What are some "out-of the-box," unconventional ideas on how to creatively market yourself in your community?

The options are endless for making a splash in the community. The answer to this question lies in what is interesting to you and your team. Consider creating a charitable event that assists animals in need. Better yet, partner with a group that is already doing so, one you trust that has the reputation with which you would like to be associated. Together you could create twice the fanfare. Of course, pitch the story to the media or ask a local PR firm to help you get coverage for the event.

Think about other businesses that might enjoy an alliance with your practice. For instance, contact your local Red Cross and have a blood drive for pets and people. Or contact the local gym to conduct a seminar on physical fitness for people and their pets.

As an example, one cardiology group sponsors a wonderful event every year for a children's hospital cardiac wing. It is a reunion for all current and former cardiac patients. The kids love to see the dogs and cats that are also cardiac patients, and the hospital is grateful for the support. It is an event that everyone looks forward to each year, and it has become a highlight of the community.

There is no shortcut for creating awareness in your community. You must be part of your community to become well-known. Take advantage of the hobbies you enjoy to create synergy among multiple groups to bring together many more than you might on your own.

What factors influence a potential client to choose our facility over another based on the Web or print ad? What language and phrases catch clients' attention?

One of the reasons advertising, as a form of marketing, needs to be conducted continuously is that it is often a matter of timing. Remember, one aim of advertising is to satisfy a perceived need better than some other resource. Thus, a well-written and well-designed ad may capture the attention of someone in the market for veterinary services.

If you have decided that advertising on a community website or in a newspaper will reach your intended audience, then create multiple ads and rotate them. This will keep the ad focused on one key message. Also, because different people will respond to different messages, if you advertise your key advantages over the course of three or four ads, you are more likely to capture the largest group of potential clients with a message that is relevant to them. You have the opportunity to build interest over time. Perhaps a reader sees your ad one week, and the next week they see another one of your ads showcasing a different service. This tells them you are versatile and multifaceted in your offerings. You must also keep the ad fresh so that viewers will notice rather than ignore it.

Be creative and resist the temptation to create an ad that looks or sounds like other veterinary ads. Ads, like the other materials you create, should reflect the personality of the practice and be distinguishable from others.

Should we advertise to all pet owners or target our own clients?

It's important to determine what your goals are before you embark on any outreach effort. You must be in touch with your current clients on a fairly regular basis for a number of reasons, such as reminding them of vaccinations and other services, or informing them of new services, changes in personnel, or hours of availability. An even better reason is to let them know you care about them, which can be done by providing them with regular, consistent, and valuable information that benefits their pets.

However, if there is a specific service you want to promote, it makes sense to target the segment of your clientele who would benefit most from that service, in order to avoid overloading other clients with information for which they have no need. You would not want to direct a cat-related service at dog owners, for instance. Targeting has many benefits. You maximize your costs by directing the outreach only to an audience of people who are most likely to take advantage of the service or information. You can also be specific in the copy and provide details for this group of pet owners. This will increase the percentage of clients who respond favorably. Both types of marketing are important, but segmenting your audience for certain products or services makes a lot of sense (and cents).

As for advertising to all pet owners, a percentage of your marketing dollars should be invested in generating new clients. We discuss this at length in Chapter 4 on acquiring new clients.

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