This post comes to us from the incredible Dr. Jessica Vogelsang.
If you told me when I graduated vet school that I’d be spending a good chunk of my future working hours writing about marketing, I’d have laughed in your face. Loudly. I spent four years pushed to the limit just to learn medicine, and now I’m supposed to start over again learning business? Just hand me my scalpel and leave me in peace.
And yet here we are.
You go to VMX or WVC and come back filled to the gills with all sorts of new techniques you need to learn to improve your surgical outcomes, lists of all the equipment you need to upgrade, and in the meantime, you’re still dealing with the person in Room Three fighting over the cost of an ear swab.
Question: If you were to list your top frustrations as a clinician and/or business owner, which would register higher?
- I don’t know how to fix this pet.
- The client won’t agree to what I need to do to fix this pet.
Veterinary medicine is the best it’s ever been. We are smarter and can perform more incredible medical miracles than ever before. If you’re looking for bang for the buck in the new decade, piling on more medical tidbits onto your already vast knowledge base isn’t going to pay nearly as many dividends as focusing some attention on your clientele.
If you look at veterinary marketing strategies (if you could call it that) from the good old days, it sort of went like this: Place Yellow Pages Ad. Get bodies in the door. Success.
But as medicine has evolved at an exponential rate, we’ve found the client’s willingness to go along with it hasn’t always kept pace. Our limiting factors, for the most part, aren’t about our medicine, it’s about the client.
On the extreme end: I remember sitting in the ICU at Davis with a dog who’d just gotten an experimental kidney transplant for the low low cost of about $35,000. She flew in with a minder on the owner’s private jet. I think we can all agree that most pet owners wouldn’t have made it to that point in the “medical options” playlist.
On the other extreme: the “rabies only” visit, whose owner doesn’t want you to address the obesity, the dental disease, the heart murmur, cataracts, the masses, or the ear infection. They are scattered between the two extremes, your potential clients.
As a clinician, and as a practice, you have a comfort zone somewhere between those two extremes. You have a list of things you do well, a philosophy of care, and an approach that you’ve arrived at to help pets live their best lives. And when a client comes in with a different philosophy, a different comfort zone, you’re immediately set up for conflict as you both try to get the other side to align with what you think they should be doing. After tons of back and forth, you both leave the room unhappy, and the client goes to Yelp and leaves a one-star review.
The happiest veterinarians I know are the ones who’ve let go of the idea that they are the solution to everyone’s problems. They don’t waste time on people who are antagonistic from the get-go and are happy to say “todaloo” when it’s clear values aren’t aligning. Instead, they focus on helping people who want to be there.
That’s where marketing comes in.
Most clinics I see try to market pet health and veterinary medicine as an overall idea. They educate about heartworm testing, and vaccine schedules, and the importance of dentals.
They don’t market themselves.
When clients look at your website or your social media accounts, and it reads the exact same as every other site with the same wording and the same stock photos, how do they choose where to go? Are you letting some amazing clients walk away from you because you were afraid to toot your own horn and stand out from the place down the street? Hint: Showing off a picture of your slick new dental rad machine isn’t enough.
I’m not big on resolutions, but I’ll make an exception for marketing. You don’t have to go full ad agency on your clinic to make a difference. Start small, with tweaks to your site to make it more personal to you. Hammer out your brand identity and your ideal client so you can make messaging that appeals to them. See what happens when you set out to actively engage your perfect client and convince them that you two are a partnership made in heaven.
And THEN show them your awesome new dental machine.