SVP of Commercialization Services, MWI Animal Health
Julia Loew currently serves as the Senior Vice President of Commercialization Services at MWI Animal Health, a division of AmerisourceBergen. In her role, Julia leads the strategic direction for the company’s sales and customer service teams, development and execution of business development plans and budgets for securing new customers and expanding opportunities for the current customer base, managing strategic business relationships and commercialization processes, and enabling growth across the Companion Animal segment. She is driven to achieve results through an exceptional customer experience while developing a highly engaged and motivated team.
Prior to her current role, Julia was the Senior Vice President of US Pet Health at Elanco Animal Health, where she was responsible for the development and execution of the commercial strategy and the pet health portfolio within the US veterinary channel. In her time at Elanco, Julia also served as Vice President of Global Companion Animal Marketing, Executive Director of Commercial Operations Companion Animal for Europe, Middle East, and Africa and additionally, Executive Director of Channel Strategy and Sales Force Excellence for North America. Julia’s career spans over 25 years in the Animal Health industry spanning both the Companion Animal and Food Animal businesses.
Read Articles Written by Julia Loew
When running a busy veterinary practice, with all the everyday challenges that brings, it can be hard to fit all the information you need to relay to pet parents into one office visit. But having discussions around preventing fleas, ticks, intestinal worms and heartworms from biting, infesting and, in some cases, even potentially killing pets across the United States is not only good medicine, but also a billion-dollar business. And while it’s one that is often outsourced to information and product providers like Dr. Google and online pharmacies, it should be a consistent revenue stream for veterinary practices, both big and small.
The financial implications of not intentionally addressing this category go beyond potentially losing sales of parasiticides themselves and can contribute to further losses if the relationship with the practice is weakened. It makes good business sense for practices to put robust plans in place to convince clients to keep their prescriptions and sales of parasiticides in-house.
Veterinary practices can lose significant revenue every time they approve a script for an outside vendor. Flea, tick and heartworm products alone represent about 11 to 15 percent of a veterinary practice’s revenue, according to an American Animal Hospital Associations survey of about 500 practices across the U.S.
On top of that, practices also run a set of diagnostic tests ahead of prescribing these items, particularly when you consider heartworm products. Potentially, that practice revenue from additional tests is also lost if your customers turn to other sources to fill their prescriptions.
There can also be a snowball effect. Once a consumer has made a purchase from other channels, they may turn to that source to purchase other chronic medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory or dermatology products.
However, there are steps that you can take to help ensure these sales stay in your practice.
1. Help your customers understand that cost is not always the most important issue
While customers may be primarily focused on choosing low-cost options, it’s important to note that patient care is the key differentiator when it comes to having conversations about buying preventatives. For example, many products are contraindicated in certain patients based on their other medical conditions or their species.
Making a mistake in purchasing the wrong product can not only be very expensive but can also be harmful to the pet. When a customer orders from their trusted veterinarian, they are also buying the peace of mind that comes with knowing they are purchasing a product that is suited to their pet’s unique needs, directly from the professionals who care for them.
Veterinary practices know not only the patient, but also the environment where the pet lives. Therefore, they can make medication decisions that are the best choice for the patient, and they also consider the challenges and hazards that pets face every single day from the surroundings in which they live. For example, pets living in a whipworm endemic area should be using a product that helps to treat this dangerous parasite and prevent further infestation in the pet’s environment.
That kind of information is not going to be uncovered during an online purchase, and, as every veterinarian knows, whipworms are an extremely frustrating parasite once the animal has been infected, as the hardy nature of the eggs in the environment leads to a high re-infection rate.
There are also misconceptions you can address with your clients about the pricing of parasiticides from larger vendors, versus buying direct from veterinarians.
The manufacturers of parasiticide products understand that the veterinarian’s recommendation is paramount and, as such, know that they need to cultivate that relationship. Trusted veterinarians bring expertise about their client base, their medical history and local knowledge about what works best in their region. As a result, manufacturers often add promotions to incentivize the veterinarian’s recommendation and are willing to work with them on price.
Another crucial point you can raise to clients is that these products have medical guarantees if they are prescribed within a valid veterinarian-patient relationship. Should a dog test positive for heartworms while on the product supplied under a veterinarian’s care, then the manufacturer will often pay for the treatment. Heartworm treatment protocols can be very expensive and lengthy, so that guarantee can make a significant difference to the pet owner.
Manufacturers may also ensure that if a purchase happens through a veterinary practice, there are redeemable incentives, such as coupons or instant rebates, which further add up to making your veterinary practice a competitive place to purchase the product. Average resale prices for a product at an outside vendor, compared with the price a veterinarian can obtain based on consumer offers from the manufacturer, have significantly leveled the price-point playing field.
2. Communicate effectively with customers
We know veterinary practices are busy and may feel they don’t have the time to communicate individually with pet owners. However, marketing technology is one way that practices can leverage the power of their data to reach out to their client base and communicate effectively and competitively. It’s something online competitors are already doing. To stay in touch, always make sure you have current email addresses for all active pet parents, and ideally their mobile phone numbers for two-way texting with clients.
Let’s take client compliance, one of the biggest challenges that all veterinary practices face. Communications tools mean you can send a quick compliance message, reminding customers that they’re nearly at the end of their prescription, and need to refill, saving staff time, and leveraging your own data to work for you. Or, in cases where there are new products that could be a better medical solution for the client, a message could recommend the client comes in to discuss it, and perhaps offer an incentive to come in and purchase from the practice.
Utilizing technology such as communication engines also has other advantages: it’s not just driving compliance, but also adherence. Everyone needs a reminder now and again, and making your reminders digital, through both email and text, will result in more compliant clients.
No matter how good the technology is, ultimately, we know that one of the biggest drivers to keeping clients and their parasiticide purchases in-house is the knowledge and medical history the veterinarian has about their pet-patient. While the pet is getting flea, tick and heartworm preventatives, the veterinarian may recommend other preventive procedures such as prophylactic dental care – further strengthening the veterinarian-patient relationship and providing opportunities to support other preventive procedures.
3. Prioritize customer convenience
Convenience is another aspect that can make a difference for customers. It’s vital to ensure that your practice is set up to have a convenient way for a transaction to happen, for example by making it easy for a customer to walk into your practice and quickly and easily buy medicine or by offering a home delivery option. Enrolling pet parents in your own online ordering portal while they are at the practice for their annual visit is a great idea to build knowledge of your service.
Home delivery is another critical component for any veterinary practice, both in terms of convenience and affordability. Another solution is building parasiticides into your preventive care plan so clients can pay for the medication throughout the year, helping to ensure they won’t go to your competition for the medication. They’ll go where it’s most convenient, getting the medication from a source they trust — your practice.
If you have a home delivery model for preventative care, you can move to a monthly payment plan instead and fit your business into your clients’ lifestyles. By offering both convenience and affordability, your practice becomes more competitive.
Taking parasiticide sales seriously has overwhelming benefits that can make a real difference in building your practice’s success. And putting a robust plan in place will empower your clients and your staff to take the steps necessary to improve their pets’ health as well as your business.
Visit us at MWI Animal Health to learn more about our parasiticide compliance solutions.