Marketing your veterinary practice can be a difficult thing to do in between appointments with patients and any animal emergencies that come up. In June 2014, we published a blog called 10 Veterinary Marketing Ideas You've Never Tried, which presented exciting ideas that you can use to drum up more business to your practice.
This week as part of our Flashback Friday series, we will look back on this blog and try to help you out even further by pointing out some potential pitfalls you should avoid when employing each of the suggested strategies.
1. Social media contests
Social media contests are fun and easy to set up with a marketing automation platform. They increase follower engagement while also allowing you to sit back and let the automated posts do their thing. However, you still want to do some organic posting to these sites so that it doesn't become apparent that your entire setup is automated. One thing that automation cannot do is reply to direct questions and mentions from your followers. In order to maintain positive customer engagement, you must connect with them on a personal level and that means checking your account at least once or twice a day to respond to any questions or concerns.
2. Text message shortcodes
Text message shortcodes allow your customers to text specific keywords to a six-digit number to receive automated replies. Text messages have a limit of 140 characters, so it would be wise to make sure that your designated keywords are as short and as succinct as possible. For example, it would not be beneficial to use the full name of your veterinary practice as a keyword – especially if the word "veterinarian" is included. Long keywords prevent both you and the person texting in from saying all you need to say in the space of one message, which can be a hindrance when dealing with data and service fees.
3. Infographics for pet needs
While infographics can be both interesting and pleasing to the eye, there is always the risk of creating graphics that are too convoluted and hard to decipher. You don't want to bombard your viewers with too much information in one infographic or use too many different colors. Viewers should be able to grasp the gist of the infographic within a few seconds, so be sure to keep the information you present as simple as possible. Each graphic should contain only one topic, so create as many different infographics as you need for each separate piece of information you want to present.
4. Sharing pictures and videos
While sharing a bunch of photos and videos will greatly boost your engagement with your clients and build a reputation of caring and trust, be sure not to damage this reputation by posting content without the participants' express permission. Always confirm with the subject of the photo or video that it is OK to post it to social media, your blog, or website before you publish the post.
5. Customer testimonials
As with posting photos and videos of your satisfied customers online, make sure that you obtain permission to publish any customer testimonials. Also, be sure that the testimonials are relevant to the services you offer. People only care about the level of service you provide and the quality of your customer care. Few people will be interested in the color of your practice's walls or other such trivial information.
6. Loyalty programs
Loyalty programs can help to increase client stickiness and keep customers coming back to your veterinary practice. When setting up your loyalty program however, be sure to set attainable goals for your customers. For example, you do not want to have your program require 100 loyalty points to be redeemed and have customers only receive a couple points per visit. You need to set realistic parameters if you want your customers to stick with you.
If you are going to start writing a blog for your vet practice, you must be prepared to commit to posting content regularly. Many businesses decide that a blog is a really great idea, write a couple of posts, and then find that it takes up too much of their time. While it is true that having a blog will increase your practice's SEO ranking, it won't do you any good if you seldom write posts and don't promote them through your website or social media.
8. Free or discounted first-time visits
Offering discounts for first timers is a great marketing tool, however, beware of those who will take advantage of the system and try to get the same discount more than once by using a different email. You can try to prevent these people from taking advantage of you by employing a web tracking software that sorts customers into a contact manager by IP address. This way, even if the customer tries to use a different email address, the IP will tell the software that it is the same person and you can avoid any double dipping.
9. Discounts or freebies for referrals
In an effort to reduce the expenses of giving people multiple free items or discounts whenever they refer a friend to your veterinarian practice, it is beneficial to set a reasonable limit as to the number of referrals the client will be compensated for. You can either set a limit for the number of total freebies/discounts given, such as "For the first five referrals you make, you will a free grooming item," or you can set the limit to the number of freebies within a calendar year – "No more than three discounts will be given to the referrer per year."
10. Star profiles
Staff profiles are a great way for potential customers to get to know the people at your vet practice. Many people will appreciate knowing more about the people who will potentially care for their pet. However, you will want the information in each profile to be relevant to their experience as an employee at your practice, or their experience as a pet owner/enthusiast. If the profile is about one of the veterinarians at your practice, potential clients want to know about how well they take care of their own pets, and not necessarily about their passion for extreme sports. While it is fine to include a few personal fun facts about the staff member, make sure the focus is predominately on their love for and experience with the animals in their lives.
While some of these so-called pitfalls may sound relatively minor, it is important to take heed of them in an effort to maintain a positive and trustworthy online reputation.
As noted in the 2014 blog post, many of the above marketing strategies can be aided through the implementation of a marketing and communication automation solution. Check out the SimplyCast 360 platform to learn more and sign up for a free 14-day trial!