By Amee Lecoq
Ever wonder how to approach that parent/patient who said they were interested, but not now, without seeming pushy? Do you need a special to-do list to keep in touch with teachers or others who would like to refer? Want to reinforce the commitment of parents/patients currently in your program, and sustain an enthusiastic relationship with those who have graduated from VT?
This is the perfect niche for your email newsletter. In our practice system, we call it “The Drip.” Not “water torture”, but a steady infusion of sustenance for the relationships you need to maintain. It’s a systematic way to stay in touch with people who can enroll in therapy, refer others to your practice, and help spread the word about your VT program. Keep it simple and send it out to all your practice’s contacts.
What if you’re already active on other platforms? Social media posts are important, but they’re also fleeting. Your newsletter is sent directly to people who have expressed an interest in what you offer, and if the content is engaging and relevant to them, they will read it and even respond.
Who should receive my newsletter?
Send it to anyone who is a parent or candidate for your program of care. If
they’re already in your intake pathway, it affirms and reinforces their choice. If there is something stopping them from acting now, it’s a way to keep in contact with them graciously, without pressing too hard.
Professionals, educators and others with the potential to refer see your newsletter as a source of information about vision and the way it affects their patients and clients. They can share about your upcoming events and be inspired to refer by the success stories you include.
Your newsletter informs community leaders and media people of the impact of vision problems, so they can see the relevance to their group, employees, viewers, or readers, and feature you at an event, meeting or in content they publish.
What makes a great newsletter? Here are the elements that make the most impact:
First, choose a theme. Time of year can suggest topics such as:
· Back to school
· Parent conferences or 1st report card
· Start of sport seasons,
· 2nd semester lag as demands increase and some students fall behind.
· As summer nears, “Will your child just squeak by?”
· Studies in the journals or articles about topics that can be related to vision are easy to find and can inspire newsletter content.
The space or block at the top of your newsletter is prime real estate. The most powerful way to begin is to describe behavior that people have seen before. Write a paragraph or two which links those behaviors to vision. Here’s an example:
Are you Dreading Back to School?
Summer vacation is a huge relief for parents with a frustrating nightly battle over homework. But the escape is short-lived, as the problem will resume and likely get worse in the fall, when school restarts and the material grows more demanding.
Did your child fall behind as the last school year progressed? Perhaps his or her grades did not reflect the intelligence you know is there. Do you feel that despite all your attempts to help, something is interfering with your child's learning?
1 in 4 children have a specific vision problem which interferes with learning, and optometrists like Dr. X, who test for and treat the problem can help.
If this reminds you of your child, or one you know, you're invited to a special workshop on vision and learning. You’ll learn what to look for and get answers to your questions.
If vision is the problem, you may be able to start the school year with a new outlook and spare your child the pain of falling behind in school."
Lead with observable signs of a vision problem. A nightly homework battle, poor school performance, behaviors related to academic stress or failure, anxiety in certain situations. Select an image that conveys the behavior clearly and evokes a feeling, like this one:
If you have an outside article or study on the topic, link to it. But your summary is what is most likely to be read. An in-office or community presentation based on the same topic makes your newsletter part of a cohesive campaign to promote the event.
The most powerful newsletter element – never leave it out!
In the next space or block, include the success story of a recent graduate. A patient or parent’s description of the problems prior to your program and how much better they are now; the transformation from a struggle-filled life to a now hopeful future. It should be heartfelt, emotional. This kind of communication makes the difference for people who are considering enrolling in your program, for current patients as a motivation boost and for potential referral sources.
Every newsletter should also contain the following:
1. List upcoming workshops or presentations both in your office and to groups in the community. Be sure to include the date, time, location, topic.
2. News from the practice. Share any of these, for starters:
· Doctor or staff gave a talk in the community.
· Doctor or staff attended a conference- what they learned, summarized.
· Doctor or staff completed clinical education or other training.
· Doctor or staff did some good work for the community or humanity.
· Someone new has joined the practice.
· The staff did a fun or inspiring activity together.
These all show that you care and are continuing to develop your and your staff’s expertise.
Don’t blow up their inbox!
Your email newsletter can be released once a month- twice at most. This is not meant to be a bombardment as some sales-related businesses conduct. Rather, it’s useful information that parents and others find relevant and moving.
Don’t ask people if they’d like to be on your mailing list – no one wants that. Ask them if they would like to receive information from you occasionally about vision and learning.
A note about regulations surrounding email marketing:
Permission-based email is the gold standard, and whenever possible you want people to have opted-in, either by subscribing online or by verbally giving you permission to email them. However, a close examination of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 reveals that if the recipient has done business with you, you can send them email. This is not intended to be legal advice, so do read up on it and make sure you obey the law. Including an actual address, being transparent as to who is sending the email, and importantly, having and promptly honoring an opt-out are 3 key tenets to compliance. Use an email service to send your emails, and they will manage the anti-spam compliance.
Who should produce your email newsletter?
In our practice system, the Vision Therapy Administrator (VTA) or the Marketing Coordinator would create the newsletter, with input and approval by the doctor. Do it in-house because it’s important that your communications take a consistent approach, so the message is reinforced with every encounter.
A newsletter that helps you change more lives
Leading with recognizable signs, touching the emotions, and inviting to take action are some of the fundamentals we teach doctors and staff. When your newsletter does all of these, it will be a vital component in generating patient enrollments for your practice.