#Hashtags in Veterinary Marketing

April 23rd, 2014 by Kate Matthews

HashtagSince their inception on Twitter in 2007, hashtags have become social media’s industry standard when it comes to organizing posts thematically. But what is a hashtag? And how do you use it? The answers are shockingly simple, and learning the art of the hashtag is not as mysterious as you might think.

What the #Hashtag?!?

Hash·tag [hash-tag] noun 1. A keyword or phrase used in social media that is preceded by the pound sign (#) that is written without spaces between words, and that creates a dynamic link back to posts of similar content, e.g. #SeniorPetCare

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Change the Concept of Work from Service to Theater

April 22nd, 2014 by Mark Olcott, DVM

puppy in a hatIn the book If Disney Ran Your Hospital by Fred Lee, the 6th chapter deals with a paradigm shift that takes place in certain hospitals. If we translate this to veterinary medicine, rather than focusing simply on client service, high achieving hospitals think of the entire experience their clients are having. The former focuses on what YOU are doing; the latter on what the CLIENT takes away.

I get it… a veterinary hospital is not theater and we aren’t actors. We deal with very serious things like illness, death, inability to pay for routine care, irate clients, etc.  When the author talks about “theater”, he is talking about the total client experience from when they first contact you, through the office visit, and up until they walk back out your door. In a sense, this IS a performance… a performance with multiple acts, if you will.  As the author points out, “…hospitalization provides a stage to facilitate the experience of healing… Disney’s business model focuses on how to improve the guest’s experience rather than improve customer service.”  Your veterinary hospital is providing an experience to your client that goes beyond just customer service.

Providing an experience is not about entertainment; it’s about engagement with your clients.  Consistency is a big part of this. Imagine if you were to tell a front desk applicant, “I need you to play a receptionist who loves people. Can you do that? I need you to get into your friendliest character every time you step onto the floor (stage), and no matter how you are feeling that day, your performance will be the same: friendly, cheerful, helpful, and sympathetic. Can you do that? Because if you can’t, I will find someone who can. I need someone in your position who has the talent to engage our clients in a memorable way while you go about your work, and I hope it will be you.” Talk about being authentic and candid! Set expectations up front for the high level of performance you expect from your team members. Be clear that you expect more than just customer service: you expect them to help create memorable experiences for your clients. Consistently.

“In The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, the authors describe four ascending levels of economic offering: commodities, goods, services, and experiences. With each offering, value and profits increase exponentially.”   

Commodities, goods, services, and experiences.  Are you providing all four?

About Mark D. Olcott, DVMMark, a native of upstate NY, obtained his bachelor’s degree in Biology from the State University of New York at Geneseo. He then earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University in 1995 and, in 2013, his MBA from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. Mark was a partner for several years in a multi-doctor small animal practice before leaving to start his own mobile ultrasonography business. More recently, Mark worked as an Emergency Veterinarian at a local referral hospital. He was named by his peers as one of the Top Veterinarians in Northern Virginia, holds multiple patents, and is a published author.

Mark is the co-founder and CEO of VitusVet. VitusVet is a collaborative venture between people with very diverse backgrounds and expertise, and is now a growing company with one simple goal: to make it easier for veterinarians and pet owners to share medical information. Mark lives in Maryland with his wife, three children, two cats, two dogs, and a rabbit.

Getting Started with Online Reviews

April 17th, 2014 by Ann Pearson

Husky DogWhy should I care about online reviews? People are going to say what they are going to say and there is nothing I can do about it.

While that may have been true about word-of-mouth advertising, it’s definitely not true for online reviews. There is an entire conversation taking place online about your veterinary practice, and you have the ability to join that conversation and shape it to benefit your business. Read the rest of this entry »

Yelp and Yahoo Deal Impacts Online Reputations

April 15th, 2014 by Ann Pearson

yelpWhile spring temperatures are causing warming weather patterns, Yelp and Yahoo’s new relationship has had a cool reception from many business owners.

You may have heard that Yelp and Yahoo joined forces so that Yelp’s reviews now show up on Yahoo. What you may not have heard is that this means any reviews you previously had on Yahoo, will disappear and be replaced by the Yelp reviews.

For some, this is good news as they did not have many reviews on Yahoo, but for others who had few reviews on Yelp and years of reviews on Yahoo, the impact on their online reputation was significant.

The good news is that while this is not the best situation for many businesses, it will not change your online reputation managing focus – you still need to continue asking your clients to write reviews on a variety of review websites and you still need to make sure you have a strong online presence.Yahoo_Logo

Google is still king and still the place to expend most of your ORM energy. Yelp will become your number two focus for generating reviews as they also struck a deal with Bing so that Yelp reviews will now show up on Yelp, Bing, and Yahoo.

If you would like additional information, the Wall Street Journal has a short article on the topic.

Decentralize the Authority to Say ‘Yes’

April 7th, 2014 by Mark Olcott, DVM


Chihuahua dog on white background
In my continued exploration of the book “If Disney ran your hospital” by Fred Lee, the next chapter deals with the potentially negative effects of centralized decision making. About 20 years ago, Disney dismantled the silos they found within their amusement parks and properties in an effort to empower team members to satisfy customers whenever and wherever they had the power to do so.

Giving employees the power to say “Yes!” to clients, even when it means giving refunds or other compensation, is incredibly empowering. The authority to say “Yes!” fights burnout, a major cause of which is lack of self-determination. Assuming you’ve hired smart, service-oriented people, trust them to do what’s right for the hospital and for your clients. Netflix, for example, has a very simple rule for employee expenses and travel costs: “Do what is in the best interest of Netflix.” That’s it. Read the rest of this entry »

What are Reviewers Saying About Your Practice?

April 3rd, 2014 by Ann Pearson

Playful catYelp, Yahoo Local, City Search, Google+, Foursquare… and the list goes on and on!

You want to know what people are saying about your practice and you want to respond to both positive and negative posts that your clients make but which sites should you monitor? Are there some sites that are more important than others? 

  • Find out which sites your customers are using. Go to each of the review websites and look at your page to see if there are comments. If there are comments that have been posted within the last six months, you should check that site daily. If not, you should check that site at least weekly. We recommend you monitor: Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, Yelp, City Search, Foursquare, Yellow Pages, Super Pages, Insider Pages, Merchant Circle, Wellness, Judy’s Book, and Angie’s List.
  • Claim ALL of your review site pages. In order to update the information on each of the review sites and to be able to reply to your clients who post, you need to “claim” the business as your own. Each site has its own process for verifying that you are the business owner and you will need to complete general information for each site. Do this for all of the review websites because you do not know which site prospective customers will turn to to read reviews about your practice.
  • Maintain your presence on the industry leaders. Google is the industry leader for search engines, so make sure you have reviews on the Google+ Local page and that you are interacting with your clients there. The popularity of review sites varies greatly for different localities, so be sure you do your homework on where your clients post, but don’t neglect any of the other top sites –Yelp, Yahoo Local, City Search, Merchant Circle, Foursquare, Insider Pages, and Super Pages.
  • Ask your clients for reviews on all review sites. When prospective clients are looking for a new vet, if they have to choose between a vet that has been reviewed and one that has not, studies show they will opt for the one that has reviews. Recommendations, even from strangers, carry weight. Make it your habit to ask your best clients to leave you reviews and point them to the websites where you need a stronger presence.
  • In short, maintain a presence and reviews on all of the major review websites, but especially on Google+ Local and on the review sites that are most popular in your region and your online reputation will be solidly established.

    If Disney Ran Your Hospital, part 2

    March 26th, 2014 by Mark Olcott, DVM

    German Shepherd Dog and cat togetherIt’s rare that a book really hits me like this book by Fred Lee did, so I’m going to keep riffing on it for a few weeks.  Disney has continued to innovate, grow, and maintain relevance despite increasing competition from other forms of entertainment.  In that way, Disney is a great role model for veterinary medicine, as our profession struggles to thrive amidst difficult economic times.   Read the rest of this entry »

    If Disney Ran Your Hospital

    February 24th, 2014 by Mark Olcott, DVM

    Smiling DogI’ve been reading an incredible book called “If Disney ran your hospital: 9 ½ things you’d do differently” by Fred Lee. Although the book was published 10 years ago and is about human medicine, the messages are highly relevant to people working in modern veterinary medicine. I’ll focus on this fantastic book for the next several weeks, and discuss one of his recommendations per post.

    It might be tempting to dismiss correlations between veterinary hospitals and Disney resorts as being far-fetched or simplistic. I disagree. While I’m not suggesting that everything that Disney does would work in our profession, at a high level, their focus on customer (“guest”) and employee (“cast member”) satisfaction is laudable. Read the rest of this entry »

    Handling Negative Reviews

    February 20th, 2014 by Ann Pearson

    Cat and laptop

  • You charge too much.
  • Your waiting room stinks.
  • The person at the front desk was rude.
  • You misdiagnosed my pet.
  • You only care about money.
  • I am NEVER coming back to your clinic!
  • Thankfully, not many people are bold enough to say such things in person, but online, people feel much less hindered and negative comments appear on review websites such as Yelp, Citysearch, Google+ Local, Foursquare, Yahoo, and many others.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Quality is Job 1?

    February 5th, 2014 by Mark Olcott, DVM

    Dog With Head Out WindowFord’s current slogan is “Built Ford Tough”, but before that it was “Quality is Job 1.”  This was their attempt to speak particularly to those often referred to as the “Greatest Generation”, for whom quality was extremely important.  Ironically, Ford used this as their slogan during a time when they were getting their rear ends handed to them by the Japanese and Germans, but that is perhaps a topic for another post.  If you SAY quality is that important, you better mean it:  consumers are less and less forgiving. Read the rest of this entry »