As a medical practice, you may think that traditional sales and marketing tools, like a sales funnel, are too “corporate” to turn a potential patient into a repeat patient. But the fact is, sales funnels exist, whether or not we use them strategically.
The key is to understand what a sales funnel is and then use it to your best advantage. Don’t worry, understanding and using your sales funnel won’t make you come across too salesy to your patients. In fact, a sales funnel, when paired with strategic email marketing, can actually help you better serve your current and potential patients! You may be wondering why email marketing is an important part of your sales strategy. When a potential patient engages with you, you want to immediately follow up. The goal is to show that you are easy to communicate with, you are professional, and you’re interested in their needs.
One way to lead someone through the sales funnel with email marketing. Email marketing can be used in various ways, depending on which stage of the funnel your potential patient is in. For example, you can use email marketing to showcase your blog, provide special offers, help patients get to know you, or even position them to feel more comfortable coming in for a consultation.
Understanding the Stages of a Sales Funnel:While there are many different ways to break up a sales funnel, it’s important that your internal team all agrees on the unique stages and how to determine where a potential patient is within the funnel. For our purposes, we are going to rely on HubSpot’s definition of the sales funnel. Here is how they break it down:
- Awareness Stage: This is the top of the funnel and where your patients are seeking information, answers, education, and insight.
- Consideration Stage: This stage is more focused on in-depth research and your potential patients are evaluating whether or not your services are best suited for them.
- Decision Stage: The bottom part of the funnel is where your potential patients are reaching out to talk to you and making final decisions about whether or not they should select you for their needs.
Email marketing is a relevant tool you can use throughout each phase of the sales funnel. The key is understanding what type of content to send and how often to send it. Let’s dig into each of the stages and discuss how you can use email marketing to boost your sales funnel.
1. Awareness: Cultivate a Relationship with Prospects & LeadsWhen you first meet a potential patient or they first come in contact with your medical or plastic surgery practice, they will be in what is considered the top of the funnel. They have little to no information about your practice and are in a place where you need to build trust and provide information. As in all relationships, you don’t want to come across too strong in the first few weeks of this doctor-patient relationship. Make it clear that you are there to be a resource, but that you aren’t being pushy or sending too many emails at once. Keep it to one email per week at most and more appropriately, one email per month.
- Help Them Get to Know You: At the beginning of any relationship, it’s important for the parties involved to get to know each other. That is no different when it comes to your potential patients. Email marketing messages should be kept focused and simple. Provide foundational information about your practice and tailor your message to what you know about your potential patient. Inform your audience about your services and what makes your practice unique. Help them get to know your staff and be sure to show some personality.
This stage is all about inbound lead generation. You want to be sure that you’ve got plenty of high-value opt-in incentives and forms out there to collect contacts as they find you on search engines, social media, and advertising.
Emails to send during the awareness stage:
- Welcome email
Welcome emails are opened more than any other type of email, have much higher clickthrough rates, and have proven to increase long-term revenue. It’s a quick win for your company — easy to set up and a golden opportunity to get an important message in front of the majority of your contacts.
- Follow us on social media
While email is the gold standard, social media gives you another opportunity to increase your contacts awareness and engagement in an unobtrusive way. Here's a great example of a welcome & follow us email
- Welcome email
- Differentiate Yourself from Your Competition: It is likely that your potential patients are comparing your practice to your competitors. Make sure that your email marketing messages are not boring or too standard. Offer helpful insights and tips that make your practice stand out. Challenge yourself to think about what makes you different and showcase that through your messages. While you want to differentiate yourself, you also don’t want to spend too much time talking about yourself. A great way to set your practice apart is to keep the content focused on your patient!
- Develop Trust and Interest: One of the goals behind a consistent email marketing campaign is to develop trust between you and your potential patients. After receiving several email messages where you consistently offer value, answer their questions, and feature success stories, they will be able to see that you are a credible resource. The key is to offer enough information to keep them interested but not so much that they don’t need to contact you.
2. Consideration: Provide Value to Qualified Leads
When a potential patient is in the middle of the sales funnel, they have a basic understanding of the offerings you have but are unsure if you are the absolute right fit for their needs. They are likely comparing different practices and are interested in learning more. They are still not prepared to make a buying decision and are looking for additional and more in-depth proof that you are the right fit.
Medical practices with refined middle-of-the-funnel engagement and lead management strategy see a 4–10 times higher response rate compared to generic email blasts and outreach. Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% lift in sales opportunities. That's not something good marketers take lightly.
People in the middle of your sales funnel are likely to be looking to you for content showing that you're the experts in your industry. That's why the most effective types of content in the evaluation stage are things like expert guides, webinars, and live interactions.
- Pay Attention to Your Audience’s Actions: After a few weeks or months of sending emails, you should be able to analyze your audience’s behavior. With a CRM like Hubspot, you can tell what information they have clicked on, what pages they have viewed on your website, etc. This information will help you understand their direct interests and in turn will position you to provide more information on those topics!
- Offer Value: A great way to impress potential patients is to provide real, tangible value for FREE. The truth is, we all get far too many emails that are filled with generic information and boring sales pitches. That’s why you want to make sure your emails are full of value and that you answer your patient’s questions. While this is true for all emails throughout the sales funnel, if you are hoping potential patients will continue along the sales journey, you must impress them with additional value! You can do this by providing a free download that includes tips and ideas, feature a helpful video, or showcase past patient success stories. Push yourself to consider what problems or questions they may have. Keep each email focused and concise!
Here's an example: DocuSign does a terrific job with their email marketing content by delivering timely and targeted expert content to an audience - building engagement leading up to a final CTA that spurs an audience to take action at the bottom of the funnel. (Here are more great examples of email marketing campaigns you can browse for more ideas.)
- Start a Conversation: Once a lead has graduated from the Awareness stage and you’ve provided some level of value, it’s time to start up a more intentional conversation. Now that they trust you a bit, you can ask ask specific questions about their needs and preferences. Encourage them to respond to your email with their answer. If you really want to increase engagement, offer a free giveaway they will be entered into if they respond. The key is that you respond and carry on the conversation once they email you back!
- Pose a Small Ask: Since we are still in the middle of the sales funnel, we don’t necessarily want to make a big sales pitch or ask our potential patients to make a big purchase. However, we do want to prepare them for the larger ask that is coming in a few weeks. By posing a small ask within your email campaign, you can request your audience to take action without feeling at risk. This can be as simple as following you on Instagram, or as big as filling out a survey or setting up a free discovery call. Think about your email marketing goals and small asks that don’t require them spending money, but do require action.
At the bottom of the sales funnel is when your potential patient is prepared to buy a service. While they may not be guaranteed to buy from you, they are looking to make a purchase. This is the phase of the sales funnel where it is appropriate for you to make a more blatant sales pitch, or at the very least, have a very compelling call to action.
3. Decision: Present Offer & Specific Call to Action
- Make an Exclusive and Specific Offer: By now, if your potential patient is still plugged into the sales funnel, they know, like, and trust you. Based on the information they have provided you, you are prepared and positioned to make a strong and compelling offer. Make sure your offer is specific and exclusive. Don’t present them something they could have just received from your website. If you are offering a special discount, make sure you consider the longevity of the patient, their likely total investment, etc. Email marketing is a great way to present unique offers to different audiences thanks to your ability to segment your email list.
- Start Small, Then Go Big: One thing we don’t want to do is scare anyone away with too big of an ask, too quickly. By working your way up to the big ask, you can prepare your audience before you ask them to make a large investment. One way you can do this is by featuring smaller services first and then, based on your potential patient’s behavior, increasing your ask as they make purchases.
- Make it Easy to Buy: The quickest way to ruin a sale is to confuse your potential patient. Keep your email messages clean, easy to read, and simple! Whatever you are offering or asking your audience to do, make it extremely easy for them to take action. Try to simplify the purchasing process so there aren’t several pages or buttons they have to click.
- Provide a Way to Get More Info Immediately: Sometimes, right before committing and making a purchase, people need a last dose of information. Make sure that your potential patients can easily access the information they need, whether it’s on your website or by contacting them directly. Better yet, in your email message where you are making your offer, include a FAQ section that touches on the most relevant questions people ask before making a purchase.
If you are looking for a way to cultivate relationships with your potential patients, email marketing is a fantastic option. By strategically approaching your email messages, you can guide your leads through the sales funnel to a successful sale. The key is understanding what types of messages and content to provide throughout every step of the way.