Here’s How To Create A Patient Newsletter To Educate Patients, Market Your Practice
My favorite patient is a new one. With each fresh face that passes through my clinic door, I am energized by the prospect of the unlimited power of an open mind. I have the opportunity to expose these patients to a healthier and more natural way of life. As an added benefit, I know my contact with them will result in countless referrals that my own marketing efforts may never have touched.
Perhaps you run a practice that could use more new patients, yet extra dollars for clinic promotion are few and far between. If that’s the case, an option you may want to consider is the proven effectiveness of the patient education newsletter.
According to advertising expert David Ogilvy, editorial material is three times more persuasive than traditional advertising. Because of this, a personalized newsletter is an excellent way to reach out to people who have yet to come in contact with chiropractic, or even to reach those who received chiropractic care but were never made aware of the wide range of benefits it can offer. Newsletters offer editorial that allows people to educate themselves, whereas brochures and ads often speak in a much more aggressive tone, essentially telling people what to think.
An informational newsletter that is mailed every four to eight weeks is an effective tool to: maintain compliance and increase visits from current patients; add value to your service by educating your patients on vital topics via a complimentary subscription; establish expertise and credibility by providing easy-to-read information that applies to the lives of your patients or someone they know; and generate word-of-mouth referrals, since an interesting and concise newsletter will be shared with an average of three other people.
Getting The Word Out
Because 60% of your new patients will be referred to you by current patients, it is critical that you distribute your newsletter, at minimum, to your entire active patient base. Consider taking this strategy one step further by sending the newsletter to your inactive patients as a wake-up call to continue care. Offer an incentive to come back, with a limited-time offer for a discounted service. Getting an active patient back in your practice is worth the investment of a one-time discount.
Personalized newsletters are amazingly versatile. They can be handed out at health fairs and screenings, placed by the cash register or reception area of a complementary business such as a health-food store, work-out facility or juice bar, or placed in your waiting room as an educational item for patients who may want to share the information with someone they know.
The general rule of thumb is that a newsletter, regardless of its length, should contain 75% general interest editorial material and 25% personalized information. There is no evidence suggesting that the length of a newsletter has any impact on its effectiveness. A newsletter that is too long may actually lose the readers’ interest and prompt them to discard the publication without passing it on to others.
It’s important to remember that how your finished newsletter looks is a critical factor in how well it will draw in new patients. Your printed materials are a reflection of how your practice as a whole will be perceived, and if the layout is illogical in its order or sloppy in its appearance, the assumption will be made that your business is no different.
That’s not to say that you need to over-invest to have this marketing tool pay off. As a matter of fact, some doctors find that by simply sending out a healthy recipe, cleverly designed and printed on a 4-inch x 6-inch postcard, they are able to maintain contact with existing patients and keep their name on the minds of potential patients until they are ready to begin their care.
Focusing Your Efforts
There are several steps you can take to ensure your newsletter will be a winner:
- For starters, allocate the job to a reliable company or individual who will complete the newsletters at regular intervals. The person you work with should be a fanatic for details, making sure there are no misspelled words, copyright infringements or “politically incorrect” statements or terminology.
- Pick a newsletter length you can manage. As previously stated, more is not necessarily better, so only commit to an amount of space you can fill with interesting facts and information.
- Choose a theme to make your research easier. If each newsletter is a focus on a particular topic, it gives you or your writer parameters for research. If you try to cover too many topics in one newsletter, you will only have space to touch superficially on each subject. This can raise more questions than you can answer and will leave your reader feeling frustrated.
- Work with a talented graphic designer. Though ad agencies can cost an arm and a leg, a good freelance designer is usually quite affordable and a great resource. If you have time and patience, some of your work can be given to the local art school as a class project. If you insist on doing the project yourself, newsletter templates and design reference books are readily available.
- Use graphics sparingly. Though a picture is worth a thousand words, the wrong picture is of no benefit at all. Use images that will help you illustrate or accentuate a point and limit your use of sophomoric clip art. Also, remember that it is usually illegal to use images downloaded from the Internet or scan pictures out of a book or magazine without the written consent of the photographer or the individual or company who owns the shot. Just one infraction of this law can cost your more money than the image could ever be worth, so don’t risk it.
- Remember your audience and write specifically for them. Your prospects are not doctors, and they will not understand the terminology you may use every day.
- Mail first class if you can afford it. Try to use a stamp instead of a metered postage. Studies have shown that people are more likely to read an item that is hand-stamped. If you mail too many pieces to make first class affordable, bulk mail stamps are available.
- Write your main articles about the everyday problems patients face, so you can offer yourself as a problem solver. For example, if you focus your newsletter on headaches, you can discuss how chiropractic is a form of care that treats the cause of headaches instead of deadening the pain with medications. Explain how successful you’ve been in treating headache patients and what the problem may actually be. Let readers know you offer free screenings for new patients, and give them the information they need to contact you. Include a map with simple driving directions, highlighting points of reference so they will be able to find you.
The key to your success in marketing is consistency. Even mediocre marketing done consistently is better than great marketing done sporadically. Send out your newsletters on a regular basis and continue doing so for at least a year until you determine their value. Chances are, you’ll see your practice grow with educated patients who help you build your business.
Dr. Jackson is the president of Back Talk Systems, Inc., a company that specializes in patient communication tools and ideas. He has been in private practice for 18 years and is a certified chiropractic technique instructor. Dr. Jackson gives seminars throughout the country that focus on patient retention and referrals. He can be reached at 800-937-3113, or check out the company’s website at backtalksystems.com.