How do we use Facebook and our website in marketing clients?

Using social media is all about building community. A communication tool such as Facebook allows you to broaden your reach and directly access a far larger audience than you could by traditional methods, and more cost-effectively. The beauty of Facebook is the way it's designed: Every time someone "likes" your page, it is announced to all of his or her friends and your exposure multiplies.

It is important to understand that using social media is not free, unless you think of your staff's time as free, which of course it is not. You should have a specific plan and purpose for keeping a Facebook page, just as when employing any other communication tool. If you have the resources, personnel, and time to effectively reach out and engage pet owners who would enjoy being a part of your community, Facebook can be an outstanding avenue to amass an audience.

Be sure your Facebook link is prominently displayed on your website to encourage visitors to check out your page and become fans. Additionally, make sure all of your practice's information is accurate and easily available on your Facebook page, along with an array of photos representative of your clinic. Because Facebook and the Web are both electronic tools, you gain the benefit of people finding your website on Facebook and vice versa. In essence, the tools support each other well and allow you to "point" visitors where you want them to go for information you recommend.

How can I make the most of technology (e.g., Internet advertising, Facebook, blogs, online coupons)?

Making the most of technology could take up a whole chapter, or book for that matter. However, in short, you want to integrate as many tools as possible with the goal of making it easy for people to find you, access your clinic, and accomplish what they need to in a streamlined fashion. Take down the barriers to more business. For instance, after you have built and launched your website, make sure all other online tools, such as Facebook, banner ads, and columns you write for other publications, link to your website.

Technology allows clients to communicate with you in convenient ways. Consider using online appointment scheduling, texting clients to confirm appointments, and emailing patient files and diagnostic images. No one likes to be on hold for a long time or to play telephone tag. If clients can communicate via email or text with their veterinary clinic, it will save time (and therefore money), and you will be viewed as progressive, accommodating, and client-focused.

One way to gauge the types of technology that are most client-friendly is to ask your youngest generation of staff what would be desirable if they were clients. You may just learn a whole new language. For each new suggested use of technology, you will also need to consider whether it will be useful to your clients and when it would be appropriate to adapt it. Not every new technology is right for your practice. It always depends on your clientele.

What is the best way to drive clients to our website?

Before you guide traffic to your website, make sure you have a site you are proud of and one that is easy to navigate. The type should be large enough for people to read comfortably, and it should have a clean design without too much clutter, include good photography, and be updated on a regular basis to keep it fresh and current.

Getting people to your site can happen in many ways. The most obvious is to provide your URL, or website address, on all printed materials. This includes business cards, brochures, trade show banners, direct-mail pieces, newsletters, promotional items, fax cover sheets, and letterhead stationery.

Anytime you communicate electronically, be sure to embed a link to your website into the document. For instance, create a signature file at the bottom of your email so that all of your contact information, including your website address, is automatically attached to each new email. This also means that your email address should consist of This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it . If you have a website, there is no reason to use a yahoo, hotmail, or gmail account. Don't miss this important branding opportunity by marketing one of the major Internet playersthey get enough publicity. Instead, market your own practice! Additionally, when you send anything via email, include hyperlinks to your site for more information. When posting on Facebook or Twitter, do likewise and you will create a pipeline of visitors from many places.

Finally, create relationships with other websites to provide a link to your site. For one thing, it could introduce another audience to you. Even better, the more sites that link to your website, the higher your search engine ranking.

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