Introducing Systems To Increase The Value Of Your Clients To Your Veterinary Business!

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In our experience, most veterinary practice owners think that sending out an annual reminder is all they should be doing to tempt existing clients to come back with their pet. In our opinion, this is a huge mistake because it effectively removes two of our three pillars of veterinary practice growth.

As a quick reminder our ‘Three Irrefutable Pillars of Veterinary Practice Growth’ are:

  • Client Attraction
  • Client Retention
  • Client Revenue

However, when your only communication during the year to the majority of your clients is an annual (or six monthly) reminder you are causing serious damage to your Client Retention and Client Revenue pillars.

Why?

Well lets look at each pillar in turn and then show you how you can remedy the problem.

Client Retention

In order for your practice to grow you must have strategies in place to stop clients leaving your clinic for pastures new. You will obviously have unavoidable client ‘churn’ due to patients dying and clients moving out of the area so you need to ensure your remaining clients are not tempted to try other practices.

In our book we talk about ‘The Fatal Assumption’. The assumption that just because Mrs. Jones brought Fluffy in for her annual exam yesterday she will automatically return in twelve months time. The sad fact is that many veterinary clients feel indifferent about their current veterinary clinic. In other words, although they may be satisfied with the service they get, they wouldn’t be averse to moving if they got a better offer.

This indifference grows more with every passing week they do not hear from you. So one of the keys to client retention is, therefore, frequent quality communication.

By frequent we mean at least monthly but preferably weekly. By quality, we mean relevant communications that educate, inform, entertain, reward and compel them, sent both though the mail (offline) and via email (online.)

Printed Monthly Newsletters are widely regarded as the best client retention tool and we recommend that every veterinary clinic should be using them. Yes they come at a monetary cost but one which has been proven time and time again to be more than worth it.

If the only communication your clients receive is an annual reminder then don’t be surprised if they don’t turn up as expected.

Client Revenue

Our Client Revenue pillar states that in order for your practice to grow you must have strategies in place to ethically increase the average amount of revenue generated from each client. Increasing client revenue boils down to two things:

1. Ethically increasing the number of times your clients visit your practice.

2. Ethically increasing the amount your clients spend within your practice on each visit.

To achieve these two goals you must communicate regularly with your clients.

For example, for many years veterinarians have relied on sales of flea, tick and heartworm preventatives and markups on vaccines to supplement the income of their veterinary services. But as you will no doubt be currently witnessing, the market for selling tick, flea and even heartworm preventatives is being snatched out of the hands of veterinarians.

Big supermarket chains such as Wal-Mart and Target are muscling their way in. Wholesalers such a Costco and Sam’s Club are following suit. And, of course, Internet pharmacies are also targeting your clients.

If that wasn’t bad enough, now even vaccines are being taken away too! We’ve seen pharmacy chains such as Walgreens, pet shops – and even gas stations – hosting travelling ‘shot doctors’ once per month to provide low cost vaccinations. This only increases the growing public misconception that wellness exams are not necessary.

As a veterinary practice owner, you have two choices as to what to do about this. You can either put your head in the sand and do nothing OR you can ensure that your clients have other reasons than price to get their pets preventatives and vaccines from you.

To do that you have to make use of three secret weapons against the big box stores, things you have that they don’t.

Your first secret weapon is…

…the relationship you have with your clients.

You can claim something the big stores can’t. You’ve spoken face to face with your clients and held their pets in your arms. So when you communicate with them by mail or email you can arrive as a welcome guest rather than an unwelcome pest!

You second secret weapon is…

…the contact details of your clients.

Not only do you have a relationship with your clients you also have something else the big box stores and your other competitors do not have and that is their name, address, telephone number and, hopefully, their email address. You also have the name and breed of their pet.

This is all gold dust to your practice because it means you can communicate with your clients whenever you wish and in any way you wish, whether that be by mail, email or even telephone. So unlike the big box stores, you know who your buyers are before they go looking for the products for their pets.

Which leads us nicely to your third, and possibly most important, secret weapon…

…your clients’ pets medical records.

The reason this is possibly the most important is because not only do you have a relationship with your clients and no where to contact them, you know exactly if and when they need each product!

So you know which of your patients need heartworm preventative who aren’t getting it and also exactly when your patients who are getting it need their prescription refilled.

You also know when they need flea and tick prevention and when their vaccines are due. You know all of this before they even consider choosing a big box store, pharmacy or pet store as their supplier.

So armed with all of this knowledge you can

make, what the military would call, a ‘preemptive strike’ and get your message in the hands of your clients first.

Of course, you can also do this for other preventative wellness services and products such as Microchips, Fecal examinations and Dental examinations.

Being In The Right Place At The Right Time!

So you can compete with any outside competition for the simple reason that you can show up in your clients mail boxes and email boxes at the times when their pets actually need these products and services.

So, if veterinary clinics have this marketing arsenal of secret weapons at their disposal, why do they not use them? The answer in most cases is because they haven’t got the systems in place that are required to use them.

And again, if you remember our book, we also talk about the foundations that your three pillars of veterinary practice growth must be built on… without which could sink your practice like a brick in quicksand.

Those foundations are marketing systems.

Systems Are The Key!

So to get your clients to come in more often you must have a marketing system that will bring them in on autopilot to purchase essential preventative products and services their pets need at the times when they need them.

So while your practice management system is packed full with all the information you need to outwit your competitors, that information is useless unless you can automatically get it out to your clients at the times they need it.

Most veterinary clinics have a system for annual reminders and vaccines but that is as far as it goes. But in order to get your clients to bring their pets in at other times of the year and, therefore, increase their value and your revenue you need a system that can send out reminders for other products and services too.

That means using the data in your system to remind pet owners to come in for heartworm preventatives, flea preventatives, microchips, fecal examinations and dental examinations.

The best system we know for doing this bar none is Dr Jay Brown’s Vetgate System. One of the reasons we like Dr Browns system is because it is proven in over one hundred practices nationwide and he has the data to back it up.

So let’s look at a case study so you can see for yourself.

The Vetgate Global System

Vetgate’s Clinic Efficacy (compliance) Program includes a customized & interactive practice Website, Patient Portal for all clients, Practice Portal for tracking progress, e-mail reminders, e-birthday cards, e-newsletters, and e-marketing messages.

We asked Dr. Brown to give us the anonymized data of a typical practice using the Vetgate System over the three year period between 2010 to 2012. We were particularly interested in the number of practice visits, the number of dogs who had been dispensed flea and heartworm preventives, the number of dentals performed and ultimately the practice revenue.

First let’s look at practice visits.

As you can see from the chart the number of practice visits went from around 8,000 in 2010 to nearly 15,000 in 2012. Did your practice nearly double the amount of visits during that period? We’re guessing not because on average veterinary visits are down across the board during this same three year period.

The next figure we were interested in was the number of dogs who were dispensed flea preventative.

The reason this figure is of great interest is that many veterinary practices have seen a decline in flea preventative sales because of the intense competition from the big box stores, pet supermarkets and Internet pharmacies.

But again our case study clinic was able to buck the trend completely and nearly double the number of dogs who were dispensed with flea preventative.

Next we looked at Heartworm preventative compliance. Now we know that even the most heartworm compliant practices in the country are only getting around 50% compliance from their dog owners. And of course, now even Wal-Mart have their own heartworm preventative, so you wouldn’t expect anything other than a
decline here.

But again with the help of the Vetgate system our case study practice was able to increase sales of heartworm preventative year on year.

But what about something of much more value to veterinary practice, e.g. dentals? Most practices seem to do well in February but not during the rest of the year. Yet again, our case study practice had steady increases in the number of dentals performed.

Of course, seeing an increase in practice visits, flea and heartworm preventatives and dentals performed is all well and good but ultimately what we’re interested in is revenue.

Well our case study practice did not disappoint and had a huge increase in revenue over the three years from $900,000 in 2010 to nearly $1,600,000 in 2012.
Remember, this is during a recession when pet owners aren’t taking their pets to the vets anymore! By the way, while these are just the results from one clinic using Vetgate, these increases are matched across the average of all clinics using the Vetgate System. Note: we are not tied to Vetgate Global or compensated from them in anyway. We’re just making you aware of systems that can help your clinic.

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