(This article is a 7-minute read)
THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE
1. The difference between an audience and a client
2. How to create content that engages an audience
3. How having an audience lets you compete against bigger practices
When most veterinary clinics think about their website content, they think in terms of their products. Those products may be services like ‘pet behaviour classes’, or ‘pet dental treatments’. They produce an individual page for each product or service they offer, publish it, and don’t think about it again. But for veterinary website content to work well, you need to think about it from a different point of view.
Before someone brings their pet into your clinic, they don’t know what’s wrong with it. They don’t even know whether they need a whole diagnosis. They just know there’s something a bit wrong with their furry (or scaly, or fishy) friend. So they go online and start Googling their problem.
Depending on how they phrase those search terms, the answers they get may or may not match the content on your website. Even if Google does manage to send them to your site (it’s a pretty clever search engine), they will be faced with a lot of information about pet behaviour classes, desexing and so on. And that information may not match up with the problem they think they have.
Creating an audience for veterinary website content
If you try to create a landing page on your site for every possible diagnosis you can offer any pet, you’ll go mad. That’s not the right solution. A much more efficient way to approach your content is to write about problems from the point of view of your clients. To think less about your products, and more about your audience.
An audience is different to a group of clients. A client is someone who's visited your clinic in the past, and knows who you are, where you are, and what you do. It's most likely they've come away happy from that experience, and if you're very lucky, they'll tell other people about how happy they are, too.
A client, by definition, got your last piece of advice.
An audience, by contrast, is a group of people who want to hear your next piece of advice.
An audience is made up of a group of potential clients. They haven't necessarily been to your clinic yet, but they are interested in what you have to say and how it helps them solve their problems. And they have one other important thing in common.
An audience actively wants to hear from you. That makes them different from a group of strangers, who may or may not have pets.
An audience is loyal to a person. Audiences aren't loyal to brands. They don't necessarily sit there and say, "I want to go to Jones Street Vet Clinic." They say, "I want to see Fred the vet."
Currently, you probably don’t see every pet owner in your catchment area. But the ones who are probably going to like and trust you are the ones who are a bit similar to those who already know you. Most future customers are more likely to come from an audience of people who know about you or have read the content that you produce than they will from an audience of strangers.
An audience gives you a competitive advantage
A lot of smaller and medium-sized veterinary clinics are concerned about the competition faced by big brand corporate groups that are moving into the veterinary space. Having an audience of interested potential customers give smaller clinics an opportunity to compete with those big brands.
Small clinics don’t have the marketing reach of the big brands, but you don't need a large marketing reach. All you need is to have the respect and interest of people in your local area.
You can define the size of that local area, and you can target individuals in there with content that might help them.
You create an audience by giving people information that solves their problems. Those problems aren't necessarily ones that will immediately lead them to coming into the clinic with their pets today. But they will be interested in specific issues around either particular breeds of pet, or particular types of pet.
How an audience interacts with content
There's a subtle difference, then, in the content that you would produce for an audience, as opposed to the content that you would produce to sell your products.
For example, if you're an expert in exotic pets, you might list your qualifications on your website. That in itself is very interesting. But if someone has an exotic pet and don't have an immediate problem to solve, they’re not going to hunt down your qualifications.
They just want to know a little more about how to better look after their iguana, or how to feed it, or how to keep it comfortable. If you produce content that helps them and specifically addresses those questions, you're more likely to start building a relationship with them.
It's far more likely that person will become a customer if they've been interacting with your content.
In conclusion, if you approach the content on your site as an opportunity to build an audience, as opposed to an opportunity to tell people about your products and services, then you'll have a lot more success in getting them moving in towards making a booking and seeing you than they would if they were just strangers, and had seen your sign passing in the street.