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101 Veterinary Marketing Questions Answered

PREFACEWhen it comes to marketing, what is the best way to differentiate our practice from other small-animal practices?How do I compete with nearby low-cost veterinary hospitals that subsidize their low medical service charges with nonmedical services such as boarding, grooming, and day care?How do we effectively market new services?How do we cope with so much increased competition from new practices in the area?How do we maintain and improve our reputation in the community?What are effective marketing tools in a rural practice?In a multiple-hospital situation, should we market each hospital separately or market the whole group?How do we develop a unique name, brand, marketing materials, and plan that are not a cookie-cutter application that looks and feels exactly like the practice down the road?How do I know if it is worth the money to renovate the outside of the practice to improve the look only (nothing functional)?What interior design efforts are best for retaining clients?What should I do when internal marketing training, discussion, and incentives do not work to stimulate staff to buy in to elevating practice income?How do we get staff to consistently indicate the referral source to properly monitor marketing results?How do I monitor how our staff is marketing our practice to pet owners on the phone?Where can I find good marketing training videos for staff?How do we get our very busy receptionists to consistently "market" products and services?How do we get the doctors who determine the health care protocols to actually follow them? (As an example, after a support staff member has made a recommendation to a client, the doctor tells the client the pet doesn't need it.)What can the veterinarians do to get out there and market the practiceor should they?How do I get my veterinarians to recommend more senior screens, dentals, and other services?We get a lot of new clients coming in every month, but how do we keep them coming back?We recently handed out flyers for clients to participate in a client survey and got only two responses. How do we motivate clients to provide feedback?What should I put in email newsletters?Is there value in giving away free products or offering discounts to encourage more visits?What is the best way to conduct "secret shopper" visits or phone calls to our hospital or other veterinary hospitals?How important is it to track client referrals and reward clients for referrals?What is the best way to encourage word-of-mouth advertising? And how should you reward those who refer new clients?What are some marketing ideas to attract new clients to an established practice in a community where the recession is driving down client numbers and average transaction charge?What is the best way to get local mailing lists to reach new clients?What type of mailings and/or offers work best when we are doing a mass mailing?Besides our phone book listing and website, how do I communicate with people who are not current clients?What if our demographics are predominantly low to moderate socioeconomically? How should we reach out to them?Is it effective to market to clients who have not been active for a few years, but were once good clients? If so, what strategies work best?We all know that word of mouth is still the best marketing tool, but what is the second?What are the best ways to improve internal marketing?How can our practice take our internal marketing efforts to the next level?What are some ideas that we can feature in our reception and exam rooms to market to our clients?How do we convince clients that certain vaccines, dental care, and other "discretionary" services are important?How can I improve sales on food and retail products? How can I market them effectively to reluctant clients who would rather buy pet store, organic, or raw diets and think veterinary diets are simply a money grab?How do we convince clients that we are recommending the best and not just selling anything?How do I increase client education without drowning my clients in information overload and on-hold messaging (which I personally loathe)?How do we use marketing to increase our overall compliance?What are considered to be the "best practices" for wording and layout on appointment reminder cards or emails to maximize their effectiveness?How do I get clients whose pets are younger than 6 years of age to come in for "just a checkup"?Are reminder cards sent from us as successful as those that are outsourced?How do I maintain my sense of professionalism while "marketing" my practice and not feel like a buffoon or a used-car salesman?How do we track the productivity of charitable donations, community educational presentations, participation in trade shows with a booth, and so forth? Even if our client and patient numbers increase, can I attribute it to the PR or would it have happened anyway?Is it all right to use career fairs (for junior high and high school students) as an opportunity to advertise for our clinic?How do I get the most from our local paper "Ask the Vet" articles I write?How do I go about holding an open house?How do I get our practice name out there into the community without excessive costs?What are some "out-of the-box," unconventional ideas on how to creatively market yourself in your community?What factors influence a potential client to choose our facility over another based on the Web or print ad? What language and phrases catch clients' attention?Should we advertise to all pet owners or target our own clients?If we place an ad, what size is best for a small-animal practice?We often are asked to advertise in a local school's theater program. Will this actually help to bring in clients, as these advertisements are often a lot of money?Are print ads or billboards of any value in our profession?Is a short-term discount program (such as dental health month) a real benefit to the practice, or are we just attracting people who would have had it done anyway and making less money on the deal in the process?How do we decide which marketing promos (e.g., senior discounts, monthly percent-off specials) are worthwhile and which should be scrapped?How do I most effectively promote our new puppy and kitten wellness packages?Do specials such as one for dentistry during dental month have a positive impact on the practice (other than the practice's income)?What should I do if I receive a bad online review?How do we use Facebook and our website in marketing clients?How can I make the most of technology (e.g., Internet advertising, Facebook, blogs, online coupons)?What is the best way to drive clients to our website?How can I better market my online store?Whom should I put in charge of our website and social networking accounts to maintain consistent messaging: someone in the clinic or an outside entity?How do we create emails that clients will actually open?How do we get more email addresses from clients to promote communication and marketing via email?How do I determine the value of money spent on interactive websites with client-specific profiles? Many clients love this service but many others have never signed up.Assuming that clients need to hear a message several times to make it effective, how much email marketing does it take to become offensive to the average client?What is the best way to reach the 25-35 age group with information about our practice?How effective are email reminders versus mailed reminders?Is it worth spending tens of thousands of dollars on a website developer to create and maintain our hospital's website? If yes, why? If no, why not?How do I determine the best website search engine or listing to use (e.g., Google, Yahoo, LocalVets?)How can I determine our marketing budget for the year, and what percentage of gross revenue should I spend on advertising?How much should I be spending on yellow pages advertising?How do I get the owners of the practice to support marketing and advertising efforts?Which is considered the best use of marketing dollars: developing our website, creating brochures, or sending out a newsletter (by email or mail)?Are there guidelines on what percentage of the total marketing budget should be allocated to existing clients versus that allocated to getting new clients?Is paper marketing still worth the money?Is marketing of over-the-counter products worthwhile for a veterinary clinic?What is considered a successful return rate and return on investment for mailers such as Valpak?How can I determine the return on investment for Internet advertising?How do I figure out the return on investment on my website?How do I figure return on investment on new signage or building amenities?How do I figure out whether referral websites (Yelp, Insider Pages), Google (ad words, sponsored link), online yellow pages listings, or other online listings are worth the money?How do I measure my return on investment from an open house?What is the best way to market in a down economy?Are welcome postcards the best way to reach new move-ins in the vicinity of our hospital?Is a phone book ad still worthwhile, or would money be better spent on Internet yellow pages or a website?How long should I stay with a program (six weeks, six months, or one year) before I determine its effectiveness?What is the most effective marketing technique for current clients: postcard reminders, emails, phone calls?How effective is regular newspaper advertising (print and online versions)?Is local commercial advertising (on Cablevision, for example) worth the expense?How do I find the time to stay focused on whatever marketing we start?As a specialty practice manager, how do I market our services to the pet-owning public without offending the general practitioners we serve?What is the most cost-effective means of reaching the pet-owning population to market specialty veterinary services?How do we convey that we are a specialty clinic with excellent client service before the client has arrived and interacted with staff (i.e., how do we market excellent client service)?How do I best approach (if at all) that veterinarian who hasn't referred a case?How do we compete against general practitioners without formal advanced training who advertise specialized services at lower prices than our referral hospital does?How do I get my staff doctors to establish better relationships with referring vets?What are some good marketing tools for referral practices that, whether internal or external marketing, are unique, fun, simple, and inexpensive?RESOURCESABOUT THE AUTHOR