When was the last time you hurried out to the mailbox expecting to find something really interesting? For most of us, it’s been a long time. We know that we’re more likely to find junk mail than meaningful content.
In this context, it’s easy to see why healthcare-related direct mail – even valuable offers from trusted partners – gets lost in the mix. While direct mail can still play a large role in health system marketing, big data, affordability, and refined targeting have made email marketing the new workhorse of outbound.
Direct Mail Costs Too Much
The healthcare industry has been heavily invested in direct mail and other traditional print media for years. Healthcare creatives love designing newsletters, ads, and posters, and administrators are accustomed to seeing those clever campaigns in physician offices and hospital hallways.
Yet compelling creative doesn’t automatically translate into stronger relationships with physicians, let alone more referrals. In fact, 92% of physicians prefer digital communications to direct mail. Plus, the cost of designing, producing, and mailing those beautiful pieces adds up.
Direct Mail Is Too Hard to Measure
Unless you include some kind of reply card, even award-winning direct mail doesn’t collect data. Doctors typically have several addresses – including one for each of their offices, plus a home address. When you deploy direct mail, you rarely know if a piece was received, opened, or thrown out. You also don’t know who opened it, nor can you tell how much time he or she spent reading it. Since you can only measure actual responses, not the value of the exposure, it’s hard to fully understand your ROI. Lack of data also makes it harder to refine future campaigns.
Email Generates Data
Unlike direct mail, email marketing campaigns are steeped in data. A successful deployment starts with an authenticated database of physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants that’s updated daily. In addition to including multiple accurate addresses for each, it should provide practice, affiliation, prescribing, and email behavior data.
As you plan subsequent deployments, this database allows you to build on trends related to open rates, click-through rates, and much more. Testing is inexpensive and fast, so it becomes possible to continually refine your message. Current website technology also allows you to sync your email campaigns with real-time, physician-level data about the physicians who visit your health system websites.
Hybrid Campaigns Offer Efficiency
When we look at data and cost, direct mail is becoming less efficient. Still, health systems are direct mail experts. Hybrid campaigns let you put this expertise to work more efficiently. In a hybrid campaign, the goal is to reach as many physicians as possible with email and then follow up with the rest through direct mail. In this way, you can take advantage of email’s data capabilities while reducing cost.
Email addresses were once used simply to log in to email accounts. Yet today, most physicians use their email address to download educational resources, log in to social media accounts, sign up for events, place orders, and more. To maximize this opportunity, email marketing should be used in new ways across all channels. Email should now act as the backbone of health system marketing strategies – with direct marketing serving a secondary role.