Getting Contact Permission

What would you like your website to do for you? Do you want your patients to make appointments more regularly? Do you want a chance to help them understand why additional procedures are worth the expense? Maybe you want more patients, whether that means bringing in the new parents served by the OB-gyn down the street or people who’ve just moved into town. For all of these goals, getting contact permission is an essential step.

Why do you need permission?

Spam is email sent in bulk without consent from the people the email is being sent to. Those bulk emails telling you that Google will remove your listing or that  you can buy miracle cures cheap — you never gave permission to those people to contact you. That makes their communication spam, even if you happen to be in the market for a miracle cure.

Notice that this isn’t health-related. That SEO spam is just as illegal as the miracle cure spam. The point is that you didn’t give permission to send you bulk emails.

If you have a relationship with a client, you can send them marketing information unless they tell you not to. However, HIPAA does have some relevance here. You can’t send information that could jeopardize someone’s privacy. So your email saying that it’s time for flu shots, sent to your patients, is fine. A bulk email about “your next steps for diabetes control” could be another matter. Furthermore, you can send emails based on your business relationship with clients, but that only covers your current relationship. You can remind a patient to have regular check ups but offering supplements for sale is questionable.

Make sure that your emails are HIPAA compliant and that they include a link that allows your patients to unsubscribe.

The best plan is to get permission to send a newsletter when you welcome new patients. It can be a line on the form they fill out as a new patient. If you want to be able to include information on diabetes control or to offer additional goods and services, include that in the description of what you’re planning to send. They have, in this case, given you specific permission to send them your newsletter.

Fine, but we didn’t get permission.

If you didn’t get explicit permission from your patients, or you want to reach out to prospective new patients, you can get permission at your website. A form offering web visitors the chance to sign up for a helpful newsletter is a regular feature at websites. Anyone who fills it out gives you permission to contact them.

Make sure that the form is very clear about what will happen when people fill it out. Link to your privacy policy. There should be no surprises.

Encourage subscribers.

Here are some tried and true ways to encourage people to share their contact information and give you contact permission:

  • Describe what you’re going to send, and send awesome content.
  • Encourage subscribers to share with friends and family.
  • Share that awesome content in social media, linking to your sign-up page.
  • Offer a lead magnet — a report, coupon, or other download that is worth swapping contact information for.
  • Create lead magnets that go with your most popular content. Offer a related infographic, checklist, recipe, or ebook on those pages.
  • Link to your sign-up page all over your website, not just in a discreet corner of the sidebar.
  • Put a link to your sign-up page in your social media, invoices, regular email messages… anywhere you can!
  • Link paid ads to your sign-up page. Make sure the ads make it clear where people will end up when they click.
  • Add a pop-up. People say they don’t like them, but they work. This is because they make it easy for interested people to sign up.
  • Collect emails on sign-in sheets in the office, at community events, and when you speak to groups.
  • Make the sign-up a call to action in all your marketing, including TV or newspaper ads.

Once you get that contact permission, make sure you send out valuable information — the kind that makes your readers want to take action.

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