The Evolution of Email in Healthcare: An Essential Element of Funnel Marketing in Digital Advertising Strategy

by | Sep 23, 2020 | Digital Strategy | 0 comments

Email lists aren’t just for appointment reminders anymore. Sending timely, engaging content directly to the inbox of current and prospective patients is an effective way to build a pipeline of candidates for priority service lines.

If you are like many healthcare marketers who do not have a sophisticated CRM platform or established strategy for funnel marketing in digital advertising, do you struggle with getting a good, qualified email list? Did anyone ever find the time to input the names and email addresses from the paper, handwritten raffle forms they filled out years ago at the health fair or community event you attended? Is your call center asking for email addresses at the time of appointment? How do you make sure people have opted in to receive messages, and why is that so important?

These are just a few of the common questions we get from hospitals and health systems seeking to enhance their email marketing efforts. To address these issues, we’re helping clients transition from simply sending email reminders to developing an integrated strategy that drives funnel marketing in digital advertising.

Below, we've included the most frequently asked questions about email marketing in healthcare. Here are best practices for leveraging this highly effective channel— generating $42:1 ROI on average—to engage consumers along the healthcare journey.

How is healthcare marketing changing when it comes to email?

Email marketing is emerging as a leading driver of consumer and physician engagement for hospitals and other healthcare organizations. This is illustrated by our 2020 State of Healthcare Content Marketing study, which found that email is the No. 1 tactic to engage physicians and No. 2 tactic for generating service line leads. With more than 3 in 4 healthcare marketers surveyed using email, the key is avoiding generic messages. This is especially true for messages related to COVID-19. Instead, engage consumers in a personalized way by delivering timely, relevant information based on demographics along with self-selected or modeled interest categories.

Lead generation is ideal when you have a CRM platform or marketing automation platform. You can target messages around priority service lines. Typically, this consumer journey will consist of monthly engagement around annual physicals, year-end benefits utilization and other strategic topics with a call to action that connects to the service line featured.

How are marketers utilizing email lists?

First and foremost, purchasing an email list is never a good idea. Instead, leverage email lists acquired through opt-in forms from your office or website, community seminars or other sources. Marketers are using email lists to map journeys designed to generate awareness, engagement and action. When used for top-of-funnel engagement, email journeys consist of approximately 8-12 emails designed to nurture assessment completions, downloadable guides and more. The emails need to have very clear calls to action that lead to a revenue-generating action.

This can also be used for mid-funnel engagement in the form of confirmation of seminar sign-ups, reminder emails and re-engagement emails for no-shows.

Lastly, lead nurturing can be used for bottom of funnel engagement. Direct calls to action can be geared toward appointment request confirmations.

How do I create a patient journey with email marketing?

Here are a few proven tips to effectively leverage email to support funnel marketing in digital advertising.

Map the email cadence and content around the target consumer. Focus on educating rather than “selling” directly through email. Take a long-term approach to guiding patients on their healthcare journey rather than constant promotion. Too much email can “burn your list” and impact deliverability.

Subject lines should be clear, succinct and attention-grabbing. A/B testing for subject lines and content should be used whenever starting a new email campaign. This compiles performance data, allowing marketers to plan future emails accordingly.

Length is important. Consider that the average person receives 120+ emails every day. Try using short-form emails that include health tips, recipes and other actionable content with a link to your blog for more information. Long-form emails could highlight a physician or patient story with a call to action to view a profile or download a guide.

Calls to action should be aligned with the consumer journey. Appropriate and well-timed CTAs direct users to the preferred point in the consumer journey.

Test and learn. Send emails on different days of the week and at different times to reach new audiences. Consider resending the message three days later to those who did not open it.

Use paid search and social ads. These tactics help to get new people engaged with your brand by linking engagement ads to a landing page or email sign up page. For example, if you are interested in getting patients back for elective procedures, target your paid search and social specifically to that audience.

Promote your email newsletter through organic social media posts to drive sign-ups. Experiment with different elements, such as video content or interview excerpts, to gauge interest.

Most importantly, remember that guiding healthcare consumers from engagement to conversion requires multiple touchpoints over a period of time. Email is just one of many tactics that can be combined to create an effective funnel marketing in digital advertising strategy.  

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