Rhonda Basler leads the customer engagement and marketing team at Hallmark Business Connections, Hallmark’s B2B subsidiary. A dog person, she is especially fond of a dwarf hamster named Barbie. Follow her on Twitter at @rkbaslerRead Articles Written by Rhonda Basler
Dogs star in family photos. Cats bask and play in multilevel towers. Bunnies enjoy fresh-cut snacks while inside custom-built runs. Their smitten human companions wouldn’t have it any other way.
Knowing this, veterinary professionals have learned to cater to the “pet parent” mentality. Accordingly, practice teams refer to their patients by first names, talk to the cats and dogs during appointments, and show lots of courtesy and understanding when speaking about difficult end-of-life options.
Yet, few veterinary practices celebrate or recognize pet life events — birthdays, anniversaries and sorrowful occasions, for example. These are missed opportunities to do something incredibly touching for your clients. By celebrating the life events and milestones of pets, veterinary teams can increase client loyalty, generate referrals and reduce missed appointments.
Plenty of life events occur throughout pet ownership, such as a cat’s fifth birthday or a puppy’s first Christmas. Even National Dog Day, celebrated Aug. 26, and Valentine’s Day can be opportunities for fun and memorable veterinary marketing.
When it comes to pet life events, consider acknowledging them through cards and letters and in other ways. Here are examples of planned and unplanned touchpoints.
- “Congratulations on your pet’s adoption!” after a patient’s first veterinary visit.
- “Happy adoption day!” or “Happy birthday!” (This message, sent annually, is a great way to include wellness and dental care reminders.)
- “We LOVE taking care of your pet!” on Valentine’s Day.
- “Thank goodness for pets and thank goodness for clients like you” on Thanksgiving.
- “We’re sending our very best wishes to your pet” when an animal is ill or unlikely to recover completely.
- “We hope your pet feels better soon!” after an illness or surgery.
- “Congratulations on your pet’s healthy journey!” when an animal takes positive steps, such as progressing toward a weight goal.
Personalized life-event marketing also can differentiate and distinguish your veterinary practice. Generation Xers and millennials are becoming pet owners at rapid rates. Capturing their attention and then building an emotional attachment during meaningful, memorable moments lessens their likelihood of switching care providers. Outside of what occurs during a veterinary appointment, nothing comes close to being as impactful as life-event marketing when an adoring pet owner is told, “We know and love your pet, too.”
3 Expert Tips
Life-event marketing is different from traditional promotions and advertising. It focuses on the client journey, not lead generation. And when handled expertly, it can solidify the client-veterinarian relationship.
Here are key ways to fold life-event marketing into your veterinary practice in a way that feels genuine and seamless:
1. Formulate a life-marketing plan that includes accountability. For example, decide:
- Who orders different types of cards or marketing materials and mails them on time?
- Which team member is in charge of initiating “Happy birthday” or “Happy adoption” messages on the pet’s big day?
- Who will send handwritten sympathy cards to the owner of a deceased pet?
- Perhaps most importantly, who will create and maintain the calendar?
Everyone should know upfront the who, how and when of executing life-event marketing touchpoints. A hit-or-miss approach won’t appear authentic or garner a client’s attention.
The good news is that veterinary teams tend to enjoy sending personalized text messages and greetings. However, your staff members can’t prioritize the responsibility if they have to shoehorn a ton of other duties into their daily task lists. Decide which pet life events your practice will celebrate or commemorate, and follow up by tracking the effort to ensure that the tasks are completed on time and comprehensively.
2. Leverage direct mail. Digital communications can be part of your life-event marketing, but don’t overlook the U.S. Postal Service as a primary delivery vehicle. The postal service found that 64% of people say greeting cards make them feel special, compared with15% saying the same about emails. In fact, millennials are twice as likely to feel noticed and special when they receive a greeting card.
3. Express heartfelt concern and hope. Not all life-event marketing will feel happy and lighthearted. When the time is right to address tough realities, like the death of a pet or an animal dealing with a late-stage disease, be real. Empower your staff to make the correspondence personal and compassionate. An unexpected yet highly appreciated gesture might include a sympathy flower bouquet.
If your team needs help composing heartfelt messages, provide a toolkit to make the job less complicated. The kit could include greeting cards, notepaper and sentiment templates. Your employees won’t have to reinvent the wheel, but they can be empathetic in an individualized way.
Finding the right words isn’t always easy. A sympathy card sent upon a pet’s death can say this:
Dear [Client Name],
Our team is so very sorry to hear about the loss of [Pet Name]. After you and [Pet Name] spent so many years together, it’s clear that [Pet Name] was truly a part of your family. Please take the time needed to care for yourself and those close to [him/her] during such a difficult period.
Our deepest condolences to you and the loved ones who knew [Pet Name].
With love and care,
After a pet’s surgery, try this:
Dear [Client Name],
We’re sending our very best wishes to [Pet Name] during [his/her] recovery from surgery. This can be a worrisome time, so rest assured that you can always reach out to us with any questions or concerns.
We at [Practice Name] wish [Pet Name] a very safe and speedy recovery.
With love and care,