The Ultimate Guide to Safe Email Marketing: Protecting Your Therapy Practice
In The Ultimate Guide to Safe Email Marketing: Protecting Your Therapy Practice, I'll walk you through the benefits of email marketing for your private practice. I'll show you how you can safeguard your therapy practice's sensitive information and create effective email marketing campaigns at the same time.
Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing tactics today. Almost 99% of email users check their inbox daily, that's why so many companies use email marketing to communicate with customers and promote their products and services. For therapists, email marketing offers a unique opportunity to create an impact on a larger scale by educating a wider audience on mental health and ultimately helping more clients.
Despite these benefits, many therapists aren't using email marketing to attract new clients to their practices. For some, email poses a threat of accidentally divulging sensitive information. While others fear SPAMing their subscribers and becoming annoying. Whatever your reason may be, I'll explain how you can secure both your and your subscribers' data by following a few safety measures.
What "Safe Email Marketing" Means for Therapy Practices
So let's address the elephant in your office. Can email marketing actually be safe? With various Cyber threats and data breaches out there, can you protect the people on your list?
First, let me define what email marketing is not. It's not a method of communication with your clients about their treatment. For that, you can use your EHR software like Simple Practice or communicate through an encrypted email service such as Hushmail.
What I'm talking about here is the use of email to grow your therapy business. This is a tool that will help you:
Capture a portion of your website traffic.
Introduce your private practice to people who don't know much about you.
Share helpful mental health tips and advice on a particular topic.
Engage with potential clients who are not yet ready to book an appointment.
Build your therapy brand so you can stand out from the sea of other therapists.
Encourage people to book an appointment with you.
Notify your past and present clients about relevant changes in your practice, like new business hours or introducing a new provider.
Note that none of this is related to your sessions with clients or specific topics that you discuss about someone's treatment. Being a subscriber to a therapist's email list is not the same as being a client.
With that said, picking an email marketing service compliant with privacy protection laws and regulations is crucial.
Understanding Email Marketing Regulations and Compliance
When it comes to email marketing for therapy practices, there are several regulations and compliance standards that you need to be aware of. The two most important ones are the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The GDPR is a European Union regulation that governs the collection, storage, and processing of personal data. If you're residing or seeing clients in the European Union, the GDRP is relevant to your practice. Under the GDPR, you must obtain explicit consent from your clients before sending them marketing emails, and you must provide them with the option to unsubscribe at any time. That's why you need to ensure that any third-party email service providers you use are GDPR compliant. Hint, most are.
HIPAA, on the other hand, is a United States law that protects the privacy and security of patients' health information. It applies to therapy practices that handle protected health information (PHI) in electronic form. When sending marketing emails to clients, you must be cautious not to include any PHI unless you have obtained the necessary consent. It is also important to ensure that your email marketing practices align with HIPAA's security requirements, such as encryption and secure transmission of PHI.
Email Marketing Platforms for Therapy Practices
Before you dive into the nitty gritty of email marketing, you'll need to choose an email marketing service that fits your needs best. There are many email marketing providers you can choose from. Some are built with simplicity in mind, while others offer sophisticated automation to create a wide array of email marketing campaigns.
For the most part, these services are similar in that they allow you to build an email list, integrate it with your website, and send targeted campaigns to your subscribers or specific segments of your subscriber list.
If you don't know where to start, here's a list of 3 email marketing service providers (ESPs) that you can check out now.
Convertkit - Built to serve digital creators, this ESP is a robust software for building your email list, tagging it by interest, automating email campaigns, and selling products like digital downloads, newsletters, etc. If you're planning to build a brand for yourself, develop digital courses, and establish yourself as a thought leader through a newsletter and digital community, Convertkit offers all the systems necessary for that.
Constant Contact - This is the only massively used HIPAA-compliant ESP that I could find. Despite HIPAA not being necessary for email marketing, if you want to be extra cautious, this provider is for you. It's one of the oldest email marketing services in the market and it's built for marketing your business with features like templates, automation, landing pages, etc.
Mailchimp - This is the most ubiquitous and dominating ESP in the market. With functionalities like SMS marketing, Mailchimp caters to all types of small businesses.
Besides these three platforms, there are many more ESPs, such as AWeber, GetResponse, HubSpot, etc. Whatever platform you choose, make sure that it fits your goals and your needs.
Building a Permission-Based Email List for Your Therapy Practice
Email marketing is different from cold emailing, which is emailing people who don't know you with a sales intent. But for ethical and effective email marketing, people need to give you their permission to email them.
It means that people are willing to give you their email addresses because they want to hear from you. So if you're worried about being a nuisance or ending up in their SPAM folder, getting permission to email first can reduce these risks.
To build your permission-based list, you'll have to set up opportunities for people to give you their email addresses. To start, you can do the following:
Email your current professional and personal network and ask if you could add them to your email list for marketing purposes.
Create opt-in areas on your website so you can capture some of your website traffic.
Create a "lead magnet", a valuable asset like a checklist, a set of tips, or an e-book, that people can download in exchange for their email addresses.
Add the link to your email opt-in form on your social media profiles.
Pass a signup sheet during your live workshops and presentations.
There are other creative ways to start building your email list, but these are just a few that can help you get started today.
Implementing Email Marketing Best Practices to Protect Subscribers' Privacy
First, to protect your clients' privacy, do not use your email marketing service to communicate personal and sensitive topics such as treatment, appointment details, etc. For this, use a HIPAA-compliant secure client communication service like Hushmail.
With that being said, protecting your subscribers should be your priority as well. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
It goes without saying, but you should never be selling your permission-based email list to anyone.
Don't use your Gmail or other email accounts to send marketing emails to your list.
Choose an email marketing provider that prioritizes data security.
Implement a strong password policy in your practice if you're granting access or outsourcing your email marketing.
Be aware of phishing scams and educate your staff about phishing scams that can endanger your email list.
Periodically download and store your email list on your local hard drive. Accidents can happen even in the most technically sophisticated businesses like ESPs. To make sure that your hard-earned email list is not lost due to an unforeseen problem, make sure you keep a copy of it with you.
Conclusion: Safely Growing Your Therapy Practice through Email Marketing
A Safe Email Marketing strategy can do wonders for the growth of your private pay practice. It can capture a part of your website traffic that otherwise would be lost and start a conversation with your potential clients.
Following the safety measures described in this guide, you can protect your practice, your clients, and your subscribers while delivering value at the same time. This system will help you earn people's trust. Trust is what connects you to your potential clients and brings them into your office.