Yoghurt marketing? No, I’ve not gone crazy, I’m just going to use an example of a personal experience to demonstrate where vets should be aspiring to be. Actually, any business that is trying to engage with its consumers and use all of the available tools could use this model. So, stripping away the slightly sensational title (made you look) let’s rephrase:

Joined up marketing with no dead ends.

It sounds intuitive; you don’t want your hard earned consumer to end up in a dead end with no call to action or without an activity that loops them back in to your clinic. We can create virtuous loops that keep bringing people back to you, even if something bad happens. This is a true story about me, Tesco and a company called Koko who make excellent coconut based diary free yoghurt.

Yoghurt was on our weekly Tesco shopping list when a new product called out to us from the shelf in the yoghurt chiller. The marketing team at Tesco/Koko had done a great job with the point of purchase promotional materials and the product literally leapt off the shelf and in to our trolley. Yum, coconut flavour yoghurt.

Fast-forward, 24 hours and with coconut based breakfast anticipation I peeled off the lid to be greeted by this:

Mouldy yoghurt

I’m no microbiologist, but that wasn’t right. Frustrated and hangry (yes, that’s a word; bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger), I defaulted to Weetabix. So I’m a couple of quid down, which isn’t’ much in the grand scheme of things, but I wondered how responsive Tesco might be to this? I picked Twitter as my medium of choice and the next bit goes about as fast as I can type.

@Tesco – Send photo of offending contaminated yoghurt, with wry comments

@adrianVBC – Profuse apologies: please send photo of bar codes, BBE, store purchased from, photo of receipt and your contact details

@Tesco – Send 4 more photos and requested details, with thanks

@adrianVBC – Thanks, we’ll refund you and send a note in the post. More apologies.

Two days later, a very nice letter arrived from Tesco, with the promised refund in the form of a £2 gift card. On the same day, from Koko the manufacturer, a letter arrived with a “we’re investigating and we’ll let you know what we find” commentary and a further £5 Tesco gift card by way of an apology for any upset. Read the language in the letters; it’s concerned, empathetic and action oriented.

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A month later, a further note arrived from Koko with a full explanation of the problem, explaining why it happened, what they’ve done to rectify it and to ensure it won’t happen again. In addition, there is also a promotional flyer and money off next purchase coupon, redeemable at Tesco.

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So Tesco and Koko, working seamlessly together, have converted a bad tub of yoghurt into a raft of activities that not only solved my problem in a transparent manner, they refunded the product more than three times over and made me feel great about their service. They’ve also taken the opportunity to draw me back into Tesco, the Koko brand and Koko products. I had a great Twitter conversation, effectively in real time and traditional media in the form of a letter has backed it up.

There was not a single missed opportunity.

So how does the average, or even above average vet clinic fare? Not many have the scale to compete with a customer service centre with the size and connectivity of Tesco’s, but that’s not the point.

If we think in virtuous cycles, then using two specific phrases can be useful

  • Then what?
  • What if?

As you plan your marketing activities, keep asking “then what?” Only when you have run out of answers is the campaign complete. This can be really challenging when the practice management system doesn’t speak to the web platform and social media channels. Compound that by trying to communicate activities through the different layers of the clinic staff, ensuring that each group of vets, nurses and front desk customer care staff and the challenge is self-evident. Most practices are lucky if they have a person with marketing in their job description. Tesco do it on a much larger scale so it should be attainable in a smaller business shouldn’t it?

So here is an example:

A two-year-old mixed breed dog comes in for it’s annual health check and vaccine.

Then what? The PMS logs a reminder for the next annual health check to be sent in 11months time.

Then what? A process is needed to ensure the reminder is sent in 11 months time.

Then what?

Well, I think most practices stop here. The proliferation of digital marketing companies suggests that a large number of clinics need help getting even this far. There are two obvious dead ends already, one being the 11 months of silence from the clinic and the second being a single reminder process.

So applying “What if?” thinking opens up new opportunities.

What if you could generate a dental check up reminder, a parasiticide product reminder and a process for following up on poor compliance? What if those reminders came by email, text or social media messenger, with data tracking open rates? What if you could loop customers into an online booking system for appointments and repeat prescriptions? What if you could add promotional information and a voucher for discounts? What if those discounts can be tracked and analysed?

Each one of these “what if” thoughts is a potential dead-end, where the answer to the “then what” question is: The customer is lost to follow up. Only when there are no dead ends is the process complete.

So here’s the call to action. Have you mapped out your consumers marketing journey through the myriad of things you do? Have you created a virtuous circle of marketing activities that ensure your consumer doesn’t end up in a dead end? Once they’re down a dead end, they’re as good as gone.

Getting a grip on your marketing can be a challenge and it’s one that the VBC is very familiar with. From building a simple marketing campaign for a single product area right through to a revision of your annual marketing plan, the VBC can deliver for you.

Even better than that, working with our digital partner agencies, we can bring even more expertise if you have a grander plan in mind. We’d love to talk.

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