Marketing a veterinary clinic with no time and (virtually) no money is possible. Follow these five easy steps. By Rob Johnson
If you’re like many vets, marketing is something you do between 9pm and 10pm on a Sunday night. You know it’s important—but so are the other 10 things on your daily to-do list. But marketing a veterinary clinic with no time and (virtually) no money is possible.
To do it, you first have to overcome the classic small business marketing hurdle, where you try something in a manic frenzy, get little or no response, and just give up.
You’re probably guilty of that, but don’t feel bad. I’m guilty of it, too. We’ve all done it. Because marketing isn’t your number-one focus. So you stumble across a tactic that resonates, try it for a month or two, then decide it doesn’t work and never try it again.
But approaching your marketing that way is never going to work for you.
Instead, follow this five-step process. Each step in the process is quick—some steps, admittedly, are quicker than others—and can free up the rest of your time. Or at least make it possible to do your marketing yourself between 9pm and 10pm on a Sunday night.
Step 1: Make a plan
Without a plan, you’re just thrashing about in the dark. Unless you have a plan in place, you’ll never succeed. Otherwise, you will have no basis for judging whether you have succeeded or not.
Your plan should include some goals. Those goals should be the number of new customers you want to get each year, and the number of people you have to connect with to reach that goal.
Those numbers will differ from clinic to clinic, and depend on various factors. So rather than being precise, set yourself a general benchmark of converting one per cent of people you talk to into customers.
You will find it really useful further down the track if you think of particular people or groups you want to target with your marketing (like women, or cat owners, or puppy owners).
You can change the goals after a year or six months. But you need some kind of goal to start with, and an audience you want to talk to.
TIME TAKEN: One hour, once a year.
Step 2: Post one new piece of content to your blog each month
This is the bit that scares vets. You’re not writers, after all, and staring at a blank page is a little stressful.
To make this step easier, just write down one question that a client has asked you over the course of the month. You get asked questions every day, and it’s safe to assume that if one client is asking the question, others will want to know the answer.
So once a month, write down the answer to one of those questions. If it’s appropriate, imagine you’re addressing your answer to that particular person or group you are targeting with your marketing.
If you want to get a little more sophisticated with this part of the process, or if you can’t think of any questions, this ebook on 100+ Keywords for Vets [visit blog.yourblogposts.com/100-keywords-for-vets] can help.
All you’re doing at this stage is trying to match your content to your target audience. Don’t overthink it. Just create a single piece of content, once a month, consistently.
TIME TAKEN: One hour, once a month.
COST: Between nothing and $210 a month, depending on how much writing you do.
Step 3: Claim your Google My Business listing
If you haven’t done it already, pop into Google and claim your Google My Business listing.
You do this to make it as easy as possible for people to find you online. Claiming your business listing tells Google that you are a veterinary clinic, and that you’re based in the town or suburb you say you’re in.
By helping the search giant in this way, it will in turn help people find you when they’re searching online for a vet in your area.
Just hop online and do a Google search for ‘Google My Business’, and follow the steps. You’ll need to set up a Google account for yourself, but all of this is free, and you only have to do it once.
TIME TAKEN: About 15 minutes, once only.
Step 4: Boost your Facebook posts
Each month, when you publish a new blog post, you should post a link to it on your Facebook page. Whatever you do, DO NOT post the whole blog post on Facebook. Just add a one-sentence description of the blog post, and a link back to your site where people can read more.
If you use social media scheduling software, such as Hootsuite or Coschedule, you can organise for your post to be re-posted as many times as you like, and sometimes you can get it to repost automatically.
That in itself won’t take long. However, keep in mind that because you are a business, Facebook will only show your post to about one per cent of your Facebook followers. The other 99 per cent will not see it. That’s why you should never feel bad about reposting—the majority of your audience will never have seen the post before, even if it is the fifth time you’ve posted it.
The only way you can get your post in front of more people is by boosting it. If you are the admin on your Facebook page, Facebook will make this process really easy for you.
You can set up a target audience in Facebook based on age, gender, location and interests. Select the option for getting clicks back to your website rather than getting likes or comments. Likes and comments mean a lot to Facebook, but do nothing for your business.
Facebook will save that audience for you, so you don’t have to set it up again every time. Boosting one post, once a month, will significantly increase the reach of your content.
TIME TAKEN: About five minutes, once a month.
COST: Start at US$10 per month.
Step 5: Get reviewed
A referral from a happy client is still the most powerful marketing you can get. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on even your happiest clients to give you a plug at the right time.
Luckily, now you’ve set up your Google My Business page, there is an easier way. Once a client has left your clinic, ask the front desk staff to ask them to review your clinic on Google. Or alternatively, send the client a follow-up email saying, “If you’ve had a good experience, please review our business on Google, because it really helps other pet parents find us” (and give them a link to your Google My Business listing).
The great majority of them won’t bother (even if they are happy). But if one or two give you a positive review, it has an exponentially greater effect than just steering one person your way.
A positive Google review is a powerful ranking signal for the search engine. If it has to choose between two businesses that offer similar products and services, it’s going to give a higher organic ranking result to the veterinary clinic that has more positive reviews.
By the way, while you’re doing it, ask your client whether they would like to receive a regular email from you about their pet’s health. By asking clients to opt in to your email list, you have a regular channel of communication to them that you own.
TIME TAKEN: About five seconds per client.
The results from marketing a veterinary clinic with no time or money
You will not get any meaningful results in the first month. You may get some result but this is a long-term project. It will take a year before you have enough data to judge whether your marketing efforts are working.
But the advantage of approaching your marketing this way is it forces you to be scientific. It forces you to create benchmarks for your clinic that actually mean something.
Following this five-step plan will get you talking to the audience you want to talk to, rather than thrashing about in the dark, trying everything and succeeding at nothing.