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.
When a person goes on a Journey we think of a trip that has multiple stops and extends over a period of time. Other times we use the word “Journey” to mean a process that is an every changing that allows us to grow and develop. It is time to think of your marketing program as a “Journey”. A process that involves more than one “stop” and is every changing and every growing. Why? Because frame of mind is everything to embracing a process. If you are still in the mentality that you check the box once a year on your marketing and then go back to medicine, then your business has a higher chance of not maintaining and gaining new relationships. Lack of maintaining relationships could mean less customers and that would be suboptimal.
For your marketing Journey there are a few essentials to sneak into your travel back pack that will be your roadmap and guide along the way. Every aspect of your marketing should fall into these guidelines.
As 2012 draws to a close, it’s time to look to the new year. What will your 2013 marketing look like? Join Kelly Baltzell, Beyond Indigo CEO, as she discusses practical tips and suggestions to boost your business in the coming year. You will learn:
- Top marketing tips for the year ahead
- What kinds of marketing are most effective for your practice?
- How to manage marketing time and costs
Didn’t have a chance to participate in our December 12 webinar conducted by our CEO, Kelly Baltzell? Don’t fret for a limited time you can review this latest webinar by clicking on the link below.
We will be offering more webinars in the new year and encourage you sign up for these free webinars hosted most Wednesdays at 12 :00 PM Central Time.
Have you heard people talking about “it”? Murmurings are happening in convention halls, small group presentations, and in one-on-one conversations. The buzz is growing louder, and people are getting excited. Energy is building, and people are ready to start implementing “it.” Maybe you have already started “IT”:
- Do negative clients exhaust you?
- Have you given up watching the news because it just bums you out?
- Are you looking for a solution that focuses on the positive vs. the negative?
- Have you started to notice big box stores nibbling away at your customer relationships?
- Are you realizing you are tired of being a victim to fear?
- Do you feel happier when you are helping others than thinking of yourself?
Then you have already started “IT.” The Positive-Based Marketing Revolution vs. the old Fear-Based Model. It is liberating, and it is working. Hospitals that are focusing on the positive are thriving. What is Positive-Based Marketing vs. Fear-Based Thinking? It is a new way to view life, and it is a paradigm shift. Here are some concepts to get you started.
Focus on what you can control in your life versus what is out of your control.
We have been trained extensively through the main media channels to get riled up by events that are out of our control. Think of the daily news channels. Their primary focus is fear. However, most of the items being shown on the news are completely out of your control. The most you can do to help the people in an accident, or the people suffering drought, or the swings on Wall Street is to send positive thoughts or prayers. Instead of pouring emotional energy into something that you have zippo control over, take that wonderful energy and create and change what you can influence.
For example, look at product placement sales. As Fritz Wood, CPA, CFP, states in his recent lecture:
“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
Yeah, yeah . . . life’s not always fair. Now stop complaining and compete! Have the courage to change the things you can. Now focus on the things you can control, such as:
Price (price matching? price competitively? display price per month or dose? etc.)
Reminding clients to refill (phone, text, email, postcard, etc.)”
Read the rest of Fritz Wood’ suggestions next week on this blog.
Empower the relationships in your life and work together.
Focus on creating relationships that are empowering and in your circle of influence. These would be your current clients, future clients, staff, and other veterinary professionals in town. How can you make their lives better?
Client Relationships: For your current and future clients, how can you influence your pet owners to leave in a happier, more positive place? Hospitals that make their clients feel better have strong relationships with those clients. The stronger the relationship, the more likely pet owners will keep using you rather than another source for veterinary care. Seriously, don’t we all like to do business with companies that make us feel better? We dread dealing with “Debbie Downer” people because it drags us down. In fact, people are now comparing service against their “gold standard.”
As Dr. Robert Cartin from Mission Animal Hospital states:
“Businesses, including veterinary practices, no longer operate and compete solely in their sector. Clients evaluate our service and image not only against other veterinary hospitals, but also against the best service and image they experience anywhere. Pet owners do not say, ‘This practice’s service is good by veterinary standards.’ They compare us with the service they receive at Nordstrom’s, Disneyland, or the best hotel they have stayed at. The client does not think, ‘This is a good veterinary website.’ The client simply thinks, ‘This is a good, user-friendly website’ or ‘This is an amateurish, cluttered, and difficult to navigate website.’ And what message about how you practice does that send to the subconscious mind?”
How your hospital relates to other businesses is becoming the new focus, not how your business compares to the guy down the street. Time to shift your thinking to this new paradigm.
Staff Relationships: Staff relationships and interactions in the hospital, both positive and negative, are noticed by clients. Dr. Don Morshead from Pet Medical Center-Chatoak says, “We recognize that staff relationships at all levels (doctors, techs, and front office staff) can highly influence client satisfaction and decision making. This is a frequent topic of discussion at our staff meetings. We emphasize and practice edifying each other, which means building up or saying something positive about each other when communicating with clients. For example: Dr. Jackson will be caring for Fluffy tomorrow; you will be in very competent hands… she’s the best or Isn’t Dr. Jones great? His clients really like him (especially important when seeing another doctor’s patient or a referral). This type of communication starts the relationship out on a very positive note.” If the opposite is done (making yourself look good at the expense of another staff member), Dr. Morshead said, clients will feel uncomfortable and lose confidence.
Professional Relationships: Finally, working together with the other veterinary professionals in town is important. The big box stores are starting to form relationships with clients over pet care. Instead of worrying about the hospital down the street, focus instead on keeping your clients visiting a veterinarian for medical information instead of Target, Costco, Wal-Mart, or Kroger’s grocery stores. Banding together and helping each other to educate pet owners about the quality of care provided by veterinarians will help everyone.
As Dr. Robert Carton from Mission Animal Hospital states:
“One of my colleagues asked why I want to share ideas that have made us successful. I believe that the more practices that understand these things, the higher the bar is raised for all of veterinary medicine, which is a good thing for all of our stakeholders—pets, pet owners, the veterinary team, and practice owner.”
Give Up FEAR.
You will then have more energy to create and empower yourself, your business, and other relationships.
Focus on abundance versus lack
Another aspect of our fear-based conditioning is we focus on what we don’t have versus what we do have. By focusing on this negative conditioning, we are funneling our limited energy and time, which curtails our ability to create and empower ourselves to find new solutions. By giving up our focus on “lack” and turning our attention to “create/empower,” we have the opportunity to grow and enrich our businesses.
New Way of Thinking, But Isn’t It a Relief?
We get it. We know this is a new way of thinking that, for some, will make you feel vulnerable. For others, it will be a relief with the comment “it is about dang time.” Welcome the change and focus your marketing on these principles versus ones based in fear. To help you along this new path, we have created a new blog at www.positivebasedmarketing.com that is linked to a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/positivebasedmarketing/ and a Twitter feed at @GetPositiveNow.
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.
Just as we were enjoying our Memorial Day weekend, Google went quietly about making some significant changes to its algorithm that heavily impacts local businesses. If you want to understand how to keep being “seen” in Google, these new changes must be adapted in your practice’s online marketing program.
First Change: Google Search Results Went Hybrid
This past year, when we used Google for an online search, the results would show paid advertising at the top or far right (which only 25% of people click on), with local search results shown next — listed in packs of 7 or 10 and accompanied by corresponding map markers starting with the letter “A,”, followed by organic (non-local) results. Google has now integrated organic and local search results together, which currently display on the search results page in varying ways — in packs of 3, 5 or 7 for example, depending on the search query. Search results are still formatted with paid advertising at the top or right under the map on the results page, but you’ll now see organic results listed BEFORE, and blended with, local search results. How does a business become listed in this new hybrid format and at the top of local search results? What we have learned is to focus on the following:
- It is crucial to have a custom-designed website that can be optimized (coded) down to the page with local search terms, specific relevant industry keywords (veterinarian, pet cancer, etc.), and appropriate geographic regional terms.
- When choosing location keywords, check how close your business is to the center of the city. To do this, go to Google Maps (maps.google.com) and type in your city and state; e.g., Minneapolis MN. Google will then display a marker on the map with the letter “A” — where it considers the center of the city to be located. This letter “A” is what Google calls the “centroid.” The closer your business is to the this centroid, the more “votes” your local business listing receives toward being near the top of local search results for that city. With this approach, Google is attempting to make the search experience most relevant to the searcher’s query.
- Plentiful (five or more) positive online reviews help maintain good positioning in Google Local Search. Google purchased the Zagat review site and is now incorporating these reviews into Google local listings. Reviews are becoming increasingly important. Having reviews associated with your business listing is yet another key ranking factor and one of the many signals Google looks for.
To read the rest of this article in a PDF format please click here: Fasten Your Seat Belt – Google Made Changes Again
More so than ever a business has to watch its brand on the Internet. People can interact and define your brand without your input. As I have stated in many speaking venues even though most veterinarians are face to face and on the phone type of people doesn’t mean your pet owners are! Here are some tips to get you started with your brand management.
Where People Can Interact With Your Brand
People perceived your brand and your business differently 10 years ago than they do today. Now, people have choices and the ability to research information themselves before making a purchasing decision. In the past, we used to have to rely on the vendors to give us information about their businesses. Now, with a few quick taps of our fingers, a wealth of knowledge is available for us to consume. What people find about your business and where they find it determines how they see your brand. Does your business seem trendy? Up to date? Resourceful and helpful? Can a viewer find the information he or she needs quickly on any device, 24/7? These are questions to ask when reviewing how your business is perceived online. Where are people making these decisions?
Today, people are using multiple touchpoints when making a purchasing decision. A touchpoint is a place people start at or go to when researching. A pet owner could start at Google, read reviews, leap over to a business website, click through to Facebook, follow on Twitter, read a blog piece, and so forth. These touchpoints, when joined together, turn into a marketing circle. The goal is to keep an interested pet owner in your marketing circle. If there is a disconnect, a person might leap to another business’s marketing circle and you have potentially lost that sale. Each of these touchpoints (or platforms) defines your brand in the eye of the viewer. Here are some key points to keep in mind.
- Google now focuses on local search for a business. This local search feature focuses on online reviews, Google+, Twitter “tweets,” and blog comments. Google’s goal appears to be to give us as much information about a business in one “snapshot.” For example, take a look at Animal Medical Hospital in Charlotte, NC. You will see my picture listed under the search result because I +1 this brand or “liked” it, in other words. Google is providing social media information now mixed in with search engine optimization results. Why? To keep a person using Google and not Facebook.
To read the rest of this article please download this PDF. YourBrandYourReputation
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 redesign.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 redesign.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.