Face it: your 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?
Right. When people have a sick pet, most 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?
One of the most common ways you can build your practice’s brand on social media is to ask your clients, employees, vendors, etc.. to “Like” you on Facebook. This is not just an online popularity contest, though that’s certainly part of it. The number of “Likes” you have is an indirect measure of quality and provides what marketers call “signaling” to potential clients: a clear but unwritten/unspoken indicator of quality.
Let’s take an example of someone who needs to find a new veterinarian. If this person has a choice between going to two different animal hospitals that seem to be equal in all other ways (i.e. proximity to her home, quality of the website, recommendations from friends, etc.) but one practice has 150 “Likes” on Facebook and the other one has 2,000 “Likes”, who do you think she’s going to call first? She rightly assumes that in order to get 2,000 “Likes”, a practice must be doing several things right, including providing great value and client service.
A changing world...
I’ve been reading an incredible book called “ If Disney ran your hospital: 9 ½ things you’d do differently” by Fred Lee. Although the book was published 10 years ago and is about human medicine, the messages are highly relevant to modern veterinary medicine.
It might be tempting to dismiss correlations between veterinary hospitals and Disney resorts as being far-fetched or simplistic. I disagree, while I’m not suggesting that everything that Disney does would work in our profession, at a high level, their focus on customer (“guest”) and employee (“cast member”) satisfaction is laudable.