How to Build a Marketing Plan for Veterinary Practice?
Content Marketing for Veterinary Practices - updated September 22, 2021
The market for veterinary services is expanding exponentially. According to the 2018 AVMA Report on the Market for Veterinary Services, the number of new private practice clinics rose 16.4 percent between 2007 and 2017. Additionally, the rate of vet services increased by nearly 19 percent from 2014 to 2018.
The rising demand for veterinary services means more competition. The 2017 AVMA Report on the Market for Veterinary Service estimated that there are 28,000 to 32,000 veterinary practices in the U.S. By the end of 2020, our internal projection puts the upper bound of the estimate closer to 40,000. If vet owners want to stay competitive, they must create a holistic marketing plan in order to stand out from their private and corporate competition. That’s only possible with the help of the right content marketing tools.
The veterinary marketing plan can help vet practices streamline their business efforts. It gives vet practices a year-round program with a framework that aligns with critical milestones. Such a program helps to:
- Focus on revenue goals (and avoid vanity metrics)
- Execute specific business initiatives that are directly tied to practice goals
- Identify what’s not working and make necessary adjustments
- Put investments to better use
A marketing plan identifies new ways to meet customers’ needs and attract new leads. This way, you can stay ahead of rival clinics and continue to grow your practice.
How to Create a Marketing Plan for Veterinary Practice?
All vet facilities aim to provide the best treatment for all animals. This includes improving their services and hiring experienced vets for the job. But, focusing on marketing their practice is also critical to ensure long-term success. Without optimized content marketing, your competitors will simply leave you in the dust. Here are the essential components of a veterinary marketing plan.
Conduct a Practice Analysis
A practice analysis assesses your clinic’s financial value and level of productivity. An analysis of your facility’s performance and processes provides a basis for comparison with your competitors. You can use these insights in your marketing communication to help you stand out to your existing and new clients.
A practice analysis also estimates your profits and puts more facts into your practice valuation formula. It offers insights into terminal cash flow or post-tax revenue made after a sale. Understanding what your practice is worth will help you improve its profitability.
You should consider several questions as you assess your practice, such as:
- How will an economic downturn affect pet owners’ ability to afford veterinary services?
- What are people saying about the clinic? Are reviews positive? Do customers return after the first appointment?
- What is the clinic’s primary revenue source? What services does it provide?
- How does the clinic track customer satisfaction? How is the feedback collected and negative comments or complaints addressed?
- Is the clinic well-managed? Do internal controls operate efficiently?
One way to measure your clinic’s performance is with a SWOT Analysis. This framework can help you perform an accurate situational analysis by reviewing your practice’s:
Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors, while opportunities and threats are external. Identifying both can help you create a plan for greater success that leverages your strengths and opportunities and overcomes your weaknesses and threats. Your veterinary clinic marketing plan should always be guided by a SWOT analysis.
Perform a Customer Analysis
Formal operational and financial analysis only reveal what is happening inside the practice. But customer analysis reveals what is going on outside the office.
Customer analysis is one of the most critical components of a marketing plan as it provides insight into your clients – who they are, how they behave, and why they purchase. These insights allow you to develop a veterinary marketing strategy tailored to your customer base.
You can learn about your customers by studying their behavior and buying patterns through client satisfaction surveys, reviews, and questionnaires. Use a mix of methods and connect with different customers to receive accurate, unbiased data.
Customer analysis helps track customer satisfaction. This is the basis for building a more sustainable and satisfied clientele. When you apply analysis data to a marketing plan, it is easier to convert happy customers into loyal ones. According to research by Philippe Moreau, DVM, MS, DECVIM-CA, DECVN, loyal customers spend about $140 on veterinary services and visit clinics 2.8 times a year. With the right content marketing and SEO, your practice can capture more of that revenue than ever before.
Customer analysis drives customer satisfaction and loyalty by helping you answer these questions:
- What deciding factors do pet owners look for in a clinic? Do they want extended hours, updated technology, and affordable prices?
- What are the most common reasons why receptionists turn down appointments?
- What can you do to manage customer expectations?
- Is online booking available? Is it intuitive, fast, and mobile-friendly?
- Is the waiting area comfortable for pets and people?
- Does staff understand how to use standard operating procedures? Can they inform customers about these processes?
Before you conduct customer analysis, establish a goal that you want to achieve with it. You should also determine how you will use the results to improve your business. Limit surveys, forms, and questionnaires to 10 minutes or less. Ideally, they should be brief and straightforward. Completion rates tend to drop after 11 minutes.
Analysis objectives can determine whether you should ask closed- or opened-ended questions. Closed-ended questions (true/false, yes/no) are more comfortable to complete but offer limited insights. Open-ended questions may have a lower completion rate but provide more details about your customers’ experiences.
Every clinic is different, and so are its clients. Customer analysis tells you what your practice can do to meet these needs. Make sure to test each survey and modify as needed. Doing so ensures you receive accurate data necessary for creating an effective marketing plan.
Conduct a Competitor Analysis
Competitor analysis is another way to fulfill your clients’ needs. It helps you identify potential competitors, get insights about them, and identify each practice’s strengths and weaknesses.
- For example, do they have more doctors?
- Do they have a bigger facility or special equipment on site?
- How do these benefit their business or hurt yours?
Competitor analysis helps build a solid marketing strategy for your veterinary practice and brings in more customers.
There are several ways to conduct a competitor analysis, including strategic group analysis (SGA), key success factor (KSF) analysis, and Porter’s Competitor Analysis.
SGA compares you and your competition’s practices side-by-side by assessing each business’ range of services.
In the chart below, an equine practice used an SGA to determine its vulnerability compared to its top competitors:
|Practice||Degree of Specialization||Vulnerability||# of Doctors|
The vulnerability of the practice in the above example is subjective.
In the graph below, it is plotted relative to the X-axis. The equine practice can determine its leading competitors by seeing which ones are situated closest to it.
KSF uses a similar process but offers more insights. Precisely, a KSF analysis pinpoints the main challenges a practice must overcome to outperform its competitors. Below, the KSF assesses the businesses located closest to the My Practice bubble in the SGA graph. The owner picked seven key competitive features and ranked them after performing competitive research. They based the rankings on what the owner knew local customers wanted from a veterinarian.
|Key Success Factors||Weight||My Practice||Competitor A||Competitor B||Competitor C||Competitor D|
|24/7/365 Ambulatory Emergency Service||0.3||5||5||5||5||5|
|Expertise in Lameness Diagnosis||0.2||5||4||4||5||4|
|Depth of Knowledge Base/Services||0.1||5||3||3||4||3|
|Availability of Diagnostic Imaging Technology||0.1||4||3||3||3||4|
|Availability of Specialists||0.1||5||3||1||3||2|
|Availability of Hospital-Based Services||0.1||5||2||2||4||3|
Porter’s Competitor Analysis offers the most in-depth insights because it requires clinic owners to step into their competitors’ shoes. The goal is to answer what competitors are doing and why. Additionally, it seeks to determine what the repercussions on your practice could be if a competitor implements a change, such as expanding its building or lowering its prices.
Porter’s Analysis requires that you ask four central questions:
- Is the competitor pleased with its position?
- What is the competitor most likely to do next?
- What are the competitor’s weaknesses?
- What could your practice do that would elicit a countermove from the competitor? (e.g., fewer referrals, offering similar services)
The answers to these questions depend on the individual competitor’s objectives, principles, existing business strategies, and capacities. You must thoroughly examine each before you attempt to answer these questions accurately.
Context marketing refers to the ability to deliver the right experience to the right person at the right time. The information you collect from analyzing your practice, customers, and competitors will go a long way in helping you achieve this.
You can also meet this goal by focusing on your customers’ past interactions with the practice and anticipating their current needs. Hence, maintaining a record of patients’ past appointments, experiences, and feedback is critical for your marketing campaign’s success. Without these content marketing tools, you’ll never be able to gauge your success.
Backed with relevant insights about your veterinary practice, it’s time to look at the fundamentals of creating a successful veterinary marketing strategy.
Marketing Plan Fundamentals
Every marketing plan shares the same basic principles, regardless of business or industry. As you build a marketing plan for your veterinary practice, these fundamentals will lay the foundation for success.
Establish Specific Goals
Marketing plans focus on accomplishing a specific goal. This goal helps to decide the best online and offline strategies to implement. For instance, do you want to increase followers on social media? Is your vet practice launching in a new office in a different location? Each goal warrants a different approach, so ensure that they’re specific and measurable.
Define Your Budget
Setting a budget for the campaign is another crucial part of your marketing plan. Whether it’s setting up an entire department, hiring in-house marketers, or outsourcing campaigns, budgeting helps you manage costs and maximize your ROI.
Content Marketing Plan for a Veterinary Practice
Without a proper plan to guide your decision-making, precious money will be wasted on marketing efforts that produce few results. Your veterinary clinic marketing plan must be carefully crafted to fit the unique contours of your business. Review the following steps to ensure your content marketing plan is well crafted, properly implemented, and regularly updated over time.
- Set your goals. Begin by clearly establishing your commercial goals before assessing what kind of content you’ll need to produce to achieve your objectives. Are you trying to generate additional appointments and walk-in business for your practice? Perhaps you’re trying to make your clinic more attractive in the eyes of potential consolidators? Optimized content marketing requires milestones which you can use to measure your progress toward your ultimate goals.
- Identify your target audience. Who exactly is going to consume this content, and where are they located? Veterinary practice marketing that’s aimed at a local audience will take a different shape than marketing that’s aimed toward a broader regional or national market. You may find that you have different target audiences whose content cravings vary widely; producing diverse content that appeals to many different target groups is highly encouraged.
- Pick a preferred format. Content marketing for small businesses often focuses on blog posts and articles which can be easily shared on social media. There are other marketing formats you can rely upon, however; veterinary podcasts are more popular than ever before these days, and instructional videos that illustrate professional techniques or concepts can quickly go viral across the industry. Will you produce content on traditional mediums like print, or instead focus on e-commerce for veterinary practices? Juggling multiple different formats can help you appeal to a wider audience, but will take additional time, resources, and a more comprehensive veterinary clinic marketing plan.
- Develop a content production team. Now that you have established goals, a clear target audience, and a preferred content format, you need to assemble a content production team. Will you rely on in-house experts or hire outside marketing professionals? How regularly will you produce new content, and who will be responsible for proliferating new content as it emerges? Much of the content marketing for small businesses that currently dominates the market is produced by specialists. Hiring them may require a heftier budget than you first expected. Once your team is finally in place and churning out content, you can move on to the final step.
- Collect feedback. Assessing the performance of your content is critically important. Collect feedback including how many people are consuming your content, whether they’re commenting on your articles, and whether you’re using the right keywords. Content marketing and SEO go hand in hand, so embrace industry-specific language and ensure the on-page elements of your website are up to snuff.
Identify Your Team
Hiring experts to help with your marketing allows you to focus on your practice. You should create a dedicated team to accomplish yearly goals. Work with seasoned marketers to kickstart your campaigns.
Start with looking up agencies you like and make a list. Ask yourself some critical questions to help you craft this list: Have they worked with vet practices before? What is their success rate, and what ROI have they delivered in the past? When you have your list, send out a Request for Proposal (RFP) and ask for references. Adding a short brief at this point will set you apart as a diligent client who knows what they need. After that, you can begin the interview process and select the agency team that’s right for you.
Create a Tactical Plan
Tactical planning refers to a recurring schedule of activities that a plan must include for achieving strategic objectives. Such plans feature:
- Focused and narrow goals
- Short-term goals (one or two years)
Additionally, it outlines how you can promote your services, attract new customers, and develop concrete strategies to increase sales. Tactical planning helps create an airtight marketing plan.
Build a 12-Month Plan
Veterinary care is seasonal. A 12-month plan must account for the change in service offerings based on the season, such as fall check-ups, breeding season, and annual vaccinations. A 12-month plan ensures your marketing strategy stays relevant to the appropriate season.
Marketing Ideas for Veterinary Practices
Here are some helpful ideas to boost brand image and market your business better.
- Get active on social media: Posting shareable content in the form of videos, advice, and information creates engaging content for your customers or prospects and keeps you at the top of their minds.
- Sponsor a pet event: An adoption event or a pet show allows a vet facility to connect with its target audience at scale.
- Connect with local pet stores: Leave a stack of your business cards with local pet store owners – this ensures you’re being seen at a critical customer touchpoint.
- Engage with customers on your website: Your website speaks for you, so keep it updated with current services, hours, promotions, or discounts. Allow your customers to contact you and ensure you are responding promptly; displaying exemplary customer service.
- Provide specialty products: Customers and their pets will be pleased with specialty pet food that only your practice can provide. Branded merchandise, gift-giveaways, and deluxe animal treats will always generate a buzz.
- Discounts for email newsletter subscribers: Your customers will be more inclined to read your emails if they contain discounts or other offers available exclusively to email subscribers.
- Share videos: Animal videos are among the most popular types of online content. Vet clinics have an unlimited supply of content they can share on their website, blog, and social media accounts. This lets viewers get to know your practice better and illustrates how your staff works with animals behind the scenes.
- Reward repeat clients: Loyalty programs are an excellent veterinary marketing strategy that demonstrates your appreciation of customers’ repeat business by rewarding them for it.
- Produce industry content: Remember that other industry professionals are a target audience in and of themselves. Generating videos, how-to-guides, infographics, and other insightful content for other veterinary professionals can bolster your industry reputation. Spreading news of the latest treatment option is a great way to go viral. It may also lure in the new talent that’s eager to be part of such an insightful team.
- Set up Google My Business: When pet owners need veterinary services, they typically look for local businesses on Google. Set up Google My Business and claim your business directory listing so that potential clients see your clinic at the top of the search results.
With a holistic marketing plan in place, veterinary practices can measure ROI and scale their business.Without a visionary plan or the right content marketing tools, your practice will struggle to keep pace with its competitors. Building a strategy requires carefully analyzing your clinic, clients, and competition. You can use the data from these assessments to develop a robust contextual marketing plan.
With all your bases covered, remember to choose the right marketing agency for running your marketing campaigns.