All Hail Snail Mail

Direct mail gets a bad rap. As the majority of marketing and patient communication has moved online, snail mail makes even telephonic campaigns look positively revolutionary.

But sometimes traditional methods still work the best. In fact, one study found that three-quarters of people opened direct mail, while 63% read it. Compared to average email open and click-thru rates for healthcare services of 25% and 9% respectively, direct mail interaction is quite substantial.  When used with a limited patient panel in a targeted way, direct mail can be the most cost-effective method to get your patients enrolled.


Mailers might be the right outreach method if your patient panel meets some of the following characteristics:

  • Stable address list: If many of your patients are renters rather than home owners, make sure you have the most recent address on file for your patients. Since each mailer is relatively pricey, one delivered to the wrong house is an immediate lost cost.
  • Unreliable emails: Emailing is a lot less expensive than a traditional mail send, but you need a reliable email list. If you haven’t asked your patients for their email, you should stick to mailers at first.
  • Data data data: Much like in real estate, location is everything. In marketing, accurate data is the golden goose, regardless of the channel you use. Make it an absolute priority to continuously update your with patients’ current contact information. This will pay dividends in the long run, and once it’s part of the culture, it’s easy to maintain.


As you can imagine, direct mail costs can vary by type of piece printed, quantity and delivery method. But typical costs for a postcard or letter range from about $1 to $3 per piece per piece .


A recent reports puts the average direct mail response rate at 3.7%. That’s a little high for most medical practices. A more even benchmark is around 2%. One of our customers recently sent a personalized letter to patients and saw a 12% response rate.


Here are a few direct mail themes we’ve seen used with great success:

  • VIP style invitation: An invitation-style flyer that offers exclusive access to the program. Exclusivity is an effective way to make the program seem more valuable to the patient. Rather than see it as something anyone can use, they see it as something only they are allowed to use.
  • Results-focused messaging: An outcomes driven flyer that focuses on results patients can achieve rather than conditions the program can treat. When you focus on the patient’s possible motivation for joining (losing weight, feeling better, etc.) they’re more likely to see the benefit in joining.
  • Letter from the physician: A signed letter from your doctor is serious business. Patients will take the offer more seriously if it comes straight from their doctor’s desk.


  • Talking about “disease”: We’ve found that people respond to messaging that is more focused on their personal health goals, and feeling better, rather than things that talk about their specific conditions. So, best to go with “You’ll feel better in just a few weeks” versus “Manage your diabetes”.
  • Lots and lots of text: It may seem like a good idea to provide a lot of detail about your offering, but expect people to spend only a few seconds reading a piece of mail. Even if you’re sending a letter, make sure to leave lots of white space. Dense text frightens people. If there’s more information you want to communicate, provide a call-to-action to go to a website landing page for more information.
  • Overly “stocky” imagery: if you’re not familiar with the term stock photography, check out Buzzfeed’s “60 completely unusable stock photos”. Sure, these are ridiculous, but the point is that if you use imagery highlights a very particular target segment, the people that don’t fit in the segment, will naturally (even if subconsciously) dismiss the piece as not for them. Also, don’t assume that people view themselves as their peers. When asked to select photography of people that they most resemble, seniors regularly select photos of people who are 10-15 years younger than their actual age.


Find a professional printer that has a partnership with a mailing house. This way, you supply the content and the addresses but you don’t need to worry about buying 2,000 postage stamps or refilling your ink cartridges again and again.

Source: Twine Health

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