This post comes to us from the incredible Dr. Jessica Vogelsang.

Imagine you’re looking for a restaurant to celebrate a special occasion. You Google restaurants in your area and all you see is this:

“Antonio’s, a Place for Food.”

The website features stock photos of spaghetti, salads, and some grinning people in an obviously staged restaurant holding drinks. Under the About Us section, you read the following:

“At Antonio’s, we treat every customer like family. Our food is made every day right here in our kitchen.” (Uh, I’d hope so.)

How in the world are you going to know if that place offers the experience you want? You’re not sure if it’s a fast-casual, special occasion, or somewhere in between. If you showed up with your significant other for an anniversary celebration and the place turns out to have a ball pit, you’re going to have a bad night.

Why take the chance? You’d probably pick another restaurant, one who makes it clear that they are THE place for a romantic dinner.

What Vets Can Learn From Restaurants

The restaurant industry is smart. Owners know in a world of cutthroat competition, they need to stand out and be very clear about what they offer to attract the diners who want what they have. They know that customers who come in expecting one experience and getting another is a fast track to snarky Yelp reviews. Not everyone is the right fit.

In this respect, they’re light years ahead of the veterinary world. Here, we suffer from “Yesitis”: the strange, pervasive, and entirely untrue idea that whatever it is the client needs, we can fulfill it. After all, we’re the vet: we know best.

As a result, almost every clinic out there markets themselves the same way. “We treat your pets like family,” followed by a bland list of services offered by every other clinic in the county. Seen as interchangeable providers of the same old same old, clients have no reason to choose one place over the other, and end up price shopping because hey- they’re all the same anyway, right? Might as well go with the one who is going to cost the least.

You all know the 80/20 rule, yes? It applies to a lot of phenomena:

  • 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients.
  • 80% of your problems come from 20% of your other clients.

This is what happens when you promise to be everything to everyone because the hard truth is- this is impossible. I know why we say this- because we know we’re capable of helping animals, any animal, and the limits, opinions, or finances of the owner doesn’t change what the pet does or does not need.

But it absolutely affects what we can and cannot do. This reality doesn’t change no matter how hard you try, and when there’s a mismatch between what the veterinarian recommends and what the owner wants or is capable of providing, sparks are going to fly. We find ourselves frustrated when we can’t convince the owner to do what we’re recommending, and then waste hours trying to reverse engineer an acceptable plan. They feel guilty, or pressured, and react accordingly.

It’s exhausting. Spend two seconds in any veterinary Facebook group, and you’ll know just how bad it gets.

Why Branding Matters So Much

We’re never going to eliminate these frustrating interactions entirely, but I am convinced we can reduce them. Yes, there is a time and a place to educate the general public about the value of what we do, but to put the entire burden on the veterinary team at the time of illness when everyone is already stressed out isn’t the right answer.

What we really need are more clients in the books who trust us, and already understand the value in what we do. Customers whose skepticism about Bravecto or vaccines doesn’t need to be overcome, because they’ve already decided that they trust you as the authority on the topic will make life so much easier. What we need are fewer clients who enter the door assuming they’re about to be taken advantage of right from the start.

It’s not your problem to resolve their opinions. It’s your goal to sort them out before they even make the appointment and allow them the chance to choose a different clinic. And that’s where a strong brand with effective web copy makes such a difference.

Only You Know What Makes You Shine

Only you know what makes your clinic shine, what your unique skills and services are, and who represents an ideal match. Maybe you’re a 10-doctor practice, which makes life easy for busy professionals with extended hours and weekend appointments. Perhaps you’re a solo practitioner whose hands-on approach makes every client feel as though they are an essential member of the health team. Maybe you are a low-cost clinic whose mission is to make sure all pets receive the wellness care vital to pet and human health. These are all great clinic models. And they are all very different.

All clinics are not created the same, and the truth is there are plenty of less-than-ideal clients out there who would prefer someone else. They are a bad fit for you, but they are not bad people for wanting something someone else offers. A strong brand message on your website helps them to see that you are the wrong fit before they make the appointment. This is a GOOD THING.

And just as importantly, it makes you a beacon for your unicorn clients. Strong branding helps the ideal client realize from the moment they land on your homepage that you are the one for them.

Here’s the kicker: unless you figure out what makes you different and communicate that on your site, that’s never going to happen. The good news: it’s entirely doable. This is why I’m so thrilled to be joining forces with WhiskerCloud to help you develop your brand and attract the right clients for you. They’ll build an amazing website- now it’s your job to make some magic with the right messaging. There’s so much bang for your buck, and no one wants to take advantage of it. Why not? Change some words, change your life.

The alternative: Be Antonio’s, the restaurant everyone wanders into, but no one really loves.