Prepare for post-pandemic success
Now is a great time to convey your practice’s brand and values through your communication, education and advertising.
If you’re wondering how your veterinary office should move forward during COVID-19 and after the pandemic, you can rest assured that you’re not alone. No practice owner saw this coming, and no one is quite sure when life might return to normal. But as the dust has settled, the best bets and smartest strategies have started to show themselves more clearly, and the smartest leaders have modified their marketing plans in response to shifting trends in consumer behavior.
While U.S. veterinary offices were forced to close for all but emergency procedures, we’re now seeing more and more states relax those rules, and the country as a whole seems to be headed toward recovery. This transition period is extremely important because while some veterinary offices abandoned their marketing strategies and decided to wait out the crisis, others have done everything they can to build trust in their communities.
As you return to normal operations, pet owners will remember the veterinarians who were there for them and will reward them with their business into the future.
To set up your practice for post-pandemic success, you must understand how consumer behavior has changed during this unprecedented situation. And even if some solutions might not be feasible for you, what’s important is to research the trends. The COVID-19 crisis forced people to solve their problems in new ways, some of which have a strong chance of sticking around for the long haul. After all, if consumers know they can check tasks off their lists more conveniently, why would they want to go back to in-clinic visits as their only option?
In many ways, the end of the COVID-19 crisis will signify a relaunch of businesses across industries and present an opportunity to re-earn clients’ trust. It’s important to be mindful that pet owners have new expectations of their medical providers, including veterinarians. Your practice’s brand and values have never been more important to convey in your communication, education and advertising.
Here are tactics you can use to maximize your efforts in those three key areas.
- Veterinary clinics should emphasize clear, consistent communication to existing and new clients — what to expect when they arrive, any new processes during patient intake, how they and their pets will be kept safe during the visit. You can share this information with existing clients via email and with potential clients on public channels like your website and social media pages. Since the decision to come into the office currently requires more consideration than usual, video can be a useful tool to engage with potential clients more personally.
- Veterinarians are increasingly utilizing telemedicine and other creative solutions to assess their patients’ needs. The Food and Drug Administration has temporarily eased certain requirements so that veterinarians can more easily prescribe medications via video chat. While telemedicine is a great option, consider how else you can reduce client costs, increase convenience and keep your practice environment safe. Curbside pickup or delivery of special foods and medicines, membership programs, and remote screenings are a few examples of what some veterinary practices are doing. Make sure your audience clearly understands the options you’ve put in place by putting them front and center in your advertising, website, social content, email newsletters and other communication.
- Because of conflicting information about the virus and the rate at which more is learned, you must take the initiative to educate your audience. Starting with the latest information about pet exposure to the coronavirus and its transmission, there is no shortage of topics that practices can and should address. At minimum, make sure your website has an FAQ page that is frequently updated with the latest information about the pandemic as it pertains to issues that concern pet owners.
- Research from NRC Health has shown that consumers have placed their trust in local health care leaders above nearly anyone, including news outlets and government officials. This means your messages will more than likely fall on receptive ears.
- You should still produce educational content on general pet wellness topics, like the importance of good nutrition, dental care and exercise. Now is the time to be a consistent voice of expertise on pet health and wellness to earn deeper trust with current and new clients.
- Use video and social media to maximize educational efforts while making a more personal impression. Keep your videos light and positive, and use sponsored posts and targeted social ads to increase your reach. Video has been on the rise as the most popular way to consume content, especially during the stay-at-home period, and is easy for smartphone owners to create. Just remember to cover topics relevant to your audience and be as informational as possible while avoiding sales pitches.
- Display ads present an important opportunity to showcase your brand and introduce your practice to new audiences. You can set up campaigns on the Google Display Network, which ensures your ads will be placed on the sites that your target audience visits most often, as well as on social media sites and other digital channels, like email platforms. Additionally, retargeting campaigns allow you to show ads to people who have visited your website or otherwise expressed interest in your practice.
- Many veterinary practices have stopped advertising during the pandemic, creating less competition and more favorable conditions for practices that are able to keep their campaigns running. Our veterinary clients’ paid search campaigns have earned higher click rates during the pandemic than before stay-at-home orders began, and the cost of digital placements has dropped across the board. The data suggests that even when pet owners are not able to schedule an appointment, they are still looking for information and resources from their local veterinarian.
Knowing pet owners’ needs and their changing purchase behavior can provide the insight you need to create a marketing plan designed to deliver the most effective communication and new patients to your practice. Even though the pandemic has turned lives and businesses upside down, people will always want to offer their pets the best possible care from a provider they trust. Taking action now will help set up your practice for long-term success in your community for many years to come.
Andrea De La Cerda leads the medical strategy for Scorpion, a marketing and technology company. Learn more at www.scorpion.co.