For our 13th episode, we had the pleasure of speaking with Ian Shapland who is an Approved Advisor with a focus on Marketing and Business Development. He is the Co-Founder of VetDigital in Australia and his expertise heralds from 30+ years working across the Veterinary, Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical industries consulting in traditional and online marketing.
Understanding how to balance budgets and evaluate what’s critical in the CoL crisis can be a headache. Here, we unpack the importance of brand equity and how to make sure things like marketing and advertising don’t take a backseat. It can even impact and benefit your staff recruitment efforts.
Times of crisis become an opportunity
In the first three minutes, Ian already highlights how we can use these times to take advantage:
“This is where you can really entrench your brand equity. For the majority of clinics and those who have few staff and one or two owners, it’s where you can really communicate who you really are and showcase your personality and positioning within the marketplace. It’s crucial and the dividends are enormous.”
This is translated in the example where Ian explains how you can use your brand to attract the right candidates when advertising a job role. Hence, it demonstrates how branding and marketing can even help tackle or relieve issues for a practice amidst the global vet shortage, another headwind which has been in the way for some time.
“A simple example is that Vet A and Vet B, in close proximity to each other, were both advertising for vets to join their team. Vet A received 18 applicants and Vet B received only two or three applicants. This truly came down to each vet’s positioning within the marketplace. It’s not just about engaging with your clients. It’s about engagement with the whole community.”
Understanding community marketing better
Here, it’s not too dissimilar from understanding marketing in a generic sense, but puts an emphasis on building relationships with the wider community. Community marketing is a brand growth strategy centred around bringing customers together over a topic that is aligned with, or directly related to, a brand in an engaging and non-intrusive way that puts customers first. It’s about them, not you.
When people are looking, they get from your website, the way you talk, tone, personality style, values and so on. If people know you better and what your brand is all about, you’re more likely to attract people to your clinic.
It is useful to think about how you communicate to your community in terms of Voice of Customer (VOC). Using the VOC framework, means you truly seek to understand the pain points and desires of your target audiences and then adjust your communication style to meet those needs, as well as aligning it to the type of brand you want to be.
You can understand customer pain points and desires through the following methods:
- Customer reviews (on your own clinic or competitors)
- Competitor websites
- Conversations with customers
- Social media and trending topics
You can then use these pain points or desires to help create your brand and fuel your marketing efforts. For example, if you’re seeing many reviews where the community are talking about how much more they want a personal service and not to be rushed in their appointments with the vet, you can use this pain point to adjust your website copy that is embodied in your values, stating your emphasis is on providing a very personal touch. You can also follow up in email marketing that compliments and amplifies that voice.
Or if members of the community are talking about how they want more self-serve and flexibility options e.g. being able to appointments online, you might also want to emphasize your appointments and booking section online and in social media.
“Brands are so much more than your products and services. It’s critical in having a personality to show the core of who you are, what you stand for and the problems you solve in the community.”
At Covetrus, we have one veterinary practice as a customer with a value that communicates “supporting our customers on every step of the journey.” To embody that value in their marketing and communications, they’ve embedded SMS text messaging that can be used in many scenarios including being able to text the pet owner as their pet is out of surgery, enabling them to provide status updates for their customers, truly embracing the “journey” value.
Most practice management systems (PMS) help you facilitate your marketing efforts with integrated online booking functionality and SMS features.
And when doing these things, most likely, the ability to do these things and technology is already in place at your clinic unless you’re just starting out and opening a new practice. Costs can be kept reasonable and if you’re a start-up, having a decent budget allocated to marketing is recommended as that’s how you’re going to get the word out and start attracting customers. Again, it doesn’t have to be mammoth as starting out small and steady is just as strategic and clever as doing big bucks and big bangs. Marketing and advertising do not equal splashing dollars. It simply means communicating better and more strategically to your community and customer base.
Look ahead to 2023 by starting at home base and getting back in shape
By looking at opportunities instead of headwinds, Ian also recommends starting at home base. By this, he simply means that after a chaotic time and franticness from the pandemic, getting the chance to:
“Find out how well you and your team really are. From your mental health to general training needs. Look at your processes, policies and procedures. What can be revamped and improved? What are you investing in? Are your staff up to scratch medically and emotionally etc? You can reinvent yourself and get back in shape.”
It’s a good time to refresh your practice and clarify your brand by simply taking a breath and getting ready for the next chapters. Three hot tips from Ian as your takeaway is:
- Know yourself. And know your ‘Why’. This will help you identify, create and promote your brand accordingly.
- Engage with your community. You’re a leader for the community and building trust with them based on what you’re saying and promising is important. Bring them along with you and your journey.
- Engage with your team. The people around you and other vets in the same town, join groups, communities, locally and nationally. They lean on you and you lean on them, there’s so much contribution and innovation that can happen from diversity and connection.
Things such as marketing, building commensurate revenue and pet-health plans can be further explored in our 2023 eBook, Trends and Insights, Looking ahead and how to create a forward-thinking practice.
Download your copy of the 2023 eBook