An envelope being mailed to a mobile device.

Email marketing is one of the most powerful channels available to healthcare marketers today; it’s one of the only opportunities we have to communicate 1:1 with our followers and potential patients. So, when it comes to email newsletters, we need to harness the power of every send.

But with the constant influx of email these days, it’s easy for a healthcare newsletter to get lost in the shuffle. Standing out in the inbox is one of the biggest challenges we healthcare writers and marketers face.

Luckily, you don’t need a whole new strategy to move the email needle. You can improve email open rates and click-through rates (CTRs) with only a few tweaks to your content.

Here are a few tips to help improve your healthcare newsletter.

1. Find the content that performs best – and use it in your healthcare newsletter

As with any marketing channel, it’s crucial to regularly look at data and how your content is performing. Dive into your email analytics and see which stories or pieces of content get the most clicks or have the most engaged users on your website and other channels. Then, include this type of content regularly – or, better yet, lead your newsletter with these top performers.

Remember that your newsletter is an appetizer to the meal of your content. Emails have limited space, especially when viewed on mobile, so be brief. Tailor the message to the channel and encourage your readers to click through to your website to learn more.

2. Step up your subject lines and preheader text

Your subject line is like a headline. It should encourage the reader to click through to learn more by inspiring action or building urgency. Consider subject lines like, “New Blog: 5 warning signs of melanoma,” or “Have you checked your skin lately? Tips from a dermatologist.”

Don’t forget to keep your subject lines fresh. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of similar subjects for newsletters month after month, but switch them up from time to time to avoid fatigue.

Additionally, take advantage of your preheader (or preview) text. This is the text that appears after or next to the subject line in the inbox. It’s another way to draw in your readers and encourage them to open your email. Make sure your preheader text is as engaging as your subject line. It should offer additional information that supports the subject line, for example:

Subject line: New Blog: 5 warning signs of melanoma

Preheader text: Learn how to find skin cancer and melanoma early by knowing your ABCDEs. Plus, find tips for preventing skin cancer. 

Note that the space in your subject line and preview text is limited. Subject lines should be less than 60 characters, while preview text should be under 140. However, these counts vary by email client, so be sure to preview how your email will look on Gmail, Outlook and other clients.

3. A/B test your newsletter

A key to email success is to always be testing. Frequent testing can help you drill down into the type of content that resonates the most with your audience. You can test almost anything:

  • Subject lines
  • Layouts
  • Button styles
  • Calls to action

To A/B test, send a standard version of your healthcare newsletter to half your audience, and another version with a variation to the other half. Remember to change only one element in the variation at a time. Then, see which version performs best and use that knowledge in future newsletters.

If you have a large enough subscriber list, you could try doing a small A/B test with a portion of your list and then send the winning version to the rest of your readers. Many email automation tools have built-in A/B testing capabilities to run tests seamlessly.

4. Optimize your calls to action

What action do you want your readers to take? For much of the content in your patient newsletter, you want your readers to read more on your website, but you can use CTAs for other actions:

  • RSVPing to events
  • Registering for your patient portal
  • Providing survey feedback
  • Signing up to receive other content

Make sure your call to action accurately reflects what your readers will find when they click through. For example, “Register Now” is a clear CTA for an event, while “Read More” implies a link to the full story.

Keep your first CTA “above the fold” (i.e., in the first reading pane of your emails) so your subscribers don’t have to scroll to know what action they are supposed to take.

5. Don’t forget about mobile

In 2021, 41% of emails were read on mobile devices, compared to 39% on desktop and 20% on tablet/other. While you’re likely building your healthcare newsletter on your desktop, view proofs on a mobile device. Most marketing automation platforms will show mobile views for iOS and Android clients.

When you’re on mobile, a little content goes a long way, and it’s even more important to keep messaging concise and engaging. Once again, make sure your key messages and calls to action are above the fold when on mobile.

6. Keep your list clean

A clean email list is a healthy one because your emails are less likely to be flagged as spam when you have high deliverability. That means that you need to remove email addresses that hard bounce, honor opt-outs in a timely fashion and manage inactive subscribers.

On that note, we must accept that not all our subscribers will want to receive our newsletters forever. Make sure you abide by CAN-SPAM and that you provide opportunities for subscribers to unsubscribe. Finally, make sure you have a process (preferably an automated one) to ensure opt-outs are honored.

7. Consult your readers

If you’re wondering what type of content to put in your healthcare newsletters, ask! Online surveys can be a powerful tool for email marketing. Try sending a survey to your patient newsletter subscribers asking what type of stories they want to see, or how often they wish to receive the newsletter. This information can help you hone your strategy to fit your subscribers’ interests.

How do you stand out in your subscribers’ sea of emails? Share your ideas and opinions in the comments section below!

Looking for healthcare newsletter help?

WriterGirl is here for you! Our team of healthcare content experts can work with you to craft custom healthcare newsletters and campaigns that fit your organization’s voice and marketing needs. If you want to learn more, we’d love to talk.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2019. It was updated on September 7, 2022.