Managing a successful blog can be one of the most important decisions that your practice will ever make. A well-established blog can position your clinic as an expert on pet health topics, which will help build bonds with existing clients and encourage potential clients to pick up the phone. Did you know that a blog can also help your website’s Search Engine Optimization performance? This means that a fresh, well-maintained blog will help drive traffic from Google searches to your website.
While there are several techniques you can employ with your blog to help make your web presence shine, there are four major pitfalls that every veterinary blogger should avoid.
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.
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
Most people think they own their own domain name but they do not. A quick and easy way to check is to go to www.GoDaddy.com and type in your domain name in the box in the middle of the page.
Another page will come up saying the domain name is already taken. In tiny letters next to the name it will tell you that you can view the domain’s WHOIS listing. Click this link. GoDaddy then will display the information about the domain name and who owns it. (If multiple requests are made at some point an intermediary page will come requesting that you enter the letters seen in the graphic box. This is a spam filter protection).
Look for the word REGISTRANT. Under or next to this word should be the name of the business or one of the owners name’s. If someone else’s name or business name is listed here then your company does not own its domain name. The company/individual that is listed there owns your domain name instead.
Don’t own your domain name? There are a few options open to you. First, you can ask nicely to have the domain name returned to your ownership. Some companies will say then they can’t manage your domain name without it being in their name. There isn’t anything to manage except to pay the Registrar (GoDaddy, Network Solutions, Etc.) when your domain name is about to expire. Another myth that is perpetuated by some website vendors is that they cannot manage your website without being in control of the domain name. This is false. Your domain name should always be in your own name.
If the vendor will not turn over the domain name to you then you need to see if your business name is trademarked. If it is then you have a high chance of getting it back. By law the vendor has to sell your domain name back to your company for cost if certain criteria are met (For more information go to http://www.icann.org/en/udrp/udrp-policy-24oct99.htm). If your business name is not trademarked then the only other recourse you have is through legal action or the selection of a new domain name.
Do you get a tension headache right between your eyes when the words “websites” and “marketing” are mentioned? You are not alone. For most veterinarians, marketing on the Internet makes their heads spin. Before you reach for the aspirin, take a moment to learn the basics. Let’s get started.
1. Domain Name
Do you own your own domain name? If you’re not sure what that even means, your domain name is the name that falls inside www.______.com. For example, if your business is called ABC Vet Clinic, your domain name might be www.abcvetclinic.com. Owning your domain name is the first step in building credibility and trust online.
Servers are where a website “lives.” It is a different place from where your domain name “resides.” Today servers are a business unto their own. A proper location for a server is on a “farm” which is a building that holds thousands of servers. This building has a battery back-up tied to a generator back-up. Your Internet provider should have their own servers located in a farm, provide backups to the servers, have fail-safe systems in place (meaning if one server goes down another turns on quickly) and have hacking/virus protections in place.
3. User Interface
This is the space where humans and machines interact. Just like the lobby of your building is the place where humans and your business begin to interact, the home page of your website is the place where people and your online business first meet. It is critical that you have a website that invites people “through the door” and offers them clear, logical places to go to get the information they need.
You now have the basic knowledge you need to start to look critically at your own website. Or, if you don’t have one yet, start to think about your next steps. That wasn’t so bad, was it?
If you have questions or want to learn how we can help, please contact our Marketing and Sales Manager, Melissa Neff.