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
Marketing isn’t just about posting on your clinic’s Facebook page once a week or sending out an e-newsletter. It’s not just about sponsoring a local youth football league or erecting a new sign out front. Successful marketing is like multimodal disease management — treating a complex condition requires more than one therapy. Just like we weave medications, treatments, nutrition and environmental changes to help patients, we must look collectively at our social media, website, email, digital communication and advertising. Used in concert and with a cohesive plan for measuring success, we can market our practices better.
A quick disclaimer: I’m not suggesting you use every marketing tool. Pick a handful that resonates best with your clients and is doable for your team.
Comprehensive, multimodal marketing can pay off big for a veterinary practice. For example:
- Increased awareness of and accessibility to your services and products.
- The better setting of client expectations.
- Less client frustration.
Given our new post-pandemic “normal,” a possible recession on the horizon and, for some, the first seasonal slowdown in a while, now is the time to reevaluate your marketing strategy.
Start by listing all the promotions and information you send into the client-facing void. Then, gather the team members who handle those duties. For example, the person who oversees social media might not be the team member who deploys the email promotions or app notifications or the one who manages in-clinic campaigns or decides the verbiage in preventive care reminders.
Get all the doers together and reinforce your why: Why are we marketing our practice? Is it to book more appointments? To increase app usage? To hire new team members? Your practice might have multiple whys, which might change in a few months. That’s OK. The people marketing to your clients need to know “why?”
Next, discuss the promotions and messaging you use or will send over the next month. If you don’t have anything planned, pick one objective. For example:
- Book an appointment at our practice.
- Leave a review.
- Download our app.
- Visit our online pharmacy.
- Learn about a medical condition.
At this point, reevaluate what you’re spending in time and money to narrow your strategy based on what your practice can afford in labor costs and advertising dollars. Focus on what your clients indicate they prefer, where they like to interact and what your team can accomplish realistically. Remember, it’s better to have a quality presence on a few marketing channels than a haphazard, inconsistent presence on all of them.
Get the Messaging Right
Think about how you can coordinate your marketing efforts. How can you ensure that your clients get the same message, the same info and the same ability to act no matter where they look? The same message must be communicated consistently, whether on social media, email, app or website. By placing your message across your platforms, clients will access what they need wherever and whenever they want.
Once your team has identified a marketing goal, brainstorm content. For instance, if the goal is to increase positive online reviews, a multimodal marketing plan could look something like the chart below.
Secrets to Success
Now that your marketing team is on board and everyone is working toward the same goals and consistent messaging, let the rest of the staff know. This step is critical if you’re launching a promotion, discount or new service. If the front desk doesn’t know anything about the latest email or Facebook ad and a client asks about it, frustration erupts.
At my clinic, we set a new marketing objective every two months and inform the team about the topic in our Slack workspace. We’ll say something like, “Hey, everyone, we’re going to push senior cat wellness topics in January and February. A $25-off bloodwork promo is effective 1/1/23. See me if you have any questions.” The notification is short and sweet and gives everyone a heads-up.
Monitoring your marketing efforts is an essential part of your multimodal strategy. Just like you’d recommend a recheck exam for a sick patient or more bloodwork after starting a new therapy, checking in on your marketing payoff is important. For example:
- How many people opened the email?
- How many clicks did the landing page get?
- Did your practice make progress toward the primary goal, such as more reviews or additional appointments?
While you might not see success immediately, you’ll learn over time what works for your clients and team. If things are going well, you can focus on speeding the process, lowering the advertising cost per click or applying the process to a new objective.
Remember that most practices can’t do it all. By starting small and defining your why, identifying your clients’ preferences, and getting a consistent message across your platforms, you will build the scaffolding needed for successful (and likely bigger) marketing in the future. Even in its smallest forms, you’re delivering a consistent message to clients and improving their access to information, ultimately saving time and allowing your team to focus more on helping pets.
THE TRUTH COMES OUT
The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association recently asked its members, “How do you collect information about your clients’ wants and needs?” The most common response (65% of survey respondents) was “Track reviews on social media.”