Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Daniel Warren asks the experts.
A newsletter is an important part of your dental marketing mix, but coming up with content ideas can seem more trouble than it’s worth. Particularly for busy dentists and practice managers who have plenty of other things to do with their day. But according to the experts, filling your newsletter with promotions or special deals can be just as damaging as sending nothing at all.
“There’s nothing wrong with having a promotion to your customer base, but promotions tend to have quite a low response rate,” explains Mark Brown of Engage Content. “The fact that it happens accounts for low click or response rates for dental email newsletters, which often sits under around the two or three per cent mark.”
Those numbers don’t surprise Rob Johnson, chief content officer with Your Blog Posts. “The low response rate is because the only people responding to the newsletter are the ones who immediately want the service you’re offering,” he says. “They can see a benefit for themselves getting it at a discount.”
You don’t send out your newsletter to give away business to someone who is going to book anyway. You send it to increase engagement with your practice and to build a relationship with patients. Luckily, there are some alternatives to bad newsletter copy that will do a lot more engaging and lead to better outcomes.
Bad idea: Inspiring quotes
Inspiring quotes which have nothing to do with your teeth may mean something to you, but they’re not going to mean a lot to your clients.
“Inspirational quotes are rarely helpful,” says Brown. “More often than not, they’re kinda cheesy. Yes, we know that the world is a wonderful place, and that there is no ‘I’ in team, and … well, you get the idea. None of that helps cure a toothache.”
Good idea: Inspiring customer stories
The part you play in fixing someone’s smile is important—but from their point of view, it’s just a part. Telling that customer’s story—even if you use a fake name for them—will resonate with other readers, though. “Telling a story about how someone fixed their smile and got a new job, or a new relationship, or turned their life around in some way, is far more interesting for readers,” says Johnson. “It also demonstrates that you make your clients the star of their own story—not yourself. Which is immediately appealing.”
Bad idea: Customer testimonials
For dentists, publishing customer testimonials contravenes the law. The national law is straightforward about customer testimonials. “It’s hard to stomach when you’ve done some awesome work, you’re proud of it, and your patient is thrilled with it, but you can’t broadcast their opinion,” says Brown. “You know you’re telling the truth. But there is no way a potential customer can verify that the testimonial is true. That’s why they’re not allowed.”
Good idea: Share the love
“Many dentists contribute to local organisations, like sporting clubs or local charities,” says Johnson. “Rather than talking about yourself, why not tell your customers about the local clubs or charities you support? Even better, let the charity tell their own story, which you broadcast in your newsletter.
“What this shows your clients and potential clients is that you’re a part of their world, and that you care about the things they care about.”
This can extend to any volunteering you or your staff do outside the surgery or the world of dentistry. Taking part in Clean Up Australia, for example, is something that you, your family or your staff may already be doing. If it’s a sponsorship, a simple sentence at the end of the story explaining you’re a sponsor of this initiative will be all the links people need to appreciate your effort.
Bad idea: News about your practice renovation
If your practice is getting some new rooms added, or getting a makeover, that’s great. “It’s a pretty exciting time for you,” says Johnson, “but not a very exciting and interesting time for patients who may see it as you telling them not to come into the office because it’s closed.”
Johnson points out that even if the renovation is finished and you’re really proud of it, no patient is going to come to your practice just because you’ve repainted. “They’re going to come again because they have a problem and they want you to solve it. So don’t waste space in your email newsletter telling them about why they should come in and check out the new surgery.”
Good idea: News about your tech
Dentists have some pretty amazing gadgets, says Brown. “You might think, ‘Why would anyone care if I have a cone beam?’” he continues. “And in one sense, they don’t. What they care about is what cool stuff your tech can do for them. Don’t get bogged down in technical details. But a brief story on what that tech can do for them will be fascinating for them.”
Bad idea: Photos of your holiday, your new car, or your family.
“Unless we’re friends, I don’t want to see your holiday photos,” says Johnson. “You may have had a terrific break, but all your photos will do is remind me that I can’t travel during the lockdowns and I can’t afford to go anywhere. As a client, I want to know what you can do for me.”
Good idea: Tips for how you get YOUR kids to brush their teeth
Chances are, you were a dentist before you were a parent, Brown explains. “So when you came to face all those oral health issues all parents face, you already had a pile of knowledge about what to do.
“New parents don’t have that. Giving them advice while they’re in the surgery with the kids probably won’t help—they’ll have too much on their mind already. But they will relate to your personal experience—when you started helping them brush their teeth, how long you did it for, whether you brushed your own teeth at the same time, and so on. These may all seem logical and obvious to you, but may not have ever occurred to them. Telling them what you did with your kids, or even how you got thinking about oral health, will be fascinating for them.”
In general, Johnson says, think of your newsletter like a conversation. If you only talk about yourself, you won’t establish a relationship with whoever is listening. If you spend a minute thinking about what your patients what to know and the type of information that they would be interested in, then you’re going to have a lot more success and a much higher response rate when you send that email newsletter out.