Many times at Beyond Indigo we talk to people who are moderately to extremely overwhelmed with their marketing Journey. For most veterinary hospitals they do not even know where to start, what to do or how much time it is going to take. I don’t blame people for being overwhelmed. There is significant amount work, time and knowledge involved in a marketing program. If you are on the overwhelmed train, here are some points to consider that I have gleaned from 1000‘s of veterinarians about why planning for this Marketing Journey can be so overwhelming. Maybe you can relate to some of them.
Overwhelmed Issue Number One: Since most veterinarians and their staff have had to conduct very little marketing until recently, there is a steep learning curve to get up to speed. Most veterinarians still tend to be between 1996 and 1999 in their online marketing initiatives. Hospitals still try to build websites themselves, have servers located in their physical buildings and are struggling weather to use Yellow Pages or not. The problem is how to quickly learn 15 to 17 years of knowledge in a short period of time? Where to start?
Overwhelmed Issue Number Two: Who in the heck does the marketing program? Many hospitals are trying to tackle it completely by themselves and noticing it causes a juggling problem. Multiple people are tapped to do different aspects of the marketing program but nobody really is in charge. Then the message from the hospital is not consistent either in tone or timing. Or the marketing program goes really great until a new problem or focus comes into play and it is forgotten for awhile. This causes gaps with building and growing relationships which is the primary function of online marketing today. The problem is how to have the staffing resources and time to keep the marketing program ongoing.
Communicating tends to be one of the hardest aspects of all relationships. For the doctor/patient relationship, it’s easy to assume that because the doctor provides health information the pet owner hears it. But do they? Not really. Why? Pet owners today tend to:
- Have their face in their phone.
- Are overwhelmed with the medical information the doctor is presenting.
- Focus on other anxieties in their life and aren’t focusing on the present.
- Are emotionally processing the first piece of information presented and miss the rest of the medical update.
- Forget or modify the content of the information presented over time. (Think of the game telephone).
It’s no secret that today’s veterinarians face a number of challenges that our predecessors didn’t. Oversupply of veterinarians, educational indebtedness and loss of pharmacy revenue to major retailers are but a few issues facing the profession. I’ll be writing about all of these in the coming weeks, but each of these “clouds” has a distinct silver lining if you know how to find it. As a practicing veterinarian and, more recently, an MBA student I have come to grips with one cold, hard fact: that’s business. While challenges certainly exist, we must remember that the wind is at our back in many important ways. The pet industry is one of very few TRULY recession resistant industries in the US. Americans spent over $50 billion on their pets last year, despite tough economic times, with veterinary medicine representing about $14 billion of that total. More and more people are considering pets to be members of the family, and this is a meta-‐trend that I believe will continue for the foreseeable future. Will our profession be the same in 10 years as it is now? No, it won’t. Rather than grow frustrated about market realities that may be beyond our control, we all must redouble our efforts on those things we CAN do something about. For example, don’t get overwhelmed by how fast computer technology is changing or that you don’t understand “the cloud”. Focus on making small, easily reversible decisions that will grow your practice. Even if something doesn’t work, you want to “fall forward”. For example, do you have a website? Are you on Facebook? You may not be online, but I promise you that your clients are. Ignore this at your peril.
In my next post I’ll take up the topic of pet insurance, and why you should be embracing it in your practice. And I don’t mean just putting brochures up front and hoping people ask about it. I mean you, your technicians, and front desk staff should ALL be discussing it with each and every one of your clients, ESPECIALLY during puppy visits.
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.
This is the second part of the excerpt from one of our free Wednesday Webinars series. Presented by our Director of Project Management William Lindus. In our previous blog post we talked about the difference about writing for print material versus for the web. In this second part we go into more details about how to make your web copy work.
Let’s talk about how to make your web copy work. The first, and probably most important piece of advice I can give is to avoid technical jargon. This is particularly difficult for veterinarians, as you have built your education and your careers on highly technical terms, phrases, and acronyms. For example, you should use phrases like ‘chronic kidney disease’ instead of ‘chronic renal failure.’ It can be okay in some cases to use more technical terms… but make sure you back these technical terms up with phrases anyone can understand. Example: If you are writing a web page about your staff cardiologist, make sure your copy prominently discusses ‘heart health’ or similar phrases. Your web copy should be written at the same level that US Today writes, which is at about an 9th grade reading level. Be specific with the points that you make on your site. Superlatives (phrases like ‘we are the best’ are often over-used in writing), but if you can back your superlative up with a specific, your statement is no longer just fluff. Instead of saying, ‘we are the best,’ imagine how much more powerful it would sound if you said, ‘we have been voted the best veterinary practice in Anytown, USA.’
Also, remember that this copy is for your clients, and should be tailored to what they want. Make it about them! You don’t need to include your mission statement on your website. I’m sure your mission statement is great, and I’m sure it reflects who you are as a practice, but think about this: Every mission statement a veterinary practice has ever created says something about providing, ‘high quality veterinary care,’ and such phrases become meaningless to the consumer on the go. Instead, get to the point with what services you can provide your client. This next point terrifies most veterinarians: don’t be afraid to use your web copy to upsell. Most of the time when I bring up the concept of upselling to veterinarians, I’m greeted with either looks of shock or looks of fear. After all, marketing isn’t something that most veterinarians are used to. However, your website is as much a web marketing tool as it is an information source. Use this to your advantage! For example, if one of your pages is about pet vaccinations, it is a great idea to discuss the benefits of purchasing pet medications from your clinic (or through an affiliate that you trust) as opposed to through other sources. Not only are you driving revenue for your business, but you are also providing a service by keeping your clients from purchasing pet medications from risky sources.
There are a few guidelines that a good web copy writer will follow when writing for your site. These can actually be quite nuanced, but here are a few to get your feet wet. A website’s home page should have less than 100 words of content, and this content should contain the ‘value proposition’ for the site. The value proposition is your brand promise, or what your customers can expect from you. What is the end benefit that you are offering? What service do you offer? Who do you offer it to? Why is this useful? Your home page content should answer these questions in 100 words or less.
Internal pages on your website (anything that isn’t the home page, basically) have a bit more leeway. You can comfortably fit between 250-500 words of copy on a web page, although much more than this and your client’s eyes will start to gloss over. Bullet points are your friend here, as is a ‘choppy,’ easy to scan layout. Internal pages should drive your customers to some sort of action. This may be as general as turning the reader into a new client for your practice, or it may be more specific. Think back to the example from earlier about the pet medication link on a vaccination page. Headlines should be short and efficient. Stick to headlines that are less than 80 characters, and make sure your headline uses the key phrases that users may be scanning for.
This is an excerpt from one of our latest free Wednesday Webinar series. Presented by our Director of Project Management William Lindus.
As a veterinarians, office manager and/or other veterinary professional you have quite a bit of experience with writing. You probably have written for print media all of the time, from reports, to articles, to client handouts. However, you can’t apply the same principles that you use for print writing to web copy writing because your audience is different. With print materials, your audience is trained to read word-for-word, start to finish. With an article or a handout, you are expecting your reader to read the entire body of work as a complete entity. Otherwise, key points may be missed!
But why is this? Well, for starters, the web is a user-driven medium. Visitors to a website feel as though they have to click on things to ‘engage’ with a page. Long copy makes users feel as though they are being inactive or that they ‘doing it wrong.’ Remember also that the web has millions of web pages, all competing for the attention of your visitor. If a client can’t get the information they need at a glance, they are very likely to bounce to another site. With the rise in popularity of smart phones, this becomes even important. Currently, 10% of all Google searches are made using mobile devices, and studies show that by 2014, mobile users will actually exceed desktop users. To keep up with this ‘on the go’ lifestyle, a website should have very mobile-friendly content.
We know how web copy is different from print copy… but how do we evaluate whether or not web copy is effective? On a well-written website, the copy may appear ‘choppy’ or repetitive. This is where you need to throw away everything you thought you knew about writing and look to web writing as its own entity. Your website copy may appear ‘choppy’ with lots of bullet points, effective headlines, and short content, but this is useful for the 79% of web users that we discussed earlier. Choppy can be good!
Keep in mind also that many users will never see the home page of your website; because of links from social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest, etc) or through Google search returns, they may enter your website through one of your service pages. This is why some information may be repeated throughout your website. I said it before, but it bears repeating: most users will not read your web page word for word, start to finish.
To be continued…
by Fritz Wood, CPA, CFP
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. At the Central Veterinary Conference, one of my presentations focused on the Serenity Prayer, and specifically its application to product sales in veterinary practices. The quality of your life may improve dramatically if you let go of those things over which you have no control. Examples of things you cannot change include:
- The fact that popular parasite control products are sold online
- The fact that popular parasite control products are sold by Big Box stores
- The fact that some of your clients will choose to buy those products outside your practice
- The fact that many rational consumers are motivated by low cost, convenience and wide selection
- The fact that you lack a multimillion dollar advertising budget and the ability to buy product by the train load
Yeah, yeah…life’s not always fair. Now stop complaining and compete! Have the courage to change the things you can. Things you control include:
- Price (price matching? price competitively? display price per month or dose? etc.)
- Reminding clients to refill (phone, text, email, postcard, etc.)
- The value the client gets when buying from you (e.g. doctor/client/patient relationship, time, attention, advice, counsel, expertise, professional opinion, education, questions asked and answered, demonstration on how to apply product, peace of mind, manufacturer guarantee or warranty, etc.
- If you want to provide complete product selection and total convenience, opt for a veterinary friendly online pharmacy that carries every product, never closes, and delivers to you clients’ home tomorrow
- Doses dispensed (e.g. single-dose dispensing versus larger-dose dispensing)
I find myself silently reciting the Serenity Prayer several times each day. Now, when something hits me over the head, my learned instinct is to ask myself, ‘Can I change this?’ It’s proven amazingly helpful in my life. I enjoy much more peace and calm than ever before!
About Fritz Wood: Fritz is the former Personal Finance Editor for Veterinary Economics, the monthly business authority for practicing veterinarians. He has authored more than 100 articles related to the business of veterinary medicine and personal finance. He has also contributed content to several books and on-line educational experiences, including the Veterinary Nutritional AdvocateSM and VetMedTeam.com. Fritz conducts 50 to 75 seminars each year, each very well-received and highly evaluated by attendees. He teaches annually at most veterinary medical schools, as well as local, state, regional, national and international venues. Fritz has presented in nearly every state and in more than a dozen countries. His presentations have positively impacted thousands of individuals and practices worldwide. To learn more about Fritz Wood please go to www.fritzwood.com.
Hello! This is Kelly, the CEO of Beyond Indigo. We have taken our focus on Positive Based Marketing a step further and putting our research and knowledge into a blog as well as a Facebook page. This week we are focusing a post from this new blog. We look forward to your liking our Facebook Page as well as following our new blog on Positive Based Marketing vs. Fear Based Marketing.
The idea seems “cool” to be positive, but really what is Positive-Based Marketing vs. Fear-Based Marketing? When a business uses Positive Marketing, what they are doing is creating and empowering relationships between themselves and their current/future clients. This creates a whole and a oneness with all parties that are involved. Ideally, the business creating the marketing is trying to improve the value and quality of the life of the person using that business’ services. In return, the person using the services is enabling that company to stay in business through his or her engagement and interaction with the business. It is a win–win and creates a positive atmosphere. Plus, people are encouraged to think whether this particular product or service is a good fit for them. People tend to be happier and more fulfilled with Positive-Based Marketing.
Now, think of the negative marketing campaigns that you have seen. Fear is used in Fear-Based Marketing to sever relationships or isolate people from their relationships. It backs people into a corner and makes them panic thinking they will no longer be accepted by the group/society if they don’t use the product or service being marketed. Fear-Based Marketing also encourages people to react — and not to think. For example, if a female watches a cosmetic commercial, she is usually told that she will not be beautiful or accepted by society unless she wears that exact shade of red. She will be “kicked” out of the group, so to speak. To be included in the whole, she needs to wear that shade of red and, therefore, she must immediately go buy that shade of red. She is not empowered to think: This shade is great for me; therefore, I will purchase it. People tend to be more fearful and anxious with this type of marketing.
To read other posts on this blog please click here.
Note from Kelly Baltzell CEO Beyond Indigo Pets: We are going to take a few weeks to review what has happened on the Internet the past year. We will be posting pieces that I have written from AAHAMarketlink through MWI to catch hospitals up to speed and to review what we have learned. Thank you for joining us!
This first piece covers one of the basis of marketing – Know Thy Self. If we do not know how we think and how our market thinks then it is much harder to engage and interact with our clients.
How Do Pet Owners Think?
After speaking to more than a thousand veterinarians and their staffs this past year, I have recognized several general concepts regarding how veterinarians view the world versus how their pet-owner clients view it. Talk about a cultural divide! Following is a list of ways in which vets think and what pet owners actually expect.
1. Vets are check-the-box type of people. “I have a website. (Check!) Does it work? I have no idea, but I have one! The Yellow Pages rep came around, and I handed him a check. Are my clients finding me in the Yellow Pages? Who knows? But I am done with my marketing, right?” When speaking to vets and their staffs, I ask them how many still use the local Yellow Pages to find information. Maybe 5–10% of the people raise their hands. Then I ask how many businesses in the rooms still advertise in the Yellow Pages. About 95% of the people raise their hands. Even among veterinarians, there is a disconnect on ad placement versus use.
On the other hand, pet owners want ongoing interaction and engagement with the veterinarian, who is their credible source of information about animal health. The majority of people shopping online today consult from 2 to 10 sources before making a purchasing decision (Google, ZMOT). This search tends to follow the path of starting on Google, going to online reviews, and then going to a website. Or, people start their search on Facebook, go to websites, and then to online reviews. Other sources include blogs, YouTube, e-newsletters, next-door neighbors, a business sign, and a few look at court reports for criminal records on a prospective
2. Vets have said to me: “My medicine stands for itself so why should I ask?” Veterinarians have been trained not to ask for reviews or accolades. They believe that they either practice good medicine or they don’t.
Now 70% of people, per Google, research online reviews before making a purchasing decision.
To read the rest of this article please download the PDF of the original AAHAMarketlink publication: Veternarian vs. Pet Owner Thinking
Yawn—content is so boring, right? Why should we care about content? Throw a few words up on the page, call it good, and move on. Hold on! Not so fast. Content is the star player in any online marketing program. Key functions of content are:
- Search Engine Optimization Placement: Content plays a major role in how/where your website is placed on Google. In February 2011, Google made a change to its algorithm, emphasizing high-quality content as a key search engine optimization requirement. This change was called Panda. Bottom line—template content is out and original content is now “in.” (For tips about search engine optimization and content, please visit www.beyondindigopets.com/blog/.
- Education: As consumers, we know about cars, food products, cleaning products, and beer because of the amount of advertising we have seen on these subjects. However, we know minuscule amounts of information about veterinary health care and why we should pay for it. We just know as pet owners that we “sorta need it.” The job of content is to educate people about what the service is, why their pet needs it, and, frankly, why people should pay to have that service conducted.
- Engagement: If the content on your Internet marketing platforms is stale, boring, flat, and so on, then why should the consumer read it? The content needs to be written correctly in the proper style for the platform (website, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, eNewsletter, YouTube, newsletters, and so on) where it is placed, and it needs to ENGAGE the reader. If the content is not compelling, why should the consumer read it and, more importantly, why should they come back?
Placement for Engagement
Multiple times I have been asked: “Can I write the content once and copy and paste it across all my platforms?” No. Resist this urge to write material once, check the box, and just plaster it out there willy-nilly. You will lose your audience. Each platform has its own style and guidelines for the way content should be displayed, the length, and the tone of how it is delivered. Sure, the message across all the platforms can and should be the same, but the exact content in each place needs to be avoided. General guidelines are as follows:
- Online Review Areas: Everywhere people can leave you reviews online must be managed and monitored. The content on these pages needs to be accurate and updated on a regular basis. Once a review is left, then a thank you note needs to be given for positive reviews and an educational note placed for a crabby review. Each thank you/educational note needs to be unique to the post and should not be a standard reply.
- Website: Most veterinarian websites I see fall down on the job when explaining the services they offer and why people should use them. Website content needs to be 400 to 500 words per page, needs to educate the pet owner on what the hospital does and why they provide those services, and it needs to be optimized (coded) to be found in Google. The content style needs to be informative and educational in nature. Because protocols do not change every week in the hospital, do not expect to change content about what services you provide on a constant basis. Instead, a blog should be used for weekly educational updates.
- Blog: Confusion reigns over what in the heck a blog is. Think of it as an online magazine that is educational in nature. Resist putting cute updates about the office pet on a blog (those type of updates go on Facebook/social media). Focus on short paragraphs, bullet points, and easy to understand educational topics that are timely. For example, in the spring a good topic would be flea, tick, and heartworm prevention.
- Social Media Platforms: A good framework for the tone and style of social media is a coffee shop. Conversations on social media areas are fun, chit chatty, ongoing conversations with a hint of education thrown in for flavor. Numerous times I have heard doctors say they wrote a beautiful article that is educational in nature and are disappointment nobody thought it was useful on Facebook. However, the picture of the office cat doing something cute went viral. The educational piece is great but needs to be placed on a blog. Correct placement is everything with content. (For tips on content for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+, check our blog each week during the month of May at www.beyondindigopets.com/blog/).
Monitor Its Success
Marketing needs to be monitored to make sure it is generating the results that are desired. Are people engaging with the content? Are they reading it? Is the post/page/tweet being passed to other people? To find out, monitor the statistics. Each platform mentioned above has its own statistics program that is included or can be added to determine the success of the created content. Monitoring, adjusting, and changing the content based on results is an ongoing process—but a necessary one.
Writing for Facebook and Twitter is not the same as writing for your website or blog. If you are using the same writing style in all places you may notice that your engagement rates are not where you had hoped they would be. That’s because you’re not talking to people in the appropriate voice for the channel that you’re using.
Writing for Facebook
Facebook no longer imposes a character limit on their status updates, at least not one that anyone is ever likely to hit, but that doesn’t mean you should start using your status updates as your new blog space. The most engaging Facebook posts are under 80 characters – that’s even shorter than uber-limited 140-characters that Twitter allows you! Does this mean you have to keep your posts to 80 characters or less? No, of course not. But it does serve as a reminder as to what people are looking for on Facebook.
First and foremost, people are looking for “you” on Facebook. They want to know that the pages they’re interacting with are run by real people with real personalities. Work hard to avoid being overly stuffy or formal. Facebook is a fun, informal, and conversational platform, and that’s how people expect you to act. That’s not to say you should be unprofessional, but it is possible to be professional and fun at the same time.
So what should you be writing on Facebook? A good start is asking questions to spark dialogue. Posts that contain questions generate twice as many comments as posts that do not.
Along the same lines as question posts are Fill in the Blanks. Both types of updates are asking your followers to provide information. The first is by directly asking for it. The second is more playful. You might post, “I can’t believe my dog ate my ______” and then sit back and see what your fans come up with.
When creating a standard status update it’s best to keep it to no more than 4 lines, and 1-2 is better. People will be seeing your updates in the news feed on their home pages more often than they’ll see them on your Timeline. It’s helpful to keep them short enough that people will be able to see the entire update without having to click the “more” link to reveal the whole thing.
Be sure to stay positive whenever possible as well. Phrase your updates in a way that will make them “like”-able. There is no dislike button yet, so even if people agree with what you’re saying, they will likely not intereact with the post if it is written in a more negative tone.
Finally, keep in mind that not all of your content needs to be unique. Include links to photos, articles, and videos that your fans might want to share with their friends. If you see a photo or video that you think is funny, or an article that you think is interesting, chances are your fans will feel the same way about it. Share it on your page and give them the chance to do the same.
Writing for Twitter
Twitter has become the place for sharing links to great content. But, what you share on Twitter is not just about the value of the content that you’re sharing, but whether or not your tweets are getting noticed in the first place. So what gets a tweet noticed? A really great headline.
There is an old rule about headlines called the 80/20 rule. This rule says that 8 out of 10 people will read a headline, but only 2 out of 10 will actually go on to read the content that the headline is describing. This rule applies to traditional headline environments like newspapers, magazines, and web pages. Once you move to email inboxes and Twitter feeds, the numbers get even worse due to the amount of competing headlines and the nature of the environment.
So how do you make sure your headlines are getting noticed and your content is getting clicked on? A good way to make sure your headlines offer a compelling reward to those who click them is by using the 4U approach which is taught in the American Writers & Artists accelerated copywriting program.
- Be USEFUL to the reader
- Provide the reader with a sense of URGENCY
- Convey the idea that the content is UNIQUE
- Do the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way
It’s also important to ensure that your headlines are as short as possible. This is not only because of Twitter’s 140-character limit, but also because you want to leave room for people to retweet your content with their own comments.
To learn more come to our webinar Social Media Content IS Different: What to Know.