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a blog by Chris Barrow

Is your patient newsletter in my junk folder?

Are you drowning in junk mail in the last few weeks?

Normally, when I check my emails first thing, I'd expect maybe half a dozen to have been automatically redirected into my junk folder - since Black Friday and Cyber Monday, that daily count has increased to maybe 20-30 unwanted emails.

Previously, I would check to see if any legitimate emails might have been inadvertently redirected as junk.

Now I can't be bothered and just hit Command-A-delete on my Macbook keyboard.

It begs two questions:

  • I'm making an assumption that the organisations who generate this junk wouldn't keep doing it unless there was a positive ROI - which must mean that some people read about and buy whatever the junk is that's on offer?

That reminds me of my late mother who, around 20 years ago and as a widow living alone, had to be blocked (by them) from The Shopping Channel because she was whiling away her time buying cheap and completely useless "tat". It was just a way of passing the time and her home was slowly becoming a warehouse. I never found any dental consumables in amongst the rubbish she had bought.

  • It highlights how important that our own digital communication with patients doesn't end up in the same junk folder.

I had this conversation during a practice visit earlier this week, when discussing the content and frequency of email patient newsletters.

I'm a great fan of:

  • A monthly newsletter;

  • Which follows "The Barrow Content Rule" of 80% patient stories (showing what a positive difference you have made for real people), 15% team stories (showing what a great place yours is to work) and 5% BDS (boring dental stuff) - OK - sorry - 5% OHE.

I was challenged in our meeting by a former owner, now associate, who announced to the room "If I got a newsletter every month, I'd just delete it - overkill - patients would complain that you were pestering them".

Respectfully, I pointed out that;

  • Almost every "Champions League" practice that I have worked with over the years have produced a monthly email newsletter for patients (p.s. quarterly for referring GDPs);

  • The best open-rate you can expect over the long term is around 20% - and that's just fine;

  • If your content follows the 80/15/5 rule, you will not get complaints - but you will generate new business and new patients.

The majority of us don't want junk - and I would argue that a patent newsletter that focuses on product placement and special offers will be categorised as such.

However, we are fascinated by other people's stories, especially people like us.

So please make sure that you are publishing regularly - but also that you don't give me any excuse to hit that delete button, because I'm curious to find out not WHAT you are saying but WHO you are showcasing.

I'm wondering if the current spate of junk emails is a temporary phenomenon - a reaction to recession and the pre-Christmas season - or are we going to have to tolerate a new wave of interruption marketing?

More important than ever that your marketing messages are full of real life stories.

The patient is the star.

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