Creating a strategy and using your practice management system to drive your marketing efforts

An interview with Will Stirling – Managing Partner at VetsDigital

18 July 2022 5 min read


Will is the Managing Partner at VetsDigital and has over 14 years’ experience marketing in the veterinary industry. VetsDigital are Europe’s largest veterinary-only marketing agency that have a range of services from SEO to Email Marketing to Web Design and Campaign Management. They work with “one-man-band” practices to large pharmaceuticals and everything in between.

In this episode, we talk about the importance of a marketing strategy and the top tips on key marketing practices you can implement today.

Marketing strategy: is it just corporate nonsense or will it actually be useful at my practice?

Will outlines the conundrum where many practices don’t have a strategy and often it creates a very reactive environment. He also dispels the myth that it takes up too much time and actually it’s quite the opposite.

“ Having a strategy is important for three reasons: it saves you time, money and stress. It also doesn’t take long to do. When you’re doing your annual business plan, carve out an hour or two to do your annual marketing plan. And that can help deliver on the goals you’ve set in your business plan.”

Don’t forget about intention and measurable goals

We discuss the importance of intention – it is important to identify what it is you want to achieve whether that’s making more money, getting more customers, or perhaps it’s even having fewer customers, but more repeat business and engagement.

Will highlights:

“It’s also important to have measurable goals and work out the methods and marketing tactics you want to use to reach that goal. If it’s too vague, then it’s much harder achieve what you want. So for instance if you have a practice that’s too busy, quite often that comes from the fact that they might also be short of staff, so the perhaps the marketing isn’t focused on attracting new clients, but attracting new staff instead. It’s still marketing but just in a different angle. ”

Understanding and using SMART tools might also come in handy for your teams, not just from a business and marketing strategy perspective, but also for professional development and goals for your team.

The top three marketing tactics your practice can implement today

1. Use your practice management system (PMS) to its full potential

“Often practices don’t understand the full functionality of a PMS or it’s underutilised. But the software is already there and it’s paid for and it can be so powerful. Especially when it comes to opening up dialogue with your customers.”

Will mentions how you can gain easy wins by reappraising the way you send out reminders. Check that you’re sending them out to the right people with the right segmentation, that they are worded nicely and have a nice sequence and order to them. That’s why it’s important to have a plan in place because you can dictate how you send them out, how often, the messaging and the follow-ups. The PMS is the tool that can help you drive and execute these efforts.

Wallace Vets is a great example of how they use their PMS and SMS functionality to keep clients up-to-speed and facilitate things like their cat vaccine as well as creating insurance claims. In this context, they were able to save a lot of time from the benefits of automation.

2. Don’t be reticent or fear social media – it’s easier than you think

Again, it is useful to have a plan here to dictate the cadence of frequency to promote things.

“Insert some posts each month where you talk about products and deals you offer or where people can come in a certain day and get some discount or money off. Introduce a little bit of business into your social media – don’t be shy about being commercial. But be mindful as business stuff on social should only be 10% of your content. The rest can be about the brand identity, personality and what you stand for.”

Will also recognises practices may also feel nervous or reticent about posting content, fearing it’s not interesting enough. But often, the general public loves anything about pets! So usually anything you post will more likely be well received. Just make sure it isn’t ad-hoc or only once a month. You’ll be in a much better position if you’ve decided as a business and strategy, for example, that you’ll post three times a week.

“For example, a post on Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. One post might be a cute pet, one will be a staff story and one post can be a business/product offer. Then you’re not dreading or thinking too hard about what to post when the time comes.”

3. Use email and newsletters for more engagement and increased revenue opportunity

Tied in with using a PMS, email regularity and relevance are crucial. Will has observed practices not sending out key communications in a timely manner or missed opportunities. For example, pet health plans – you can remind clients of the value they’re getting on their plan or use email to promote the offers.

“Monthly is ideal, for example you can be telling people ‘you’ve 3 months until your next plan, but don’t forget you’ve got free worm treatment to use up’ because if you continually remind people of the value, when it comes to renewing, they’re far less likely to drop out.”

It’s all about relationship building and being front-of-mind with potential new clients and existing clients. Emails and newsletters are a great way to keep them up-to-date on what you have to offer on anything you deem important, whether it’s updates and announcements or key offers that you’ve defined in your marketing strategy and plans.

Consider consultation and third-party assistance

 We recognise it’s not always easy in terms of staff resources and time. Perhaps your clinic just doesn’t have a staff member with marketing experience or you simply don’t have the bandwidth. That’s where companies like VetsDigital come in handy because they can take the stress away and have a huge team of consultants who can take care of your marketing efforts, all with as little or as much as you need them. And like Covetrus, they too, often have staff with veterinary backgrounds whom are ex-nurses, clinicians, techs and more. So they know the business inside-out and all the inner workings of it, but yet have the commercial experience to communicate in the most efficient and effective ways to customers.