue: 69 - Sep 15, 2014
Email Marketing... for Veterinarians?
By: Michael LoSasso
Shamrock Direct Media

Marketing is one of those business concepts that veterinarians seem to shy away from, probably a result in our lack of business education. As small business owners (that is what we are, after all), we owe it to ourselves to learn more about running (and just as importantly, promoting) our businesses.

But email marketing, really? Isn't that for airlines, Groupon, and pharmacies selling "male enhancement" products? Messages that clog your inbox, just waiting to be deleted without being read?

Yes, email marketing. Email can be an effective way to reach your clients and share important information about their pets and your practice. Done properly, email can further your practice branding and strengthen the bond your clients have with your practice.

How often?

As you know from your own experience/frustration, daily and weekly updates from businesses you frequent (even if you have requested the information) is too much, too often. Quarterly is too infrequent. Monthly (maybe semi-monthly) is an ideal interval for sending email updates (or "e-newsletters").

What platform?

Using Outlook, or even your practice management software generally doesn't work for sending a monthly message to large numbers of people. To begin with, if there is no "unsubscribe" button at the bottom of your email, you are violating the SPAM act. Not to mention it's hard in the first place!

Using an email service provider, such as MailChimp, AWeber, ConstantContact, or InfusionSoft is a much better option. These are inexpensive (or free) services that allow you to upload your list of email addresses, and let your clients manage their own preferences (changing email addresses, or leaving the list). They also provide relatively easy-to-use templates that allow you to send HTML (graphics-rich) newsletters that look consistent.

What to include?

Newsletters are the ultimate "content marketing" vehicle. You can send short articles that should be of interest to most of your clients, even short condensed summaries of news items, and put in a link to the original article.

Even the most ardent pet lover wants to read a newsletter that is nothing but food recalls. This is an excellent opportunity to show your human side, by including brief bios of the employee of the month, photos of client or employee pets, and share news items (employee getting married, or graduating from high school or college?).

Perhaps a "case of the month" each month, that highlights one of the diagnostic or therapeutic modalities in your practice, or even an ancillary service. One month might show off your digital radiography capability, and another show before-and-after photos of laser therapy. Ultrasound images can work as well (no, you can't send video). If you have camera suites in your boarding facility, perhaps a cute picture from one of them would serve as a "Boarder of the Month" - this quietly and unobtrusively markets your boarding services. Speaking of "before and after," what could be better than the more "rewarding" jobs your groomer has done? Again, a "non-invasive" way to spread the word about your groomer - you might be surprised how many clients didn't even know you had one...

Leverage other media

If your articles are on your website as blog posts, then include just the first paragraph in your newsletter, with a "read more..." link. This increases traffic to your website, and keeps your newsletter short and sweet.

Email service providers generally archive your newsletter, and will give you a URL address for each of your newsletters. Tweet this address to your followers, and post it on your Facebook page. Because people may encounter your newsletter through these channels, it is important to put a sign-up link at the bottom of each newsletter.

Other considerations

You might consider including a photo of yourself, and even a "non-legal" signature, like "Dr. Mike." This further personalizes your newsletter, and is not something larger companies do. Remember, your clients don't really bond with your practice - they bond with the caring people in your practice.

In summary

Email newsletters are a powerful way to get your name, logo, and picture in front of your clients every month. They can be critical client retention tools, and are an important way to highlight your services in a "non-sales" kind of way.