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Dentists’ biggest email marketing mistake

Written by Rob Johnson | Apr 11, 2017 10:30:00 PM

(This article is a 6.5 minute read)


1. What is graymail, and why your email marketing is ignored

2. What could happen if you don’t purge your email list

3. How to increase your email click-through-rate from 3 per cent to 14 per cent

Many dental practices do email marketing, and most of you get pretty much the same result. Between 40 and 50 per cent of the people on your email list will open it. But only between 3 and 7 per cent will actually click on a link.

Some marketing experts will tell you they are OK numbers for a direct mail campaign, and they’re right. Be happy with those numbers—if your goal is to produce something average.


I’ve yet to meet a dentist whose goal is to do average email marketing.


There’s no question email is a cheap and very effective option. You can read about in an article we did called Why You Need An Email List.

But beyond being good and effective, there are strong reasons to improve those click-through rates (CTRs). Firstly, to combat being marked as graymail, and secondly to improve the results of your marketing. The key to both is to do something almost completely counter-intuitive: cut down your list.

In email marketing, size doesn’t matter

The whole idea of advertising to a large number of people is to find the ones who are interested in you. No-one buys an ad on TV expecting everyone who sees it to respond to it. Advertising assumes you don’t know your audience.


But with email, you do know them. You already know their email address, and most likely know their name. And email is the most intimate medium. People opt in to receive it, and read it on their phones, in their down-time, and at night before they go to sleep.


So if these people already know you, and have opted in to receiving emails from you, why are 93 per cent of them ignoring you?

The growth of graymail

It’s because your marketing has become graymail. Graymail is the term used to describe bulk emails that people have opted-in to receive, but which they then ignore.


The fact that people are doing this with your practice newsletter is not a reflection on you. There are many reasons people ignore emails. Don’t worry about people ignoring you. Worry about their Internet Service Provider (ISP) and their email program.


The mail server at their ISP is slowly noting that Fred the patient, who signed up to get your newsletter 6 months ago, hasn’t opened a single one. In fact, the computers have noticed that 93 per cent of your emails that pass through their servers just sit there, ignored.


The ISP and email program is not fooled by your open rate, even if you are. It knows that many email programs open emails by default—it doesn’t mean that the user has engaged with them.


And it starts filtering your emails into spam folders or junk folders. And no-one ever checks their spam and junk mail folders for proper mail.

The solution to disengagement

So gird yourself. The solution to this problem is to clean your email list of all those people who have stopped engaging with you.


You don’t want to do it all at once. As I said before, there might be very good reasons they’ve stopped engaging.


Start with the people who haven’t opened any of the last 12 emails you’ve sent. Send them an email saying you’ve noticed they’re not engaging, and if they want to keep hearing from you, let you know. Otherwise they’re dropping off your list.


Most of them will not reply. Purge them!


Next, go to the people who have opened some of your emails, but never clicked on a link. Send the same ‘opt-in or opt-out’ email. Hang on, you say. Maybe these people are printing the email out, and ringing us! If that is the case, you should give them the option of hearing from you through SMS or by calling. Don’t keep emailing them, because they’re not responding to it, and it’s making you look like a spammer.


You don’t have to unsubscribe these people for ever. Just don’t email them. Put them on a separate list of people who rarely respond.

The benefits of a small list

The people left on your email list have opted in AND are actively engaged in what you’re sending. You should see an immediate lift in your open and click-through rates in the next newsletter you send out.


ISPs will also note an increase in engagement, and will be less likely to tag you as a spammer. Which increases the chance that more of your remaining list will see it and interact with it.

A bonus, final tip

If you want to increase your open and click-through rates even further, try sending content rather than an offer. Instead of your generic Zoom Whitening campaign, send a teaser for an article on tooth whitening that you have on your blog. Then advertise the Zoom whitening campaign as a call-to-action at the end of the blog post.


Sounds simple, but the results speak for themselves. We send a lot of emails on behalf of many clients. Those who put content rather than a sales message may have the same open rate as everyone else (sometimes higher). But their click through rate ranges from 14 to 20 per cent. As opposed to 2 to 8 per cent for straight sales campaigns.


In fact, I have one, highly targeted email that has an open rate of 75 per cent and a click-through rate of 83 per cent. Because it offers useful content.

Something worth thinking about next time you prepare to blast out your email marketing messages into the void.