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Veterinary Practice News Editorial Blog:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Marketing to Your Team

By Katherine Dobbs, RVT, CVPM, PHR

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My head is full of memories from AAHA as I make my way back home from Long Beach—on three different planes, but nonetheless a good time to reflect. It was a great conference with friendly audiences, helpful people, and lots of sympathy for my gimpy broken ankle, which was sweet and appreciated. I couldn’t move fast, but I did get around … and the official story is somewhere in between injuring myself during the Olympics in Vancouver and rescuing a kitten from a burning building, take your pick (because the truth isn’t that exciting, lol).

While at AAHA, I had the pleasure of team teaching a marketing session with Cathy Suski, Robin Brogdon and Christine Merle. I want to take a moment to comment on internal marketing. This term can have two meanings—“internal” meaning targeting your existing clients (as compared to attracting new clients), and “internal” meaning targeting your staff or practice team inside your organization. We had a great question from an audience member about a practice like many others who have had to freeze wages lately. Yet the practice owner was ready to spend lots of money on a new marketing plan to generate revenue. First of all, there is some logic to this. During slow times, it is important to ramp up your practice’s exposure to the public, and make sure they understand what pets still need regardless of the economy. Yet it is also imperative to monitor the internal message you are sending to your team. These hard times are also hard on your staff, and they may come to resent money going out the door in the form of new brochures and marketing materials rather than going into their paycheck. Morale may suffer; then any new clients that may be enticed to your practice may not be greeted by a happy, helpful team. Then those clients may not return, and all your efforts have been for naught.

The fix? Like many issues, the answer lies in communication. Sit down as a team and discuss the financial realities of these times and where the practice stands. You don’t have to talk exact numbers, percentages are fine as long as you can compare the past years and explain the decline that has affected the team. Then let them be a part of developing a plan, both in marketing and beyond, so they understand that when money is invested in marketing, the goal is to increase the size of the pie so everyone’s piece is bigger! Get them on board, and empower them to help the practice improve and succeed. The team may have good ideas of how to focus the marketing message, or even how they can enact other cost-saving measures or revenue generating ideas to help the practice stay afloat. So many issues can be solved or prevented altogether by communicating as a team and realizing we are all in this together!

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