Almost 70% of U.S. households have a dog or cat, and these domesticated animals are living in style. U.S. pet owners spend over $75 billion a year on pet products, according to an American Pet Products Association survey. That includes food, toys, clothes, bedding, and accessories. But they also allocate more than $18 billion annually to healthcare. It’s clear that people want to take good care of their pets. That makes the veterinary industry big business.
There are roughly 30,000 veterinary clinics in the U.S., according to an AVMA Report on the Market for Veterinary Services. About 85% of them are independent practices. But some franchise veterinary businesses provide unique opportunities that indie practices can’t provide, like financial support, state-of-the-art equipment, continuing industry education, and mentorship. They also help with marketing veterinary services. Which brings us to our subject at hand.
Here are eight great marketing ideas for veterinary practices. Put these concepts to work for your veterinary business and watch your number of clients and profits increase.
1. Define Your Unique Selling Proposition
With so much competition for the business of proud pet owners, do something that sets your practice apart. As you begin assessing marketing ideas for veterinary practices, look at what unique benefits you can offer your customers—aka your USP (unique selling point). This is a marketing principle that dates back to the “Mad Men” era of advertising. It was during that time that businesses began creating campaigns with USPs to convince customers to switch brands.
Pet Depot is one of the top independent retail and veterinary pet franchises. Their unique hybrid retail/hospital brand covers eight U.S. states with more than 30 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. Pet Depot’s USP gives them something that other pet franchises don’t have. Veterinarians can operate a joint retail store and hospital location, which leads to client retention and a higher ROI. Doctors steer customers to their adjoining store while walk-up retail customers are given an opportunity to become hospital clients.
Whatever your “angle,” be sure to to communicate your brand’s unique benefits to your consumers. This will give you top-of-mind awareness and assist with forming a positive impression in your consumer’s eyes.
Lucy’s Veterinary Care Brings Healthcare to Your Pet
A regional franchise brand with a unique selling proposition is Lucy’s Veterinary Care. What sets Lucy’s apart from most veterinary care facilities is the fact that they’re mobile. On any given day, their office moves from one furry patient’s house to the next. If you have a pet, you likely know the pains of visiting the vet. For a variety of reasons (the car ride, confinement to a crate, unfamilar pets and scents, etc.), many animals resist a trip to the vet. Lucy’s found a way to deal with that problem by putting their practice on wheels. This allows them to provide the same quality health care, but in a familar environment. This greatly reduces the anxiety many pets feel.
Talk about an outstanding USP. If you can set yourself apart in a manner that eliminates the common problems associated with your practice, you’ve greatly increased the chances of winning the loyalty of new customers.
2. Get New Patients in the Door with a Special Offer
What’s arguably the best way to get customers through your doors? Give them something for free. Banfield Pet Hospital, a national franchise with over 1,000 locations, offers new customers a free pet exam on their first visit. This gets people into their local office to see what the practice is like. Plus it gives the doctors and staff a chance to prove themselves to pet owners.
A free first visit is an enticing incentive, but let each customer know what they can expect. Banfield uses fine print in their offer to mention that it’s exclusively for new pets and that they only accept dogs and cats (your 20-foot boa constrictor is out of luck). They also say that “restrictions apply” to cover all their bases.
When your new visitors leave, try to schedule a follow-up visit. If they accept, you can use variable data printing to personalize their appointment reminder. This allows you to not only use their pet’s name (“It’s time for Clia’s checkup!”) in a reminder postcard mailing, but you can also customize it with a photo of a dog or cat.
BingleVet Clinics has a network of franchised locations that offers limited-time free baths to go along with their veterinarian services. When you bring your pet in for a routine checkup or any other service, they’ll get a free spa treatment, too.
Whatever veterinary marketing method you use to get new customers into your office, be sure to send them away with a great feeling about your practice. Consider giving them a parting gift and information, and follow up with an email and/or direct mail piece that thanks them for visiting. A word of best practice customer service advice: try sending a handwritten message. This will show how much you care.
3. Try Direct Mail to Attract New Local Residents
Use variable data printing to create truly personalized mailings that include things like the recipient’s pet’s name and breed.
To prove that direct mail’s still an effective marketing medium, let’s look at the history of direct mail marketing. It worked in the 1400s, it works today, and there’s no sign of it slowing down in the future.
In fact, direct mail’s response rate for U.S. households is now over 5%, and the return on investment is almost 30%. It’s a $44-billion industry that’s rapidly growing. That should be incentive enough to give this flourishing marketing medium a try.
Here’s one particularly useful call for direct mail. When pet owners move, they’re immediately searching for a new veterinarian for their four-legged friend. This opens the door for you to introduce yourself to them with an eye-catching and incentivized direct mail piece. By targeting new residents with pets in a specific zip code, you can let them know why you’re their best pet healthcare option. Use the aforementioned free first visit (or other impetus), plus testimonials and reviews to get them to select your practice.
Getting the direct mail results you want takes work, but there are proven methods for achieving outstanding response rates and return on investment. Here are a few of the more popular ones to speed up your campaign results:
- Use direct mail timing to schedule your campaign to arrive on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
- Personalize your direct mail with variable data printing.
- Try postal optimization to save money and reduce waste.
- Employ omnichannel marketing to coordinate all your marketing channels.
- Get creative with the look of your direct mail piece to capture your recipient’s attention.
- Monitor your results so you know which campaigns were successful—or not.
When you take the time to develop a strategy for your direct mail marketing campaigns, you greatly increase your chances for success.
4. Use Marketing Automation to Save Time and Money
To understand how to make the most of your marketing efforts, let’s first define marketing automation. Marketing automation simplifies repetitive marketing tasks like sending email responses, creating social media posts, and executing website actions. It’s software that automates repetitive marketing actions and reduces campaign management time by as much as 80%. For the sake of this article, let’s focus on how you can use marketing automation as part of your email efforts.
Consider an automated email marketing workflow where you cultivate leads until they become customers. Marketing automation allows you to give consumers personalized messages that serve their specific needs as they move through the marketing funnel. In the case of marketing veterinary services, you’re giving pet owners the information they need to make an informed decision regarding their pet’s healthcare. You’re also providing them with an incentive along the way to give them the nudge they need.
Let’s say you have a targeted list of prospective clients and you send them an email asking them to download your latest e-book about vaccinations for their pet. When they download the e-book, you follow up with an automated thank you message. After a few days, you send another automated message that provides further information regarding a specific type of vaccination or other health-related topics. It could be a case study or another piece of content from your website. If they continue to access information and show an interest, they’re likely ready for a more personal interaction, like scheduling an appointment. This is when you can confidently reach out to see if they’re ready to bring their pet into your office.
5. Turn to Social Media to Keep Consumers Informed and Interested
Social media should be an integral part of your marketing strategy. After all, almost 75% of marketers believe it’s effective for their business. This includes veterinary practices. You can create posts that keep both current and would-be customers engaged with your franchise business on a regular basis. For example, try posting helpful information and tips for pet owners so they can take better care of their pets.
You can also show off your brand’s personality with posts about your staff with pictures of some of your current four-legged patients. Did you know there’s a “World Veterinary Day?” There’s also “National Bring Your Cat to the Vet Day,” “National Dog Day,” and so many more days devoted to pets. Use these special occasions to your marketing advantage because they provide reasons for creating interesting and entertaining content.
If you also offer products for sale (like pet food and treats, bowls, accessories, etc.), run a contest that allows your social media followers to enter to win. Your posts will likely get shared, which will only increase the number of people that see your content.
6. Answer Pet Owner’s Questions on Your Website’s Blog
One way to improve your brand’s reputation is by providing valuable content on your website. In fact, as an authority on pet-related health topics, you can serve your customer’s needs in more ways than one. That means aside from providing them with the best health care, you can also keep them informed with content that educates and entertains. Take the opportunity to compile typical questions your customers have asked and thoroughly answer them. This makes you the authority on the subject.
PetWellClinic has three locations in Knoxville, Tennessee, and they serve their local customers with website blog content ranging from pet behavior and health to heart-wrenching stories about dogs and cats. You can follow suit. It’s a great way to show off your knowledge about a variety of relatable subjects and to highlight your brand’s personality and vision. Not only can you demonstrate your wealth of knowledge about the veterinary industry, but you also show that you have empathy and a heart for the pets you serve.
Don’t Forget to Use SEO Best Practices When Marketing Veterinary Services
Naturally, you’ll want as many people as possible to read your posts, so be sure to use the best SEO practices and avoid typical copywriting mistakes, especially as it relates to veterinary medicine. Here are a handful of tips to watch with each post:
- Always start content projects with keyword research. You want to optimize your content to rank for search terms that people actually use.
- Consider your typical customer’s intent. What specific topics and phrases are they searching for?
- When you’re writing, include synonyms and related keywords. You can rank for these terms, too!
- Think about your user’s perspectives and solve their problems with your content. This is not the time or place to brag about your accomplishments. Save that for your bio page.
- Write clearly so everyone can understand what you’re saying. Don’t use fancy veterinary jargon or difficult medical terminology to explain something.
7. Offer Rewards for Referrals
According to a Nielsen report, over 90% of consumers trust suggestions from their friends and family over an advertisement. This opens the door for a rewards program where your current happy clients can tell people about your veterinary services.
Research shows that customers acquired through referrals have an almost 40% higher retention rate than those that don’t. Plus, about 80% of consumers are more likely to engage with a brand that has a rewards program.
So how do you go about asking your current clients to tell their friends and family about your practice? For starters, you can come right out and ask. When clients are in your office, politely ask them if they would be so kind as to mention your business to their pet-owner friends. As an incentive, offer them something in return, like a discount on a future visit or free merchandise.
Aside from that straightforward method, there are other retention marketing best practices you can apply. When you communicate with an established client via email or direct mail, include a sentence about rewards for referrals. Make it clear what they’ll receive in return, and make it worth their while to introduce one of their friends, associates, and/or family members to your business. Also, you can design an attractive handout to post at your front desk or in a display rack. The more succinct and rewarding the message, the better chance you’ll have of getting a referral.
8. Achieve Brand Consistency with a Brand Management System
Brand consistency matters. Research shows that when you consistently present your brand across all your marketing channels, you can increase your revenue by approximately 25%. A brand management platform gives you the best chance to accomplish this. You begin by adopting brand compliance guidelines, but they’ll only work if you enforce them. It helps to make them readily available via a cloud-based system where each of your authorized franchisees has 24/7 access.
Dogtopia, the fastest-growing franchise in the pet industry, employs a veterinary scientist at each of their 123 locations. At their current growth rate, they’re on pace to open 400 centers by 2023. Achieving brand consistency with that many locations is no easy feat, but Dogtopia provides assistance with marketing and branding, digital and social strategy, and public relations efforts. On the subject of brand awareness, they mentioned:
“Franchises have an established brand, proven management and work practices, access to national advertising, and ongoing support. Customers are usually more comfortable with what they’re familiar with and working with companies they already know and trust.”
BlueSky ETO helps some of the world’s best brands discover why brand consistency matters. Your engineered-to-order brand marketing center will assist your distributed marketing team in delivering localized campaigns while maintaining your brand’s global identity. Contact BlueSky ETO to schedule a free brand consultation.
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