“Oral Surgery Appointments Available: Friday, May 19, 2017” read the ominous subject line of an email sent from my dentist’s office. I clicked open the email, thinking I had ignored the dentist’s instructions from a prior visit and now would need (horrors!) oral surgery.

After opening and reading the message, I was relieved. It was a generic email posing the question: “Why Should I Have My Wisdom Teeth Removed?” Problem is, I already had my wisdom teeth extracted, though with a different dental provider. But after years of dental care with my current dentist, someone somewhere should have known better.

Like all marketers, medical practitioners want to expand their digital marketing practices to keep current customers and attract new ones. Yet medical practitioners face an additional hurdle: they must avoid delving into an individual’s medical condition or risk violating patient confidentiality rules.

Except for Dr. Oz and a handful of celebrity doctors, marketing is clearly not the core competency of medical practices. That means these businesses have two options: either sit on the sidelines or outsource this work to a service provider. (My dentist apparently chose the latter, which means those running the service should have known better.)

But this issue isn’t isolated to medical practitioners. How many times have you seen irrelevant messages from businesses and organizations that suck up your time and test your patience? Instead of simply deleting the message, you’re ready to take more aggressive action and end the digital relationship altogether. Unsubscribe here we come.

This well-intended, but scary email is a reminder that successful email marketing programs start with applying best practices to build, segment and maintain the subscriber list. Gartner’s Noah Elkin walks through essential building blocks in the research report, “Back to Basics: Take Three Steps to Optimize Your Email Marketing List.” (Subscription required.) “Without a robust email list, you’ll be challenged to develop a meaningful relationship with your customers,” he explains.

There’s no better time than now to start.

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