Calls that promote a marketing opportunity vs. good will
The decision to market your services is a personal one and needs to be planned.
One must distinguish between marketing through advertising and public relations.
"Public relations" is, in effect, a way to promote "good will" for your business.
Many of the promotional opportunities that come in the front door are really opportunities to support other organizations in your community.
These opportunities, in turn, can promote good will toward your business. These promotions may or may not result in direct promotion of your veterinary business. These promotions are, for the most part, general in nature and are not directed to the animal owner. However, 'good will' itself generates awareness and an image within your community that can lead to secondary referrals from non-pet owners. This is highly desirable and often overlooked.
External marketing offers
Marketing is something with which the veterinarian needs to be proactive about and not reactive.
Other than the usual marketing outlets such as the Yellow Pages, there are any number of companies or institutions out there that want to "help" you react to your external marketing efforts. Most of these offers come in by phone or by unsolicited arrival at your practice door. Among these are:
- Aftermarket phone books
- Chamber of Commerce maps and brochures.
- Office calendars with advertising from all types of organizations.
- Grocery store visual aids of all types
- Youth groups
- Real estate companies that want you to 'help them promote themselves.'
- 'Government' agencies that sell official-looking items that come in official looking document form.
- Welcome Wagon
- Nationwide discounted 'preferred pet provider' organizations.
- Political organizations that promote small business.
- Direct mail
As mentioned, some of these are really public relations opportunities. Sometimes potential clients (a local unpaid sales force) will come calling to promote their own special interest organizations. These are golden opportunities to create good will.
You will also be surprised that a number of these people will become clients or spread your name to others. "Word of mouth" promotion is still the best and most effective form of promotion.
On the other hand-be wary
Be very careful with many organizations that say they have opportunities that are 'indispensible' ways to grow your business. It should be said that some of these promotions are valid and helpful to many businesses. However, a veterinarian must carefully evaluate what his or her objectives are and the type of image that you need to be promoted. Therefore, tread lightly and be wary of the following:
Groups that want you to offer discounts to grow your business are in direct opposition to the image that most thinking veterinarians want to promote.
Although these opportunities may be good for some businesses, they are not often a valid choice for veterinarians. These promotions include Welcome Wagon, nationwide discount clubs and related promotions.
- New arrivals to your area:
People who move to your area usually find your veterinary office by word-of-mouth referral and your proximity to their new place of residence. Therefore, promotions by real estate companies, Welcome Wagon, aftermarket phone books, chamber brochures and direct mail (very expensive) are mostly ineffective. Direct mail can create a terrible image and the effort can be monumental.
Ads in grocery stores and on park benches fall into this category. Ads of this nature are categorically useless unless you are promoting discounts of some nature. You will be right in there along with the local laundry and the adult film industry.
A final charge to the uninitiated
If you have a marketing plan or a public relations company working for you, that is just fine. Plan your work and work your plan.
However, to the other 99 percent of the veterinarians in private practice, watch out-you are a target for the rest of the world that does not understand veterinary medicine and unwittingly will only contribute to the expense side of your balance sheet.