Let's face it: our clients are online. 15 years ago, when a pet owner had a medical question they’d go to their veterinarian first then go home and research what they heard. What do they do now? Most pet owners go online first THEN call the veterinarian if they think their problem is worth an office visit. With the explosion of smart phones, I’ve had clients literally researching what I’m telling them WHILE I’m talking to them! I didn’t find it threatening….as a licensed veterinarian, I should know what I’m talking about….but it was an indicator of a new reality.
After all, people do the same thing for their children. I was recently on a family trip and one of our kids came down with a rash that defied description. What did I do first? I didn’t call a dermatologist….I searched the internet for information about what this might be. I didn’t mean for that to REPLACE a dermatologist, but information is everywhere and I wanted instant gratification. Can you honestly say you’re any different?
This trend is only going to strengthen: In 2014 mobile search overtook desktop search in the US with no signs of stopping. For good and bad, we are surrounded by information that has never been easier to access. When it comes to content, it’s really hard to beat Google, so don’t waste your time. Instead of trying to keep a current library of articles/info on everything from anesthesia to zoonotic disease, link to a website whose content you like, or to a veterinary school’s site that has reliable info. That way, when you diagnose Cushing's Disease or a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament, you can tell your clients that there's more information available on your website to reinforce what you're telling them in the exam room.
Speaking of websites, remember WHY people come to your practice's website in the first place. They aren't looking for a commercial or to be sold. They are looking for information. They are hoping to learn about your practice and your team.
So what should be on your website? Information that is unique to YOUR practice. Info about your staff, pictures, videos, etc. that gives a personalized view of who you are and what you stand for. Share information that would be of interest to someone who is looking for a new veterinarian, since virtually all potential new clients will look at your website before calling for an appointment. Millennials, the largest pet owner demographic, will start building their relationship with you online, before they even meet your staff in person.
What should not be on your website? It turns out that clients don’t really care about all the fancy equipment you have, and the phrase “state-of-the-art” has become a terrible cliche. While you might think it’s cool that you have great surgery lighting or the fanciest ultrasound machine in the county, that does not move consumers. Why? Because every veterinarian says they have the best toys and, besides, clients can’t tell the difference. In fact, you could argue that listing all the cool stuff your practice has might actually deter some potential clients, who would see this and think, "Hmmmm.....fancy surgery lights, ultrasound machines, in-house laboratory. Sounds really expensive. I bet their prices are high."
Your website is an ever-present billboard of what you stand for and it should be constantly updated and improved. Websites are NOT “set it and forget it”! Google never sleeps and is always spreading your message, whether it’s a good message (i.e. a high quality practice that is attentive to detail and embraces the modern world) or a bad one (i.e. an outdated practice that's "phoning it in"), so make sure your website reflects your practice's unique message.
Your website is one of the best marketing tactics to attract new clients. If you have been marketing your veterinary clinic the same way for years, watch this recorded webinar.