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Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Email Marketing For Physical Therapists & Chiropractors

Posted by Rick Lau on Jan 15, 2021 10:05:28 AM
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top 10 do's and don'ts of email marketing

I love email marketing. I’m an email marketing junkie. But the reason isn’t because of some odd fixation or obsession. It’s because it works and you have over thousands (or even tens of thousands) of emails in your patient database! 

And email marketing works especially well for physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists or any healthcare business owner.

Check out this graphic on how emails are simply “newer" versions of  “old school" direct mail marketing:

That’s why I was super excited to devote a full episode of New Patient Secrets just to email marketing. I interviewed Aaron LeBauer, owner of a successful cash-only clinic in North Carolina who has also coached thousands of physical therapists and helped them overcome the marketing challenges every clinic faces.

In my interview with Aaron, he reveals the four types of emails every health clinic should be sending, the purpose of each type of email, and how to write them. Plus, he explains:

  • What email marketing for chiropractors and other clinics can do that social media cannot
  • Why your email list translates directly to dollars if you use it right
  • And so much more

You can watch the full interview between me – Rick Lau – and Aaron Lebauer.

Or, just keep reading and get the highlights, broken down into the top 10 do’s and don’ts of email marketing for chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists.

1. Your Goal Is To Grow Your Email List With Social Media Marketing

Over and over, we’ve seen chiropractors and physical therapists with over 10,000 names in their email lists – active patients and leads – and they are doing nothing with them. An email list with thousands of names is a gold mine. If your clinic is struggling for revenue and you have a huge untapped email list, that is your golden ticket. You just aren’t cashing it in.

Yet, we see some of these same clinics spending hours every week obsessing with social media likes and followers. Creating picture perfect posts. Paying for cool images. Sending silly jokes or videos.

Let’s be very clear: Your money is in your email list. Not your social media.

Followers Don't Feed Families

Rick Lau

But to be equally clear, that doesn’t mean social media has no value. Just different value, because it exists for a different purpose. Users of social media go there to escape. To catch up with friends. To be passive. But email is how we can directly communicate with people without asking Instagram, Facebook, Google.

With social media, I see it as an opportunity to RENT some traffic so that ultimately you can OWN that email address or phone number.  Once you OWN that lead, you can directly market to them on your services. 

Aaron says he has seen physical therapy clinics with huge email lists and no social media followers. And he’s seen clinics with the opposite – huge numbers of followers but no email list. The ones with the big email lists always outperform the others. But the ones with both do even better. Learn how to know which of your marketing strategies are working.

What is your health clinic’s ultimate goal with its social media marketing?

It is to create value and trust so you can ultimately collect their email addresses. Never forget that. The money is in the email list.

2. Don't Just Send One Random Email per Month

Too many people worry about their emails being considered “spam.” 

If you’re sending valuable, relevant, targeted communication that meets the needs of the people on your email list, it is not spam. Ever.

You should be sending frequent emails, all the time, for all kinds of reasons we’ll get to in a bit.  You want to use email as a direct way to create trust and relationship with your potential patients. 

One random email per month saying “Hey! Are you in pain? Come book an appointment today!” is not email marketing for physical therapy or massage therapy. It’s not really spam either. But it is nearly worthless. Which brings us to #3:

3. Don't Use Email Just to Book Appointments and Brag

Our clinic is the best. We have the best waiting room, the best doctors, the best service, the friendliest staff, and oh my goodness, you are bored already.

See – that kind of language simply doesn’t work over email (or anywhere else, really). You do need to sell over email. You can’t escape that fact. People don’t know how physical therapy, chiropractic, and massage therapy can help them. They need you to tell them. And email is one of the best ways to consistently do that.

But just telling people how much they need to book appointments and bragging about how amazing your clinic is does not serve your patients or leads. It doesn’t meet them where they are. It doesn’t enter the conversation going on in their heads.

And you can do that by sharing stories, show value, and giving "self treatment" tips on how they can feel better. 

4. Don't Send Poorly Formatted Emails

When you start sending the right kinds of emails (which we’ll get to in a bit), format them in a way that is easy to read, and quick to skim for the main points. What does this mean?

For one, it means to have some formatting. No paragraph in email should be more than 2-3 sentences, unless the sentences are extremely short. Here are some quick email formatting tips:

  • Use bullets.
  • Use bold.
  • Use subheadings.
  • Use italics.
  • Have lots of white space.
  • No large blocks of text.

When you use these kinds of simple formatting tools, they work! It makes it easier to read your health clinic’s email marketing, and easier to skim it for the main points.

Too many clinic owners worry about getting every word right. But hardly anyone reads entire emails. What they do is, they skim them. They get the main points. They jump down the screen.

As long as the reader can follow your main points even if they don’t read every word – your email has succeeded.

5. Don't Worry about Unsubscribes

The only way to guarantee no one will unsubscribe is to send no emails. Then, your list will remain in perpetual perfection, safely tucked inside its cocoon.

And doing absolutely nothing for your clinic’s growth. Why have an email list if you aren’t going to use it? Do you think that, if you send no emails for two years, and then all of a sudden send an email because something really ‘important’ has come up, that all your subscribers will read and appreciate it?

No – they will unsubscribe in herds wondering, “Who the heck is sending me this?” They’ve already forgotten about you.

Consistent, frequent, ongoing communication is how to use email marketing for chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists. You keep emailing your lists and segments until they buy, die, or unsubscribe. Anyone unsubscribing is not a failure on your part.

Maybe their knee is all healed. Maybe they moved to Hawaii. Maybe they just don’t care anymore and have decided to ‘live with it.’ A hundred more reasons why someone unsubscribes.

Them unsubscribing simply tells you that this patient is no longer going to be receptive to what you offer. So – wave goodbye. You lose nothing. See 3 marketing metrics that actually matter.

Here's an example of an email I sent out to over 2500 contacts, and only 6 people unsubscribed:

Unsunscribes Metrics for Email Marketing for Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, and Massage Therapists

Your unsubscribes tell you whether your email is creating alot of value for your audience.  I like a goal of having a unsubsribe rate of 1% or less.  If it's higher than that, then you are not creating enough value for your subscribers.  

6. DO Send Emails - a LOT of Emails

Your patients do not know what they need.

Think hard about that one. You know it’s true. All they know is, this hurts. I can’t move it right. I can’t stand up straight. That’s what they know. But they have no idea what to do about it.

Your job is to tell them. And keep telling them. And tell them in all kinds of different ways:

  • How-to videos

  • Special reports and guides

  • Quizzes and surveys with action steps at the end

  • Blog articles

  • Stories of successful patients – written and video

  • Webinars

Email marketing for massage therapy and other health clinics is how you get the word out for all these useful resources. And let’s be clear: THIS is selling. Showing patients how what you do is exactly what their body needs. See the 3 types content and the funnels to build around them.

Your email communication positions you as someone they know, like, and trust. You are an expert. You care. You have proven it by consistently sharing your expertise with them.

How many emails should you be sending? It’s the wrong question. A better question is, are you sending enough?

7. DO Send the Right Kinds of Emails - 4 Emails Every Clinic Should Be Sending

This really is the heart of the interview between Aaron and Rick. Aaron identifies four types of emails every physical therapy clinic he coaches should be sending. And those who send them help more people and make way more money than they were making before. The interview goes into great detail regarding these four types of emails.

Email Marketing Type #1: Thank You/Confirmation Email Marketing

We talked about confirmation emails already. Don’t leave patients in the dark.

But also, if you have free downloads advertised on social media (because the purpose of social is to get emails), and someone gives you their email for the download, thank them! Send an email that includes a link to the free download. If they sign up for a webinar, email them confirming their attendance with instructions on what to expect.

This is pretty simple stuff. It’s basic customer service. It’s considerate. It’s what people expect from any business, not just massage therapists.

By NOT sending confirmation and thank you emails, you actually stand out more – as a clinic that doesn’t have their act together and is less trustworthy.

Email Marketing Type #2: Nurture Emails

Once someone books an appointment, you need to motivate and prepare them to actually show up. Email marketing for chiropractors and other clinics is the only way to do this well. And after their first appointment, you want to follow-up with more helpful content so they keep coming back until they are fully healed and restored.

Aaron’s new patient nurture sequence includes topics such as:

  • Here’s what to expect at your first appointment
  • Why you might feel sore after a treatment session
  • These are our 3 stages of care
  • Helpful tips on how to prepare
  • Common fears and why not to worry
  • Product that are relevant to their condition (relevance = not spam)
  • How to refer family and friends
  • Testimonials and success stories

Some of these emails get sent before the first appointment; others get sent after. But THIS is email marketing! This is how you get loyal patients who make referrals and leave great reviews.

Email Marketing Type #3: Personal Emails

This might be my favourite. These are also known as engagement emails, direct response emails, and the 9-word email.

Here, you’re looking for an actual written response. You send these emails at least two weeks after the prospect has taken an action but done nothing since. You can also send these to patients who stopped coming to appointments before their plan of care was finished.

They read something like this:

  • “Are you still interested in having us look at what’s making your knee hurt?”
  • “Are you interested in resuming your treatment to fully heal your back?”
  • “Are you still wanting to be able to run marathons again?”

You literally just write one sentence. These kinds of emails get 70% open rates and high responses. But it’s because they are sent to the right person at the right time.

Email Marketing Type #4: Ongoing ‘Seinfeld’ Emails

The idea here to use everyday experiences, like the show Seinfeld used to do, and turn them into emails that connect with your patients and prospects. Examples:

  • Here’s something that happened to me and what I learned from it.
  • A patient of mine recently told me a story that I think you’ll want to hear.

See how that sets up your email? You simply go from there and tell a story that is relevant to what you do, what your patients need, and that offers them solutions, value, ways to change, actions to take, and a call to action at the end.

*BONUS TIP*: Tell a patient story focused on the patients 'why' to identify a problem or ask a question. Then give them value and super easy actionable takeaways.

You can send these emails once a week

Seinfeld Emails Diagram

8. Email Subject Lines 

Do you know the most important part of an email? The subject line.

Why? Because it's the deciding factor of whether a subscriber is actually going to open and read your email or not. The best email subject lines create curiosity.

Here are some of my go-to email subject lines for you to steal:

  • Good news!!!
  • Checking in
  • Reminder
  • Is everything okay? 

But how do you know if your email subject lines are even working?

The open rate (a metric used to determine what % of your email subscribers have actually opened your email) is a super important metric to be tracking. This metric will tell you if you used the right subject line or not. 

You want open rates of at least 50% + 

9. DO Use the Right Formatting and Structure

We hit on this earlier. But Aaron discusses a lot more than just formatting tips.

For instance, don’t send overly branded emails. You want your emails to be simple and easy to read. They should look, feel, and sound like personal communication.

  • White backgrounds
  • Black text
  • Simple fonts
  • No pictures
  • No graphics
Don't use any of the entrapments that might make your email be mistaken for a ‘newsletter’ – whatever that is.

10. DO Include a CTA in Every Email

Lastly, your emails must all have a purpose. Some calls to action are trackable, such as clicks, signups, shares, likes, and bookings. Other calls to action, such as those in the 9-word email examples given earlier, are measured by actual written responses.

You don’t include a link in those 9-word email examples, so the click-through rate will be 0%. Doesn’t matter. You’re looking for a message that resonated so immediately that they write you back. Aaron says it’s reasonable to expect a 10% response to these types of emails, when done in the right timing and to the right patients. He mentioned one client of his who sent an email like that and got hundreds of written responses.

Take a look at how I naturally include Call-to-actions in my emails:

Call-to-action example for Email Marketing for Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, and Massage Therapists

*BONUS Privacy Tips*

A golden rule of email marketing is you want to respect your subscribers privacy. But what exactly does that mean when emailing patients? I got my good friend Jean Eaton, a Practical Privacy Coach and founder of  Practice Management Success, to share her top 3 privacy tips when it comes to email marketing to clients and patients.

When asked: 'can we send an email to our recent patients to inform them that we are open during the current COVID restrictions?' She said...

  1. Make sure you have previously collected a patient's email address and their consent (verbal is OK, written is better) to use their email address for health service related messages before emailing them
  2. Do not accept work emails and try to update contact info regularly
  3. Make sure you continuously update patient information (including asking if we can 'tick the box' and making a note of it. Have a process for this.)
  4. Update patient's consent every time you are on the phone with a client
  5. Have a script for calling patients to update information and to get consent for using their email address

Find This Valuable? Come Get More

How do you get more new patients during this pandemic, yet still remain profitable, no matter what search engine, social media, or doctor marketing you’re doing? This is the question, and I’m on a journey to get you the answers. I’m Rick Lau, and welcome to New Patient Secrets.

Each webinar, I’m going to interview and deconstruct the best marketers and clinic owners across the world to extract the real tactics and tools you can EASILY implement each week, to get you even more new patients.

Sign up for the Next Episode of New Patient Secrets


1. Should chiropractors and physiotherapists be using email marketing?

Yes – email marketing is the single best way to communicate directly and personally to your patients, prospects, and leads with enough frequency to stay on their minds. And the costs are far lower than any other form of media that would attempt to do the same thing.

2. What is the best use of email marketing for health clinics?

The best way to use email marketing is to stay relevant and be responsive. You are responsive when you send appointment confirmations, receipts, and thank you emails. You are relevant when you send helpful content like tips for staying in shape, relieving stress, and whatever other self-care is appropriate for your discipline. You can’t do any of this if you only send two emails per year.

3. Is social media marketing better than email marketing?

Neither is better. They serve different purposes. Email marketing is better for direct, personal, and frequent communication. Social media is better for broad-based reminders, updates, tips, and getting people to visit your website, broaden your audience, and share and click on your lead magnets.




Rick built three $10 million healthcare businesses over the past fifteen years, including a network of 127 clinics with over 1400 employees. He is one of the most sought-after mentors for clinic owners in Canada and the US, where he has helped owners double, triple, and quadruple their profits by optimizing their clinic operations using proven systems and leadership strategies. He has spent millions on Google and Facebook ads during his career. 

You can follow him on Instagram

Topics: Marketing


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