I’ve written about veterinary excess capacity before, namely that there are too many veterinarians chasing not enough clients. So how do we fix that? Well, there are two broad possibilities: reduce supply and increase demand. As I’ve alluded to before, the former is far easier said than done. Whatever we as a profession will be able to do about veterinary supply will happen at such a slow pace that you should not consider it in your budgeting and short term strategic plans. You might as well assume that supply will remain high for the foreseeable future.
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.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last several years, you surely know about YouTube. www.youtube.com This video channel is owned by Google and is the #2 ranked website on the entire internet (2nd only to Google itself). There’s no denying the immense popularity of YouTube. If a picture is worth a thousand words, video is worth a million. 62% of Google’s universal search results include video, and more than eight out of every ten of those videos are hosted in YouTube. With over 4 billion hits every day, any good marketing strategy must include this massively relevant and important site.
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.
Doesn’t matter who the person is.
Doesn’t matter morning or evening.
This is the greeting I get when I go to my local 24 Fitness. Pretty much the same tone. Monotone, non-committal, insincere. The voice varies, the face varies, the message is the same—“I don’t really care who you are, I just have to say something.”
How about this one?
#$%^&*( Animal Hospital, hold please!!!
As my MBA program winds down to an end, we’re taking more advanced marketing classes. We had one this past weekend that was a “deep dive” into customer loyalty and how little differences in client retention can translate to big differences in practice profitability. In the corporate world, marketing teams focus a lot of energy on calculating Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) because this is a critical number.
Without going into the math of how CLV is calculated (there’s a great article here for those of you who are curious http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Customer_lifetime_value ) suffice it to say that not all clients are created equal. If your marketing and advertising expenses are such that it costs you $100 to get a new client through your door but they only spend $75 before they leave, you’ve lost money. On the other hand, if you spend that same $100 to attract a different client and they stay for 5 years, they may spend thousands of dollars at your practice. The key here is that the longer a client stays with you, the more valuable they are to you. Here are some statistics that bear this out:
For the longest period of time, internal marketing in veterinary medicine consisted of reminder post cards. These were generated initially manually and then by our value added practice management software. There SOLE purpose was to remind the pet owner that their pet was due for its annual vaccinations. In some cases, the cards were colorful. In all cases, the text was dessert dry, arid, parched and boring.
Then came the newsletter era. You could buy one that was somewhat customized for your practice or create your own. An attempt at marketing and education to cajole and coax clients to come in more often and spend more money. Effectiveness varied based upon the content; and frequency; and readability. The frequency varied from monthly to quarterly to ‘whenever I think about it’.
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.
On Broadway, every time an actor or actress goes on stage they have to give the performance of their lives. There are no do overs; no mulligans; no ‘oops, let’s try that again’. Every line, every step, every action is perfectly choreographed, styled, and created for the optimal experience for the show goer. And at $200 per ticket, it better be!!
$200 per ticket, that’s outrageous!! It is? Isn’t that pretty close to your doctor’s average client transaction? Why is $200 outrageous for a 2 hour Broadway show but not for a 20 minute office call? When is the last time YOU and YOUR team put on a show that was entertaining, enjoyable, memorable and gave great value to your client? Do you do this each and every time? Without fail? Or only for specific clients?
One of the things that truly supports practice success and owner satisfaction is the ability to know what you do well and when to hire or outsource what you don’t. As a licensed veterinarian, the professional school years really do not prepare you sufficiently to be a successful business owner. You are well schooled in the medical and surgical principles of being a healing professional. This does not mean that you are well schooled in team building, leadership, accounting, marketing, motivation, organizational skills, inventory, etc., etc., etc. A technically adept veterinarian does NOT guarantee a successful entrepreneur or business manager.
In my opinion, the minute you can afford to (or maybe even if you can’t afford to) you should hire a practice manager. This right hand person, if chosen correctly and trained correctly and empowered correctly, will allow a doctor to be a doctor and not a ‘baby sitter’ for the chronically late receptionist or the disorganized technician. How much money does a DVM generate where they are counseling a team member? Think about what you do well and hire somebody to do what you don’t.