Why vets need to be adding value for their clients

I’ve been asked to create a number of podcasts for a friend’s business, which is called Carefree Credit. It turns out they like my blog and think I’ve something to add to their offering. Well, I’m flattered and of course I will because it’ll help me too. I’m writing them now and have even bought a fancy lavalier mic to ensure the sound quality is great. And that’s where my thought process for this blog started.

What are you doing for your clients to add value to their experience?

Carefree Credit works with veterinary practices to offer zero percent interest finance for pet owners. It’s simple, straightforward and offers a critically important payment option for veterinary practices. It’s an every day fact of life that in the course of offering the best of animal care we incur costs for the owners. We all know that vets aren’t great at communicating this properly and I’ve written before about the pros and cons of pet insurance. Most practices offer credit to owners accidentally in the form of bad debts and this is devastating for the practice finances. Adding a 0% interest payment option from an appropriately set up credit broker means you have three options for payments; pay now, payment plan or payment via insurance.

Using consumer credit for your clients should instantly simplify your bad debit management and significantly increase the accessibility of your veterinary care for owners.

So why do they need my help? Well, it turns out they want to add value for their partner practices. They already add value for their clinics in terms of cash flow and bad debit management or client options and client satisfaction, but they want to go further an demonstrate even more value. Why? Because they not only want to be a service provider, they want to be differentiated and critically they want their customers to succeed. Only then, will they succeed themselves.

For example, they have a list of practices whose clients come directly to them for a payment solution because their own practice doesn’t offer a payment plan. Imagine the value they could add to those practices, if only the practice concerned would work with them. Adding value with free content is part of their overall marketing plan. They have to go above and beyond with their offering to engage with these clinics. That’s where my podcasts in.

Looking at it from my perspective, why am I happy to help them and give away some of my content? It adds huge value to my business in terms of business development, introductions and PR. Clinics get some great free content and can see what I do, which should generate business leads for me. Everyone’s a winner!

So where are you with your added value proposition? How much time, energy and resource have you allocated to that? In the first instance it should be part of your annual marketing plan with a budget and it should have a calendar of activities against it.

Turning up and just being a vet is not good enough anymore.

However, it doesn’t mean that you the vet necessarily have to do it. Be the best clinician you can be. But it does mean that someone in the practice needs to have it as part of their job description or you have to outsource it.

Typically, added value items are free to consumer. They are used at the top of the marketing funnel to drive awareness, consideration or conversion to charged services. Alternatively they can wrap around paid for services, enhancing or supporting the use of the product. If nothing else they’re designed to stimulate an authentic conversation with a potential or actual consumer.

Here are a few hints and tips to adding value to your offering.

  • Have a marketing plan for the year and start with a return on investment mindset. Technically, added value services are a Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI), in that they are classically given away and don’t generate a direct cash ROI. This is because their influence is felt in another way such as recommendation, net promotor score or satisfaction surveys.
  • Map out the different elements of the marketing plan
  • Decide which core elements you want to promote and budget for them
  • Work with your team to allocate roles, responsibilities and accountability for each activity and each element
  • Create a workflow for each marketing activities, with a time line or Gantt chart, key performance indicators and ROMI assessment. It doesn’t need to be complex, but it is an essential part of marketing planning.
  • Chart the progress of the activity using the KPIs and ensure a consumer feedback loop to improve the offering over time.
  • Keep a look out for local collaborators who could help you add value. If there’s a mutually beneficial opportunity, then it needn’t cost money as you help each other out.

By the way, it is possible to have an added value fail. That microphone I bought? The company’s free app that should enable my iPhone to use the mic properly hasn’t been updated since mid-2106 and therefore doesn’t recognize the latest mic. You would have thought that one of the worlds biggest microphone makers would have sorted that out wouldn’t you? If the conversation isn’t fulfilling or authentic, then your consumer engagement will be fleeting. Put it this way, that app didn’t last 5 minutes on my phone.

So what veterinary examples are there? Numerous is the answer and I bet you’re doing a bunch of them already.

If you need help with your marketing planning or working out the ROMI on the following examples, get in touch:

  • Nurse Clinics
  • Weight management clinics
  • Vaccine reminders
  • Consumer newsletters
  • Practice and website information sheets
  • Telephone advice
  • Medicine compliance programmes

If you don’t measure the ROMI, why are you bothering? If nothing else this week, reflect on what you do and consider whether they’re really adding value or whether they’re lost revenue or just poorly leveraged or measured.

The VBC has been doing this for years and we’ve got some great tools to help you drive your marketing. Drop us a few lines and we’ll call you back

What vets can learn from yoghurt marketing

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.

IMG_2942

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.

Big Data and what vets can learn from it.

We’re gathering so much data these days that it is perhaps beyond comprehension in terms of bytes. It’s a frightening amount, but the reality is that the technology that generates the data also gives us the ability to analyze and gain insights at the same time. Data scientists are hot property right now, earning really good money.

So as vets, how can we interact with this data and what will it do for animal welfare and our businesses? Our practice management systems (PMS) should be a mine of information right? What’s the reality of getting good data and engaging your PMS provider in actively providing it for you? I’ll leave that question hanging out there.

So what options do we have?

For this blog I’m going to focus on that last idea. In veterinary research, EBVM is our gold standard aspiration, but it’s time consuming and in most cases the statistical power of the research is not great. The number of animals in each study is just too small. So what about the vet groups or insurers that aggregate huge amounts of data? Let’s look at one example.

When Banfield speaks, we should all listen. They publish their State of Pet Health Report annually in the spring and you should read it. Here’s a link to the 2016 report.

If you’re analyzing and publishing the data on 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats from nearly 1,000 Pet hospitals, the phrase, “in our experience” takes on a whole new meaning. Ok, so you could argue that it’s a very particular view of the world and being North American, you could argue that it’s not relevant. Well, two things; firstly, the statistical power of 3 million pet consults and secondly, with the possible exception of the regional parasite burden, why would the UK be that different? It just isn’t.

What insights can we draw straight away? Pages 8-11 handily lay out the disease and age profiles of the Banfield pet population. You could design a preventative health strategy for your patients on this data alone! It’s phenomenal data and it’s freely shared.

What about our own large vets groups in the UK? Pets At Home and Vets4Pets publish two reports annually and currently don’t share the same level of data as Banfield. They make interesting reading though and, yes, they’re designed for PR activity, but there are insights to be taken and their aspirations are laudable.

So here’s my Monday Call To Action:

  • Read the reports
  • Then consider what insights you can draw from them and how you can turn these insights in to business and health drivers for your clinic.
  • Oh, and don’t forget to challenge your PMS provider to deliver on the data you hold yourself.

If you need help getting to grips with the power of big data, or just the data that your own clinic could be sitting on, then click this link and start the conversation.