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How to Improve Email Engagement

May 1, 2019 | Digital
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Need help using email campaigns to reach your audience? We’re here to unlock the potential of email marketing for you. We’ll give you the keys to creating email subject lines that draw your audience in and body content that engages them.

Have you felt personally victimized by email inundation?

It’s fair to say that it’s impossible to read our emails as fast as they fly in. As consumers, we scan our inboxes, open what interests us and delete what doesn’t — unless, of course, your personality is best depicted by a screenshot of your phone’s home screen showing 99,999 unread emails.

We’re not judging.

Email has become one of the most widely utilized channels for reaching consumers, making it a rather competitive space for brands. But don’t let this reality deter you from incorporating email marketing into your strategy.

We’re here to help you keep your organization’s email campaigns out of your audience’s trash bins and spam filters. We’ve got tips for writing email subject lines that draw in your audience and body content that engages them.

Benefits of Email Marketing

Email marketing not only serves as a tool for content distribution. But it also offers a number of benefits to brands:

  • Preferred communication channel: Despite the volume of email people receive, they prefer to get marketing material via email versus another communication channel. Email doesn’t interrupt or impose on the recipient or come with the expectation of taking immediate action. Email also offers an effective way to connect directly with your audience.
  • Accessible: Reach your consumers virtually anywhere, thanks to web- and app-based clients.
  • Tailored to consumer: Segment and target specific audiences using tools such as healthcare customer relationship management (HCRM).
  • Sharable: Your content can grow legs, because recipients can forward or share it.
  • Trackable: Measure email performance in real time, allowing you to use insights to make necessary adjustments to upcoming emails.
  • Relatively inexpensive: Email is among the lowest-cost digital marketing channels, so you can save budget for other initiatives.

Patient Engagement

Email campaigns enhance patient engagement by filling gaps throughout the care journey with meaningful touchpoints that help keep organizations top of mind. Check out our 6 reasons why you should be sending a wellness email campaign.

The Keys to a Captivating Email Subject Line

You’re doing your morning email cleanout. You scroll through and read:

  • Last call: 50% off everything
  • Facility updates
  • Your free gift: Going, going, almost gone!
  • Monthly hospital newsletter

Which ones would you open and read, and which ones would you toss in the trash bin?

A good email that your audience will actually open and read starts with an email subject line that grabs attention and inspires certain feelings — all while accurately reflecting the content within the email to keep bounce rates lower.

Keep it short and sweet

Many members of your audience are accessing email on mobile, so keep your email subject lines to 30-50 characters. Doing so ensures that the entire subject line will display on as many email clients as possible.

Tempted to sprinkle emojis into your email subject lines? Your decision to use emojis depends on your brand’s voice. And be careful not to overuse them to the point of being expected.

Call readers to action, and establish urgency

Lead with action-oriented verbs. For example, use “protect your child” versus “make sure your child is protected.” Leading with action-oriented verbs will also help with conciseness.

Pique interest and curiosity

You can appeal to your audience by posing a compelling question. For example, “Can you afford not to get a flu shot?”

But piquing interest and curiosity is different from producing click bait. Click bait misleads and sensationalizes — something you don’t want to do in the pursuit of consumers’ trust.

Inspire trust

Trust is the key to converting consumers to patients and keeping them. Win their trust with these tips:

  • Use numbers. For example, “10 reasons why you should get a flu shot.” Numbers in headlines and email subject lines help people know what to expect from the content they’re about to read.
  • Don’t make false promises. Make sure you provide the information in the email that you promised in the email subject line.
  • DON’T USE ALL CAPS or overuse exclamation points!!! Not only is the use of all caps and exclamation points considered to be yelling in type. But it also makes content sound salesy, which comes across as opportunistic. Plus, all caps is a common spam filter trigger. One more thing: Don’t include a question and exclamation point in the same email subject line, because doing so triggers spam filters.
  • Be human. Remember, healthcare is a people-centric business. So don’t be afraid to be punny. After all, humor is disarming and, therefore, a great tool for getting through to people whose guards are up. Healthcare is an important subject, but not everything warrants a serious tone.

Make people feel special

If you genuinely make people feel unique and valued, you will have won them over for life. Here’s how you can do that:

  • Address your audience by first name using personalization tokens. Personalization tokens allow you to use email recipients’ and web visitors’ names collected through email signups and completed web forms, respectively.
  • Establish exclusivity with offers. The psychology of exclusivity is a powerful thing. For example, phrases such as “you’re invited” or “our gift to you” can increase open rates.
  • Check that your email subject lines are tailored to your audience using A/B testing. What works well for some consumers may not work as well for others. A/B testing can help you determine what works best for your target audience.

The Keys to Engaging Body Content

Now that you know how to write an email subject line that can survive the Great Email Purge, you want to focus next on how to get your audience to read and click.

Keep content concise

Shoot for no more than 300 words. Web writing best practices apply to email, too. To cater to the web user’s short attention span:

  • Keep sentences short, ideally less than 20 words per sentence
  • Keep paragraphs short, ideally no more than three sentences per paragraph, and focus on one main idea per paragraph
  • Use bullets and subheadings to break up blocks of text and make your emails scannable

And as always, follow a logical structure.

Keep content compelling

For example, “how to get your flu shot today” is more compelling than “learn more about getting your flu shot.” The only exception to this rule is if you’re linking to a post titled “getting your flu shot.” You may need to make certain concessions when drafting link copy, because the linked copy must match the h1 of the destination page.

Ensure an engaging look and feel

High-quality Images and white space are your friends. We recommend sticking to three or fewer images.

Include a call to action

If the goal of your email is to convert patients into consumers, include a clear call to action. And make sure you include it in the appropriate place.

As in life, there are good and bad times to make certain requests and ask questions. For example, you wouldn’t ask a significant other for their hand in marriage on the first date. So don’t ask consumers to make an appointment before you’ve laid out all the information and established a relationship first.

Analyze key metrics

Review these metrics, and glean insights to improve future emails:

  • Open rate: The percentage of email recipients who opened the email
  • Click rate (aka click-through rate): The percentage of email recipients who clicked on a link in the email
  • Unsubscribe rate: The percentage of email recipients who opt out of the email list
  • Spam complaint rate: The percentage of email recipients who report the email as irrelevant or inappropriate

Open rate and click rate, which shed light on engagement, are your most important metrics.

Keep your email lists fresh by sending an email to those who haven’t opened one or clicked on a link, asking if they want to unsubscribe. Your frequency for sending these emails depends on how frequently you send emails to a given list:

  • Quarterly emails: Annually or semi-annually (twice a year)
  • Monthly emails: Quarterly
  • Weekly emails: Monthly

Segment distribution lists

Segment your lists using HCRM based on demographics and services received. You can also use patient journey mapping to fill gaps in the patient experience for improved patient engagement.

Track it in Analytics

If you use Google Analytics (and if you don’t, please consider it), make sure you tag all of your links with proper UTM codes if your email service provider does not do it automatically for you. Google will otherwise see this as direct traffic. For example, linktomysite.com?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=WellnessEmail&utm_source=March2019Email. This enables you to see the incoming traffic to your site and what users do once landing on your post or page. 

Personalize content

In addition to personalizing the subject, you can also personalize the body content by using recipients’ first names. Another way to personalize content is to tailor it to certain audience segments.

Resources such as HCRM as well as doctors and service line administrators within your organization can help you identify audience segments. And don’t forget to apply common sense. For example, don’t send maternity content to men or women past childbearing years.

Timing is everything

Make sure the content is relevant to your audience. For example, don’t lose subscribers and credibility by sending a flu shot email in March. #NotHelpful

Make it mobile-friendly

In addition to keeping the content concise, also go with a mobile-responsive email template. Your consumers shouldn’t have to zoom in or scroll across the page to read your email. And if they do, they’ll just trash it. Thankfully, there are lots of tools out there to help such as Mailchimp.

Use engaging preview text

Preview text provides recipients with a peek at the content inside your email without opening it. So use this space wisely to entice them. Email clients such as Gmail, the iPhone Mail app and Outlook display preview text underneath the email subject line.

Send test emails

You wouldn’t proofread an internal email before sending it, right? Then don’t even think about sending an external email without testing it!

Send the email to yourself and at least one other colleague who didn’t participate in writing it. When proofreading something you wrote, it’s easy to read over errors.

Immediately upon opening the email, check how quickly images load. If they load slowly, then you’ll want to resize them.

Proofread the email, and click every link. Also, check it out on mobile.

Power Up Your Email Marketing

Need help with creating email newsletters with subject lines that draw in your audience and body content that engages them? Email us at brainpower@tenadams.com. And in the meantime, check out our 10 ways to boost your hospital’s digital marketing ROI.

About Ten Adams

Ten Adams is a healthcare branding, marketing + advertising agency. We are strategists and creatives that transform business challenges into powerful brand experiences for hospitals and healthcare organizations. Relax. We know healthcare.

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