You probably still lure in some new clients with the old standby marketing method commonly known as “word of mouth.”
Yet, you probably are becoming increasingly aware that this once-reliable strategy is not nearly as effective as it used to be.
Blame the economic climate or the information superhighway: Certainly there are many factors at play. What’s most important, however, is understanding that even a great reputation and location can’t guarantee your practice will continue to thrive and grow in this competitive market.
So what can you do to build visibility and promote your business? Here are the Top 5 Marketing Strategies, followed by five common mistakes you should never make.
‘DO’: TOP 5 MARKETING STRATEGIES
1. Have A Marketing Budget: It’s a painful truth. You must spend actual dollars on marketing. It costs money to properly promote your practice. Be prepared for the expenditures with a reasonable, well-planned budget that amounts to about 8 to 10 percent of your net sales. Sound exorbitant? Consider this: That’s what your smart competitor is spending.
Bottom Line: With the right marketing plan tied to your budget, you’ll get enough new business in a year to defray the cost.
2. Develop A Marketing Plan: Strategy is necessary when marketing your practice. Without a plan, you invariably spend more money for less effect. Map out your strategies on a calendar. Decide which audience to target each month. Assign a budget and goal for each activity.
Bottom Line: Don’t go down the marketing road without a reliable map.
3. Focus On What’s In It For Your Clients: If your glossy, expensive brochure has content about your state-of-the-art surgical equipment for anterior cruciate repair, you may be missing the point. Clients don’t care. The message of all your marketing materials should focus on “what’s in it for clients.” Inasmuch, they must feature information that is accessible to clients. It’s great that your surgical suite is well-equipped, but it may be more important to say that your staff is friendly, pets receive world-class service, and the rates are affordable.
Bottom Line: With every single marketing material, above all, answer this question for the client: “What’s in it for me?”
4. Include A Call To Action: Even if your ad yells out “We’re Here and We’re Great!” you still might not get the calls you’re hoping for. Why? You haven’t given your potential clients a reason to pick up the phone. That’s where the “call to action” comes in. For example, a discount coupon on your website says, “Cut this out, bring it in and receive a free pet examination.” Notice, too, that this call to action helps you track where the new client came from and in turn, which marketing efforts are paying off.
Bottom Line: When pitching your practice to potential customers, you must tell them what you want them to do with the information you provide by asking them to take action to do business with you.
5. Use An Experienced Marketing Company: A good marketing company will save you time and money. Your expertise is in animal medicine, not marketing. So why not call in the experts? If you think a marketing company will cost too much, you are wrong. These firms know how to work within your budget to efficiently accomplish your goals.
Bottom Line: If you go it on your own, chances are good that you will get caught in some of the following five marketing mistakes.
‘DON’T’: TOP 5 MARKETING MISTAKES
1. Don’t Stuff Small Spaces: You may be tempted to buy a tiny ad promoting your veterinary practice and stuff it full of messages, offers, and claims. Don’t succumb to this temptation. Your message should be clear and simple and include that call to action. Studies show that you have three seconds to grab your reader’s attention. Make the headline intriguing and the message concise or your audience will be lost.
Bottom Line: Keep it simple. Clutter and chaos turn people off.
2. Don’t Concentrate On One Medium: When you decide to make a brochure, it’s easy to get caught up in the project and blow the budget on one piece. Communicate your brand and message across many different platforms. Include your well-designed logo with signature colors on your website, brochure, signs, business cards and hospital forms.
Bottom Line: Diversify: There are many creative ways to promote your veterinary practice. It’s a mistake to concentrate on just one.
3. Don’t Continually Revamp Your Message: When you change your message on a whim, you don’t give your practice time to realize the effectiveness of marketing strategies. Get feedback to help identify what you’re doing right. It’s OK to test your latest marketing idea on a focus group or advisory panel. Surveys work well, too. Until you find out what is working and what is not, however, frequently changed messages just confuse potential clients.
Bottom Line: Get feedback and stay on message to learn where your marketing and advertising dollars are doing the most good.
4. Don’t Overlook Office Staff: Too often practice owners aren’t in tune with the information the front office staff sends out to customers. Make sure they know your vision for the practice. Share your ideas and listen to theirs. Make sure that everyone communicates the important message that your veterinary hospital is the best possible place to get expert and compassionate care for pets.
Bottom Line: Administrative staff interacts with clients constantly in person and on the phone. Be sure everyone understands the importance of a unified message.
5. Don’t Underestimate The Importance Of Marketing: To paraphrase an old adage, “Without marketing, a terrible thing happens: Nothing.” Your income depends not only on new clients, but also on repeat business from established clients. Done with diligence, your marketing efforts reach both of these crucial audiences.
Bottom Line: If you underestimate the importance of marketing, your client list is bound to suffer.