How do we effectively market new services?

Before you launch a new service, be sure you have done your research and verified that it is a service your current and prospective clientele wants. It must meet a need that is not being served or is being underserved, and it should have the potential to generate profit for your practice. Then conduct training on this service so that everyone understands its purpose, benefits, and whom it is targeting. Next, together with your team, set goals for the service and implement ways to track its progress in both recommendations and adoption.

Once everyone is trained in how to talk about the service, and goals have been set, begin introducing it to current clients. In the early stages of introducing the service, gauge your clients' interest level and get their feedback to share with other prospective clients. By starting with current clients when you roll out a new service, and by doing so in a measured fashion, you will effectively accommodate the delivery of the service as well as work out any kinks in the process.

Once you feel confident in your team's ability to deliver the service consistently and with quality, you can begin to offer it on a larger scale, perhaps by adding a section on your website with a teaser announcement on your home page. If you regularly advertise in any local community paper, this might be a great place to include the information as well. And if you are participating in any social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, this avenue can help spread the word very quickly.

Don't forget to use your on-hold messaging and invoices as additional ways to introduce or remind clients of the new service. Presumably your practice management software will allow you to customize messages on printed materials. If this is the case, include a one-sentence announcement on the bottom of each invoice. Your reminder system likely has a customizable feature as well, so include this on postcards and email reminders. Finally, consider placing information in the exam rooms to encourage questions and discussion about this service when the technician comes in to gather patient history information. A multipronged approach is usually best for reaching all who would benefit by using the new service.

How do we cope with so much increased competition from new practices in the area?

One way to manage competition is to deliver such outstanding service on a consistent basis that any new competition's message will virtually go unnoticed. If your clients are loyal, they will not consider going anywhere else, so your first line of defense is to have the very best trained team you can. Satisfied clients sometimes try something new simply for the sake of variety, but if they are bonded to you, that is unlikely to happen.

Next, make sure your clients know you value them at all times of the year, not just at their pet's annual wellness checkup. This means you need to engage in regular communication with a "what's in it for me" message. For instance, if you periodically send out a newsletter, make sure you provide information that pet owners can use, along with references for finding out more about a particular topic. A good example of this would be to share a case study, and then include a few websites where they can learn more about the particular medical condition discussed.

Whether you are using printed materials or electronic communication, make sure copy is professionally written and is complemented with engaging photos. Don't overload your message with too much text. Simple, concise, and clever will capture attention and be remembered.

Engage your team for fresh ideas and develop creative messaging in a manner your clients will relate to. Being on the front line often gives the team insight into the nuances and specific needs of pet owners.

A continuous stream of new clients referred by loyal clients will also help you retain and grow your client base. So make sure the right people are part of your team and that they are delivering the type of service that is sure to generate referrals.

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