How do we get staff to consistently indicate the referral source to properly monitor marketing results?

Make sure you have a referral question on your new-client form, whether it's online or in print, and train your front-office staff on how to ensure that clients fill in the field. You should be able to create a field in your practice management software system that asks for referral information for every new client. Some software systems will even allow you to make filling in this field mandatory for continuing to the next screen. Just as important is helping your team understand why it is so important to capture the referral source. So often they hear "what" to do, but not "why" to do it. If they have a clear understanding of why and how this information will help the practice determine the effectiveness of its marketing efforts and what that means to the bottom line and overall patient care, they will be more apt to carry out this direction. See also Question 24 for information on how to run a referral report.

It can also be helpful, depending on how much financial information you share, to help your team understand that you have X amount of money for expenses, and the best way to determine how these funds should be allocated is to make decisions based on sound information. It's analogous to prescribing a treatment plan from accurate diagnostic information. Ideally, this will help the team keep in perspective the value of taking the time to gather this information for each new client.

How do I monitor how our staff is marketing our practice to pet owners on the phone?

Monitoring your staff's ability to market your practice on the telephone, or more precisely, to communicate effectively with callers, depends on how you define marketing. If you are referring to how well your front-office staff converts shoppers to clients (see also Question 15), the results should speak for themselves if you are keeping good records. Tracking actual numbers of callers who become clients, however, is not easy, as it relies on the honor system of the front-office staff because they are who indicate the referral source. But this is an important activity to monitor because every new caller is a potential client. Making certain your team is prepared to satisfy the needs of new callers by providing them information that compels a positive action (scheduling an appointment) is a key step in building a practice.

The best way to convert pet owners who call for information into clients is to train the team, write scripts for as many questions and scenarios as you can think of, and practice, practice, practice. Planning and knowing how and what to say for each type of call will help everyone develop the skill set needed to comfortably discuss the various services you offer and what makes your practice special, and thus increase your client base.

Some practices create incentives for front-office personnel by setting a goal and rewarding them for the number of new clients each month. Even though the front-office cannot be entirely responsible for all new clients, they are the ones who receive the initial calls, which if handled well, ultimately become appointments on the schedule. See Question 23 for the concept of "secret shoppers" to monitor how well your staff does in this area.

Where can I find good marketing training videos for staff?

Fortunately, there are great resources today for online training designed for all levels of staff and covering all topics relevant to operating a successful practice. The Veterinary Support Professional Network (VSPN), American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), VetMedTeam, LifeLearn, Animal Care Technologies (ACT), veterinary teaching hospitals, veterinary technician schools, YouTube, individual practice consultants, and even local or state veterinary medical associations (VMAs) may have resources available. Many are free or can be purchased as a bundle for the benefit of the entire team.

Also, individual animal health care companies, such as practice management software vendors, food and nutrition companies, and insurance providers, produce training videos or webinars. This is by no means a complete list of sources but a great place to start looking, depending on the type of training you need.

Courses with certifications that staff can obtain from the Veterinary Management Institute (VMI), Veterinary Leadership Experience (VLE), and other organizations can help you and your team develop the skills and experience to market your practice successfully. For more hands-on marketing training, consider looking through the directory of VetPartners, an association of veterinary practice consultants, to identify someone who can teach your team techniques that will work to generate business for your practice.

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