Veterinary marketing is a PROCESS that requires careful planning and strategic development. Marketing TACTICS without a strategy is like throwing a bunch of misguided darts. Instead, marketing efforts should be based on careful analysis of market TRENDS and OPPORTUNITIES. Read the following sections to avoid some common marketing mistakes.
Practices ask about "quick fixes" for boosting client satisfaction. There are none. Every point of contact impacts how clients view your practice. Start by analyzing practice strengths and weaknesses when it comes to service delivery. You can do this with mystery shops and also by asking clients – past and present – about their experience. See Understanding pet owners.
Keep in mind that a satisfied client is NEVER enough! Clients that are only "satisfied" -- and not enthralled by your practice are an easy lure for the practice down the street. Read more about how to boost client satisfaction.
Unhappy clients can not only take heir pets elsewhere, they can easily share all the details of their experience with potentially thousands of others. Online reviews -- and increased visibility of state government complaint websites -- make it easy for pet owners to voice their concerns.
What is the best way to prevent negative online reviews? MAKE IT EASY FOR CLIENTS TO SHARE THEIR OPINIONS WITH YOU! Inviting and encouraging client feedback not only helps prevent pet owners from sharing their grievances elsewhere, it also gives your practice free input to aid your continuous improvement efforts. Read more about preventing negative reviews.
Promotions are not the same as marketing. Marketing is focused on LONG-TERM practice GROWTH – while promotions are intended to produce short-term results. Examples of promotions include special offers, discounts and special events. Make sure you know exactly what your practice is trying to accomplish with any type of promotion.
Consider focusing on a particular segment or group of pet owners for best – and easier to measure -- results. Also consider COLLABORATING with other businesses that service pet owners and that can help extend your reach and reduce cost.
Finally, take a close look at how to OPTIMIZE each promotion by creating a NEXT STEP. For example, use the promotion to generate website traffic, newsletter sign up or clinic visit. Tips for planning effective promotions.
Make sure your practice’s marketing efforts are base d on solid goals and objectives. Otherwise, you will simply be "hit or miss." Marketing goals are the end result you are seeking. (Example: We want to boost the number of big dogs coming to our practice.) Marketing objectives spell out how you will achieve your goals.
It’s difficult to come up with marketing goals if you don’t have an understanding of where opportunities for growth are. Start by identifying OPPORTUNITIES in your local marketplace. Look for unmet needs or underserviced target markets. See Opportunities for Practice Growth.
It's difficult to measure the impact of marketing efforts if you don’t have specific marketing goals. See Marketing goals and objectives.
If your only goal is to attract more clients, how will you know who are the best targets and which pet owners re most likely to be attracted to your practice? Your marketing goal should NOT be to attract ANY pet owner, but rather those that have the greatest need and likelihood of using your services. See Opportunities for Practice Growth.
If, on the other hand, your practice wants to attract more small dogs (since this is a growing sector),it’s now much easier to track whether or not your practice has seen an increase in the number of small dogs. Of course, your practice would want to first determine what it could be doing differently to provide services that will be perceived as valuable by owners of small dogs. Read more about measuring marketing results.
Practices often wonder why some practices always seem to be in the news media -- or why some veterinarians are always getting quoted.
Generating publicity through the local media is easy. Information must be NEWSWORTHY and relevant to a station's, publication's or website's audience. If the message is commercial or self-serving , the media won't touch it. But if you have information that is timely and of value to readers, listeners and viewers, then getting into local media is pretty easy once you identify your media targets, identify your news item and properly prepare it for media distribution. As they say, timing is everything and that's certainly true when it comes to local publicity placement.
When possible, publicity should be connected to some type of "call to action" -- workshop attendance, info on your website, etc. Publicity is typically not effective for generating new clients, but it CAN be effective in building broad awareness and credibility OVER TIME.
If you have a SPECIALTY or EMERGENCY hospital, one of your primary marketing goals is to cultivate referrals from general practices.
First, TARGET hospitals based on where the greatest opportunity is. This might be based on location size or similar approaches to pet care. Second, recognize that reaching out to targets is an ongoing PROCESS. Simply dropping off brochures or holding periodic luncheon meetings is NOT enough. Hospitals seeking DVM referrals must stay in front of referring hospitals, but avoid constant sales calls and messages. Instead, look for ways to deliver VALUE, provide BENEFIT to referring hospitals and DEMONSTRATE your capabilities. Read more about increasing referrals in the veterinary community and tracking results.
If you have a GENERAL practice, consider cultivating referrals from local influencers. Influencers come in many shapes and forms and include the local pet supplies store or dog groomer. Such individuals can have a significant impact on how pet owners perceive your practice.
Websites that only talk about how great a practice is give pet owners NO REASON TO COME BACK. Those that offer VALUABLE information on preventive care, early warning signs, pets at risk, what to look for, nutrition, exercise, etc., become a RESOURCE to pet owners.
ENGAGING clients with useful information aids compliance as you are MAKING THEM A PARTNER in their pet's care. This is MUCH MORE effective than simply TELLING them to come in for an annual wellness exam.
Your website is also a great place to "house" important information -- including info sheets, instructional videos, pet stories, helpful tips and more -- that can be used to generate web traffic off of your social media outreach as well as through local publicity efforts.
Working with one practice, we created a special trademarked ME-TOW Tube® online channel. In it, we housed a series of instructional videos featuring ring everything from how to administer meds to choosing the best toys.