It’s far easier — and less expensive — to keep a current customer than land a new one. In fact, global management consulting firm Bain & Company found it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing customer.

Advertising budgets are tight and the marketplace is getting ever more fragmented. So what’s the best way to reach out to your existing patients and customers to get them to come back and spend money with you? Believe it or not, it’s the one aspect of our digital world we most love to hate: email.

Over 150 billion emails are sent and received every day. Well over half of those are spam emails promising everything from instant riches to instant inches. Yet, research shows consumers prefer email over direct mail for commercial communications — and we are so attached to our email accounts that three out of four people check their email in bed.

Despite continued hype over the strength of social media networks and mobile friendly websites, email remains the top form of business communication. While a whopping 75 percent of online adults have a Facebook account, 95 percent use email and 91 percent check their email daily. The average Facebook user spends 15 minutes a day on the site. The average person spends 30 minutes a day with email.

The majority of organic impressions for a Facebook post happen in a three-hour window. The lifespan of a tweet on Twitter or an image on Instagram is measured in minutes. But email doesn’t die off so easily. Email will sit in the inbox until some action is taken. Email will sit for hours, days, weeks even until it is read or deleted, or both. Yes, the average open rate for consumer product and service emails hovers around 25 percent, but that dwarfs the organic reach of Facebook’s average 9.8 percent. And your email lists target current and former customers, while your Facebook audience can be most anyone from anywhere, whether or not they have ever stepped foot in your practice, let alone spent money with you.

How do you get email addresses from your customers? Easy! Ask! Most people have multiple email addresses they use each and every day, and people are used to sharing their email addresses with companies they do business with, especially when they know they might save money on future transactions. Once you have email addresses, you can use them for appointment reminders or to alert your patients that their eyeglasses are ready to be picked up. Tell customers about eye health tips, upcoming trunk shows or sale events, new staff members and services, or new lines.

Keep your emails short, good looking and sharable. You want your emails to comply with the Can-Spam act which sets federal requirements for commercial email messages, including info on how recipients may opt out of future emails. No one likes spam, so the last thing you want to do is make enemies of your patients and customers by not respecting their wishes. This is why it makes sense to use an email marketing company to house your email addresses. Emails sent by such companies will meet the proper Can-Spam requirements, and they also offer pre-made email templates to make your emails look good. Some email services we recommend are Constant Contact, MyEmma and MailChimp. There are plenty of other good email marketing firms as well.

One last thing. How often is enough? How often is too much? That depends on your customer. If your emails bore or annoy people, they will unsubscribe, which means you will lose them forever. A good rule of thumb is email no less than once every quarter and probably no more than once a week.

Combine your email efforts with your social media efforts and you will greatly expand your opportunities to reach current and prospective customers effectively and efficiently.

DANIEL FELDMAN is CEO of dba designs & communication, a Web design, marketing and social media firm specializing in helping eyecare practices succeed. Learn more at

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