Is it effective to market to clients who have not been active for a few years, but were once good clients? If so, what strategies work best?

This is a bit tricky because you do not know whether the pet you cared for is now deceased. A good approach to marketing to clients who have not been in for a while is to make a personal call to each one who passes the year mark without a visit. Hopefully, you'll have an opportunity to have a team member make personal contact, thank the client for her previous patronage, and ask whether there is anything you can do to help keep her pets healthy. If she is open to the idea, you may offer to include her in your electronic newsletter to stay on top of what is happening at the clinic or news about medical advances.

If you are unable to reach clients by telephone, a personalized mailer indicating you have missed them and would like to see them again soon is always nice. Include any recent changes to the practice, such as new personnel, services, hours, or other timely information. Perhaps an incentive to schedule a visit within 30 days will encourage some to take you up on the offer. However, if you have not reached or heard from a client in more than a year, you can probably make the account inactive in your system. It is also possible that former clients will notice you out and about participating in community events or in local communication channels, so that if they ever do need veterinary services again, they will know where to turn and that they will be welcomed.

We all know that word of mouth is still the best marketing tool, but what is the second?

There are a few next-best marketing methods. One method is to clearly serve a specific and dedicated audience. This may be counterintuitive, as most practices try to serve as many pets and pet owners as possible and thus focus on a very broad audience and geographic radius. But it has been proven time and time again that if you can segment your audiencechoosing a core population of pet owners that you would like to serve and then developing services to specifically meet their needsyou can become the clear and compelling choice or "go-to" practice. If you do a good job of satisfying a targeted audience, in short order those satisfied clients will tell others about you.

Another method is to simply become known throughout your communitycreate awareness by serving that community. As discussed in Chapter 6 on public relations, you will give back, contribute to good causes, gain awareness, and build your reputation at the same time. And you probably will have fun, too.

Beyond these more obvious solutions for marketing your practice, location matters, which, of course, speaks to how effective signage can be. If you are considering a move, visibility and great signage can work wonders for new business. Keep in mind that population shifts and consider locating in a newly developed area that is still growing.

Make friends with the local media. If you have a noteworthy story to tell that covers a range of human interests, put together a compelling pitch to the media and get some exposure for your practice.

Building a service business in many ways is also about numbers. The more visible you are, the more places you appear in service to the community, the greater the likelihood you will garner new clients. So get out there, and empower your team to be out there as well representing your practice.

What are the best ways to improve internal marketing?

Internal marketing, also known as inside sales, is most often thought of as reaching out to current clients of a practice and providing more services to this active list of pet owners who already consider you their animal's health care provider. So let's start here, and then let's offer a different perspective on internal marketing in the next question, also regarding internal marketing.

Most practices work hard to gain compliance on recommended services. But we all can do better, which is where internal marketing efforts are typically aimed. Because veterinary practices often service a wide variety of clientele, it is important to reach as many people as possible in the manner in which they prefer to be contacted. This requires that the practice be tuned in to its clients' needs. Ideally, you want to reach clients where they are and however it is most convenient for them, by offering the choice of text, email, telephone, or mail.

Frequency of contact is also important. To gain greater compliance and create stronger loyalty, it is important to reach your clients throughout the year, not just at annual vaccination time. Develop a variety of outreach efforts that incorporate many communication media and you will find that your visits will increase. Use direct mail with redeemable incentives if you have a special on a retail over-the-counter (OTC) item. Use an email format for personalized, useful, and timely information regarding safety, breeds, and recall news. Follow up after visits or procedures with personal telephone calls or to encourage scheduling of an elective service such as a dental cleaning. Finally, confirm appointments by textinga convenient, personal, but nonintrusive method to say you're looking forward to seeing them without bothering them during the day.

In summary, you can show you really care about your clients and patients by taking the time to get to know them, their names, and their preferences, and then by delivering on those details that create positive experiences. Do so frequently and consistently; most of all, make sure every member of your team understands that building relationships takes everyone and that all team members play a key role.

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