Veterinary practices are seriously busy places. Like human health care practices, they deal with emergencies, patients who need extra TLC and put in very long hours. Also, like human health care, they need to stay top of mind and easy to find when your horse colics at 10 pm, or the dog escapes and gets himself into trouble. Implementing some or all of these marketing actions will help you to increase visibility, gain customers and build a following for your practice.
1. Hold In-house Sessions
I attended one of these the other night at our local equine practice. Yes, it was sponsored in part by a vendor, however, it was well done, included good takeaway information, some hands-on learning and a couple of willing four-footed models. If you have space to hold an event for 20-25 people then consider holding it at your office, otherwise a library or public meeting space that will allow small animals and offers AV support would be the place. You will draw potential clients and allow current clients to get to know you better.
2. Check the State of Practice Marketing Materials
Chances are these are being set up by a swamped office person without a basic understanding of consistency of brand, message, etc. Do a side-by-side assessment to check for things such as using the same font and your “corporate” colors across the board. Check that your logo is not warped or stretched. This is a really common mistake that is easy to fix, but if not addressed, sends the message that your business is not detail oriented. Which you are, so check it. Don’t forget to include your invoices and other statements. Anything you hand a customer is marketing material.
3. Be a Part of the Social Media Scene
Go where your audience is. If your base clientele is female and over 40, Facebook is your hangout. If you have a city practice with all types of folks coming in, then you will want to look at some additional options. This should not be time consuming and there are tools out there to make this a quick exercise. Buffer is an online tool that allows you to park FB and Tweets ahead of time, scheduled throughout the day. Rack them up at the beginning of the week, and let it run while you do more important things. Set 5-6 tweets per day for Twitter and 1-2 posts for Facebook per week. There is usually a free trial period and a small monthly fee afterwards.
4. Share Pictures and Videos
People love to see what is going on. Think of all of the tv shows on vet practices that have been popular. Post snaps of now-healthy pets going home. Instagram makes this easy. Use the same photo filter and font to be brand consistent. Canva is a great tool for people that don’t need the robustness or time investment of Photoshop.
5. Staff Spotlights
Increase owner comfort levels before well visits by highlighting your staff and sharing bios on your website and social media channels. This creates a connection, builds trust and lets your clients know that your group is knowledgable. Post updates on new classes and certifications reached as well to show that you are up to date with the latest developments.
6. Create a Blog
Some of the best blogs and stories I’ve read have been created by vets. Not only does it allow your clients to get to know you and understand all of your partners better, but it adds valuable content to your website, which in turn raises your SEO ranking (Search Engine Optimization – how Google ranks your site when people search for related terms). It’s not hard selling, and you can highlight new information, funny or amazing stories, or just things that are on your mind about the life of a practicing veterinary. Don’t forget to post the links on your social media when it’s been posted on your website to let people know there’s new material. Pick a general rhythm and stick to it if possible. People like to anticipate a new chapter and look forward to the new posts. If your website is build on a template based platform, such as Wix, plugins are available and quick to set up on your existing site.
7. Customer Testimonials
Before you leave the barn, or the patient goes home, ask a satisfied customer to give you a testimonial. Lots of people will agree to do this if they’ve had a positive experience with your practice. A sentence or two is all you need for your website. Think about these in terms of word of mouth. People will only refer if they feel that the level of service is excellent (They don’t want to look bad by referring a friend to a sub-par group.). Add these to your About Us section online.
8. Say Thank You
Say thank you to your clients for referrals. Drop a quick note in the mail (Seriously, who does that now!?) and make it even more special. Buy a bunch of notecards on clearance and stash them. If you want to get even more classy, get some printed with your logo on nice paper at your local printer. Customers feel valued and are more apt to ring you the next time.
9. Check your Customer Service
Do a bit of secret shopping. Have a trusted friend call and see how the phones are answered, how long they put are on hold (and if they have to listen to crackly muzak) and how they were treated. Did they sound hassled or abrupt? If you have a phone tree in place, check to update that once a year. It’s easy to forget what is on the recording. Agree on how long it takes to reply to incoming messages and stick to that as much as possible. (See my previous post on why Customer Service Isn’t What You Think.
10. Offer Something Extra
One of our local practices owners also keeps chickens as a hobby and brings in the fresh eggs to sell out of the front office. They sell out every day because people know they came from healthy chickens and will taste amazing. Plus, it helps that practice be remembered for something just a bit different.
11. Special Breed Knowledge
Do you have a particular interest in a breed that has special needs? Do you have specialty knowledge working with Greyhounds, who are tricky to anesthetize? Maybe someone in your group keeps goats and has more than the average understanding of goat health. Owners with particular breeds or animals will drive further knowing that their pet will likely get more focused care from you and are likely to become more loyal if they are aware of this information.
If you have particular pet food brands or other special items for purchase that may only be available from you in the area, make sure people know via social media. This is a great way to create a customer loyalty program – by offering a weekly special, flash sale, BOGO. Be creative and have some fun with it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, I’m Amanda! As a life-long equestrian, I understand the importance of keeping our horses healthy, happy and well-appointed. And with over 15 years of experience in marketing, I can help you to translate that shared goal into a brand that drives sales. I’ve mastered marketing strategy, branding, website production and digital media marketing, and led successful teams to bring it all together. So it’s a pleasure to offer my services and knowledge to those who make my life more enjoyable, and to bring new products and services to others to keep our horses happy and healthy. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn!