VINx IS NOW
Why Marketing to Your Clients Should be a Priority
Even When Your Appointment Schedule is Full
Dealing with a packed schedule and staffing shortages these days can make it easy to drop the ball on marketing your practice’s services to your clients. After all, if you’re already too busy, why encourage more visits?
But helping your clients make smart, well-informed decisions is an investment in your patients’ health and your practice’s future — and may even help ease your overloaded appointment schedule.
SIX MINUTE READ
3 Great Reasons to Market to Your Clients, Even When You’re Super Busy
1) Your patients need you to.
You already know this, but it bears repeating: most patients consistently benefitting from your care are going to enjoy better health than those you only see very sporadically.
As their healthcare provider, one of the best things you can do for your patients is to help keep their owners informed about your available services, products, and recommendations for their pet’s best health.
And some recent stats are already hinting at an alarming rise in lapsing patients, so let’s pounce on and correct this problem now, versus playing catch-up later.
2) Economic challenges and/or zombie apocalypse preparation.
Put simply, it’s always a good time to nurture the vital relationships between your practice and your clients by teaming up for better pet care, because they’re the bedrock upon which your business is built.
You’re busy now, but we don’t know what’s coming down the pike by way of the economy and ensuing changes to consumer pet spending trends (or, for that matter, zombie apocalypses).
The future is uncertain, so now is the time to make sure those practice-sustaining relationships are rock solid.
3) A spayed Lab is unlikely to present with a raging case of pyometra.
Just like a well-maintained automobile, your patients are less likely to require urgent medical care or even emergency surgery – necessitating that you drop everything and work them into your already full schedule – when their health is regularly monitored and maintained per your recommendations between visits.
So keeping your clients on board with preventative care using smart marketing can actually benefit your appointment schedule by helping to reduce the number of urgent care scenarios.
With me so far? Then let's dive into marketing, and how to do it authentically and effectively.
If you feel icky about the way you’re marketing to your clients, it’s time to rethink your marketing efforts.
Marketing's not a dirty word.
Not too long ago, the word “marketing” was often frowned upon within our veterinary community. It conjured up visions of pushy, sleazy sales tactics, which is the exact opposite of how most veterinarians think and behave, thankfully.
The belief was that simply providing the facts to pet owners should be sufficient to get their buy-in. A nice and noble notion, but not generally how things work these days (maddening, isn’t it?).
Most pet owners don’t have unlimited budgets and must pick and choose where they spend their pet expense money. We know that the care you provide is the best investment they can make in their pets’ long-term health, but you’re competing for attention with pet product retailers, food companies, pharmacies, and other pet businesses, all of whom promise to do the same.
Take heart, though, because if marketing has ever felt uncomfortable or unsavory to you, here's the big secret...
You’re on board with client education, right? (I haven’t yet met a veterinary professional who wasn’t, so I’m going to assume yes). So let’s just make sure you’re offering it up in ways which inform, motivate, and inspire your clients to be even better pet parents.
That’s truly all veterinary marketing is.
That’s truly all veterinary marketing is.
Define "strategically delivered".
This simply means delivering your message to the right clients at the right time, so it’s correctly perceived as helpful and important.
If you come away from reading this blog post with only one word in your mind, I fervently hope that word is “relevance”, because relevance is absolutely key in marketing. (If you come away with two words, I’d like to add “perspicacious” or “dazzling”. You pick).
Think about all the digital pings you get throughout the day: emails, text messages, push notifications, newsfeeds, and more. Our brains tend to filter out the irrelevant out of sheer necessity, so you need to make sure anything you send your clients is relevant to them and their pet.
Some examples of highly relevant marketing would be:
“I have an online pharmacy, so I’m already marketing to my clients.”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard this statement… well, I’d have like $3. But still, it’s 3 dollars too many.
Why? Because while having an online pharmacy can certainly have its benefits, the marketing emails they send to clients on your practice’s behalf tend to focus solely on products and are typically limited in relevance to being species-specific.
That’s a good start, but you have oodles of helpful, specific patient data in your practice’s records. Let’s leverage it to its full potential to really connect meaningfully with your clients!
Let's talk pizzazz.
Again, picture all your inbox competition. If you can’t initially grab your clients’ attention in your message, nothing you’re saying to them will sink in.
Whether it’s funny or heartfelt or visually stunning, your marketing – excuse me, client education – should be delivered in a compelling package which makes your clients eager to dive in and start learning.
How it started...
Some years ago, when I was a baby hospital manager, the practice owner asked me to find a creative way to drum up some business (hard to imagine these days, I know!).
We had a new ultrasonic dental unit but not many dental appointments booked, so that seemed like a promising place to start. First I performed a query in our PiMS for active adult dog and cat patients who hadn’t had a dental performed within the past few years. Fortunately, we’d started collecting email addresses from clients a few years prior, so many of the target patients had an email address in their account.
Innovation in the age of e-cards.
Now, this is going to age me a bit, but I’ll try not to go full-blown fogey on you: in those days, animated e-cards were all the rage.
As in, oh, you just graduated from high school? Here’s a congratulatory e-card with a dancing peanut in a graduation cap. Got hitched? Check out your e-card with puppies gazing into each other’s eyes and pulsating hearts floating around them.
I found an animated e-card with a frog theme and (somehow?) decided it was just the thing to help me deliver my Very Important Dental Message.
There was no way to upload a recipient list and “batch” send the e-card, so I proceeded to carefully copy/paste our message and the client’s email address into each individual e-card I sent. And you know what? It worked.
And a veterinary marketing nerd was born.
Clients responded, and we quickly booked up dental appointments for that month and the next. I watched pet after pet go home with a clean, healthy mouth, and their owners feeling great about the investment they’d just made in their pet’s health.
And that’s how this author got hooked on veterinary marketing and communications. Seeing how technology (and frogs, I guess) could help us educate our clients and improve care for our patients was pretty awe-inspiring.
And how it's going.
Happily, targeted marketing to pet owners now is much easier to execute, with more sophisticated options.
Whether you take a DIY approach or use a client communications platform like VetTools Clients Engaged, there are a few additional key things to keep in mind to make your marketing efforts a success.
✔ Dig into your data.
Use some basic queries to identify your recipients for a targeted, highly relevant campaign. Are your lapsing patients increasing? Are your juvenile feline patients finishing their vaccination series? Are your senior patients getting wellness bloodwork performed?
Let your data guide you to your ideal recipient group.
✔ Define your desired outcome.
Be specific. “Increase revenue” is an understandable goal, but very difficult to track for success, plus it feels vague and super daunting.
How about “Perform (insert an ambitious but feasible number here) of dentals in November” instead? That feels achievable, and allows you to clearly measure your campaign’s results.
✔ Offer a clear call to action.
To correspond with your desired outcome, make it crystal clear what you’d like your clients to do as a result of your message.
A “Book a Dental” button with a hyperlink to an appointment request form on your website provides a clear desired action and a way for your clients to get the ball rolling on it even when your office is closed.
✔ Ask and answer, "Why do I care about this?"
I drive my team up a wall with this, so strongly do I believe in it, but its importance cannot be overstated. If your message doesn’t help your clients understand why it’s important and how their pet will benefit, it will fail.
Put yourself in your clients’ shoes, read your message and make absolutely sure you’re answering the all-important question of “Why should I care?”.
✔ Keep it simple.
Don’t use highly technical terms without explaining them, or jargon. Listen, I get it, I really do. I’m the Engagement Manager here; do you know how many times I’ve had to delete the word “engagement” from this post? Because it means something to me, but it’s not necessarily meaningful to you.
Take this same approach with your clients. Use straightforward language with which they can connect.
✔ Don't send them on a guilt trip.
Guilt-inducing marketing tends to make people tune out and move on, so resist the temptation to go down what may seem like the easy road.
Instead, offer information in an empathetic, helpful tone which invites open-minded consideration and discussion.
The vast majority of your clients truly love their pets and want the best for them, so you’re on the same team (that team being Richmond).
✔ Send smart.
If you’re using a third party communications platform like VetTools Clients Engaged for your marketing and outreach, you should be all set – your emails and texts sent from a whitelisted and well-managed address via a professional sending platform, etc.
But if you’re taking a DIY approach, keep in mind that it’s not quite as simple as sending out an email directly to a long list of clients using your regular email address and platform. For best deliverability and open rates, consider using a devoted email sending platform.
If you’re mindful and strategic in your marketing efforts, the results will be deeply beneficial to your patients and your practice! Check out these stellar results from a targeted marketing campaign to lapsed patients offered by VetTools Clients Engaged.
So as you can see: smart, compelling veterinary marketing is great for your patients’ health, your relationships with clients, and your practice’s bottom line. And busy or not, it’s always a good time to strive for improvements in all three of those areas!
You're busy. Quality veterinary marketing takes time.
VetTools Clients Engaged runs effortlessly in the background of your hectic day, making you a veterinary marketing wiz without even trying!
About the Author: As a former Hospital Manager, Carrie has a long and affectionate history with the veterinary world and is now our resident multimedia content, outreach, and engagement maven. (And she’s on a personal crusade to bring back the word “maven”, apparently).
Carrie creates word, image, and video content for both us and our users, and has her busy paws in our outreach and awareness campaigns for pet owners, user engagement, branding, and marketing. Having joined the team in 2011, she’s loved watching the VetTools platform bloom over the years to meet the needs of today’s busy veterinary professionals.
Carrie is all about strengthening the relationship between pet owners and their veterinary team, her philosophy being that this results in happier veterinary professionals and pet owners, and healthier pets.