How to Stop Your Rehab Newsletter from Sucking - Circle Social Inc

How to Stop Your Rehab Newsletter from Sucking

As an owner of a rehab marketing agency, I subscribe to a lot of addiction treatment newsletters. It also helps give me and my team ideas as well as stay up-to-date on potential competition.

So I can say with the utmost confidence that most addiction treatment newsletters suck.

They’re long, they’re boring, they’re crowded, they’re generic. I often can’t determine any rhyme or reason behind them other than the fact that somebody thinks they should send out a monthly newsletter, so someone staff member gets tasked with whipping something up each month.

Let me guess, in November and December, you sent a newsletter about “being sober during the holidays.” You probably included a picture of an ornament, maybe a Happy Holidays image. Sound about right?

With that kind of generic inbox garbage, you’ll be lucky to keep open rates above 15%.

So how do you make it better? I’ll provide some tips on not just making it better, but also give you some strategies so that you can use data and analytics to constantly improve over time.

4 Newsletter Sins to Avoid

Before we look at what to do, here is what not to do. There are a couple simple mistakes many centers make in their newsletter. Avoid these and you’ll be better than 80% of what else is out there.

  • Newsletters are too long. Keep them short, 3-5 items at most. More, and people will be overwhelmed and leave.
  • Too many topics. Like I said above, 5 or less. If your newsletter has 20 different stories in it, that makes it a mess, not helpful.
  • Stock photos. Well you’re probably going to have to use them from time to time, unique photos of your staff, center, and patients go a long way in making you stand out.
  • Bland, generic content. Don’t do “The 5 Deadliest Drugs.” Everyone does that, plus you can find those articles all over the place online. Create relevant content that is fresh and unique. If you’re a local OP or detox, then definitely focus on local area issues, not generic topics. We see huge surges in open and click through rates when local centers focus on community issues. If you’re looking for some good content ideas for ad campaigns or newsletters, check out The Power of Digital Storytelling for Therapy Centers for some ideas.

The real simple key to a lot of this is just putting yourself in the mind of a reader. When you open a newsletter with 20 different topics that drags on for 8 scrolls of the screen, what do you do? You leave. So why would you expect your readership to behave differently?

Thinking like a reader helps you avoid a lot of mistakes AND come up with good content.

Segment Your Audience

This is the most important first step. We’ve seen centers that send a single newsletter to all their potential patients, referrers, and alumni together. This is an awful idea. Each has unique interests. You must tailor your messaging, especially if you’re looking to use your newsletter as a way to generate calls and referrals.

You should have the following basic buckets:

  • Potential Patients & Their Loved Ones.
  • Alumni & Their Loved Ones (people often forget the loved ones part, but these are huge. How many mom support groups do you know? A ton, and they all talk to each other, so you definitely want to stay top of mind).
  • Referrers (and referrers are best broken down further into smaller audiences such as criminal attorneys, other centers, therapists, or social workers, for example).

Tailor Your Message

Once you have your audiences segmented, then you have to tailor your message. For example, for the potential patient list, these newsletters should be focused on emotion and pain, not inspiring recovery stories. Whereas, the exact opposite is true for the alumni letter. You want to focus on the inspirational messages.

Within referrers, this is especially relevant. Your bail bonds agents and criminal attorneys are interested in seeing very different things from your center than a general practitioner or therapist will be. For example, if you assist in alternative sentencing programs, that’s going to go to the bail bondsmen and criminal attorneys, but really has no place in your general practitioner newsletter.

Track Your Data

Like anything in marketing, you need to track your data. With an email newsletter, that’s pretty simple – open rates and click through rates. If you can get an open rate of 20%, that’s really good. Decent click through rates tend to hover around 2-3%

Headlines are the number one factor in determining open rates, so you always want to be split testing these. Any decent email client has this feature automatically built in, so make sure you’re using it.

Click through rates are often content dependent and also depend on your images and how well the copy is written. Cliff hanger copy obviously will get you a better CTR than just ending on a normal paragraph.

Once you develop and follow-up on a monthly tracking sheet that records this kind of data, you’ll start to see trends in what people are responding to. Maybe adding a number in the subject lines increases open rates by 4%, or including their name in a merge tag drops it by 3%.

By tracking this, you can initiate a process of continuous improvement.

Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot

Focus on quality and data tracking now. You often only have 1, sometimes 2 chances to keep people engaged. If they open your newsletter once and don’t like what they see, they’ll probably ignore it from then on. In fact, they may even get annoyed that you keep showing up in their inbox (as most people never bother to unsubscribe).

This is also why clear, transparent headlines are important. If I see your newsletter is about the rising use of cocaine in Miami, and my son is an alcoholic in Nashville, I won’t open it. This is actually a good thing as it ensures I stay interested so that, when the rise of alcohol-related deaths in Nashville newsletter comes along, I’m still inclined to open and read it.

By providing transparent headlines and quality content each time, it ensures your readership will continue to open your newsletters time after time. You’re spending a lot of money and effort and making them, so you better distribute them in a way that gets you ROI while helping the reader learn something new at the same time.

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About the Author

Nick Jaworski is the Chief Growth Officer of Circle Social Inc. Seeing a real need for innovative, ethical recovery center marketing and growth, he launched Circle Social to help the best addiction treatment centers connect with people who needed their help the most. He is also the proud father of the most beautiful girl in the world. You can most often find him sharing thoughts on digital marketing and cracking jokes on Twitter or Snapchat as @NBJaworski.