This article is a 5.5 minute read
THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE
1. How to tell people your veterinary clinic exists
2. What pet-related information people look for online
3. How to beat online ad blockers
My family love Bondi Vet. They don’t mind watching Dr Chris Brown on other shows as well, but every time the Bondi Vet program—the one where he actually does veterinary stuff—comes on, there’s a rush to the TV. It’s a great promotion for his practice too. Any time the cat gets sick, the kids are saying, “Let’s take him to the Bondi Vet”. If only you could get that kind of marketing for your practice.
Well, actually … when you’re looking to promote your veterinary practice, you have too many choices nowadays. There was a time when you could just letterbox drop everyone in the suburb. But that takes a lot of effort for little result. Do you extend your reach by buying an ad on Facebook? Do you start a vet blog? Do you use pay-per-click Google ads? Do you try to make your own TV show? Do you just load up the credit card and do everything?
In ten years we’ve gone from having too few media choices to having too many. Some marketing experts will advise you to spread your advertising dollar as broadly as you can to get maximum reach. Others will focus in on social media or search engines.
But before you do anything, take a pause.
The most important thing you should be thinking of is not how you reach people. It’s what you’re saying to them.
Getting people to love your practice
My family don’t love Dr Chris Brown because they’ve seen an ad for his surgery. They love watching the stories of helping sick animals on his TV show. There’s no mystery there. People use all sorts of media—Facebook, TV shows, newspapers or magazines—for relaxing, educating themselves, or to be entertained. And we accept that part of that experience involves putting up with ads. Or making a cup of tea when they come on.
You don’t need a lot of academic studies to show you that ads are annoying. Everyone knows that. Ad agencies know it. They say that ads don’t need to be liked to be successful—they only need to reach people who want to buy the product. But that means the other 95 per cent of people who see the ad are avoiding it, or blocking it. Ads have been effective because you couldn’t turn them off, and because they have been sent to thousands of people (who also couldn’t turn them off).
But now you can. You can watch Netflix, or catch-up TV, or put an ad blocker on your computer. So how can you communicate with those people?
Take their perspective
A good starting point is to look at your marketing from their point of view. That’s hard. Forgetting your own objectives is counter-intuitive. But it’s necessary if you want to connect with people.
When someone is sitting down to enjoy their favourite show or magazine, or to surf Facebook, they don’t want random people they don’t know shouting at them to buy something. They do want to laugh, be entertained, and to learn something they didn’t know before. Not necessarily all at once. So they would rather see a funny cat video than your ad. And they would rather read about what dogs can sense than your ad. And exotic pets—they would much rather learn about whether they can keep a pet python than read your ad.
The best person to educate them about all those things is you. You, as a veterinary professional, know about whether they should buy their dog from a pet store or a puppy farm. And what they can expect from each.
Sometimes they will actively be searching out that information. They may not even know you are their local vet, but may be researching whether a pug is right for them, or where they should keep budgies, or if you can keep your lawn short by owning a goat in the suburbs.
None of those questions will be answered by a display ad urging them to come to your surgery.
You know a lot more than you realise. By sharing some of that knowledge with the wider world, people who are looking at it will start to find you. And that’s far more satisfying for both you and them than blocking or ignoring you.