So even though we've technically got another few weeks of summer left, it sure feels like fall (even if the weather doesn't agree). Our old friend the pumpkin spice latte is firmly back on cafe menus everywhere. People are pulling those sweaters out of the closet again. And we're all getting out of 'vacation' mode.
Fall is usually a busy time for all you health care practitioners out there! So let’s talk a bit for the next couple of months about how to help your business get busy, stay busy, and grow in a way that makes sense for you over the long term. If you want to play the long game, that is, be running your business for many years to come, you need to think about things long term, and not just focus on the next few weeks or whether it's the 'busy season' or 'slow season'.
For these next two weeks specifically I’m going to talk about the importance of the email followup. Yeah yeah I know, some of you are probably thinking: "Email? What is this, 2001?". And I hear that! But even with social media, email is still a really important part of client communications and your marketing plan.
This week I’ll talk about composing email newsletters and how to go about getting that into your regular schedule, which will help remind clients about your services and lead to increased bookings. This is what you can call the ‘indirect’ approach, where you’re sending the same email to a group of people and aren’t dealing directly with their specific reasons to seek out treatments. While indirect, it's still a very valuable way to communicate with both potential and current clients.
Next week I’m going to focus on direct client emails, that is, follow up emails, one-on-one, to clients you haven’t seen in a while or want to follow up with for any reason. This kind of stuff is crucial and helps build and maintain your relationship with your clients.
Ok, let's get started on email newsletters and how incredibly useful they can be for your business.
Unlike social media or your website, emails are a more direct way to communicate with your current clients AND potential clients. Being invited into someone’s inbox is actually a pretty special thing and it's important to remember that. It’s not like social media where there are messages from all kinds of people flying by, messages that often get filtered out or ignored. If we have someone’s email address and permission to send things to them, we know that person at least is somewhat interested in what we do and how we can help them. When people check their email, they tend to do it more carefully than when they check their social media feeds.
So having an email newsletter you send out regularly is a really great way to communicate with your target clients. It keeps you and your business in their minds and helps remind them what it is you do. It also shows them your level of knowledge and training and gives them more information on all the different kinds of conditions you can treat. If you nurture this relationship, not only will those folks book appointments with you, but they’ll look forward to your email newsletters.
Now here’s the thing: People do use email filters to keep the less important emails in a different folder. Or Gmail does that for them. Or they delete emails without opening them. Or they have hundreds of unopened messages because they just aren’t concerned with that.
You want people to be interested in your emails, open them, and read them. So the key thing here is to make the newsletters informative and interesting, and not just use them as a form of self promotion. In fact, the content should be somewhere around 80-90% value (that is, stuff they’d be interested in reading that is just helpful or interesting and is not specifically advertising for your business) and no more than 20% self promotion.
But how do you do that?
Well, you need to think like your clients.
What are they interested in? What kinds of articles would they want to read? What knowledge do you have that they might be curious about?
You can link them to interesting articles you’ve read, or share with them the latest research on a topic, or let them know about a new technique you’ve just learned that they might find helpful in treating a condition they have. The key is to focus on what they would want to know about. You want the newsletter to have value to them, so they will want to read it and are happy to keep receiving them.
For example, if you’re a massage therapist that focuses on pregnancy and postpartum, you could share an article you read about postpartum depression and things they can do to help their recovery. You could mention a new mom and baby yoga class you’ve heard about that is getting rave reviews. You could share with them that you’ve taken an infant massage instructor’s course and are teaching group classes. Anything that would be of value to them. It doesn’t have to be directly related to massage therapy (or whatever it is that you do). But it does have to be interesting, informative, useful or funny (if you're the type to tell jokes. Just keep it professional, of course!).
It’s also important to stay away from repeating the same message every time. It’s ok to remind people each time about your online booking or your hours. But if the emails you send are essentially the same thing every time with nothing new to offer, people are going to tune you out pretty quickly. Always be thinking about what you can share that is new, or a new twist on a previous topic.
The other thing that is incredibly helpful in creating an email newsletter is asking your clients what they’d like you to write about! This may seem obvious to some of you, but it’s something that we tend to forget about, feel shy about, or assume we don't need to do.
You can go about this two ways:
When clients ask you questions before/during/after their treatments, keep note of that. Are there questions a lot of people are asking, or questions you think lots of people would be curious to know the answer to? That’s great newsletter material.
Send out an email asking your clients to let you know what questions they would want answered. You may only get a few responses, but it’s still an extremely helpful exercise in learning what your clients want.
We might think we know what our clients want, or what questions they have about getting treatments, but often we’re wrong! Unless we ask questions and listen for the answers, we can’t really know what they’re thinking. It’s true in all relationships, and just as important in client/therapist ones. Try it and see what kinds of questions come up! You’ll probably be surprised.
We've been talking a lot about your current clients and how you can compose content that would be useful to them. But what about that thing I mentioned way back at the beginning, about reaching potential clients too?
Well, in order to do that they need to be on your newsletter mailing list. This is why you really should have a way for folks to sign up for your newsletter from your website or any social media that you use regularly. Often people are interested in coming in to get a treatment but don’t have the time, money or energy right at that moment. But, if your email list sounds interesting to them, they may sign up for it. If they are getting value from your newsletters, they'll be that much more likely to book an appointment with you or mention you to others looking for your services. It essentially starts to break down the barriers that make people pause when they’re thinking of booking an appointment but just don’t feel they can in that moment. If you’re writing good content and showing folks your knowledge and expertise, that makes them want to trust you that much more, which helps them take action by booking an appointment with you.
How often should you send a newsletter? That's up to you and what you think will work best for your clients. Weekly is pretty common, but there are people that do daily, monthly, and everything in between. The number one thing here is to stick with it and do it consistently. Pick a day of the week (or month, or whatever timeline you're working on) and make sure that you have something ready to go out on that day.
But what about the technical end of things? There are a number of really great email marketing services out there these days, but the one I use and can highly recommend is MailChimp, which is free as long as you don’t have a huge list or send thousands of emails per month. They have a very user friendly interface for importing your email list, visually appealing templates to choose from when writing your emails, and even have lots of tips in their help files. Honestly, it's really easy to get started and it doesn't take long to get into the groove of sending regular email newsletters. As long as you stick with it and make it part of your regular schedule, you'll find it gets easier and easier to write them as weeks pass.
By the way: If starting a newsletter interests you and you want to check out MailChimp, I also recommend you check out Chimp Essentials, an online course that helps you take your newsletters to the next level. I mentioned it last week and I'm mentioning it again because the course really is worth taking, and Paul only offers registrations for a month at a time so he can make sure he's offering the most up-to-date content for his students.
Let me know if you have any questions, concerns, ideas, or awesome vegan smoothie recipes. See you next week!