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Marketing as a business tool and a process should not be a mystery. But practice owners and managers often find it challenging to successfully market their services because the intent and methodology behind marketing can easily be misunderstood. The purpose of this book is to simplify and impart the "how-to's" of marketing a veterinary practice. A range of marketing approaches may suit the specific demographics and segments of your business, yet several basic tenets apply to any practice seeking to build a strong foundation and reach a level of profitability that will sustain its ability to deliver quality care.

Veterinary medicine has advanced rapidly over recent decades, and this rate of advancement is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. In addition, changes in technology have enabled individuals to communicate with each other in several ways. Given this pace of growth and change, the whole concept of reaching the pet-owning audience can seem overwhelming as well as expensive. This book attempts to break down the most important steps to take in building an effective marketing plan for veterinary practices and offers insight into how each practice can do so in a way that is authentic and unique to it. Like anything, it has to feel right and resonate from the inside in order to be effective on the outside.

I invite you to take off the old pair of glasses and be open to a new approach that will enable you to deliver veterinary care to more companion animals and their families. After all, isn't that why you embarked on this career in the first place? Seeing positive results in the way of more client visits and greater compliance is what makes this journey exciting. Witnessing the smiles on your clients' faces is even better, not to mention the end result: healthier pets. So buckle up and enjoy the ridethis is supposed to be fun.

When it comes to marketing, what is the best way to differentiate our practice from other small-animal practices?

To market what's distinct about your practice, you must first be able to define and clearly articulate what makes it unique. Otherwise, there is no compelling reason for a pet owner to choose your practice over another. A fundamental tenet of successful branding is just that: Develop a core purpose that every member of the team understands and embraces, and that can be communicated clearly to all clients, whether current or prospective. The goal is to become known for something that makes your practice special and to build a system of client service and patient care around it.

Defining your practice's core purpose may sound straightforward, but you will have to distill all that your practice does into one message. The following statement by advertising legend Stavros Cosmopulos helps to illustrate the importance of keeping it simple:

One way to guarantee failure is to present so many points in your message that none will penetrate. Think for a moment of the Fakirs in India. They can rest comfortably on a bed of nails with many points. They can even fall asleep. Load your message with many points and your audience will fall asleep. But try making just one point in an advertising message, and watch it penetrate.

Resist the temptation to try to serve anyone and everyone. Define and articulate who you want to be, whom you want to serve, and what you want to be known for. These decisions will be fundamental to your practice's success.

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?

Every practice needs to decide which core services to offer and which segment of the pet-owning audience to target. The adage "You can't be all things to all people" is true, so if you want to serve clientele who are price-sensitive, you need to find a way to differentiate your practice from the ones known as low-cost providers. One way to do this is to clearly demonstrate the value of your services.

Every practice receives calls from "shoppers" who are looking for a particular service based on price. To help convert these shoppers into clients, develop scripts for your staff to use when speaking with such shoppers. This will guide your team to ask the right questions and to deliver information in a value-oriented way that covers what the cost includes. Use the opportunity to establish rapport with the caller by getting his name and the pet's name and using both in the conversation. For instance, "We use the safest anesthesia methods and monitoring equipment so Fluffy will receive the highest standard of care. And there is always someone with Fluffy during recovery so that she will gently awaken from anesthesia on a heated bed and be pretreated with pain medication for comfort. Does this sound like the kind of care you want for Fluffy, Ms. Jones?"

The staff should practice and receive continual training on delivering information to shoppers by phone as well as to clients who are in for a routine wellness check. To take it one step further, offer a telephone shopper the opportunity to stop in for a tour and to meet the team so she can be comfortable with the environment Fluffy will be in for her dental cleaning. Assuring Ms. Jones that you value her comfort level and how Fluffy will be cared for are important considerations and will show how important both client and patient are in your practice.

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