The phrase “going viral” has become a huge part of daily vernacular. With that, it is easy to see how creating viral content is a main goal for many social marketers. What happens when your fifteen minutes of viral fame come to a screeching halt, though? Can your social media ever recover from, gulp, regular results after the high of content that has gone viral?
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, now is an ideal time to kickoff a few simple marketing ideas to engage your clients and community in a fun and meaningful way. While your veterinary practice likely has several key business-focused messages to get across this fall, it’s important to ensure your overall marketing mix includes messaging that establishes your practice as accessible, relatable, and connected with its clientele.
Thankfully, this season is brimming with opportunity for this type of marketing. Many of us take time during Thanksgiving to count our blessings, and businesses should be no exception to this trend. After all, what better way to attract customers than to let them know that their business is appreciated?
Not that long ago, veterinarians looking to connect with their client base, and potential client base, were limited in their options. Business listings in the Yellow Pages, advertising in the local paper, the occasional billboard, bus bench, television ad (if you could afford it), and word-of-mouth shared between friends and colleagues at the local café were the mainstay of customer outreach for many small businesses, including veterinary practices.
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.
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.
Writing for Facebook and Twitter is not the same as writing for your website or blog. If you are using the same writing style in all places you may notice that your engagement rates are not where you had hoped they would be. That’s because you’re not talking to people in the appropriate voice for the channel that you’re using.
Writing for Facebook
Facebook no longer imposes a character limit on their status updates, at least not one that anyone is ever likely to hit, but that doesn’t mean you should start using your status updates as your new blog space. The most engaging Facebook posts are under 80 characters – that’s even shorter than uber-limited 140-characters that Twitter allows you! Does this mean you have to keep your posts to 80 characters or less? No, of course not. But it does serve as a reminder as to what people are looking for on Facebook.
First and foremost, people are looking for “you” on Facebook. They want to know that the pages they’re interacting with are run by real people with real personalities. Work hard to avoid being overly stuffy or formal. Facebook is a fun, informal, and conversational platform, and that’s how people expect you to act. That’s not to say you should be unprofessional, but it is possible to be professional and fun at the same time.
So what should you be writing on Facebook? A good start is asking questions to spark dialogue. Posts that contain questions generate twice as many comments as posts that do not.
Along the same lines as question posts are Fill in the Blanks. Both types of updates are asking your followers to provide information. The first is by directly asking for it. The second is more playful. You might post, “I can’t believe my dog ate my ______” and then sit back and see what your fans come up with.
When creating a standard status update it’s best to keep it to no more than 4 lines, and 1-2 is better. People will be seeing your updates in the news feed on their home pages more often than they’ll see them on your Timeline. It’s helpful to keep them short enough that people will be able to see the entire update without having to click the “more” link to reveal the whole thing.
Be sure to stay positive whenever possible as well. Phrase your updates in a way that will make them “like”-able. There is no dislike button yet, so even if people agree with what you’re saying, they will likely not intereact with the post if it is written in a more negative tone.
Finally, keep in mind that not all of your content needs to be unique. Include links to photos, articles, and videos that your fans might want to share with their friends. If you see a photo or video that you think is funny, or an article that you think is interesting, chances are your fans will feel the same way about it. Share it on your page and give them the chance to do the same.
Writing for Twitter
Twitter has become the place for sharing links to great content. But, what you share on Twitter is not just about the value of the content that you’re sharing, but whether or not your tweets are getting noticed in the first place. So what gets a tweet noticed? A really great headline.
There is an old rule about headlines called the 80/20 rule. This rule says that 8 out of 10 people will read a headline, but only 2 out of 10 will actually go on to read the content that the headline is describing. This rule applies to traditional headline environments like newspapers, magazines, and web pages. Once you move to email inboxes and Twitter feeds, the numbers get even worse due to the amount of competing headlines and the nature of the environment.
So how do you make sure your headlines are getting noticed and your content is getting clicked on? A good way to make sure your headlines offer a compelling reward to those who click them is by using the 4U approach which is taught in the American Writers & Artists accelerated copywriting program.
- Be USEFUL to the reader
- Provide the reader with a sense of URGENCY
- Convey the idea that the content is UNIQUE
- Do the above in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way
It’s also important to ensure that your headlines are as short as possible. This is not only because of Twitter’s 140-character limit, but also because you want to leave room for people to retweet your content with their own comments.
To learn more come to our webinar Social Media Content IS Different: What to Know.
As the the CEO and President of Beyond Indigo Pets, I have had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of vets over the last month and I have noticed a common story. Most of the vets I’ve met have never had to do much marketing, if any, until the last two years. Some vets even tell me they have been blessed with double-digit growth until two years ago. Wow, those were the days!
Two years ago, as we all know, the economy slammed on the brakes. You could no longer take growing your business for granted. New clients stopped streaming through the doors and annual profits hit a wall. Your natural instinct may have been to run a few more ads in your local newspaper. But in your gut, you knew that wasn’t enough. Today technology has taken on an enormous role in how businesses market themselves with online advertising, re-marketing campaigns, social media, and more. It’s a lot to learn and a lot to become an expert at. If you are a vet struggling to make sense of it all, we recommend the following:
1. Cut yourself some slack. If you have never done any marketing before, there is a real learning curve. The best way you can help yourself is to open your mind and to educate yourself on your options. For example, do you want to keep your marketing in-house or hire outside help? A good place to educate yourself is our new updated website at redesign.beyondindigopets.com. On this site are questions to ask yourself in tutorial fashion to help figure out the strengths and weaknesses in your marketing program.
2. Realize that sometimes it takes money to make money. Most vets I have spoken to haven’t spent a dime on marketing because people just walked through the door. Ah for the good old days! To gain new clients and have your current clients spend more of their dollars at your clinic, you need to educate them. It’s not enough to simply say your business exists and is located on Main Street. Your outreach needs to offer tips, advice, and real-time interaction. I have found this notion of “education and outreach” is a bit of a paradigm shift for people in the vet industry.
3. To reach people where they are today your business needs to have a website, a Facebook page, and be visible in local searches with online reviews. I had one woman stand up and say, “I am not comfortable with Facebook and interacting with people in this fashion.” Many veterinarians can relate! But this is how people now expect to communicate with one another, whether you are comfortable or not.
4. Don’t go it alone. There is help available once you open your mind and acknowledge that in order to grow, your business needs to do more. Your website needs to be up-to-date and search engine-optimized, and your digital footprint needs to span multiple outlets, including review sites, Facebook, YouTube, and more. Work with a company that educates you on your options. Start reading some of the news about social media and see the power of transformation it is having on entire countries, the world, and how we communicate.