Everyone has likely received unsolicited email from time to time. It can be annoying and can disrupt or discredit your perception of a brand in a matter of minutes. Even if the sender is providing a “tip” or “free knowledge”, the fact that they are reaching out to you without your consent should be a red-flag. This can be a slippery slope, so let’s discuss email marketing etiquette and how it differs from other marketing forms.
Unsolicited marketing typically works best in non-personal channels. Put simply, unsolicited marketing is done best via mail or at a community or industry event. Email is personal and direct and should be treated as such. It should be a place where you receive the information you have said “yes” to. If a patient provides you their personal information, they want to hear from you. They want relevant information and to stay informed about the happenings in your practice. There are a lot of automation tools out there that make managing and sending email easier, however, it’s important to constantly refine your recipient list. Accuracy is important. For instance, a customer can feel unimportant if you spell their name wrong.
There are organizations and dental practices that exploit email marketing and all the wonderful things that come with it, casting it in a very negative light. Some send emails to anyone they can think of, regardless of how the data is collected. Do not be deceived, there are rules around email marketing. Laws are now in place, most notably the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. Former President, George Bush, enacted the law as a means of setting a standard, nationally, for sending commercial email. You can read more about the CAN-SPAM act on the Federal Trade Commission Website by clicking here.
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 makes email marketing a little more difficult for companies. There are more rules and requirements a business must adhere to. Since this law has passed, trust in email marketing is on the rise. This is a great thing for dental practices! Violations of the CAN-SPAM Act are taken seriously, with punishments possibly reaching over $15,000 per violation. This is not a place to delve into the “grey area” or try to circumvent the regulations.
As promised, here are 7 tips for email marketing etiquette:
- Abstain from using fake or misleading information in any way. Make sure customers know who the email is coming from and that your practice is behind the communication. This is a great place for branding. Don’t say things like “painless dentistry”, etc., which can be false and misleading. Be very careful with your wording.
- Have clear subject lines. Do not be misleading. There is a notorious term, “click-bait”, that can seriously damage your online reputation. In fact, companies like Google and Facebook are cracking down on businesses that market this way. Make sure your subject line is an accurate reflection of the content of your message. If you’re running a promotion offering one thousand dollars off of Invisalign, don’t let your subject line say “Save Thousands on Invisalign”. Simply state, “One Thousand Dollars Off of Invisalign”.
- Let them “opt-in”. Get consent to send information. It’s disrespectful not to. Companies large and small who send email recklessly and without permission come off as desperate and lacking any real value. Is that how you want your practice to be perceived? Ask your customers to click a consent button or sign a form to opt-in and provide the appropriate email to contact them.
- Let your location be known. Give the customer other means to contact you besides just the email itself. Knowing where the practice is, the phone number, employee names, etc., will build trust. It may sound silly, but you want to convey security and that you’re reputable no matter the medium of marketing you choose.
- Tell the recipient it’s an ad. People aren’t stupid. They know an ad when they see it. This can be one of the quickest ways to be ignored, get marked as Spam even if they opt-in, or to getting an unsubscribe request. The CAN-SPAM Act actually requires you to let customers know the email is an advertisement.
- Make opt-out easy. Email marketing is always about the customer. It should be their choice to sign-up and it should be their choice when they no longer want to hear from you. Make it clear that the recipient can opt-out and provide instruction on how to do so. Don’t try to make it difficult or hard to locate opt-out procedures. This will just infuriate the recipient and tarnish your brand reputation.
- Honor the opt-out quickly. Do not drag your feet here. If they want out, let them out. Do not continue to email an opt-out recipient or ask them to reconsider. You have 10 business days to comply.
Any self-respecting business doesn’t want to come across as a desperate spammer, feverishly searching for any and every potential customer they can get their hands on. It’s bad for your reputation and can seriously harm your brand, your online presence, your organic search rankings and more. Remember, consumers are a lot more perceptive than you may realize. Although there is a lot of competition in dental marketing, it is more important that you not to do anything that would be a detriment to the industry as a whole. Make sure you’re up to date and aware of all laws pertaining to email marketing. Review the CAN-SPAM Act with your team.
The best thing you can do is put yourself in your potential or existing customer’s shoes. How do you feel when you get an unwanted email? Especially when you never asked for it. How would you feel if another dental practice inundated your patient base with unsolicited marketing emails? Email marketing is and should be a valuable piece of your marketing puzzle. Be sure you give your customers and potential customers the care they deserve and the choice to be in a digital relationship with your practice.