How do we get more email addresses from clients to promote communication and marketing via email?

If you would like to communicate with clients via email, as they come in as new clients or for scheduled appointments, make this request part of your client forms, even for drop-off appointments. To help clients feel comfortable providing their email addresses, be sure to include a privacy policy so they understand how their email will be used.

It is advisable to use an online email communication tool such as Constant Contact or iContact so that you can assure clients of the ability to opt in, opt out, and pass along emails to others. This gives your clients peace of mind that if they wish to stop receiving mail, they can do so independently.

You should also have a sign-up link on your website, preferably the home page, and a contact page where people can sign up to receive email from you as a means to stay in touch. Don't forget to include this sign-up information on other materials, such as your invoices, reminder cards, printed newsletters, advertisements, and brochures. If your practice is in the habit of calling to confirm appointments, you might ask clients during those calls whether you could obtain their email address to confirm future appointments. Point out that they can easily reach the office electronically if they need to change the appointment. In this manner, you offer your clients two-way communication, which is really what we all wantto know we are heard as well as a means to get information when needed.

How do I determine the value of money spent on interactive websites with client-specific profiles? Many clients love this service but many others have never signed up.

Pet owners love personalization, and interactive websites offer a great way to help clients feel personally connected to their pets' information and their veterinarian. Even though there may not be an easy way to determine that actual value in monetary terms, anytime you can further bind clients to you and your practice by having them actively engage in online features for their pet, you reap rewards in loyalty, which often translates into more visits and more referrals.

Simply having a tool, though, is not enough. The availability and benefits of the tool need to be promoted to help clients find value in using it. Otherwise, the tool offers no value to the practice. Clients who have not yet taken advantage of this service may need to be reminded about the benefits and even offered assistance in getting started. This is an area your front-office team should be able to chat about knowledgably so they can help clients establish an account. Consider creating a short "how-to" handout or step-by-step instructions for activating and using this free service. Make it benefit oriented and include instructions for accessing more information or help if needed. If you want to get clients on board, provide instructions that will make the process easy.

Assuming that clients need to hear a message several times to make it effective, how much email marketing does it take to become offensive to the average client?

A lot more than you think. An old marketing adage is "A prospect needs to see or hear your marketing message at least seven times before taking action and buying from you." There are many reasons for this. There is a lot of clamor out there for your clients' attention, and it's hard to cut through this noise. This is why your emails should be well designed and well written, and should deliver something of value to the recipient. Every message, whether in print or electronic, should have a headline and then more detailed information on the core message, and close with a call to action. Provide a link, phone number, or information on taking the next step front and center.

Marketing may also be a matter of timing; people may not need youyet. Or maybe they don't feel they know or trust you well enough to act on your recommendation. By providing free information to your clients and prospects on a regular basis, though, you are building a solid relationship. Information offered in a newsletter or blog doesn't set off alarms because it's not a sales pitch; it's a genuine attempt to educate and help.

Also remember that it never hurts to ask. If you periodically survey your clients about their communication preferences, be sure to ask, on a scale of 1 to 5, how they feel about the frequency of emails, and leave room for them to share what they like about the emails, or suggest other things they would like to hear about.

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