The not-so-subtle Christmas music and advertising is a clear reminder that we are drawing nearer to the holiday season. It used to be that you wouldn’t see this kind of advertising until after Thanksgiving, but nowadays as soon as Halloween is over there is a palpable change in the background of our daily lives. How many more years before it’s Labor Day? Read the rest of this entry »
I recently returned from the AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg, IL after attending the AVMA’s recent Workforce Summit. As a newly appointed member of the Veterinary Economic Strategy Committee, we had two days of discussions about the future of veterinary medicine and it was very enlightening. While I can’t summarize the entire conference in one blog post, a few things stood out.
From the supply side, I want to clarify something that many veterinarians are unsure/confused about, namely, that the AVMA has the power to affect supply. I’ve heard colleagues say things like, “The AVMA should stop accrediting new vet schools/make the national boards harder/reduce class sizes”. In short, the AVMA can do NONE of these things as the Federal Trade Commission could construe them as being anti-competitive. Take veterinary school accreditation, for example. If an entity wants to create a new school of veterinary medicine and they properly fill out the paperwork and meet all the requirements for accreditation, the AVMA MUST grant them approval. The state of the veterinary marketplace is entirely irrelevant and considering such factors would be an anti-trust violation. I’m most definitely not an attorney, but the AVMA has excellent in-house counsel to help everybody be clear about what is and what is not possible for the AVMA as an organization to do. Check out the AVMA’s website for more info. www.avma.org
From the demand side, I came away from the meeting more convinced than ever that we are at an inflection point in our profession. Some practice owners “get” the Internet and the opportunities it provides practitioners for improved medical care and more effective marketing. These practitioners know their limitations and are willing to take advice about how to market their practice just as they would about how to treat heart failure in a patient. I believe the future is very bright for these veterinarians. Sadly, there are some practice owners who are either too busy or too burned out to even meet their CE requirements, let alone learn about Twitter. I suspect that fear plays a large role in this decision to disengage (and doing nothing IS a decision) or perhaps the misguided beliefs that the Internet isn’t relevant to solo veterinarians or that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Whatever the causes for this disconnect may be, the future is hurtling toward us at an incredible pace, and we must ALL fight the urge to be ordinary.
About Mark D. Olcott, DVM: Originally from upstate New York, Dr. Olcott received his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from State University of New York at Geneseo. He graduated from the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in 1995 and moved south to get away from the 6-month long winters! After an 18 month stint as an equine veterinarian, he has been a small animal practitioner since 1997. Over the last several years he has been the co-owner of 5 DVM small practice, a mobile ultrasonographer, and an emergency clinician at The Life Centre in Leesburg, VA. Dr. Olcott has particular interests in cardiology, pain management, and the use of ultrasound as a diagnostic modality in small animal practice. He is a published author, and holds two patents for an intelligent, automated pet feeder he invented.
He lives in metro Washington, DC area with his wife and 3 children. They have numerous pets including a dog, 3 cats, a rabbit and a saltwater tropical fish tank. Dr. Olcott in enrolled in the executive MBA program at the University of Maryland, and in his limited free time is an avid outdoors-man.
I got my veterinary degree from Cornell, and was recently asked to join the executive board of their alumni association. I was excited to give back to my alma mater, and happily agreed. We had our first meeting this past week, and I had a chance to hear a few different speakers describe the successes and challenges they’ve had in their particular practice areas.
One of these visionary leaders was Dr. Susan Hackner, who is a double boarded (IMED, E/CC) specialist and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Cornell University Veterinary Specialists in Stamford, CT. (www.cuvs.org) This hospital is a new venture that provides academic level emergency and specialty care in a high service model. CUVS opened about three years ago to rave reviews from local practitioners and pet owners alike.
Two things struck me about their marketing campaign: Read the rest of this entry »
The terminology that is familiar to veterinary professionals can be intimidating to clients. This can be mitigated through the use of familiar terms and simple analogies. The same is true for terminology used by digital marketing professionals. Veterinary websites and digital marketing are multifaceted and sometimes complicated, but putting the “tech talk” aside makes them much less overwhelming.
One of the most fundamental questions about digital marketing is: “Why should I care?” The answer? Digital marketing is vital to the future of veterinary practices. By 2015, it’s projected that more than 50% of web searches will be performed on mobile devices. Read the rest of this entry »
In the most recent issue of Veterinary Economics (August 2013), there is a survey that asked veterinarians to choose the top 10 things they would want to change about their practice. The number one response was “empty appointment times”. This seems to be a topic we discuss frequently at our hospital’s regular staff meetings, so it’s no surprise that others feel the same frustration we do. Whether it’s for a surgery, dental procedure or well-pet visit, “no-shows” cost you money and interrupt your practice workflow. I used to think this was just one of those things you had to deal with when you were in medical practice. Dentists, human doctors, and other providers have similar concerns, but what to do about it?
On the one hand, you could charge a “missed appointment fee”, but that has the potential to really alienate clients, not to mention making your staff uncomfortable when they have to collect this fee. Just chalking it up to bad luck, even when missed appointments are happening on a daily basis, is a pretty passive way to deal with a problem that is worth addressing. Read the rest of this entry »
As the acquisition marketing world continues to morph with the focus more and more directed at social media and websites for obtaining new customers, we can’t forget to remember that it is our existing client base that we should be expanding the vast majority of our marketing energies and monies towards. The number is nebulous, so just recognize that there is a significant multiplier difference between the cost to retain an existing client and to procure a new customer. Read the rest of this entry »
From everything I have seen, read, or experienced, the reason most people don’t like marketing is because they perceive it as selling. Marketing is NOT selling. It may lead to a sale and in fact that is what marketing is all about. Everything you do to educate, inform, coax, cajole, motivate, stimulate, your client to consummate a transaction whether it is bag of dog food or a major orthopedic surgery, is marketing.
Marketing includes resources such as your website, reminder cards, social media, phone calls, client service, logos, attitudes, brands, signage, emails, etc., etc., Marketing includes the message on those resources, the way it is written, the words, the message, the tone of voice, the graphics, the call to action. Marketing is education, information, problem solving, and sharing knowledge. Marketing is giving a client sufficient knowledge to comfortably make a decision that is in the best interest of their pet with no remorse afterwards. Marketing is not selling, it leads to the sale. You can market all that you want, however if there is ultimately NO call to action, then there is no sale. Read the rest of this entry »
In this phase of the veterinary moon, keeping your clients is a much more important focus when it comes to marketing than anything you do to acquire clients. Retention marketing has many resources, tools, and processes. However, the most significant one is getting the right people on board.
Many practices spend more time searching for the best deal on an antibiotic than they spend in hiring the best people for their practice. If it takes longer to order your weekly inventory than onboard a receptionist, you have a problem. Read the rest of this entry »
I went for every four years annual exam. Not because anything was wrong. Just because. My physician has been a personal friend for over 25 years so it meant when I asked for an appointment in the next two weeks at 800 AM, I got an appointment in 3 months at 1100 AM. Yes, he’s still a friend…
I did the normal stuff for your every four year annual exam and then Suzette came in and said, “Hi, I’m Suzette, Dr. S scribe. I’ll be in the room with Dr. S. Go ahead and strip down, socks included, and here’s a cover up.” The cover up was a piece of paper the size of small table cloth. Suzette was a mid-twenties, reasonably attractive women. Read the rest of this entry »