(This article is a 10-minute read)
THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE
1. The 5 problems most vets face with their marketing
2. The solutions to those problems
3. How to measure your marketing
The most common veterinary marketing problems is not getting enough clients. It’s a problem because often you don’t know why you’re not getting clients. Existing clients seem happy. You do great work. But down a bit further, and you find that there are five regular problems that occur again and again.
The important place to start is with a simple misunderstanding. A lot of people assume that marketing is about sales. So the only way that you can measure whether or not your marketing is successful is based on the number of sales you're getting. That seems like a logical conclusion. Sales and marketing are parts of a process and if one's not working, it's probably the fault of the other one.
Marketing leads to sales, but it’s not about sales. It’s about finding and defining an audience who will buy from you. They're very different things. Trying to sell something to someone before you know them is like trying to treat an animal before it's been brought to your clinic. It's not actually possible to offer any worthwhile treatment if you haven't been able to diagnose what the problem is.
marketing problem #1: I'm a vet, not a marketing guru.
You've spent six years at university, learning how to become the best veterinary practitioner you can be. You’ve worked as an associate, and now that you've set up in a clinic, you're realising that you don't actually have the business skills or knowledge to do the sales and marketing side.
You're not alone. Many people in healthcare find they have the same problem. Your primary focus is on making pets well. It's not on selling things, or on getting up some fancy marketing campaign.
The solution: Chill out.
You don't have to be a marketing guru to do marketing well. You can do it very simply. Obviously there are some people who have quite complicated and clever marketing campaigns, and good on them. But to make your marketing work, all you need to do is define an audience, work out what they want to know, and start to talk to them. By doing those three things, you're creating a market. A market is a group of people who will potentially buy from you.
marketing problem #2: I don't have a big enough budget.
When you look at great marketing success stories around the world, they're very rarely small veterinary clinics. They tend to be stories about big brands like Coca Cola and McDonald's, and you know that there's no way you will ever have the same amount of money to spend on your marketing that they do. They seem to have bottomless pockets.
The solution: Be smarter about how you spend
Nobody in marketing has a big enough budget. Even the very big marketing companies don't feel they have a big enough budget. But you don't have to start big if you're smart about it.
Of course, 'zero-budget' marketing is a fantasy. It's not possible to build an audience without spending any money at all. Marketing is an essential item for any business. You either pay for it in money or in time. Zero budget marketing is a bit like zero budget equipment. It's probably not that trustworthy, and it probably won’t work.
So you should either work out a percentage of your time or a percentage of your budget you can devote to marketing. Once you have those two things in mind, you can work out your marketing budget accordingly. It’s good business to know what you're paying for and what you expect as a result of your payments. Knowing what you’re paying for and what you should be getting as a result means you’ll never feel your marketing budget is anything other than just right.
marketing problem #3: I've tried everything and it doesn't work.
Many veterinary clinics have tried the traditional methods of putting ads in the Yellow Pages or sending a letterbox drop around their area, and get very little response. So they try using Google AdWords or Facebook Ads, and still, it doesn't seem to make a material difference to the number of people who are coming into the clinic with their pets.
There’s only so many ways you can try talking to people… what other options do you have?
Solution: Use the right tool for the right task
It’s possible that everything that you've tried to date involves buying access to a demographic rather than building your own audience. A demographic a group of people with common traits. Those may be gender, or location, or income. While a demographic group may all live in the one area, that doesn't necessarily mean that they all need your services. Any demographic area you look into will have a mix of young families, single people, older people, and many others.
An audience isn't defined by where they live, but by their interest in you. Your first choice in defining an audience, and defining a market, is working out which groups of people in your local area you want to talk to, and which ones want to talk to you. A decade ago that would have been a very tricky task, but today there are digital tools that make it very easy and effective.
marketing problem #4: I've got a website, but why would anyone ever bother going there?
When your clinic was set up, you probably also created a website, as a brochure that existed online. Like a brochure, you haven’t paid much attention to it since. If you’re in the minority, you may have used Google analytics to look at the number of people who are visiting your website. That’s depressing, isn’t it? But you don’t know why anyone would want to come and see it in the first place.
Solution: Fix your website. It’s not a brochure.
Your website should not be a brochure. It should be a trusted source of information. The information on it should be added to, expanded and corrected regularly. It’s not something you set and forget.
marketing problem #5: I’ve spent a fortune reaching the biggest audience I can, but it doesn’t seem to matter.
Many clinics will try a variety of methods to get their brand out into the world. Sometimes it's hard to keep track of everything that you're doing. So you rely on word of mouth recommendations because it seems to be something simple. And all you need for good word-of-mouth is to be the best vet you can be.
Solution: Look at the right numbers
It's good to reach for the broadest possible audience, but only useful if you see that quest as one step in a process. The next step is to narrow down and define the target audience that you want. The third step in that process is to get that audience to know, like and trust you.
Those five problems bedevil many practices. The first step in solving them involves understanding that your marketing is part of a sales and marketing process. It’s not something you do once and forget. It’s an ongoing cost to your business, in the same way any other process of doing business is.
If you expect any business process to magically happen without knowledge or effort, you’re going to come unstuck. Imagine if you approached your bookkeeping like that. Or your payroll. Or infection control. Understanding how and why you are doing marketing is the first step in making it a successful part of your business.