1. Direct mail effort is part of a strategic, comprehensive marketing plan, something that is becoming more of a necessity for physicians as the Affordable Care Act continues to change the health care landscape.
2. A 2012 study by the Direct Marketing Assn., whose members include direct mail, phone and electronic marketers, found that direct mail has a response rate much greater than that of email: a 4.4% response rate for direct mail compared with 0.12% for email. An August 2012 Harvard Business Review article found the outcomes more comparable, with direct mail eliciting a 24% response rate and email, 23%.
3. But marketing experts said direct mail is regaining ground because, unlike with a lot of electronic solicitation, someone is likely to look at it first before deciding what to do with it.
4. “Direct mail is excellent for new patient acquisition as well as re-engaging patients who have not been active for some time,” said Greg Fawcett, president of Precision Marketing Partners in Raleigh, N.C.
5. Direct mail should be used either as a “branding strategy” — a way to introduce patients to a physician or practice — or as a “call to action” to alert potential patients to a seminar, new service, screening or promotion, Crème said.
6. “Another reason for profiling your prime targets is that with modern digital printing, you can personalize and/or change the message and graphics on a particular direct mail campaign targeted toward specific demographics,” Fawcett said. “That is a more expensive option but proves to be very successful because of the personalization factor.”
7. Once you have determined the parameters of the practice’s “perfect mailing list,” you can take the information to a print shop or mail house that will handle the entire project, Crème said. Lists also can be purchased through a list broker or online according to demographics.
8. Each demographic category you select will add to the total cost of the list. Grant suggested determining a budget for the project — design, printing and mailing — before purchasing a list. For optimal effectiveness, a mailing may need to be done more than once.
9. If possible, test the effectiveness of one type of direct mail — a postcard versus a letter, for example — before launching a full campaign, Grant said. “You could do what is called an ‘A/B split’ where half of your recipients get a letter, and half receive a postcard,” and measure the effectiveness of each.
10. Total costs for a direct mail campaign can “be as cheap as $600 or $700” or as high as “$10,000 for a large, multicentered group who want to blanket the area reaching everyone over age 18,” Crème said.
11. In addition to personalizing direct mail pieces, practices sometimes include a promotional item, such as a magnet or key chain with practice information, which can add to direct mail costs. To save money, staff can purchase mailing lists online and then print out and apply labels to postcards or letters to save money.
Measure your effectiveness
A website address, appearing only on the direct mail piece, or a unique phone number can help gauge the success of a campaign. However, both need to be available for a long time, Crème said, because people may not need particular care for six months or more.
There are other, “vaguer” ways to measure success, Crème added. “Are more people searching on Google for your practice? Are you getting more phone calls? Has your average daily patient number grown from 75 to 95? These also will gauge whether or not your campaign is effective.”
The return on investment often is determined over time, Grant said. “Did the phone ring? Was the appointment scheduled? Did the person come to the appointment, and was the person converted to a patient? Only then do you know that you have a definitive return on your investment.”