(This article is a 9 minute read)
THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE
1. How to get patients actively following you online
2. How to convert those followers into frequent clinic visitors
3. What you don’t learn in veterinary practice management courses—the step-by-step process.
Learning about veterinary practice management can teach you some great veterinary marketing strategies. You are probably already using them. You have your website. You have a social media page. But there are no courses in how to get pet parents actively following you. And even if they are following you, how do you get them into the clinic?
There is a way. The reasons no-one spells it out is because the timing is different for every pet parent. Also, those who are doing it don’t want to tell you. Because they don’t want competitors doing the same thing.
The other problem is the results are dependent, to a large degree, on you. Yes, you. Think about it—people don’t bring their pets to see your practice. They bring them to you.
Effective veterinary marketing starts with understanding what you’re selling. And the first step in achieving it is accepting you’re selling yourself and your skills.
You can’t force people into your practice. And you can’t assume that they will come to you just because you’re there. Even if you’re the only veterinary practice in the district, pet parents don’t automatically book with you even if their pet is sick.
People almost always have complex motivations for doing things. And they are busy (because everyone is busy nowadays). When they have a sick pet, they might decide for reasons of cost, or timing, or convenience, that they can’t see a vet.
I know I have cancelled vet appointments for my cat just because I can’t catch the cat, and I need to get to work.
The reality is people work to their own timetables. Not to your promotional timetable. You want to talk to them? Then they have to know, like and trust you first.
Being trustworthy shouldn’t be tricky for your average vet. Do your job well and be compassionate, and existing pet parents will love you. But it’s not as easy for clients who haven’t been to the practice.
A word-of-mouth strategy will not work if none of their friends or contacts have pets. Actually, a word-of-mouth strategy isn’t a strategy at all. It’s an excuse for not marketing yourself. Even if someone has had the most wonderful experience in your practice, there's no way you can guarantee they will tell others about it.
If you want to talk to people, you have to make the first move. And it's not that hard. You're not asking them on a date. You are simply introducing yourself.
You have to publish content, and you have to do so regularly. Many vets will publish three or four blog posts, then nothing for a year. That sends a message to your reader that you are too busy to give them information they want.
If you publish regularly, you send a message to people even if they aren't reading every word you write. That means publishing at the same time every week or every month. You are proving you're reliable. Being reliable is the first step in being trustworthy.
Secondly, try to publish stuff that is either useful or entertaining. Even better if it's both. But if you write something, ask yourself, is this either useful or entertaining. If the answer to both is No, don't publish it. Choose another topic.
Don't despair. You don't have to write something that will set the world on fire with its originality. But it is okay to be a little controversial or opinionated. Many businesses shy away from that, but a strong opinion, well-argued, is entertaining to read.
If you blog consistently, and your writing is useful and entertaining, people will be more likely to trust you. Because they will feel they know you.
There's no point in going to the effort to write something if no one knows it's there. Yet one common feature with many veterinary websites is they hide the blog under a menu called ‘blog’, as if they're a bit embarrassed by it.
You wouldn't open a clinic and not put up a sign. You shouldn't write a blog post and not tell people about it. The two easiest ways to do that is via an email newsletter and through social media. We wrote about this before in an article called Talk to the animals.
If you're concerned about how much time that would take, you can get software which automates a lot of the process. The easiest and cheapest options are apps like CoSchedule or Hootsuite. There are many others. I only mention those two because I know them and have used them.
In the past, vets or practice managers may have worried about having the time to make themselves available. You know that a lot of non medical questions can be answered easily. You just don't know if you'll be available when people want to ask them.
Once again, there are automated solutions to that. There is a whole category of marketing automation software where you can set up a series of answers to such questions.
For example you might have some content about what people can do if they have a sick dog. Turning that content into a PDF is very quick and easy. Then make people fill out a simple form on your site so you can automatically email it to them if they want to know about that topic.
Don't ask for too much information on the form. Just their name and email address. But in the background, set up a series of follow-up emails over the next few weeks. The first might suggest some things to look for if the pet is still unwell. The second might be some things to look out for in the future which indicate other symptoms. These emails can be set to send automatically after a certain period of time.
Make sure to include your contact details at the end of each email. Also include a gentle reminder that you can answer more specific questions if they make an appointment.
If you make yourself predictable and reliable, people will trust you more. If you make yourself visible through regular communication, it gives customers social proof of that trustworthiness. And if you use marketing automation software, you can be there to answer basic questions at any time convenient for them. Even if it's not convenient for you.
When you follow these steps, the journey from finding you online to walking through the doors of the practice becomes clear. It won't happen immediately because it takes time to build trust. But it will get you a better quality of client who is loyal and trusting of you. Why not try it for yourself?