Is paper marketing still worth the money?

Absolutely, but it depends on how you use it. One deterrent to printing materials is the perceived cost of printing and mailing. Today, however, great advances in the printing process have made full-color printing much more affordable. A good marketing agency likely has solid relationships with trusted printers who can work with you to select appropriate layout, size, paper stock, and even bulk mailing services to minimize cost and maximize impact.

When a client visits your hospital, it is good to offer a "take-with"a brochure, pamphlet, or professionally designed handout of some sort. We all know that clients retain only a portion of what is told them at the clinic, and therefore having an opportunity to bring materials home can help them learn or retain more information, share it with family members or other pet caregivers, and keep your name and number ready and handy at any moment.

There are still many reasons to print materials, and, like any other communications medium, technology has evolved, so utilize today's preferred resources for the best printed products. You can even use recycled paper and soy-based inks to lessen your impact on the environment at the same time.

Is marketing of over-the-counter products worthwhile for a veterinary clinic?

You shouldn't spend a lot of time or money marketing OTC products outside of your practice. However, it is extremely important that you stock many of these products and take time to educate your clients about their importance. You may not make the margins you once did on parasite control, heartworm prevention, or even nonprescription NSAIDs because of online competition, but you are still the best source of information for any drug or nutritional supplement for pets. Surely you have a preference for some brands over others and it is your job to help guide your clients to make the best choice for their particular situation and pet. If you take a comprehensive approach to caring for the whole pet, then making sure you stock and sell all these types of products is not only good for business, it will ensure you are the most trustworthy source of information about the proper products for pets. Many practices have a preferred brand or two and a clear understanding of their quality. Enlighten your clients; they want you to make a recommendation.

There has been concern about the efficacy of drugs purchased over the Internet and the quality control process they may or may not undergo. This is a controversial topic, so it is always best to provide information to clients about prescription drugs and your perspective on the pluses and minuses of medication sources and nutritional products for their animals.

What is considered a successful return rate and return on investment for mailers such as Valpak?

Unfortunately, these types of mailers are not typically very cost-effective. In general, a mass mailing is considered effective if it yields a 2 percent return. A better approach is to target pet owners as opposed to just anyone in a particular zip code, as Valpak inserts do.

It would be more cost-effective to partner with an aligning business to do some cross-promotion. Perhaps the pet resort in town or the busy groomer down the street would like access to other pet owners, and vice versa. You could either promote the neighborhood service or produce a mailer that goes out to both mailing lists. This could work in several ways. For example, you might design something that an aligning business is willing to include in its next client mailing. Therefore, that business is not giving away its mailing list but instead providing an endorsement of your services. Either way, gaining access to more pet owners with an attractive offer or by indicating an association with a trusted vendor will help garner new business better than a general mailer does.

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