How can our practice take our internal marketing efforts to the next level?

One of the most exciting aspects of marketing involves the team working to unify everyone and create job satisfaction, which is also known as internal marketing. Most people think of marketing as an external activity. The truth is, though, that the most successful companies spend just as much if not more time focused on their greatest asset, their team, as they do on the practice. Launching an external initiative without ensuring your internal systems are designed to deliver is like burning money. What's worse, you likely will not get a second chance to correct service snafus because unless you live at the North Pole, pet owners have many choices when selecting a veterinarian. Also see Question 11 for more tips to improve internal marketing.

Hire carefully those individuals who you know have the capacity to create experiences for clients that will keep them coming back. Engaged team members may cost a bit more up front in salary, but they save tremendously in the long run. You'll experience lower turnover costs and require fewer expenditures on marketing because a well-honed team will generate more word-of-mouth referrals. Committed team members are also quite good at helping you train and integrate new staff or, conversely, help the underperformers choose to offer their services elsewhere.

Best of all, when you have team members who work in unison toward a common goal, they do so with great pride, and that translates out into the community. Your team members are your best billboards, not to mention that they make for a more enjoyable place to work. So spend some time and energy on your team, and your internal marketing efforts will get a whole lot easier!

What are some ideas that we can feature in our reception and exam rooms to market to our clients?

It is safe to say that few clients are aware of all the services you offer. Include printed materials that are professionally designed and written in language clients can understand with information on your most important services. Include your website address so clients can visit and access more information at a convenient time. If you have an electronic newsletter or some other form of communication that you send out by email, make sure copies are also included in your lobby and exam room materials. Encourage clients to opt in to these types of communication so you have an opportunity to provide them with other timely, important information regarding their pet's health. For instance, when taking a history, a technician could hand the client a brochure on dental health, suggesting it's time for Fluffy's cleaning.

In addition to educational information, clients always like to read about people who are similar to them. Keep albums with pet owner thank-you notes, photos, and testimonials to bridge the wait time, all the while showing how many people and pets you have helped, further bonding clients to you. You might even add a short case study near each testimonial with date, diagnosis, treatment, and outcome. These will undoubtedly trigger good questions, leaving a great opening for you to assuage any concerns of the pet owner that day.

In a prominent place in your lobby, place brochures from CareCredit or other third-party payment options. Not everyone is comfortable initiating a discussion of financial issues related to their pet's care, so making such information readily visible and available may help spark a necessary conversation.

How do we convince clients that certain vaccines, dental care, and other "discretionary" services are important?

If you believe that services such as vaccinations and dental care are in the pet's best interest, they are not discretionary. This is where you learn to develop all the communication skills you did not learn in vet school. Building rapport with clients gains trust and leads them to listen to and then go ahead with your recommendations. This skill can be learned, but it is one that takes practice. Making the recommendation, providing written literature, asking questions to learn the client's level of understanding, listening carefully between the lines for objections you need to overcome, and gaining compliancethese skills are both an art and a science, and are critical for your practice as well as your patients' health.

Many courses as well as books are available that will help you acquire the verbal skills you need, but nothing takes the place of practical application. It may seem a bit awkward at first, but if you sincerely believe that your patients will benefit by a certain level of care, then you are not selling anything other than your commitment to a healthy pet.

If you work in a multidoctor practice and observe that one or more veterinarians achieve greater acceptance of recommended services, ask whether you can listen in or participate in a few of their consultations so you can gain exposure to ways to present this type of information. We all have a sense of what feels natural, but we can always adapt ideas that others use to our own style to improve upon compliance.

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