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
Doing all your marketing in-house is great if you have the time, personnel and skill, but outsourcing at least part of it can improve efficiency and deliver new ideas and strategies. Here is some guidance.
Q: When should I consider outsourcing my marketing work?
A: I’m a firm believer that the best marketing content is generated in-house. Your team knows your clientele and what resonates best. Photos, videos and written content that come from your team’s unique voice can set you apart from the competition. But at the end of the day, no amount of marketing will help a practice that can’t achieve its primary goals of excellent patient care, strong client relationships, and a healthy and sane veterinary team.
Your practice might benefit from contracting with a marketing professional if:
- The marketing isn’t getting done due to a lack of time.
- Your practice doesn’t have anyone else on staff who is interested in or wants to learn about marketing.
- A marketing team member is on a leave of absence.
- Significant changes have occurred in ownership, hours, staff or competition.
- You are training a new marketing team member and need professional support as the person ramps up.
- Your practice’s marketing workload is more than the team can handle but not enough to justify an additional in-house person.
Q: Which marketing efforts can be outsourced?
A: Luckily, you don’t have to go all-in. Outsourced responsibilities can range from minor edits and one-time projects to long-term, complete management. Examples of partial outsourcing might include:
- Editing video footage you shot for use on your website.
- Custom graphics for your social media platforms.
- Ghost blog writing for your website or email newsletters.
- Short-term help with emails, social media, blogs or advertisements you design.
- Those individual projects can cost from $40 to $200 or more, depending on the workload.
- Complete outsourcing, for $200 to $1,000 a month or more, might involve:
- Website design and hosting, and regularly updated ghostwritten blogs.
- Branded social media graphics, posting and analysis.
- Emailed newsletters on your behalf.
- A combination of the above and more.
Q: How can I best decide what to do?
A: The following five steps will help you decide who does the marketing.
1. Inventory all your marketing efforts and the companies with whom you work.
These might include your:
- Social media platforms
- Email marketing
- Online advertisements, such as through Yelp and Google Ads
- On-hold phone messaging
- Print marketing
- Appointment booking
- Practice apps
List the services, the cost and how much time your team spends on each.
2. Look at the results.
Think about the “why” behind your marketing. Is it to drive appointments, build loyalty or increase awareness? Whatever your objective, your marketing should help you achieve your goals. If something isn’t working, kick it to the curb and focus your efforts elsewhere.
Key sources of information for checking the return on investment are client referral reports (if your registration form collects the data), your social media page follows and engagement rate, your email open rates, and your website page hits.
3. Contact your marketing partners.
If you’re working with a particular company on one marketing avenue, see whether you’re taking full advantage of its services. Many companies expanded their offerings during the initial months of COVID, so you might be able to consolidate marketing programs and services. Some companies offer free marketing assets and training. Your website company might be able to handle your on-hold messaging or email newsletters. If you like and trust your current vendor, check in before contacting a competitor.
4. Compute the time and finances.
Look again at your list, in particular the time necessary to complete each task. Is the time within your original budget projections? If you can’t accommodate any more staff time, outsourcing might be the better option.
5. Check in with your team.
Does your team enjoy marketing? If the person in charge of a particular effort is inexperienced or has no interest, the task will take longer and you might not be happy with the results. Conversely, you might have a team member who likes sending email newsletters or crafting the social media calendar.
Remember that only your team can do some things, such as impromptu hospital photographs and videos, answering direct comments or reviews, and knowing all about particular topics. However, a marketing vendor could take that video and do the heavy lifting of editing, branding, captioning and posting. Find out what your employees like to do and can manage and what they dread. You might be surprised.
Choosing the Right Provider
If you decide to outsource your marketing, invest some of the reclaimed time into finding the right company. You can easily give simple, one-off projects like video editing or business card design to local or online freelancers not involved with the industry, such as those on upwork.com and fiverr.com.
For complete outsourcing or long-term projects, find a provider that:
- Knows the veterinary industry.
- Has a good track record.
- You’ll enjoy working with.
Remember that the reason you’re hiring a vendor is to get better results and reduce the stress and time spent on your end. You’ll want to find an individual or company that can complete the job efficiently and with your best interests in mind.
When you’re considering a long-term provider, some key questions to ask are:
- What is the company’s veterinary industry experience?
- What is the approval process? For instance, can you review content before it appears online or is sent to your clients?
- What is the turnaround time?
- Does the company work with nearby practices that compete with you?
- What kind of analytics are tracked, and when will they be delivered?
- What is the cost?
There is no right or wrong answer as to whether you should outsource your marketing. In the “pro” column, outsourcing anything means that your team is free to do other things, that knowledgeable marketing professionals will do the work for you and that your marketing should continue to meet your goals. The cons are the cost and the risk that your marketing loses your practice’s authentic feel.
Whatever your decision and whenever you can, keep capturing photos and videos that showcase your team and set measurable goals so that you can assess what’s working. Continue to check in on your social media pages, website and marketing materials to ensure the delivered product is in line with your goals.