Get Ready to Use SMS Marketing to Connect to Patients
According to a study by Shift Communications, 82.1% of people surveyed reported that they open every text (SMS) message they receive. I’ve seen other statistics that claim even higher open rates - in the high 90’s. WOW! In the marketing world, those are incredibly high open rates.
So if you want to get a message out to your patients, SMS is a pretty effective way to reach them, right? Well, hold on. Before you go blasting out text messages with all of your “important” messages, consider that in a mobile behavior report by Salesforce, 52% of those who did not opt in to receive texts from a brand say that they find them to be disruptive. Alternatively, 91% of users who did opt in to receive texts found those messages to be somewhat or very useful. So clearly, it would be a wise to get permission before you start sending SMS messages.
Now once you have an opt in list, how do you go about SMS marketing effectively? What kind of marketing is best to promote via text?
First of all, studies show that text message marketing is most effective when it is done in conjunction with a larger integrated marketing campaign. This means that you are also promoting your message via other mediums such as your website, social media, and in-house channels. Designing a coordinated strategy will reinforce your message and have a bigger impact on actual appointments booked.
SMS marketing is great for informing patients of a sale, an event, or even a seasonal reminder such as back to school or allergy season appointments. Since you want to be selective about how often you use text messages, it should not be used to make general announcements that don’t have an associated action point. Don’t waste your texts. Use them wisely by making sure that every message includes a way for the recipient to act, such as a link to call or access a landing page about the promotion.
As implied above, one important consideration unique to text message marketing is frequency. People generally feel SMS is a more personal touch point than say email or social media and therefore adds the risk of feeling intrusive. Further, it can be disruptive. Whereas your patients can choose when they want to check their email or social media page, a text comes in when you decide to send it. Therefore, you want to keep texting to a minimum to avoid being a nuisance. Once to twice a month is a safe bet for providing value to your patients without overstaying your welcome.
The Down Side
So, if text message marketing is so effective, why doesn’t everyone use it? Well, first of all, there is a cost for sending SMS’s. If you do determine that you’d like to go ahead with this strategy, there are tools which allow you to sign up for either a monthly fee or a credit-based payment system which allow you to send bulk texts for a very reasonable cost.
Secondly, you have to export all of your opt-in contacts into this tool which could be tedious and time consuming if you are a big practice. Optimally, you should look for an SMS tool that is compatible with your practice management system to facilitate this process.
In general, when done the right way, SMS marketing can create an improved relationship with your patient base, allowing them to feel connected to your practice in a valuable and meaningful way. This is especially true for the younger generations such as millennials, who are known to keep their phone close at hand at all times and regularly communicate through digital means. Knowing your patient base can help you determine the best way to effectively use text marketing for your practice communication.
Since SMS marketing can get expensive, even if you aren’t planning to include this in your marketing now, it is worthwhile to start planning ahead by getting opt-in permission (specifically for marketing, not just for appointment reminders!) for every patient that comes in through your door. This way, when you can text blast all your patients cost-effectively you will be set up to do so!