Is it all right to use career fairs (for junior high and high school students) as an opportunity to advertise for our clinic?

This question can be interpreted in two ways. On the one hand, if the job fair is for high school students who might come work at your clinic and you wish to introduce the concept of careers in veterinary medicine, it may be an excellent venue and likely not too expensive. Most states have a shortage of skilled technicians, so this type of early exposure could spark interest in students who are not aware of work in the animal field.

On the other hand, if you are looking to gain new clients, a job fair at a high school is probably not a great resource. Remember, you need to speak directly to those who make the decision about who will care for the family pet and who will be paying for it. This is normally the pet owner or, in the case of a family, usually a parent. Children can influence these decisions, but there are better places to reach the people in charge of the family pet's health care than at a recruitment event at a high school.

How do I get the most from our local paper "Ask the Vet" articles I write?

Publishing a regular article in the paper is a great vehicle to generate name and face recognition in the community as well as to establish yourself as a trusted resource for all things pet related.

The style of writing should be informative but also exude compassion and honor the human-animal bond. This is a great opportunity to showcase your personality, that of the practice, and exactly what makes you different and special.

For maximum mileage from these articles, provide a link to the series on your website, including an archive section where people can read previously published answers. Encourage site visitors to write in with questions; you can be sure that any question submitted is one that many other pet owners have as well. If you own the rights to these articles, you might print them and compile a booklet to keep out in the practice lobby or exam rooms for pet owners to read while waiting.

If the paper publishes a feature article on you and your practice, have it professionally mounted and framed and hang it conspicuously in your practice for all to see!

How do I go about holding an open house?

The most important aspect of holding an open house is getting people to attend. There is nothing worse than throwing a party and having no one show up. Just as in every other undertaking, start with a plan. What do you hope to accomplish with the open house essentially, what is the purpose and whom do you want to attend? Are you looking to thank your current clients, attract new clients, or both? After you have identified the why and the who, focus on the how: how to get people there, how to involve your team, how to garner support from your best vendors, and how to throw a fun, informative, and worthwhile event.

Don't skimp on invitations, party favors, signage, printed handouts, and food and beverages. If you are AAHA accredited, use this as an opportunity to provide information about the significance of this designation. Take advantage of the materials AAHA makes available to its accredited hospital members for open houses. Many of your vendors will be glad to help out with ideas, giveaways, raffle prizes, and the like. Your staff will also be a great source of creative resources and potentially guests. Make this a team effort, plan well in advance and publicize it, and you are sure to have a successful event.

Question 85 addresses the return on investment from an open house.

How do I get our practice name out there into the community without excessive costs?

"Excessive costs" is a relative term. There will always be costs associated with operating your business profitably and sustaining a long-term legacy. If you are a new or early-stage practice, you will need to invest more to gain clients and build momentum to generate referrals. If you are more established, you will still need to actively and regularly communicate with current and prospective clients to let them know you care about them. It is all too easy for pet owners to respond to an attractive message or two from a competitor, especially if someone has also recommended another veterinary clinic in the area. Keep in mind that you are trying to build loyalty among your clientele, as those loyal to you are least likely to sample the competition and most likely to refer others.

The best marketing involves a variety of methods, similar to the concept of diversifying your investment portfolio. Not all avenues are directly measurable, but branding activities, direct mail (print and/or electronic), public relations, participation in charity events, advertisements, and a professionally designed website that is updated frequently are all important aspects of putting your best foot forward. Carefully choosing the best team possible to engage clients and deliver your services will help solidify your reputation for sustainable growth.

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