Today’s veterinary clients are online whenever they have a question, need, or desire. Researching a vet is no different.
- Do cats need a dental?
- My dog has a lump and needs to be seen asap.
- I want my vet to let me schedule appointments or order prescription refills online.
With social media, many prospective clients want to find the solution on the internet. They want to reduce the possibility of a bad choice, and so they do their research. They are a well-informed bunch, and if you are not participating in this information explosion, you are missing out on a big opportunity to show yourself off to the world in the way YOU want to be seen. You control the message, the look, the vibe of the clinic.
What percent of practices have a functioning website (without selling any items)?*
- 70% of all practices
- 59% of practices with 1 full-time vet
- 83% of practices with >3 full-time veterinarians
- 60% of practices with gross annual revenue <$500K
- 78% of practices with gross annual revenue >$1MM
- 77% or practices less than 10 years in current location
- 68% of practices more than 30 years in current location
What percent of practices generate income from items sold on their website?
- 18% of all practices
- 16% of practices with 1 full-time vet
- 15% of practices with >3 full-time veterinarians
- 12% of practices with gross annual revenue <$500K
- 18% of practices with gross annual revenue >$1MM
- 16% or practices less than 10 years in current location
- 19% of practices more than 30 years in current location
So, where do you fall? If you have a website (kudos to you!), does it make the kind of first impression you want to make? Is it useful and attractive? Clients (both current and prospective) will look at your website to measure how up-to-date you are compared to your competitors. Are you back at the turn of the century?
If you haven’t yet developed a website, there are several vendors that make it incredibly easy. Optimally, select a partner that will grow with you as you increase the desired functionality of your website, such as online appointment requests, client access to their pet’s files, online Rx refills. Also, you can email vaccination and annual check-up reminders (saving postage and paper), post blogs, articles, and newsletters. Another “plus” to having an interactive website is that you can more easily gather testimonials and surveys. And gathering feedback will enable you to make changes and improvements that are most important to your client base. Critical to this success, moreover, is finding a vendor that can integrate with your practice management software; this will also help you to target mailings to specific patient populations (puppies, cats, senior dogs, etc.) in your practice.
SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
While a website is your first impression with a prospective client, continuing posts on social media are the conversation that keep the client involved and interested in the relationship (besides your fabulous patient care!). With your posts, you manage your online reputation, so having a clear social media strategy is critical to your overall marketing plan.
What percent of practices actively use social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest)?*
- 73% of all practices
- 63% of practices with 1 full-time vet
- 79% of practices with >3 full-time veterinarians
- 64% of practices with gross annual revenue <$500K
- 81% of practices with gross annual revenue >$1MM
- 76% or practices less than 10 years in current location
- 73% of practices more than 30 years in current location
Note that nearly two-thirds of even the smallest practices use social media as part of their marketing campaign. Are you? If not, do you think that your client base doesn’t use it? Or that it wouldn’t make a difference to your practice? You may be right, but I doubt it. Because any positive, continuous exposure you put out there (even cute pics of your client’s pets, with their permission of course!) will add to your base, and your clients will only become more integrated with a practice that takes pride and joy in their profession, as well as give them valuable advice.
Now, the real question is how to grow your practice using social media. Offer discounts only via your website or one of the social media platforms. YouTube a tour of the office. Blog about some of the questions you’re frequently asked by clients. Add photos of treatments and procedures, explaining the advantages to your pet. If your website is integrated with your Facebook, a visitor’s comments on your website about how much they love Dr. Wonderful (you!), will be distributed to all 200 of the visitor’s friends on Facebook as a referral from one of their friends.
The first item of business is to determine which social media platform(s) will be found by your target audience (if you’re not found, it’s pointless!). Then determine who will manage the content so that it is relevant and consistent. But not annoyingly frequent. Here’s a great Q&A on social media for veterinarians: Intouch Vet Veterinary Social Media Marketing FAQ
And their best practices/how-to’s:
The bottom line: Keep it simple, fun and informative. And be yourself. Once you invite others into your world and they see your passion, you’ll have clients for life.
So what are you waiting for? Get started with setting up your website (or improving your current one) and adding one social media platform (likely Facebook or Twitter). Hire a specialist in the field until you feel comfortable taking it on. Because if you do nothing regarding social media, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with clients and grow your business.
*Source: Financial and Productivity Pulsepoints, 8th Edition. Colorado: AAHA Press, 2014.