6. Twice-a-year pet exams.
Consider splitting the annual exam into two six-month exams. This is kinder to your clients' pocketbooks and may improve pet
health care. This way you give clients twice the chance to learn about and say yes to needed and necessary pet care. It also
gives you a way to assuage client fears about vaccine-associated adverse reactions. Twice-yearly appointments also provide
the option of giving some vaccines on the pets' first visit and the rest on the second visit.
7. Enhance service with value-added incentives.
Now is not the time to scrimp on service. A small thing that means a lot to clients is a free nail clip with an exam or other
procedure. (For pets that require sedation to clip their nails, clients need to understand that the sedation is a separate
charge, but the nail clipping is complimentary.) This can build business in a down economy and rewards clients who stay loyal
to your practice.
8. Strengthen relationships with current clients.
There is a marketing saying that, "Your next best customer is the one you already have." Never take current clients for granted.
Consider an appreciation event just for them. Perhaps arrange with a local photographer to take pet photographs at the practice.
Send out a notice inviting current clients to make photo appointments for their pets. There would be no sitting fee, and the
first photo would be free, but the photographer would charge for additional ones. Photographers should be happy to work with
you because it would expose them to a new customer group, and you would handle marketing and provide the location.
9. Heighten your community profile and build good will.
What community events can your practice support or sponsor? A dog walk to raise money to support cancer research for pets
and people? A booth at a community fair? Increasing your visibility in the community is good strategy. Don't give away free
appointments. Instead, donate visible services such as manning the pet ER station during a dog walk to take care of injured
pets, heat exhaustion cases and other common pet maladies. At a community fair, consider having a well-mannered, sociable
pet there as your "spokes pet" to attract attention. Give away seasonal tips on taking care of pets along with healthy pet
treats to build awareness and good will.
10. Support pro-bono pet causes.
Doing good can do good for the practice, too. As pet shelters struggle to feed and care for abandoned pets, consider holding
a simple fundraiser for them. You might ask manufacturers to contribute items for dog and cat gift baskets and sell raffle
tickets at the practice to win them. Give fliers to the shelter to help you promote the raffle, and let the local newspaper
and radio stations help you spread the word.
Beware of success, however. Dr. Kathy Grant, owner of Evergreen Animal Hospital in Centerville, Ohio, held a pet-food drive
at Thanksgiving that was so successful she had food left over for later donations.
Karyn Gavzer, MBA, CVPM, is a
veterinary business consultant and nationally known writer and speaker. She says her job is to help practices "go and
grow" with training, marketing and new ideas. She is a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager, an adjunct instructor for AAHA,
and a founding member of VetPartners (formerly the Association of Veterinary Practice Management Consultants and Advisors).