In today’s increasingly competitive environment, we veterinarians are not immune from our clients’ tightened purse strings. Paying close attention to overhead and pricing decisions is always important, but during tough economic times it becomes literally a matter of life and death for industries that depend on disposable income. Wal Mart grew to be the biggest company in the world primarily by focusing on providing low prices, and their motto is: “Always low prices.” Everything they do, from their relationship with suppliers to their early and continuing devotion to information technology, is aimed at lowering their costs so they can pass these savings along to their customers. I’m not saying that the Wal Mart model is a perfect fit for professional service providers, like veterinarians, but there are some lessons we can learn from them.
In particular, Wal Mart has mastered the concept of “marginal cost” with respect to the pricing of products. Marginal cost can be defined as the cost associated with selling one more unit of something, whether that something is a bottle of shampoo or a dog spay. Let’s take surgeries, for example, and assume your fixed costs (i.e. rent/mortgage—things that don’t change depending on how busy you are) are $1000 per month attributable to your surgery room. Then add up the variable costs: surgeon time, suture, anesthesia, autoclave costs, cage space, and technician time attributable to surgery. Let’s say this is $100 per procedure. So your surgery costs are $1000 per month PLUS $100 per procedure. If you charge $250 per procedure, you would have to do 7 per month to cover your fixed costs. But on that 8th, or marginal, procedure your cost is only $100, netting you $150 profit for each procedure you do above 7 per month.
- Savvy Consumers. Today’s consumers are savvy about where and from whom they purchase products and services. They take the time to research online before they ever pick up the phone or get in their car to make a purchase. By having a social media presence that is both engaging and engaged, it helps reassure clients that your business is reputable and cares.
- Humanize your brand. Social media gives your business the opportunity to reach out and actually connect with your audience. Real one-to-one relationships are formed.
- Your competition is using it. The vet down the street is likely using social media. If you aren’t currently engaging and interacting with social media, how easily will you be found? And just because you aren’t participating, doesn’t necessarily mean others aren’t doing it for you.
You target audience is using it. Here are a few quick facts about Facebook.
a. 845 million monthly active users at the end of December 2011 b. 483 million daily active users on average in December 2011 c. 425 million monthly active users who used Facebook mobile products in December 2011
- Google counts social sharing when ranking. When many different people on social media refer to your content, your website, or your videos, it means those individuals find your content useful, entertain, informative, or all of it. When this happens, the search engines pay attention and in return use this as a factor to provide better search engine placement for your content.
- It’s the next generation version of word-of-mouth marketing. One of the best ways to interact with potential clients is by way of people who have already experienced what your brand has to offer. When your social media presence starts to generate conversation and reaction, such as likes, shares, tweets, pins, etc., it’s a visible reaction of their approval and they are sharing this with their friends and family.
- Provides transparency. Social media is an open book. If someone likes you, that’s great, everyone can see it. If someone doesn’t like you and mentions something negative about your brand or experience, then this too is available to the community. Many successful clinics that leverage social media use this as an advantage to show how in tune they are by replying and finding a way to close that loop. This shows to those watching that your clinic has integrity, values interaction and criticism, and cares about its clients.
- Opens up conversation. Your clients are the best people to learn from when it comes to making things better. By asking questions about their experience or their needs, you will get an understanding as to what clients are looking for. Social media for small business success is truly about listening as opposed to marketing
- Aids customer service. Use your social media outlets to answer questions concerning customer service. By doing it this way, you can not only highlight to your community that you are available, but also get other people within the community to provide answers and support to new or potential clientele who have per haps experienced the same issue themselves.
- Brand exposure. Everybody wants a larger piece of the pie. The more targeted people who are aware of your business, the greater the chance you have of turning those individuals into paying clients and them becoming an advocate of your services.
Google+ is a social media site, a search engine, and a news feed all rolled into one. In addition, content that is found in your Google+ pages and circle of friends is used to offer search results in the part of Google called Search Your World. Having content that is current is a must to keep your readers interested and secure a solid placement in the Search Your World feature. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when crafting content for Google+:
- Update regularly. Posting one to two times per week on Google+ is sufficient to keep your page looking fresh and relevant, but don’t be afraid to post much more often than that if you’d like to devote a little more time to the site.
- Create posts that are unique to Google+. If you already have Facebook and Twitter accounts, don’t just recycle the same content on Google+. While it’s okay to share some content, you should create posts that you haven’t shared elsewhere to give users an incentive to add you to their circles.
- Share content. Similar to Twitter, Google+ is a great place for sharing links to useful blog posts and articles, whether they’re yours or someone else’s. When you’re sharing content from other people, be sure to add a short comment along with the link to make your posts more engaging.
- Post links to online coupons and offers. Google+ doesn’t allow you to host promotions or coupons directly on their site, but you can link to special offers or promotions that are hosted elsewhere online, such as your blog or website. This is a great way to encourage people to spread the word about your business because they can share your posts with their friends.
- Be engaging. Reshare content that your followers have shared on Google+, and request that people reshare your relevant posts as well. Don’t be afraid to ask your followers questions about what they’d like to see. Google+ is still a new network, so everyone is feeling their way around to determine what they want it to become.
When people want to find services in their area, from an oil change for their car to a dentist for their dog, they start with an online search. A very large majority and growing number of consumers now use online media when researching products or services in their local area, rather than using the phone book. If your business isn’t found, it doesn’t exist for them. Join us for our Wednesday webinar to learn about ways to make sure potential customers find your business online. We’ll be covering areas such as the basics of how search engines work, as well as various ways to help your business get found — including how organic search stacks up against Google’s paid search advertising options. And in addition to touching on how Google AdWords/Pay-Per-Click campaigns fit into the overall picture, we’ll take a peek at Google’s new “AdWords Express” option, and the buzz this is creating amongst location-based businesses.
Google Analytics version 5 recently launched and includes a completely reworked user interface and many, many infrastructure improvements. Navigation has been simplified to let you jump to the areas that are most important to you, including a new Dashboard section and My Site for Reports.
The new Dashboard tool has more data visualizations options, including:
• Absolute metrics
• Data over time graphs containing multiple metrics
• Pie charts
• Tabular data
You can also apply filters to each widget on the dashboard to further customize the data in the widget. These changes will make it much easier to create reports and visualize important data about your site traffic.
Visit a recent blog post from Google Analytics to learn more about what the new version has to offer and what’s coming in the near future.
Google Analytics is a web analytics tool that gives users insight into their website traffic and marketing effectiveness. Easy-to-use features let you see and analyze your website’s traffic data to help you know how you can strengthen your marketing initiatives. To sign up for this free service from Google, visit the Analytics home page.
It turns out, a lot. As many of you know, Google and Facebook do not have a “formal” relationship, but that doesn’t mean they don’t talk to each other. In fact, it turns out, they’re quite close!
If you care about your business getting ranked high in Google search, then you need to start paying closer attention to Facebook. That’s right, Facebook. It turns out that the more you incorporate links back to your website from your Facebook page, the better you’re business will do when someone searches for you on Google. According to Hubspot, there is a “correlation between the amount of action your website gets on Facebook and how websites in the top 30 search results rank on Google’s SERP (search engine results page).”
Of course, don’t insert links just for the sake of links. Always think about your audience and provide content that’s relevant, interesting, and ultimately drives business back to you.
Google is taking their social search model a step further by incorporating a “+1” button alongside every link in their search page. This feature gives you, the searcher, the ability to recommend something to your entire Google network* with a click of the mouse. It is similar, if not exactly, like Facebook’s “Like” icon. As a consumer, I think it will be helpful to know that a contact has +1’d a restaurant when deciding where to eat for dinner. As a marketer, I immediately want to know… how can this “+1” feature pay off in terms of SEO, reach, and my bottom line.
Google hasn’t directly said if/how these recommendations will affect the overall search rating for the link; that may come later. Its goal (for round 1) is to make search results more relevant to individuals by showing them that someone they know has given it their thumb’s up. It’s an interesting development and for now, a “watch-this-space” moment for SEO and Google search results.
Tip: In order to use Google’s “+1” feature, you need to have a Google Account. If you already have one, you’ll need to upgrade it. From your account, you’ll be able to see all the items you’ve “+1”, so you can delete your endorsements should choose to.
*Google may add other signals, like your Twitter connections, in the future.
It wasn’t that long ago that when you went online, it was a given that at a certain point, and usually more than once in a day, you’d go to Google. Google was the center of the online universe.
Not any more. According to a recent study by Hitwise, Facebook surpassed Google as the most-visited website in America in 2010, also beating out Yahoo, YouTube and MSN.com. And, when people were on Google, Facebook was the most searched term for the second year in a row. If you add in variations on Facebook, like “Facebook login” and “Facebook.com,” then Facebook amounted to a whopping 3.48% of all searches (a 20% increase from last year).
What does this mean to you? It means that if you’re a business large or small, you need to be online where people are. It’s no longer okay to have just a website. You must diversify across the web so people can find you where they are. And, all of your digital places (website, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.) must be inter-connected. That’s how you grow traffic and that’s how you ultimately build a customer base.
If you’re not on Facebook personally, then it’s time. Get an account and start to play. It’s a whole new world out there!
Sunday Night – 60 Minutes
Tonight, I am watching the 60 Minute special on Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of FaceBook. The feature is about FaceBook now, where it is going and where it came from a few years ago. What does this mean to you?
Tomorrow, FaceBook is launching a new design for the personal FaceBook page . Business platforms pages weren’t profiled. The sneak peak shows the highlights of your life will be at the top such as where you live and work. This profile will also include the five latest pictures. There will be sections of people that are important to you along with their picture to the left. The focus is on relationships and how your friends interact with each other. It will be interesting to see these changes and how it helps you as a business reach further into people’s social networks.
The fun part of this 60 minute special was the inside look of the 500 programmers at the FaceBook headquarters. FaceBook has hack-a-thons that last all night long to build new code and products for FaceBook. Other interesting facts presented in this special were:
1. 250,000 users use FaceBook on mobile devices
2. There are 500,000 million users utilizing FaceBook
3. More people are using their new service called Messages and are moving away from email. Exact numbers were not given.
4. This year people spent more time on FaceBook than Google.
5. FaceBook is taking staffing talent from Google. About 10% of FaceBook staff has come from Google including their chef!
The other part of this special states what we at Beyond Indigo have already seen is the focus of Google vs. FaceBook – who gets the search? Do you find information from Google or personal advice from friends? FaceBook has found that when you can use products and services with your friends and family there is a higher interaction with the product. This concept has had great appeal and success with branded products/services.
Until tomorrow when the new platform is unrolled. What are your thoughts?