For health systems, reaching the right physicians with the right messages can be a challenge. Increasing referrals requires strengthening your brand among physicians outside your network. At the same time, limiting out-migration requires maintaining strong relationships with in-system physicians. Most health systems also need to communicate a variety of messages to NP/PAs, allied health professionals, alumni, CME registrants, and other groups.
Email is the most effective channel for engaging targeted audiences on a wide range of topics. But digital communication technologies and practices change at warp speed, and the healthcare industry is still playing catch-up. As health systems continue to expand email programs beyond the tried-and-true hospital newsletter, much can be done to improve the return on investment in digital marketing programs.
Our internal benchmarking studies reveal some common pitfalls to avoid:
- Most emails are poorly designed for the channel. Core direct marketing practices, such as including a compelling offer, placing the call to action in a prominent place, and creating a sense of urgency, are often ignored in email. Frequently, emails aren’t developed to adapt to specific devices and service providers.
- Health systems don’t always optimize email for mobile. In healthcare, 55% of all email is opened on a mobile device. Research indicates that a poor mobile experience will cause a recipient to dismiss future emails from that sender.
- "One-and-done” email deployments limit engagement. Sending an email only once is risky, since most emails are either read within a few hours or forgotten altogether. Deploying several waves of email to the same recipients at alternative email addresses is more effective. A high-quality database should provide both work and personal email addresses for your target physicians.
- Few campaigns develop and test alternative versions. Though A/B testing is known to improve email effectiveness, fewer than 1% of campaigns conduct A/B subject-line testing. Evaluating how particular audiences respond to your messages and refining your subject lines accordingly will improve open rates.
- Many marketing programs don’t use trigger emails. Emails deployed after a trigger event—like an industry conference, in-house training, or direct mail launch—receive higher response rates. Email acts as the connective tissue between channels, messaging, and audience segments.
- The review and approval process often begins before an email is optimized. This limits your ability to make creative and content changes that improve opens, click-throughs, and ROI. By completing a thorough optimization assessment prior to review, it’s possible to shorten your production schedule and implement lessons learned before your next deployment.
- There’s a tendency to lump all physicians into one basket. Doctors with different specialties, credentials, and practice locations exhibit distinct digital media usage patterns. When these email preferences are taken into account, email campaigns experience higher response rates.
For health systems with established digital marketing programs, some of these problems will require organizational shifts that may prove challenging in the near term. For those that are just beginning to explore the potential of physician email marketing, avoiding these common mistakes now will pay off in the future.
Either way, working toward a more strategic and streamlined email marketing program will maximize the impact of this valuable channel throughout your health system.