October is Pet Services Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! We’ll be surfacing insights and strategies specifically for marketing your veterinary practice, grooming, training and boarding businesses while driving more new and repeat customers.
Not a pet care professional? Don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing insights that will help you to promote your local business, acquire new customers, and encourage loyalty. Want your industry to be the next featured month? Drop us a line, and let us know!
Like anything in the medical field, it can often seem unpalatable to consider the important work that a veterinary practice does to be reduced to a “business”. Unfortunately, every practice needs patients in order to be sustainable and fuel the vital work you and your team does every day. So although marketing your services, technical expertise and care may seem distasteful, it’s imperative to the future of your efforts.
As you already know, trust is unparalleled when it comes time to decide who we feel comfortable treating our beloved pets to in their time of need. Many clients treat their pets as their furbabies, and as such, do not take this due diligence lightly. It’s important that your marketing messaging and efforts speak to your qualifications, technical expertise and experience, and embody trust and credibility. Beyond that, empathy and bedside manner are the other driving force behind putting them at ease and feeling secure in your abilities.
Position yourself as an expert, by providing educational resources
Showing off expertise is especially important in this line of work. By educating your prospective patient’s owners, you stand to increase the likelihood that they’ll feel comfortable allowing you to treat their beloved pets. You could run a workshop, or post short video tutorials on your website to walk them through some routine checks they can perform at home, or help diagnose issues. For example, you could show them how to diagnose a dental issue with your dog, and leave them with a special offer for a dental screening or cleaning kit. Each of these should be coupled with a call-to-action, or exclusive offer. If it’s in-person, make sure there’s a clear expiration date on these offers, to prompt them to take timely action while the value they’ve just received from your practice is still fresh and strong.
For clients with whom you’ve already earned trust, you can build on this to anticipate and educate them on future needs or get ahead of potential issues their pet might face down the road. Take the time to explain steps that they can take or procedures that can be done in advance, to enhance their pet’s condition and promote good health. Again, education is key, and this is not to say that you should ever push unnecessary services on someone who does not need it. It should be a win-win, to avoid larger issues or problems down the road. Which leads us to…
Keep robust patient profiles to ensure the most relevant content
You probably already do this, to some extent, but beyond just normal records try to create expansive profiles for each pet you have as a patient. Make a note of any ongoing conditions that need periodic treatment, or just anything certain breeds are especially susceptible to, so that you can send out helpful reminders for treatments and prevention. Go beyond strictly medical conditions, and make a note of techniques that the pet responds best to, things to keep an eye on, favorite treats, quirks, etc. Anything that will help your team provide the best treatment, but also improve the overall experience. Oftentimes, the little details that you remember will endear you to owners, and inspire loyalty.
It’s also a great way to segment your lists and accounts and ensure that the content and campaigns that you’re sending are always relevant and impactful. At the beginning of the spring or summer, send out flea and tick advisories, or offer a workshop on how to thoroughly check your pups for these unwanted pests.
Offer loyal patients special “bundles” that tie-in with national holidays
There have been a proliferation of “National Holidays” for everything from donuts to “bubble bath day” on January 8th in recent years. However, not all these fun or eclectic holidays are to be dismissed, as many serve as important reminders to check in on both our own health and that of our favorite furry friends.
Try advertising such pet-related holidays on your website, across your social pages, and in any print or direct mail campaigns your practice runs. This should prompt owners to make appointments. You can run specials based off the holidays, or even try bundling complementary procedures, tests or treatments together to get even more value for both you and the patients.
Protip: Try sending out SMS (or text message) blasts to clients during these holidays. With these types of messages being read almost instantly, it’s a great way to get such timely offers in front of your audience. Find out more about getting started with SMS Marketing here, or to see a free demo of how Signpost’s Mia can do this for you!
You can also hold open houses, seminars that tie in with national events. Focus on those where you can display your expertise and answer a lot of questions that owners might have. “Prevention of Lyme Disease in Dogs” month (which is April, in case you were wondering), is a great example. You can even ask if flea and tick pharmaceutical companies want to donate samples of their products to give out to owners, and let them leave with a goody bag of informative materials.
Get involved in the community and meet more potential patients
Join and encourage your team to participate in community events. Does your neighborhood, town or the surrounding area have any festivals that have a pet parade or a halloween pet costume award? Ask how your practice can be involved or see if you can sponsor it. You can also offer to donate prizes. Depending on the number of entrants, you could include a free service or consultation to all those who participate, and/or a larger prize pack for the winners.
Sponsor local adoption events, volunteer your services at shelters and rescues in your area. Ask to leave business cards, magnets or other items with your practice’s info on it at these locations that you know new pet owners will be. Many times when people are adopting a dog or cat, they’ll ask volunteers for recommendations for petcare. This is a great way to introduce yourself, and your dedication to helping all these animals to new owners.
Similarly, you can partner with other similar services, such as boarding, shelters, pet stores, breeders, etc. which are often win-wins. You can help animals in need and ensure they’re getting the best care, while also gaining exposure to more pet owners who will require your services in the future.
Utilize communication channels (Mailers, Email, Text Messages) to provide more services
If you send out reminder emails, SMS or mailers, be sure to include other relevant services that they might want to include. Make sure that they’re relevant to the patient, breed and treatment that they’re coming in for already. Avoid anything that’s too specialized or invasive. It will be convenient for the owner, who won’t have to worry about scheduling (and most likely forgetting to schedule) these appointments at a future time, and make their visit even more productive! It also guarantees more revenue for your practice, and helps combat drop-offs. You can consider giving discounts if any of these are added on in the same-day appointment, or create popular bundles for them to “upgrade” to.
You should be sending email correspondence to keep them engaged between visits. with targeted campaigns (which you can draw from your patient records to fuel these segmentations), to ensure that they’re getting the most relevant messages and offers. This will keep your practice on their mind even when their furry friends are in top shape. Include any educational resources you create, to share their value. Automating email and SMS appointment reminders is a must for cutting down on missed appointments by as much as 80%.
Be accommodating of owner’s schedules
Availability is especially important to customers. Try to work around different schedules, with ample time either first thing in the morning (so concerned pet owners can drop in before work), or staying open later into the evening to help those getting home from longer workdays or commutes. You should always be in for at least one day over the weekend, or juggle scheduling so that one vet is there, even if it’s on a rotating basis. Also, provide access in case of an emergency, and try to set up a sustainable system for responding to these. Though you may worry about owners taking advantage of this, try to remain patient and empathetic to their concerns when it comes to their beloved pets.
Feature your specializations and expertise
Call out your specializations to boost confidence in specific areas. Too many practices think that taking a generalist approach is best, but when people look for general vet services (spaying/neutering, checkups, vaccinations, etc.), they won’t be dissuaded when they see your other qualifications and areas of expertise, rather this will reinforce your dedication to your practice, and make them feel more confident about using your services in the future. This will also help you be more easily found online by clients that ARE looking to solve a specific issue.
Make sure all your online and offline properties do the selling for you
You should treat your website and waiting room with a similar commitment to staying current. Your site is oftentimes the first impression that your practice will have on a potential client, so make it count! It shouldn’t be something you “set and forget”, but rather consistently update to keep offers and content fresh. Make sure you include testimonials from happy owners and provide lots of information on your offerings and specialties. It should advertise all current promotions or holidays. This also goes for your waiting room or lobby. Find ways to visually engage your clients while they’re waiting to see the vet. Create short videos that outline the benefits to different approaches and treatments. Seek to add value and educate more than sell or push services on your clients and you’ll find much more success!