Making the Email Relationship Meaningful for Healthcare Marketers

Email marketing is an integral piece of any modern healthcare marketing strategy, and for good reason. It can be one of the most cost-efficient ways to reach your audiences because you can broadcast effectively to a large group of people.

Outside of healthcare, retailers and companies, such as Groupon, have experienced enormous success with actionable and targeted email promotions. Marketers of consumer-facing healthcare brands – many of which have not optimized the potential in email marketing – should take note of the best practices pioneered in these other industries.

The best practices begin by understanding that consumers are savvy and, in most cases, somewhat jaded. Most of us have been exposed to thousands of commercial email messages, and we are well aware of how to opt out of lists and direct, unsolicited spam and junk mail. To overcome this hurdle, successful email marketing needs to be part of a holistic marketing plan that expresses and personalizes the brand experience by connecting it to relevant offers and information for the consumer. The goal is to create a relationship. This is especially important in healthcare, where people are often seeking information that is pivotal to their well-being. Their radars are up for companies and brands they can trust.

Although a strong email campaign in the healthcare industry should follow the same basic rules as any other industry, it must go above and beyond. Listed below are some basic dos and don’ts. Permission and relevance are key starting points.

If you don’t have the recipient’s permission to contact them, there is a high likelihood that the recipient will never even see your email. Permission, however, doesn’t necessarily refer to a formal opt-in; permission is implied when a consumer finds you online and clicks on a link that creates a pathway of information exchange. This is known as Inbound Marketing – when consumers click on a link that draws them to your site, such as a blog post, whitepaper, social media or search-engine results. – These connecting links should be key elements of your holistic digital-marketing plan.

Why? Because in the healthcare arena, consumers are highly focused while they hunt for information; 72% use the Internet to find health information.* Therefore, it’s your job as a healthcare marketer to help potential consumers and patients find you when they begin their information journey. Once they do, make sure they can easily connect to relevant content on your site. This makes it easier for consumers to see your brand/company/service as a trusted partner in helping them solve their information needs. Establishing this type of relationship will make your ongoing connection to consumers that much more meaningful.

It will also open the door to creating lasting relationships that will enhance the value of all future email-marketing campaigns. Now, when consumers receive an email from you, they are much more likely to open it and click through.

Email Marketing Basics:


  • Know your objective.
    • What do you want the reader to do after opening your email (outcome/results)?
      • Know how you will measure this for ROI purposes (see the benchmarks below as a starting point)
  • Create a good subject line for the email.
    • Short and to the point – tell, don’t sell
    • Under 45 characters
    • Title should include brand or practice name and call to action
  •  Include an incentive.
    • Informational incentives offer solutions to problems
    • Retail type of incentives offer discounts, freebies, special offers or promotions to spur action where appropriate
  • Keep it simple and visible.
    • Be direct
    • Make it easy to read and not overcrowded, especially for mobile platforms (80% of digital behavior and action occurs on mobile devices – Manhattan Research)
    • Don’t put telephone numbers within graphic content
  • Target the audience.
    • Only send emails to audiences who will feel a connection to the content
    • Make the content relevant
  • Send email during optimal days and times.
    • The highest rates of opening emails occur between Tuesday and Thursday
    • The rates of opening emails are highest during ‘free time,’ such as lunch and evening
    •  Sending your emails at these peak times tends to put your message at the top of the recipient’s inbox list
  • Have the landing page be an exact match of the subject and action you communicated in your email
  • Don’t make it necessary for the recipient to hunt or drill through links


  • Send anything that doesn’t have a clear purpose – it’s like crying wolf; your audience will stop opening emails from you if they aren’t relevant to them
  • Use words or symbols that trigger spam, such as ‘free,’ $, exclamation points or multiple colors of texts.
  • Send without testing first: check all links on different browsers, platforms and devices (online technologies such can help you test and check your email.

Below are some sample benchmarks for email marketing in different health-related categories:

Healthcare Email Benchmarks

Category Open Rate CTR CTOR CPC Bounce
Consumer Healthcare 26.2% 4.8% 16.7% 1.62 1.0311%
Consumer Products 21.4% 2.7% 9.9% 1.18 1.1396%
Retail 20.9% 3.4% 14.6% 1.28 0.3706%


Source: Silverpop 2014 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study
* Pew Research Internet & American Life Project, 2013

Tracy McCarty, BSRN

VP, Client Engagement