Creating a marketing campaign for your practice is just part of doing business. But exactly how do you measure marketing success? By John Burfitt
There’s no shortage of effective ideas when it comes to marketing a veterinary business, with initiatives including direct mail, eNewsletters, Facebook advertising, Google AdWords and native content.
All of which can work brilliantly, says Carolyn Dean of the veterinary and marketing consultancy Vetsites. But it has to be clear what kind of a result is necessary to make the whole effort worthwhile.
“It’s not rocket science, but the need to track the results of a campaign is something that still confuses many veterinary practices,” Dean says. “The main mistake I see is people put their marketing out there without any idea if it is working or not.
“It’s a matter of focusing on two numbers—the cost of your campaign and the return it gives you. You can’t do one without the other, as it won’t tell the true story if your marketing has paid off. There is no point doing the shiny and flashy new campaign if you don’t track the number to determine how it performed.”
Dean claims marketing needs to follow a 3:1 ratio—for every $1 spent, it needs to return $3 to make it worthwhile. “This provides a realistic base to work with,” she advises.
“You may have spent $200 on a letterbox drop, and only got new one client, but if that new client is worth $600 of business in that first year, and then becomes a lifetime client in the years to come, then that campaign was a great success—and yet, only attracted one new client.”
Dean suggests keeping a comprehensive spreadsheet for each campaign. “The spreadsheet details what the marketing is, what it costs, how many clients it got in, the value of that client and the return on the investment,” she says.
With online campaigns, tracking can be as simple as looking at clicks on a ‘Contact Us’ page, what traffic social media is to the practice website. Dean adds, “This is why taking a long look at the numbers you are dealing with is so vitally important.”
Dr Diederik Gelderman of the Turbo Charge Your Practice consultancy estimates most well-managed practices usually spend one per cent of their annual turnover on marketing, and yet many businesses he deals with spend far more.
“And they don’t need to,” Dr Gelderman says. “It’s a matter of having a system so that every piece of marketing you’re putting out there is trackable. It could be a Facebook offer, a Google ad or a direct mail coupon, but you should know when each new client arrives on your doorstep how they found you. Most practices don’t do that, and so there is a lot of guessing going on with how their marketing efforts perform.”
“The need to track the results of a campaign is something that still confuses many veterinary practices. The main mistake I see is people put their marketing out there without any idea if it is working or not.” Carolyn Dean, Vetsites
One recent campaign Dr Gelderman says has achieved great results with his veterinary clients is that targeting new home buyers in the area surrounding a clinic, through a direct mail offer. Included in the mailout is coupons, each with a particular offer for the family pet, like a free worm tablet or $20 off a vaccination. When the new client arrives to take up the offer, they hand over the coupon with a code on it.
“We are seeing a result of an average of 3.5 new clients coming in the door a week, and that is wonderful as all it costs is printing, an envelope and the stamp,” he says. “Through the coupon colour and its particular code, we can track exactly how those people found their way to the clinic. By then offering great service, the vet should do everything they can to turn that person and their pet into a lifetime client so they keep coming back—that’s where value is.”
It is understanding how the cost of the campaign compares to the financial results brought in by new clients that is key, Dr Gelderman adds.
“Your campaign may have been a great success, but the problem is in how those figures are interpreted,” he says. “I have had some practice owners send out 100 letters and want 40 people rushing through the door, which is totally unrealistic. This is when you need to look at the numbers and if you find that for every $1 spent, you got $10 through the doors, then you’ve done well.”
Caroline Ucherek of CJU Medical Marketing believes tracking online results is far easier due to the analytical data that is available through Google and other social media platforms.
“Where this can fall down, however, is with the lack of tracking of that lead once it’s landed internally and determining the conversion level,” she says. “This can be a sticking point with good leads that are delivered but then there’s a failure to follow through. Ideally, we want to see a client converting around 40-50 per cent of their online leads into new business.”
Having one person in the practice whose job it is to track campaign results can centralise the whole experience, Carolyn Dean adds. It also makes maintaining the data for future campaign analysis more streamlined.
“Whoever is responsible for dealing with clients needs to make it part of the procedure, finding out how the clients who ring in, send an email or walk through the doors are communicated with,” she says. “There has to be a system in place, maybe as part of the management software system or even a tally on a piece of paper next to the phone. If your staff have kept good records, you can clearly tell what the return on that investment has been and how that campaign has worked, or not.”
Being flexible is essential to achieving success, adds Sonia Ceri of the consultancy Four Drunk Parrots. Ceri says it’s a matter of paying attention to the tracking to see what is working and responding appropriately.
“Testing is probably one of the most powerful tactics in marketing, so you might have two different landing pages or two different email subject lines, and then you determine which has the higher conversion rate,” Ceri says. “You ditch the one you don’t need and move forward with the one that works. You do the same with your ads, whether that is online or offline.
“If something doesn’t work, have enough alternatives to work with to find success. Then keep testing different ad copy or images or target audiences until you find that sweet spot that resonates, leads to enquiries and ultimately converts into sales.”