Socially Acceptable columnist Caitlin DeWilde, DVM, is the founder of The Social DVM, a consulting firm helping veterinary professionals learn to manage and grow their social media, online reputation and marketing strategies. She earned her DVM from the University of Illinois and is a recipient of its Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Before stepping back to focus on her marketing passion, she served as medical director for a large hospital in St. Louis. Today, she divides her time between practice, consulting and writing. She is the author of the “Social Media and Marketing for Veterinary Professionals” textbook.Read Articles Written by Caitlin DeWilde
For years, much of veterinary marketing has focused on bringing clients — any client — into the practice. Anyone with a pet in a 10-mile radius will do, right? However, if we learned anything over the past two years, we sometimes want to attract only the right client, the one who will appreciate our services and unique offerings and treat our staff members with respect. It’s truly quality over quantity.
Whether or not you’re trying to grow your clientele and bring in more VIP pet owners, we can refine our marketing audiences so that it better resonates with them when we publish content. So, how can you define your ideal clients and refine how you market to them?
Your Ideal Clientele
I’ve written about the importance of knowing your marketing “why.” Knowing your “who” matters, too. Together, this one-two punch can knock out your marketing woes. When you’re thinking about to whom you want to market, it’s easy to focus on these critical demographics:
- Age: Does your practice cater to young families or to older clients without kids at home?
- Location: From how far away does your practice draw? Which neighborhoods are nearby?
Those are great places to start, but more specifically, who are “your people”? You know, the existing clients you enjoy seeing. The ones who keep their pets safe and healthy, accept your recommendations, support your business, and treat your staff nicely. No searching or targeting is necessary; they are the clients with whom you established a great relationship.
So, do whatever you can to fill your appointments with more of this type of client. It’s time to create a VIP list.
Very Important People
You and your team should identify the top 50 clients. While many clinics might compile a list based on client revenue or the number of visits, I encourage you to use it only as a starting point. Pass the list around and determine who’s missing. Who spends a lot but is not a great client? Cross off those people and add your team’s favorites to arrive at the 50 clients your team loves as a whole.
Other ways to look for VIPs include:
- Checking your Facebook page’s Top Fans.
- Identifying everyone who left a five-star review on your Facebook, Google, Yelp or Nextdoor platforms last year.
Now that you’re clear about to whom you want to market, make sure your marketing reaches these VIPs. Rather than targeting your boosted posts and social media ads to a broad audience of pet owners within “X” miles of your practice, focus on VIP clients and closely matched potential audiences. Here’s how.
Create Target Groups
Start a VIP spreadsheet manually or by using your practice information management system. Then, upload it into Facebook as a custom audience list. Now, when you boost a post or run an ad on Facebook or Instagram, you can target individuals on the list.
Another tip: You can do the same with your entire client list, which makes marketing to every one of them easy.
If you’re accepting new clients or open to growing your practice, go a step further and create another targeted group called a Lookalike Audience. Facebook will perform next-level analytics and identify people similar to your actual audiences.
Refine Your Marketing
Now that you defined your ideal clientele and set up a way to target them, it’s time to connect with those VIPs. Marketing to existing and special clients is different because they know your practice and most of your offerings. So, instead of trying to convince them of your practice’s awesomeness, you can spend more time building the relationship, demonstrating value and using marketing to increase their use of certain services. For instance, you might encourage them to book online instead of calling, use your online pharmacy and download your mobile app.
When you know your audience better, you can provide the content of most interest or benefit to them. Refining your marketing to match their preferences means they’re more likely to engage with it by liking, commenting and sharing.
How can you make sure you know precisely what your VIPs want? Here are some tips:
- Survey: Keep it short and sweet, but ask through which social media platforms they prefer to connect with your practice and the type of content they’d like to see.
- Email: Do your clients, especially the long-standing ones, know that your practice has a presence on social channels and review websites? Perhaps it’s time to remind them and ask for their support. So, send a quick email containing hyperlinks to all your platforms.
- Check out the insights: Are you posting to Facebook and Instagram on the right days and times for your audience?
- Check out follower insights: Are your top age, gender and location demographics aligned with what you’ve defined as best for your clinic? If not, paid boosts and ad targeting might be needed to ensure that the right pet owners see your content.
- Get hyperlocal: When a cute Labrador puppy comes into your practice, you’re tempted to blast a photo with the #labpuppy hashtag. While the image undoubtedly will get a ton of likes, the responses most likely will be from people hundreds or thousands of miles away who will never step foot in your practice. Instead, check for a local hashtag that would apply, such as #puppiesof[Your City] or #labsof[Your City].
- Engage with the engagers: If followers comment on, tag or share your content, thank them. Answer their questions and like their photos.
- Take advantage of user-generated content: If clients check in on online platforms, post photos while at your practice or tag your clinic in their Instagram pics, they’re begging you to look. These people are publicly telling everyone on their followers lists that they visit your practice and that your team loves their pet almost as much as they do.
Over time, your refined marketing to VIPs, existing clients and the hyperlocal, online-engaged community will improve. While the process requires an initial investment in money (targeted ads to a custom audience) and time (identifying clients and online engagers and tailoring content to their needs), the result is a more active and authentic audience.
- Custom audience: An ad-targeting option that lets you find your existing audiences among Facebook users. You can use resources like customer lists, website traffic, app traffic or even Facebook engagement to create custom audiences of people who know your practice.
- Lookalike audience: Facebook uses demographics, interests and behaviors to find new people who share similar qualities. When you use a lookalike audience, your practice’s ad is shown to people who are similar to or “look like” your clients.