What is the best way to reach the 25-35 age group with information about our practice?

The first question you should ask yourself is, why are you looking to reach this age group specifically? Do the demographics of your area skew young and therefore you want to capture a larger percentage of younger clientele? If that's the case, then chances are you have a fair number of 25- to 35-year-olds working in your practice. Ask them what type of marketing they respond to and how would they like to be communicated with regarding their pet's health care.

It is likely that the generation who grew up with access to a computer, cell phone, copy machine, and video games has technology wired into their genes. They probably don't read a conventional newspaper but instead get their news from modern television satire shows, the Internet, or a favorite blog.

Not only are the sources of information now different than for previous generations, but it is delivered differently. With short attention spans and an eye for the visual, this age group requires that you provide quick and easy connections to the services they need. Otherwise, it is just as easy for them to skip over to the next option. So make scheduling appointments online easy and hassle-free. Allow people to access their pets' medical records through a portal and keep your website up-to-date, uncluttered, and full of bold headlines for simple and straightforward navigation. Confirming appointments by text will be appreciated, and receiving any follow-up instructions electronically will be considered a given.

If you are still printing on paper and faxing information, it's time to embrace a new world of communication or you will get left behind, and quickly.

How effective are email reminders versus mailed reminders?

Whether email or printed reminders are more effective depends on several factors. The best part about email reminders is that you can track their "open" rate to see how many get readsomething you cannot do with postal mail. If your website is set up to allow for online appointments, the reminder can link clients to scheduling an appointment right then and there, making it that much more effective. If you make it simple, your conversion rate will increase. You should be investing in this type of technology.

Both email and mailed reminder results can be tracked. Every time someone schedules an appointment, your practice management software should show that the user received a reminder and the service requested. Regular monthly reports should clearly outline the activity generated as a result of your reminder outreach efforts. If you are not getting these reports or need assistance in understanding them, consult your reminder service provider help you to learn to interpret the data so you can gauge their effectiveness and watch for trends over time.

Ultimately, how you reach out to your clients should be determined by who your clients are and what they prefer. In due time, electronic options for communicating with veterinarians will become the norm, so the sooner you get comfortable adapting new technologies to the desires of your clientele, the better for alland most of all, for pets!

Is it worth spending tens of thousands of dollars on a website developer to create and maintain our hospital's website? If yes, why? If no, why not?

The short answer is no, it should not cost tens of thousands of dollars to create and maintain a professional website. It is important, however, that you engage a professional Web development firm to build your practice website, as this is probably the most important and visible tool you have for speaking to your clients, prospective and current. Just its design will tell visitors a lot about you, so it is critical to be deliberate in what you say and how you use images and information. Professional services are not inexpensive, but do not select your website vendor based on price alone. There are many other considerations:

Website Do's

Engage a Web development firm that understands the animal health care industry.

If you have the time to devote to keeping your site current, have a content management system built for your site so you can do a lot of the work yourself.

If you do not have the time to devote to keeping your site current, have a regular plan to provide information to the website maintenance company so they can update the site for you.

Frequently introduce new information and keep information accurate and timely.

Use common and simple search engine optimization functionality, such as having others link to you, to help your site appear as high up in the listing as possible.

Hire a professional photographer to take pictures of your facility and your team at work for the website.

Use a professional copywriter to prepare copy specifically for the Web.

Do use an email address @thenameofyourpractice.com.

Website Don'ts

Do not believe you can write copy and design the site yourself and have it adequately represent who you are, unless you are a designer and developer.

Do not believe anyone who tells you they can guarantee you placement in search engines.

Do not launch your site and avoid touching it again for years. It is a living, breathing part of your practice.

If you have a website, do not use an email address @anyname otherthanyourpractice.com.

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