How To Use Meetup.com To Grow Your Practice. The Smart Way To Do Network Marketing

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The thought of network marketing is enough to send shivers down the spine of most veterinarians. For a long time this has been with good reason.

If you’ve ever attended a typical networking event you will know it is full of business owners all trying to promote their services to each other. The fact that they are all there with the hope of getting new business and to promote their own business is the very reason why it is a terrible environment to promote your business.

A Different Kind Of Networking

However, there is a way for veterinary practices to prosper from networking. And you’ll be pleased to know that it doesn’t necessarily mean personally attending an actual meeting!

Meetup is an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world.

By utilizing the Meetup.com website members are able to find and join groups they interested in. Each group is setup around a common interest, such as sports, politics, books, games, movies, health, pets, careers or hobbies.

The groups are setup locally and users can find a group in their area by entering their ZIP code or their city and the topic they want to meet about. The website then helps them arrange a place and time to meet. Topic listings are also available for users who only enter a location.

While there are many traditional ‘business people’ meetup groups, the thing that makes Meetup different is that most groups revolve around subcultures of society. So groups tend to be based around common social interests such as Wine Enthusiasts, Paddle boarders, Scuba divers and tabletop game players.

A Captive Audience Of Passionate Pet Owners

The good news for veterinarians, and the reason why Meetup is such an exciting website, is that there are literally hundreds of pet owner meetup groups across the US. Pet groups are so popular on Meetup they even have there own search category.

For example, when we selected Pets & Animal Meetups within 25 miles of Lake Mary, FL, it returned 14 groups and literally thousands of pet owners! Just the first three groups contained over 1,600 pet owners!

The pet owners who attend these groups are ideal prospects for your veterinary practice because they are so passionate about their pets. Think about it, they are so passionate about their pets that they have gone to the bother of actually joining a group and likely attend regular group meetings with their pets.

The other thing to bear in mind here is that as a pet owner yourself, and we are yet to meet a veterinarian who doesn’t own at least one dog or cat or both, you are perfectly entitled to the join the pet related Meetup groups in your area. This gives you the perfect opportunity to visit these groups and listen to what the pet owners have to say. A chance to put your finger on the pulse of the concerns pet owners have about their pets.

So either you, one of your veterinarians or another pet owning member of your team could join a group and attend the meetings. Of course, if you are going to join a local Dachshund group then it helps if you or one of your team own a Dachshund. However, it’s not imperative as your credentials as a Dachshund loving veterinarian will be quite acceptable.

Influence One Influence All

Now the smart thing to do would be to offer free advice to members of the group. So if you heard a member talking about her pet itching and scratching you could offer to take a look, or if a member found a lump on her pet you could do the same.

Now, of course, in most cases, your advice is going to be for them to bring their pet down to the practice where you can examine them properly and where you will ‘look after them.’ Let’s face it, it makes people feel good when they think they are getting special treatment because they personally know someone in a business. The exact same thing applies here and they will feel great as a result.

The key is to make sure that when they do visit your practice you roll out the red carpet for them and ensure they do indeed get five star service. Why?

Well firstly, because five star service is not the norm in today’s society so you should, as a matter of course, be giving five star service to all your clients as a way to stand out from the crowd and ensure you can charge premium fees for the services you provide.

Secondly, in this instance, if the Meetup Group member gets five star service from your practice then she is going to tell every other member she speaks to about it.

You can encourage this even further by giving her some referral vouchers to give to the other members she sees. Of course, you can also take some referral vouchers to any meetings that you attend as well.

Offering Your Services As A Speaker

There are some other practical ways you can help members of a group such as offering to speak at meetings. Here you could give short presentations on various preventative medicine topics.

Obviously, if the group is for a specific breed then you need to make your presentations about the specific breed rather than about pets or dogs in general. So you might want to talk about the genetic predispositions that a breed is prone to and how to manage them. So for Chihuahuas it could be about preventing Dislocated Patellas, for Dachshunds about preventing spinal problems.

For many breeds it could be a about maintaining healthy teeth or keep the correct weight. You could also give talks such as ‘The Dangers Mosquitoes Pose To Chihuahuas’ which could then lead to your heartworm presentation.

This live form of education-based marketing is a great way to build trust with local pet owners as the pet health expert in your area.

Most groups will welcome the chance to have a veterinarian give their Meetup members advice. The key is to keep the presentation fairly short and low key.
Remember these meetings are social gatherings not business seminars.

Meetup For Reputation Management

If you ever wonder what the pet owning public’s perception is of your practice or of your competition then groups like these are a great way to find out.
Initially you may want to let one of your technicians join and take in a meeting to get feel for what the perception is of your practice.

This can then pave the way for you to join and either enhance your reputation even further or, if necessary, conduct an exercise in reputation management.
The last thing you need is group of 1,000 pet owners talking bad about your practice because of the experience of one disgruntled member.

Meetup For Market Research

You can also use Meetup groups as an opportunity to do some market research. So say you have an idea for a new service or a new way of conducting business such as introducing a monthly wellness plan. You can use a group like this to get a feeling for if it will be a winner or not.

Inexpensive (or free) Targeted Advertising

There is also a way to use Meetup without actually attending a meeting yourself. That’s because Meetup has it’s own advertising platform.

The advertising is in the form of Meetup ‘Perks’ which appear down the left hand side of a Meetup groups home page. You will also currently see ‘sponsors’ but these seem to be being phased out. You do not have to be a member of a group to offer a ‘Perk’.

At time of writing Meetup ‘Perks’ were actually being offered free. However, even when they were not free the cost was only $5 per month per group sponsored.

How To Set Up Meetup ‘Perks’

To offer a ‘Perk’ just visit Meetup.com and then click on the ‘Offer a Perk’ link at the very bottom of the page. From there you will be guided to choose how many groups you wish to offer a ‘Perk’ to and the type of groups you are interested in. So you might want to target all Pets & Animal Meetups within a thirty mile radius of your practice.

You will also be asked what type of ‘Perk’ you want to offer. Typically this will be an ongoing discount or giveaway. For example, you might offer a group discount or a free gift when they join your practice.

Start Your Own Meetup Group

So far we’ve talked about joining other peoples Meetup groups, however, one thing you should also consider is starting your own. This is especially true if there is not a pet owner group already local to you.

Your group could be a general pet owner group but you are likely to have more success by being more specific. For example, a small dog or cat specific group could be popular.

When you have your own group you can control when and where the meetings are held. Meetup will send out invitations to people in your area who have expressed an interest in your type of group. You should also promote your group on your website and Facebook page.

So if you haven’t heard of Meetup or have but aren’t using it yet then now is the perfect time. There’s a good chance your competitors are not using it so take first mover advantage before they do.

There’s no doubt that there are not many more cost effective ways of getting in front of local pet owners than Meetup.com. Get one of your team to look into it today!

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