Email Marketing Must-Haves

By Roxanne Hawn |

Staying connected is more important than ever.

Girl petting cat while using her phone

If you ever wonder how many marketing emails are too many, look at other companies from which you’ve ever bought something. Almost every single morning, I receive emails from a local pizza company, an online yarn store, streaming services, and others. I like pizza and all that, but I love my dogs, and I’m deeply bonded to my veterinary team. I remember maybe three emails from them in the last year.

While you may choose not to send weekly or monthly emails to every client, consider these situations where more intense and frequent contact makes sense.

Especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, veterinary clients want to hear from you. Let’s start there, then backtrack to must-have emails for normal times.

Must-have operational updates

Think of pandemic-related updates in pairs. The first email announces any changes to how your practice will operate as pandemic conditions change over time. The second email updates clients on how things are going so far. It’s always okay to tell a story of teamwork and cooperation. Depending on how quickly things change in your community, these emails could be sent a week apart or a day apart.

Situations where emails and updates are warranted include:

  • Change in hours—up or down
  • Changes in how you’re handling food or prescription orders/refills, especially if the practice runs out of products due to disruptions in the supply chain or shipping
  • Limits on the services you can provide, likely based on executive orders in your state
  • Change in processes or clients being allowed (or not) inside your facility and under which circumstances
  • Any blanket referrals you want to make if you’re not open or available for any reason
  • Your preferred communication methods (phone, email, text, messages through an app if you have one, etc.)
  • Options for using telemedicine and two-way texting tools (such as ALLYDVM, which is free until further notice)
  • Temporary closures and/or staged reopening

Pandemic-related closures may be required. For example, public health officials ordered the closure of the teaching hospital at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Due to a COVID-19 case involving someone who worked in the building, they had to shut down completely for a few days before reopening on a limited basis for current patients requiring major ongoing treatments and for some emergency cases. Clients will want to be kept in the loop if something similar happens in your practice.

Even if your state declares veterinary services as essential while communities establish stay-at-home orders, practices are not required to remain open, if for some reason, the practice owner or leadership team choose to close for a while.

Unfortunately, you may also need to send an email specifically—and gently—asking clients not to expect access to routine things like nail trims and such.

Must-have new client emails

Plan on setting up a series of three to five standard emails that go out to new clients. Typically, these communication flows follow a frequency pattern that increases over time. Maybe the first email goes out the day after the first appointment. The second one blasts off 10 days later, with the third one at 30 days, etc.

Find ways to express gratitude, share information, and convey enthusiasm in each email. Build each email using that basic structure:

  • Thanks again for choosing us.
  • Here is some handy information about how our hospital works or the level of care we recommend.
  • Here’s some exciting news about our practice or our involvement in the community, etc.
  • Take this next step (call to action), if there is something specific you’d like the new client to do next to further engage with your practice. 

Support your exam-room conversations with additional resources to help people start young pets off right.

Must-have new puppy/kitten emails

Support your exam-room conversations with additional resources to help people start young pets off right. In addition to medical recommendations such as vaccination schedules and such, consider some behavioral health items as well—especially if you are cat-friendly or fear-free certified.

There is a big movement in the training/behavior world toward cooperative care, where pets learn from a young age to handle being handled or to give a form of consent such as for blood draws, nail trims, injections, and even standing or lying flat for exam.

A few weekly emails to start, followed by monthly emails for the first six months make a lot of sense since puppies and kittens change so quickly. After that, consider perhaps quarterly intervals to address topics of concern at those early young-adult life stages.

As pets reach certain life-stage milestones, it’s another good opportunity to support exam-room conversations with additional recommendations for the pet’s new era.

Must-have life-stage emails

As pets reach certain life-stage milestones, it’s another good opportunity to support exam-room conversations with additional recommendations for the pet’s new era. Even two or three emails can make a difference in educating and edging clients toward more frequent visits, more detailed diagnostics, and more open discussions about possible pain issues.

Must-have post-procedure emails

Even though you want any post-procedure emails to sound more personalized, it can help to create a template with the most common information for different procedures with spots where you can quickly add some personalized details.

Space these emails out based on your ongoing follow-up phone calls and recheck appointments. If you always call the day after and likely have a recheck scheduled for two weeks, then send the first email on day 3, the second one at day 7, and the final email at day 12. Include information such as:

  • Where you expect healing or recovery to be at that point
  • When and how people should contact you if any key symptoms or concerns arise
  • What will happen at the recheck appointment

Must-have new/scary diagnosis emails

When you’ve diagnosed patients with new and scary things, it’s a nice touch to send a series of follow-up emails to provide comfort, information, and any additional reading or resources. The spacing of the emails depends on the projected outcome of different kinds of cases.

For cases likely to go downhill quickly, it may be better to provide support by phone or text message so that you don’t accidentally send another message potentially after the pet has died.

For other diagnoses that are stressful but doable over the long term, then consider at least three emails soon after the diagnosis. Perhaps send an email every other week, then look at sending another few emails every month or so after that.

In these scenarios, praise and validation for clients’ pet-care efforts at home and partnership with your team go a long way at building confidence and compliance.

Must-have condolence emails

When patients die, send a written note right away with the team’s condolences. Also consider sending an email at the one-month mark that lets people know you’re still thinking about them—at a time when many others assume people should have recovered from the loss.

Email results

Unlike marketing promotional emails that tout a product or service or a special promotion such as a heartworm clinic, where the success is more easily measured, the must-have emails covered here focus attention on key groups of clients when they need it.

It isn’t that these emails won’t have a call to action or directive you want clients to follow. They certainly can, but these relationship-building efforts create a continuing story of your pet-care partnership with clients.

The goal is to provide targeted information when clients need it, at the very least. More can be better, but choose a place to start, then build up your must-have email efforts from there.

What’s Hot in Email Now?

It’s super hot to use gifs in emails now—typically just below the email headline or under the first paragraph. The gifs are usually funny or aww-worthy in some way and relate tangentially to the topic of the email.

Important Email Statistics

Measuring email success falls into several categories:

  • Open rate
  • Click rate
  • Hard bounce (email no longer valid)
  • Soft bounce (likely a temporary delivery failure)
  • Unsubscribe rates

Since non-promotional emails target individual clients or smaller groups of clients, you’ll mostly be concerned with the open rate and the click rate. According to data released in December 2019 from Constant Contact, one of the bigger email marketing tools, animal services have on average:

  • 14.47% open rates
  • 6.25% click-through rates
  • 8.25% bounce rates (both kinds)
  • 0.01% unsubscribe rates

About the Author

Roxanne Hawn is a professional writer and award-winning blogger based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. A former writer/editor for the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Humane Association, she has written about veterinary medicine and pet topics for nearly 20 years. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, Natural Home, Bankrate.com, WebMD, The Bark, Modern Dog, and many high-profile outlets. Her first book is called Heart Dog: Surviving the Loss of Your Canine Soul Mate.
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