Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Avoid trivializing a pet’s exam with incomplete medical reports

Medical reports are one of, if not THE most important piece of communication that pet owners receive from a practice. This report has the ability to do many things, including:

  • Raise client awareness about potential health issues
  • Demonstrate the thoroughness (i.e., VALUE) of the exam
  • Identify health concerns / areas that need to be monitored
  • Help make the client a PARTNER in their pet’s care
  • Overall, help clients to become better pet parents

A recent example from one practice was a single sheet of paper that listed a dozen or so areas of the pet’s examination including heart, kidneys, ears, eyes and others.

There was a space beside each of these and in it, was hand written a single word. In this case, “normal.”

There are several problems with this approach.

First of all, it trivializes the pet exam.  If the annual or bi-annual exam is as important as veterinarians say it is, it must be made to look important.  Remember this sheet of paper is all he client walks away with. For them it IS the exam.  Boost the perceived value of the exam by providing specifics.  This means more than a “normal” / “abnormal” response, but instead provide a report that includes:

  • Specifics as to what the veterinarian observed
  • Additional testing that may be recommended (see second point below).
  • What a particular pet might be prone to given age, breed or lifestyle
  • Explanations as to what the different elements of the exam – and related diagnostics -- look at / look for

Second, in this case, the exam report was not accurate.  The first item on the list was”heart.”  I asked the practice if they had done an echo on the pet.  They said, “no.”  Then how could “normal” be the definitive answer?  Use the exam report to introduce and educate pet owners about the possible need for additional diagnostics. Let them see that, in some cases, definitive answers are impossible without them.  This is especially true for pets who at risk or vulnerable to certain diseases due to heredity, age, breed or lifestyle.   

Third, the typical  medical report only identifies the pet’s health on the day of the exam.  True pet wellness care is not practiced at the time of the annual or bi-annual exam.  It’s practiced ALL YEAR with the pet owner as the veterinarian's partner.  Use the medical exam to not only report on the pet’s status on the date of the exam, but to EQUIP pet owners to become an active participant in their pet’s year-long care.  Do this by identifying what the pet owner can do to keep his/her pet healthy with information on :

  • What to watch out for
  • Their pet’s vulnerabilities
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Activity and exercise

Today, many pet owners are bypassing veterinary exams and instead relying on the Internet and their local pet supplies retailers for pet care advice.    Clients need to be convinced that the veterinary exam is worth the money. If the medical report is viewed as being trivial, so might the exam. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Should practices be concerned about low-cost Spay/Neuter?

A neuter for $30.  A spay for $50.  Plus two for one deals.

Should veterinary practices be concerned by the growing number of low-cost S/N clinics?

We know a lot that are and are worried that the increasing number of such clinics will significantly impact their revenue.   We also know of practices that are actively referring pet owners to these clinics when they cannot afford regular veterinary fees for these services.  One such practice even posts the local low-cost clinic on its website.  Are they crazy?

We don’t think so.  Here’s why:

1.  Pet owners who cannot afford spay / neuter services at a conventional veterinary clinic – and are seeking reduced-cost services -- are probably not your primary market.  Remember that segmentation is key.  Your practice can’t be everything to everybody.

2.  Pet owners who go to a low-cost S/N clinic still need preventive care for their pet.  By referring them elsewhere, the practice is maintaining a good relationship and building trust.  This honesty may end up bringing the pet owner back for other care.

3.  Pet owners talk to other pet owners.   If treated well, they will pass this along.   

4.  Spay / neuter, for most practices, accounts for 10 percent or less of annual revenue.  So it’s not a big money-maker for most practices.


Some practices  make it a point to inform pet owners that by going to a low-cost clinic their pet will be getting sub-standard care.  We are certain there is inequality in the standard of care among many practices.   We are not sure how this is being measured.  We would think that if a clinic – or any practice gets a bad reputation for negative outcomes, pet owners will look elsewhere. 

Bottom line is that veterinary practices should not worry about the low-cost clinics taking away their business.  Instead, they should worry more about what they are doing to make themselves irreplaceable among pet owners.  When pet owners can see value they can not easily get elsewhere, they will not even think about going somewhere else.

What do you think?  We would love to hear from practices on this! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Veterinary marketing: There’s a big difference between attracting a few clients & growing a practice

If you’re excited about getting a few more clients, don’t be.

Attracting a few new clients (or customers) is easy.   It’s keeping them, growing them and becoming the trusted veterinarian they send their friends to that gets little more dicey.

Today’s consumers are fickle.  They change service providers on a dime.    This happens when shoppers are unable to see value above and beyond what they can get down  the street.  It happens when they don’t see a difference between what you provide as compared to the other guy.  So they might price shop.  Or they might respond to a promotion or special.  For many consumers, it doesn't take much for them to go elsewhere.  (Studies show that today’s consumers are risk averse – they are more compelled to try to avoid the WORST of anything than they are to expect or seek out the BEST.) 

So for veterinary practices, it’s easy getting pet owners to check you out.  Getting them in the door the first time is easy.  They’ll try that new practice that just opened.  Or they’ll try the place with the new website, or the place that’s offering that introductory vaccine special.   

But keeping them enthralled with you is a different story.  This is what growing a practice is all about.  It’s about building a relationship that provides so many benefits, it’s hard to change.  It’s It’s about  helping pet owners understand and EXPERIENCE value they can not get easily down the street.   It’s about earning their trust – and ultimately earning it to the point that they become disciples for the practice – the best kind of marketing you'll ever have. 

So don’t get too excited when you get a few new clients coming in y our front door.

Instead, pay attention to the back door.  the more important count is how many you haven't seen in awhile.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Attracting & retaining clients: the difference between Promotion & Marketing

A recent Linked In post about National Pet Dental Health Month shared an idea for a dental promotion.  The promotion apparently asked clients to send in pet pictures.

The person making the post remarked that the practice already received seven email pictures in only 2 hours!

PROMOTIONS in which a practice invites clients to submit entertaining pictures or stories, participate in contests, etc., are fine as long as they are not mistaken for marketing.

The practice that is serious about MARKETING dental care – or any other services – recognizes that this is not something that you wrap around an observance and hold once a year.  Instead, you drive it all year with a focused marketing strategy.
  • Who are the best targets?
  • What are clients’  resistance points?
  • Which patients are at highest risk?
  • How can we gain traction – and credibility – with our message?
  • What makes dental care compelling – why should pet owners should pay attention?
  • What are the consequences of poor dental care?
  • What are the benefits of good dental care?
  • What are the success stories?
  • How can we ENGAGE clients?
  • How can we make clients a partner in their pet’s dental care?
Dental disease is a serious subject.  As we learned when our orange tabby stopped eating.  Our last vet said “bad tooth – needs to come out.”   Sent us home.    Happens again a few months later.  “Whoops – another bad tooth – needs to come out.”  Sent us home.  NEW vet – “You have an Orange Tabby.  I want you come over here.  See these red spots . . . “   

And you know the rest.  He (the orange tabby) now gets his teeth cleaned regularly and he gets regular check ups.  We -- his family now understand why.

The point -- BUILDING your dental services areas – and increasing client involvement  cannot be done through an annual PROMOTION. 

Yes, its National Pet Dental Health Month – and that’s great.  But if you really want to grow this area at your practice, you’ll look at ways to MARKET this service instead of just promote it. 

To schedule your FREE one-hour marketing consultation, contact Linda Wasche at or 248-253-0300.

Do you have a particular marketing question or dilemma that you would to see addressed in  a future blog?  Email

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Marketing has to be an “inside job.”

When veterinary practices talk about marketing, I frequently hear them say something like, “We are looking for someone to ‘do’ marketing for us.”   Or, “So and so ‘does’ our marketing for us.”

Marketing is NOT something that you go out and hire somebody to “do” for you.   Marketing is something that you ADOPT.  When you adopt marketing principles at your practice, you make a commitment about the way that you are going to run your practice. 

Practices that embrace marketing are making a commitment to:
  • Being market driven, i.e, CARING about the local community and identifying its needs.
  • Understanding pet owners – and what’s important to THEM and not just to the practice.
  • Determining what represents VALUE to pet owners – and delivering it every step of the way.
  • Being proactive – and looking out for clients and their pets beyond the transaction.
  • Recognizing that not all pets are the same and delivering a level of care that takes into account pets’ unique heredities and health risks.
This is marketing.  It’s understanding how to connect in a way that is hard to find at the practice down the street.  It’s creating services that are in touch with the marketplace and  delivering them to the right targets in the right way at the right time.

It’s creating a practice that is so in touch it’s hard for any pet owner to go down the street.

Marketing is not something that you do.  It’s not creating a new website.  It’s not posting a bunch of stuff on social media.  It’s not sending out a newsletter.

While all of these CHANNELS can play a role in message delivery, they unto themselves are not marketing.

Marketing is not a bunch of messages telling pet owners “Pick us, Pick us.“   It’s the driving force behind why a pet owner should choose your practice in the first place.    

To schedule your FREE one-hour marketing consultation, contact Linda Wasche at or 248-253-0300.

Do you have a particular marketing question or dilemma that you would to see addressed in  a future blog?  Email

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Veterinary marketing starts with determining what you are selling

Somehow, somewhere, someone got the idea that marketing is about “getting your name out there” and pushing out messages via mainstream and/or social media.

While yes – such forms of PROMOTION DO have a place as part of a marketing plan -- alone, they are NOT marketing.

Marketing starts with having something to sell that the marketplace  understands the need for and wants.  This is called primary demand.  (Examples of this include the “drink milk,” Florida orange growers and “buy more cotton” campaigns.) The marketplace understands the needs for veterinary services.  However, unfortunately, many pet owners do not recognize the need for regular exams, dental care, etc.  So this is a case of needing to stimulate greater primary demand for these services.   This is a huge stumbling block for any practice as it appears that messages telling pet owners to get their pet’s teeth cleaned, come for annual/bi-annual exams are not resonating.

Another next key element of marketing is gaining a PREFERENCE for a particular service PROVIDER.  Why should they choose your practice over another?   This is called stimulating secondary demand.  To effectively reach out and build a MEANINGFUL presence in the local marketplace, a practice needs to:
  • Know its market – SEGMENTING
  • Identify its targets /types of pet owners it wants to attract  -- TARGETING
  • Develop the type of practice that will attract the above – POSITIONING
This is where the PROCESS of marketing starts. 
Not with  a new series of advertisements, not with putting more stuff on Facebook, not with a new website.  Until you have determined how you want your practice to be understood and defined – as well as who its trying to reach -- it doesn’t make sense just to keep talking. 

Your positioning strategy will help you determine what services and programs to offer, how to package them,  and, most importantly, how to elevate them from being the same list of services that pet owners can get at any practice in town.

To schedule your FREE one-hour marketing consultation, contact Linda Wasche at or 248-253-0300.

Do you have a particular marketing question or dilemma that you would to see addressed in  a future blog?  Email

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Would You Ever Treat a Pet Without a Diagnosis? Then Why Would you Do Marketing Without One?

The first step in treating any pet is the diagnosis.
  • What is causing any visible symptoms?
  • What are the underlying reasons that the pet is behaving a certain way?
  • What do we need to treat?
  • And how are we going to treat it?
These are the questions that any veterinarian would want to see answered before treating a pet.  Because without taking the time to diagnose the underlying cause of a pet’s illness, you are simply trying different treatments that may or not hit the mark.  Correct?  Additionally, you would be wasting time and risking the health and wellbeing of the animal.  True?

Then why would any practice consider going forward with marketing efforts without first conducting a diagnosis?

In the case of a practice, marketing without a diagnosis assumes similar risks.   Efforts that may or may not hit the mark.  A waste of time.  Risk to the ability to maintain and grow the practice.

For marketing to be effective, what do we diagnose?  It depends.  As in the case of a pet, what symptoms are you seeing?  Slowed growth?  Clients not coming back?  Per visit revenue on the decline?

So just like in the case of a pet, the diagnosis start with the SYMPTOMS, as well as understanding obvious environmental influencers that might might have caused the symptoms.  For the pet: Did  he or she get into something?  Did you change laundry detergents?  What do you use to clean your floors?  For the practice:  Have you made any staff changes?  Is there new competition?  Are you seeing a decline in certain service areas?

First you look at the obvious.

Then you look further.  So does marketing.  But instead of looking at blood levels or radiographs, we take  a close look at what may influence a pet owner to choose / not choose your practice.  This includes:
  • Local pet owner perceptions
  • Thought leaders and influencer perceptions
  • Why clients left
  • Why new clients came
  • Market segment analysis
  • Your competition
  • Local market dynamics
There are numerous diagnostic tools that are used for gathering the above information.   And like using ultrasound versus x-rays, each gives a different window into what is really happening.

Instead of blood values, we are looking at how clients DEFINE value.  Instead of the strength of a heartbeat, we are looking at the strength of client relationships.   But the bottom line is the same.  We are trying to get to the BOTTOM of what is causing the  practice to experience what it is in the first place. 

Without this understanding, marketing becomes an exercise of “just trying stuff.”  You would not risk being off target like this in  treating a pet.  Would you risk it on your practice?

To schedule your FREE one-hour marketing consultation, contact Linda Wasche at or 248-253-0300.

Do you have a particular marketing question or dilemma that you would to see addressed in  a future blog?  Email