New year, new goal: Collect client e-mail addresses

Here's a resolution you can actually keep: Stop wasting your time with snail mail and start using e-mail to communicate with clients. Here's how to get started.
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Jan 01, 2011

Here's a New Year's resolution for your practice: Compile a list of clients' e-mail addresses. How many should you have? As many as possible. Your ultimate goal should be to have on file an address for every client with an e-mail account—I'd guess this is about 80 percent of them.

Why is this important? From a marketing and client communication standpoint, it's becoming more essential every day. First, it's an efficient way to send reminders, since you can cut out postage and labor costs. Most clients would love to receive a birthday card, and the online ones are much easier and cheaper to send. And what about those quarterly newsletters you're supposed to send—wouldn't it be much easier to send them digitally? In a perfect world, veterinary practices would be in touch with clients at least once a month in some form. That's easy to do when you harness the power of e-mails.

So how do you go about collecting e-mail addresses? Part of the battle is making sure your team is working diligently at this—otherwise, it will quickly fall by the wayside. Here are a few easy ways to get started:

> Put a space for e-mail addresses on all new client forms.

> Tout your practice's efforts to "go green" with an e-mail sign-up sheet at the front desk.

> Use a sign-in sheet that asks for clients' name, change of address (if applicable), and e-mail address.

I've seen all of these things in action at veterinary, dental, and medical offices. Each seems to work OK, but you have to follow through with every client or you'll miss many. It may be worth tracking the addresses team members collect and offering them an incentive—perhaps 25 cents per new e-mail address. That's less than the cost of a stamp you would normally use to send mail to a client.

Finally, make sure your team is ready to respond to clients who hesitate or want to know why you need the e-mail address. Show them how useful your e-mails will be—you can send them reminders, newsletters, promotions or discounts, birthday cards, and news alerts about things like pet food recalls. Once they understand you won't be sending them spam, they'll likely come around.

Snail mail is out—it's expensive, environmentally unfriendly, and inefficient. So harness the power of e-mail and see how many addresses you can collect in year one. In my experience, this is a three-year project, so don't wait—this tool becomes more significant every day.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is president of Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan.