Dr. Peter Weinstein and our CEO Kelly Baltzell put their heads together and crafted a survey to learn more about veterinary hospital behavior when it comes to the Internet. Here is the first couple paragraphs of the study which outlines our findings. Please read the full overview and findings at Put Social Media to Work for YourPractice.
Social media is everywhere – we even see and hear about it on TV, radio and in newspapers. It has taken smartphones and their owners hostage. However, the veterinary profession tends to be slow to adapt to the changing environment.
I’m going to be giving a talk about information technology at the VetPartners mid-year meeting next month. VetPartners is a group of veterinarians and consultants who are thought leaders in the veterinary profession, and I’m excited to share with them some of the things that we’ve been talking about in business school and in the other organizations I’m involved with. One of the things I’ll be discussing in this presentation is the power of video and how practitioners could incorporate video into their marketing plans.
I’ve heard it said that if a picture is worth a thousand words, then video is worth a million. I frequently ask clients whose pets have odd or perplexing clinical signs to email/text me a video of the behavior when it next happens. Whether it’s to help differentiate an odd seizure from a syncopal event, or to confirm for a client that their dog is just reverse sneezing and not dying, video can be very helpful. My focus today is not on the use of video as a diagnostic tool, but rather as yet one more means of communicating with and engaging your clients.
Did you ever want to know how to create a Pinterest account and set up different boards to promote your own business? Pinterest is a great way to show off your hospital’s personality, staff, and patients; establish visual branding; educate visually; and engage your social media fans.
Follow these steps to get started:
1) If you have a Premier Marketing account, Pinterest setup and training is included in your package. If you have another package and want help, contact us about pricing.
2) To get started on your own:
- Create your business page: http://business.pinterest.com/.
Click ‘New to Pinterest? Join as a Business’ in the middle of the page.
Note: If you created a personal Pinterest page for your business, Pinterest can walk you through converting it to a business page.
Last month we mapped out our social media destinations of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and Pinterest. Now what? Where to start? How much time and work does each destination require? How many people are needed to manage each of these areas? When tackling this aspect of your marketing journey it is important to map out these areas before transversing over the social media mountains. Otherwise your journey could easily be derailed. Time to do some homework. Please research:
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…