Friday, May 25, 2012

Improve Your Response Rates in Email Marketing

Yesterday I listened to a one-hour webinar on effective email marketing from an email/online advertising company, The webinar had two themes:
  1. Avoiding spam filters and improving your odds of making into your potential customers’ inboxes (the more technical part of the presentation) and
  2. How to get people to actually read and respond positively to your emails (the more writing skill part of the presentation).
Below is a prĂ©cis of their presentation…at least the parts that I think are relevant to our market.

Stay out of the spam filters!
In order to do this, stay away from specific words in your Subject Line and in the email in general:
  1. “Dear Friend”
  2. “Dear (name of client)”
  3. “Amazing Results”
  4. “Call Now”
  5. “Buy One Today”
  6. “Guaranteed Results”
  7. “Make her happy tonight”
You get the idea here. Keep your subject line short and relevant. If your emails start getting trapped by spam filters, pretty soon the ISO companies tend to put ALL your emails into the spam box, or, worse yet, delete them and not send them on at all.
You can test your email before sending it to see its “spam quotient” (which ideally is lower than 2.0) by testing your email before you mail it at:

Clean up your email list
If you are getting bounce-backs for dead email addresses, remove them from your list promptly or get your email provider to remove them if you are not doing this yourself. Over 1-2% hard bounces are a red flag for ISO companies. A positive number for bounce backs is less than 1 per 2000 emails.

Once you get into their inbox, how to you get people to read them?
First, remember their reasons for subscribing to your newsletter, blog, or email service in the first place and keep your content relevant to your customers’ interests. The main reason that people subscribe to any email service are:
  1. Discounts
  2. Special promotions
  3. Regular customer of the company
  4. You offer some exclusive content
  5. You are a non-profit that they support regularly
Second remember why people do or don’t open an email. They open it it:
  1. They recognize who it’s from
  2. What is in the subject interests them
They don’t open the email if:
  1. You send too frequently
  2. They get too many emails in general
  3. They don’t remember that they signed up with you
  4. They are no longer interested for whatever reason
So that means you have to…..

Write good emails!
The most important part of your email is the subject line. As many as 80% of people will read the subject line, but only 20% will read the whole email. Also, 60% of spam complaints to an ISO are based on what’s in the subject line! That means you should spend as much as 50% of your time crafting your subject line and 50% writing the rest of the email!
Then in the body of the email, write a short intro/salutation. As early as the first or second sentence, put in your first “call to action.” In other words, tell them as immediately as possible what you want them to do (buy your services, come to your event, download your free ebook, etc.). This means there is an obvious button or words for them click on right there at the beginning.
Last is your signature with your physical address (makes your email legal) AND a PS with another call to action live link. For example, something like: “Thanks for reading my email, Check this product out today” or “Download your copy now.” Research suggests this second call to action link is the second most clicked-on item on your page.

Who is this from?
In the “sent from” field, it’s best if it is your name…not just the name of your clinic, for example. This means you are more likely to create relevant content because your name will be on it! And it makes it far more likely that you escape the spam filter and that your reader opens the email. People are wary and want to see emails sent from a valid address that they know. Even if this is a “POP” address and the response goes to your front desk staff or wherever…a real person they know is better than or

Use of space
Put everything necessary for a response above the fold. Make the opening sentence stand on its own and tell enough of the story for them to be interested. Tell them the 3-second version of the story, plus a “Click here to___” button.
Make sure you have an “Unsubscribe” or “Safe Removal” button at least at the bottom…but at the top of the email as well is courteous and reduces spam complaints down to almost nothing.

They may look cool in the design, but large images increase your spam score! Avoid them or use sparingly. They suggested using text-to-tag images (words inside the picture box telling the viewer what the picture is), because 70% of your recipients will have images blocked as a preference. If you have a coder helping you design your emails, tell them to code your images as if it were 1999. For example, Outlook ’07 does not support background images, forms, flash, java script, and heaven knows what else. Keep that stuff to a minimum.

Final suggestions
  1. Keep your subject line short. Research says the best length in 30-45 characters (which includes spaces between words)
  2. Keep the width of your emails between 600-800 pixels
  3. Keep your emails short and to the point
  4. Run them through a spam checker if you can
  5. Don’t put the recipient’s name in the subject line
  6. Put your call to action in the first paragraph and again at the end
  7. Don't send more often than once per week. Too many emails is the #1 reason for “Unsubscribe” responses.
  8. Don’t send because you think you should. Wait until you have something useful to say to your subscribers!
  9. Don’t sell, rent, or give away your emal list; remove bounce-backs and unsubscribes promptly.
Best of luck and I hope these tips help you with improved results in your email marketing. To get professional help, take a look at all the blogs, ideas, and services at
Click here to get Honora’s marketing ebook!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Your Phone is STILL a Marketing Tool!

by Honora Lee Wolfe

Today I had a discussion with my son about the relative merits of voice mail vs. text messages. He’s right, I need to give it up and learn to use texting if I want to stay in touch with him. That said, although I am trying to march bravely into the 21st century where technology is concerned, I still believe that we need telephones and we need to use them wisely to be successful. Here are notes from a recent lecture I gave about the importance of your telephone. While it seems like a no-brainer to me that our phones should function like any professional medical office, my experience is that at least 80% of acupuncturists rarely answer their phones! When I call an acupuncturist's office during working hours and all I get is an answering machine, my response to this is always "really?"..."I mean, come on folks!"  "Can't we do better???" "

My belief is that we could do better and that the practitioners who are making the best living made a decision early in their careers to hire someone else to answer the phone for them, promptly, intelligently, and courteously between 9 and 5! If we want to have "medical parity" in terms of respect and public expectation, this would be one good way to move in that direction. are my suggestions.

Staffing your phone
If you cannot always answer the phone, create a way to get your messages as instantaneously as possible:
  • Answering service, buzzer on your belt, pager, check messages once per hour,
  • Make a short-term goal to have someone answering your phone within a year. I guarantee you will make more money and there's plenty of other stuff this person can do to help you grow and manage your practice! For a laundry list of ideas about that, see page 205 of the current edition of Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists
Inbound calls: Make the number easy to find.
  • Your phone number should be on every piece of written material that goes out your door
  • You need to write down what you or your receptionist will say when people call. How do you want your phone answered? Don't let someone else determine this for you!
  • What are the most common questions prospective patients ask and how will you answer them? (This could also be used as an FAQ on your website and a handout in your presentation folder).
Inbound calls: Answering the phone
  • Speak clearly, slowly, and smile when you answer the phone (People can hear it.)
  • Return calls promptly
  • Better yet, answer your phone every time!
  • “White Crane Clinic, this is Joseph, how may I help you?” Or…“Thank you for calling White Crane Clinic. How may I help you?”
Inbound calls: Answering questions
People ask pretty predictable questions, so write down how you want to answer the most common ones. You’ll sound more intelligent and your receptionist will thank you!
• Do you do acupuncture? (Of course you do, but what other services?)
• How much does it cost for a treatment?
• How many treatments will I need?
• Can acupuncture treat my________?
• Do you have experience treating ____?
• How often will I have to come in?
• Are there any discounts?
• Can you bill my insurance?

Inbound calls:  When patients have problems
How will you answer these types of question? My thought is not to be defensive, listen carefully, don’t panic, be honest, and have a plan in advance. (Such as having them come back in, offering a liniment to help with any bruising, reviewing their chart to see if you missed something…but generally going TOWARD the problem and not stonewalling or running away from it.)
• “Hi, this is ___ and I was in yesterday. You gave me some herbs…well, I took them last night and I couldn’t sleep. So I stopped taking the herbs. What do you think I should do?”
• “Hi, this is ___ and I was in this morning. Well, I have developed a bruise where you needled me. It’s kind of painful and I need to know when this will go away.”

Outbound calls…
• Bonding call: “Hi, this is Joe from White Crane Clinic. We like to call our new patients within 24 hrs of your first visit to our clinic to see how you are doing, if you have any further questions, and what your response to the treatment was.”
• Reminder calls: A call/text message/email the day before every single appointment cuts down on patients forgetting or blowing off their appointments by 50% or more!

Outbound calls: To research the reason for a disappearing patient
• Hello, this is Joe from White Crane Clinic. We noticed that you had cancelled your last treatment and haven’t rescheduled. We were wondering…..
- if there was any problem
- if you are all well
- if there is something we could have done better
- if you’d like to try a different type of therapy that we offer

Outbound calls:  To request referrals
”Hello, this is Joe from White Crane Clinic. I recently sent you a letter about my specialty acupuncture practice in sports acupuncture. I wonder if you’ve had time to read it. At present, I have a patient who needs something other than what I offer and I may wish to refer them to you. Do you have time to chat for a few minutes, or could I visit you at your clinic later on this week?”

The Telephone is not dead!!!
•  People like to speak with a real person
•  People like to feel heard and understood
•  Really using the phone effectively is a way to set yourself apart in our profession!
•  Use the phone effectively and not jst 2 txt ppl or chk eml or whtevr.
•  Remember that many patients are boomers and they, at least, still like to talk on the phone! For most of the above uses, a real voice is better than a text message.
To check out my video on the above topic, click here:
For more marketing articles see this blog archive or check out my book, Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists.