DM News' Essential Guide to E-Mail Marketing: Best Practices for Healthcare BTB E-Mail

Recent developments portend a shift in marketing strategies and tactics by pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer and Merck. Budgets will move from television ads and salespeople to measurable and cost-effective direct marketing.

In the business-to-business segment, e-mail is likely to be a big winner. Well over 90 percent of physicians use e-mail, which has proven effective for online detailing and research using these methods:

Allow enough time. E-mail is fast, but works best given ample time for planning, development, testing and execution.

Choose a reputable broadcast provider. Ensure the company has extensive healthcare professional online marketing experience; complies with industry guidelines and the CAN-SPAM Act; uses and regularly updates professional-provided e-mail addresses; targets by industry-standard criteria including specialty, type of practice and prescribing profile; and uses state-of-the-art broadcast solutions.

Plan entire campaigns, including contingencies. Coordinate with IT staff. Establish objectives like response rate and sales. Pinpoint perfect prospects to ensure message relevance. Develop an offer. Use a single, simple, relevant, compelling proposition. Decide on frequency. Up to seven waves may yield positive return on investment. Test to find optimal frequency. Optimize the creative:

· From line: Be relevant to the recipient, whether it is a company, brand or health professional.

· Subject line. Be brief (under 40 characters) and meaningful – organization, brand name, succinct offer – consistent with the message. Test alternatives.

· Copy. Avoid filter triggers. Personalize. Be clear, concise, clean, uncluttered. Stress benefits. Use short paragraphs or bullets. Hyperlink to amplifications. Bold key words. Underline hyperlinks only. Grab attention within three seconds. Make important content visible without scrolling. Provide redundant “call to action” hyperlinks at beginning and end to maximize click-through rate. Use a real health professional as signatory.

Also, hyperlink to the privacy policy. Say why the message was sent. Include online/offline contact options available year-round, as health professionals may respond at any time from anywhere. Include physical mailing address for CAN-SPAM compliance. Proof carefully, especially contact information and links.

· Design. Use well-constructed HTML/text layouts. Avoid reverse type. Be consistent with corporate branding, color scheme and creative elements of other marketing efforts, especially landing pages. Place logo in the top left quadrant. Strive for technical simplicity. Ensure messages load quickly. Minimize images. Begin with a hyperlink to a hosted HTML version of your message for users of e-mail clients that do not adequately render HTML messages. Avoid file attachments. Use offer-centric landing pages to facilitate response.

· Test. Try alternative from lines, subject lines and offers before rollout.

Track and analyze results. Track all test results. Use findings to optimize subsequent efforts.

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