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Secrets of Successful Marketing: Part 1 & 2

Wendy S. Myers
Communication Solutions
1905 E. Mountain Sage Drive
Highlands Ranch, CO 80126
(720) 344-2347 office
(509) 277-4088 fax

Seminar Overview

Learn how to create an effective marketing strategy for your clinic. Get advice on how much you need to spend on marketing, why clients choose a clinic, and how many new clients you need. Discover ways to boost boarding profits, create great retail displays, maximize your computer and provide great service.

Learn how to:

•  Develop a marketing plan

•  Use your practice sign

•  Design effective yellow pages ads

•  Create great retail displays

•  Provide client amenities

•  Boost boarding profits

How much do doctors spend on marketing to attract new clients?

Most practice owners spend up to 1% of revenue on marketing programs.

How many clients do I need?

•  Average number of active clients per doctor


•  Average number of new clients per doctor per year


•  Average client retention


•  Average number of visits per client per year


•  Average charge per doctor transaction


Source: 2000 Well-Managed Practice Study by Wutchiett & Associates and Veterinary Economics

Creating your marketing plan

Step 1: Decide what you want to achieve, then set your marketing budget. Do you want to grow your practice 20 percent? Do you want to retain 85 percent of current clients?

Step 2: Write a S.M.A.R.T. goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. For example, a SMART goal for attracting new clients might be: "To attract 325 new clients per doctor between August 1, 2001 and July 31, 2002."

Step 3: Brainstorm an action plan with staff members and then research marketing costs. When considering external marketing ideas, remember that it costs five times more to get a new client than it does to keep an existing one. For example, if you spend $20 to acquire a new client, you�ll need only $4 to keep a current client. Carefully balance marketing dollars between client recruitment and retention efforts.

Step 4: Find out where your new clients are coming from. Add a line to your new-client form that asks how the client learned of your practice:

�  Referral  Whom may we thank? __________________________

�  Sign/drove by

�  Yellow pages

�  Newspaper article or advertisement

�  Website

�  Other ____________________________

Tally the results so you can decide how much to invest in referral programs, yellow pages ads, direct mail, event sponsorships and other marketing programs.

Step 5: Set your budget. Most hospitals spend up to 1% of revenue on marketing programs.

Sample Marketing Plan

This 12-month marketing plan includes staff training 60 days before implementation, marketing to clients 30 days before launch, and providing the service during the specified month.






Vaccination protocol

Dental care

Winter hazards/
poison education


Internal parasites

Vaccination protocol

Dental care


External parasites

Internal parasites

Vaccination protocol


Summer hazards and travel

External parasites

Internal parasites`



Summer hazards and travel

External parasites


Declaw and cat behavior


Summer hazards and travel


Senior care

Declaw and cat behavior



Dog behavior and obedience classes

Senior care

Declaw and cat behavior


Holiday hazards

Dog behavior and obedience classes

Senior care


Pet selection counseling (Christmas pets)

Holiday hazards

Dog behavior and obedience classes


Winter hazards

Pet selection counseling (Christmas pets)

Holiday hazards


Dental care

Winter hazards

Pet selection counseling (Christmas pets)

Source: Building the Successful Veterinary Practice: Programs and Procedures (Volume 2) by Thomas E. Catanzaro, DVM, MHA, Diplomate ACHE (Iowa State University Press, 1998)

Why do clients choose a clinic?

•  53% referral

•  45% location

•  7% yellow pages

•  2% road sign

•  1% newspaper ad

•  1% direct mail

Source: Pfizer Animal Health study of 31,000 veterinary clients

Use your practice sign

1.  Create an effective exterior sign

•  Easily visible from the road

•  Incorporate your logo

•  Choose bright colors

•  Consider a lighted sign

•  Remember, passersby only have 3 to 5 seconds to read your message

2.  What should your sign include?

•  Hospital name and logo

•  Phone number

•  Emergency phone number

•  Special services

3.  Use interior signs to direct clients

•  All pets on leashes

•  Scale

•  Exam rooms

•  Pet food

•  Boarding and grooming

Use your computer

1.  Put marketing messages on invoices and reminder cards

•  Feline or canine behavior problems? Your veterinarian can help you find a solution!

•  Internal parasites are unwanted guests and may seriously affect your pet�s health. Be sure your pet has a fecal exam and heartworm test every 12 months.

•  More than 85 percent of dogs and cats have dental disease. Left untreated, this disease may cause serious, life-threatening conditions. Schedule a dental exam with your veterinarian today!

2.  Send reminders for more than exams

•  Flea control

•  Heartworm preventives

•  Follow-up lab tests

•  Therapeutic diets or weigh-ins for obese animals

3.  Celebrate pets� birthdays

•  Send a birthday card with a gift certificate for a treat or a birthday dental exam

•  Send a special greeting to senior pets

4.  Use your database for target marketing

•  Puppy and kitten programs: nutrition, training, vaccinations, play groups

•  Follow-up tests for sick patients

•  Senior care

Promoting senior care

"Geriatric services are the most important part of practice today. Clients often spend more money on pets during the last two years of their lives than in all the previous years."�Don Dooley, management consultant, Los Gatos, CA

Yellow pages ads

•  Know what percent of your clients come from the yellow pages! Could you better spend those advertising dollars on another marketing program?

•  Create a tailored message

•  Use photos of pets

•  List key services

•  Don�t follow the pack (color, size)

•  Keep your message short

•  Use bold, large type for your phone number

•  List specialties such as oncology, dermatology, laser surgery, cats only, etc.

Create great retail displays

1.  Determine available space

•  Wall-mounted shelves

•  Exam-room cabinets and shelves

•  Hallways

•  Reception area

2.  Place displays near the reception desk

•  Catch clients with checkbooks out

•  Let clients see and touch items

•  Attractively display only a few items

•  Price items individually

3.  Pay attention to details

•  Put a hospital sticker on every product

•  Dust often!

•  Use strategic lighting (track lighting, mini-fluorescent tubes, can lights)

•  Assign one staff member to coordinate

Top 10 retail items

1.  Pet food

2.  Parasite control

3.  Odor control

4.  Grooming products

5.  Collars and leashes

6.  Toys and chews

7.  Dishes

8.  Odor-free cat litter boxes

9.  Kennels and crates

10.  Books

Provide client amenities

1.  Create a client convenience center

•  Coffee and bottled water

•  Cookies, popcorn or holiday treats

•  Telephone

•  Pet treats

•  Pick up food orders

2.  Design a client comfort room

•  Euthanasia, consultations, visits to hospitalized pets

•  Private phone

•  Clinic library

•  Comfortable seating

3.  Designate a client greeter

•  Help new clients complete paperwork

•  Give hospital tours

•  Assist clients with more than one pet (or out-of-control kids!)

•  Step out from behind the reception desk

4.  Make checking out easy

•  Provide a counter-mounted hook to secure leashes

•  Counter space for purses and pets

Boost boarding profits

1.  Show clients where pets stay

•  Glass-front cat condos

•  Well-lit kennels

•  Fish aquarium

•  Bird houses

•  Calming music or videos

2.  Offer clients extras

•  TLC package: treats, walks, brushings, toys, blanket, "Yappy Hour"

•  Send home a report card

3.  Introduce doggie daycare

•  As pack animals, dogs can get bored or destructive if left home alone. Doggy daycare provides a safe environment for dogs to get exercise, socialization and human contact.

•  Doggie daycare is a business that was virtually unheard of 5 years ago. Today, doggy daycare exists in every state.

•  Doggie daycare prices range from $10 to $30 per day, and include playtime, walks and treats. Potential revenue = $50 to $150 per week per dog!

Sample Doggy Daycare Fees

Downtown Dogs� Daycare, San Jose, CA, (408) 287-2267,

•  Interview fee  $10

•  Single visit  $32

•  Late fee: $10 per 15 minutes after 7 p.m.

•  24-hour cancellation required; $32 no-show charge

Prepaid Packages (Each valid for 30 days.)

•  4 visits  $115

•  8 visits  $208

•  12 visits  $282

•  Monthly  $450

4.  Provide luxury accommodations

•  This isn�t your average chain-link runs! Today�s boarding kennels feature professionally decorated "suites" with wallpaper, a TV and toddler beds.

•  The latest trend: A home environment--complete with 24-hour human companionship. Some kennels offer furnished studio apartments for this service, while others have the pet board in the kennel owners� home.

•  Some upscale kennels and daycare facilities require interviews with both the owner and pet.

•  Overnight boarding fees range from $15 for a standard kennel to $100 for a studio apartment with human companionship.

Recommended Reading:

1.  Building the Successful Veterinary Practice: Leadership Tools (Volume 1) by Thomas E. Catanzaro, DVM, MHA, Diplomate ACHE (Iowa State University Press, 1997); or (800) 862-6657

2.  Building the Successful Veterinary Practice: Programs and Procedures (Volume 2) by Thomas E. Catanzaro, DVM, MHA, Diplomate ACHE (Iowa State University Press, 1998); or (800) 862-6657

3.  Building the Successful Veterinary Practice: Innovation and Creativity (Volume 3) by Thomas E. Catanzaro, DVM, MHA, Diplomate ACHE (Iowa State University Press, 1998); or (800) 862-6657

4.  Marketing Your Veterinary Practice II by Shawn P. Messonnier, DVM, (Mosby-Year Book Inc., 1997); or (800) 545-2522

5.  Mastering the Marketplace: Taking Your Practice to the Top by Ross Clark, DVM (Veterinary Medicine Publishing Group, 1996); or (800) 255-6864, ext. 2

6.  One Client at a Time: Building Customer Loyalty and Practice Success Through Personal Marketing by Cecelia Soares, DVM (AAHA Press, 1999); or (800) 252-2242

7.  Veterinary Healthcare Services: Options in Delivery by Thomas E. Catanzaro, DVM, MHA, Diplomate ACHE; Thom Haig, DVM; Peter Weinstein, DVM; Judi Leake, DVM; Heather Howell, CVPM (Iowa State University Press, 2000); or (800) 862-6657

Wendy S. Myers is the former editor of Veterinary Economics. She owns Communication Solutions, a Denver-based consulting firm that helps practice owners and managers improve client service, marketing, newsletters, web sites and communication tools. She lectures at veterinary conferences nationwide on customer service, marketing, and practice management. You can reach her at (720) 344-2347 or

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