What should I put in email newsletters?

If you have done your research and determined that a sizable portion of your clientele would enjoy receiving timely information electronically, an email newsletter can be a very cost-effective and convenient way to communicate all types of information.

Asking busy people to stop and read your newsletter entails delivering information of value to the intended audience. Because people across the generations may have different interests, it is helpful to provide a range of information, from more in-depth educational material to short reminders and acknowledgments. The key is to make the newsletter short enough that it won't feel overwhelming. Create catchy headlines followed by first paragraphs with "read more" links to your website, where clients can access the entire article. This accomplishes two things. First, it keeps the newsletter brief and allows readers to quickly scan and then read only the articles of interest. Second, it drives people back to your websitealways a good thing for exposing them to more of what makes your practice special and reinforcing it as a resource they can count on.

Information pet owners find helpful or interesting includes a calendar of events, pet health care news, an article on an aspect of medical care, breed-specific information, success stories, acknowledgments for referring other clients, special occasions or milestones for patients, and practice team member news. The best way to find out what your clients want to read about is to ask.

Keep in mind that it is also important to ensure your clients' privacy. Publish a privacy statement on your website where clients can sign up to receive electronic communication and put this statement on the newsletter itself. One way to adhere to best practices and spam compliance is to use one of the many inexpensive e-newsletter services. A useful feature of many services is the statistical data available to you as part of your subscription fee. You can track email open rates, links accessed, and more. Having a website and a newsletter is great, and using the information from your visitors can help you make decisions about how to improve upon their experience and really make a difference in your level of service.

Is there value in giving away free products or offering discounts to encourage more visits?

Generally speaking, discounting medical services is not advisable and does not result in building a strong client base. Conventional marketing wisdom, backed by many studies, is that the price you charge is the ultimate expression of what you think your product or service is worth. If you discount prices, you're basically telling your clients that the product really isn't worth what you've been charging them all this time, which, of course, triggers a credibility and trust issue. Commodities trade on price. Thus, if you choose to sell your services based on cost, you become a commodity. In addition, discounting is not a sustainable strategy. You will never win a price war. There is always someone who will come in cheaper (e.g., Walmart).

You must know your market well in order to know what motivates your clientele and how they will respond to a discount. Some generalizations, however, can apply to any service-oriented business, as well as one that is most certainly emotionally charged, such as veterinary medicine. A sick pet can trigger feelings of vulnerability in the owner, which can lead to an assumption of pressure to accept a particular recommendation. A better strategy than discounting would be to add more value to a particular service, creating the perception of more for less. For instance, you might add a bath for every two nights of boarding or three free physical therapy sessions with every orthopedic surgery. Value-adds will trump discounts every time!

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