If we place an ad, what size is best for a small-animal practice?
Advertising is just one of many marketing tools available to you. It is not possible to make a general recommendation regarding size. Think about what you are trying to accomplish with the ad and where it will appear. You may have many choices besides size, such as color, placement location, and frequency of run, that dictate the cost.
Before you place a print or electronic ad, get the publication's media kit with all the demographics so you can verify the expected readership and make sure it is an investment worth making. In general, ads are best run over time, as few onetime runs will generate much business. It may take multiple appearances of an ad before it even registers with a reader, and that assumes the ad is well produced. You may want to try a three-month run in a publication that coincides with a particular issue or timely event. Then, of course, be sure to track all sources of new clients to determine whether any of them saw the ad.
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?
Placing one ad in one publication one time is unlikely to generate much new business for any type of establishment. The kind of advertisement you are inquiring about seems geared more to support the theater program at the school. If that is an area of interest for you, you might consider such a media buy. But if your goal is to generate new clients, this typically is not a good investment.
If you enjoy supporting the local school and extended educational community, consider supporting a school athletic team, where your signage and recognition for your practice can be showcased at every game and in the season program. You may even get a logo imprinted on the uniforms if you are a large enough sponsor. Not only will you become a valued member of the school community, but every opponent's cheering squad will be exposed to your name and logo. And if that team wins, your visibility can grow beyond the neighborhoodso root, root, root for the home team!
Another way to support the community in a way that provides a broader reach than a onetime ad in a program or similar publication is participation in a holiday food/supplies drive that benefits people and pets. Consider making your facility a drop-off location, and ask your clients to spread the word for you by forwarding email announcements and flyers on your behalf. You could even tie such a drive into a program to generate new clients by offering a free pet exam for those who donate a specified amount of goods. You may not need to offer the incentive to get donations, but you are likely to generate new business and goodwill along the way.
Are print ads or billboards of any value in our profession?
Any ad with the right message in the right place in front of the right people has the potential to be successful. It very much depends on your market. Advertisements and billboard ad prices vary wildly across the country and different demographics. For example, a veterinarian in South Dakota has had great success booking a billboard during pheasant-hunting season on the main road heading back into town. It is clearly visible to hunters, and each year she gains several new patients as a result. The cost is reasonable, which helps make this a viable option. But she has taken the concept one step further. At a nearby hotel where hunters stay during the season, she has introduced herself as a local resource for hunting dogs as well as other personal pets. The hotel has enjoyed this resource and helped hunters who inquire about veterinary care in the area by referring them to her. As a bonus, because she has made so many hotel guests happy, a few of the hotel employees have also become clients.
There can be many goals in placing an advertisement. You may simply want to support a publication, such as a veterinary medical association newsletter or a local community homeowners' association flyer. More often than not, these ads create awareness, but they also can generate business if you offer a service needed by the readers. If the ad is well done, it might just be the catalyst to motivate someone to give your practice a try.