Thomas E. Catanzaro, DVM, MHA, FACHE, Diplomate American College of Healthcare Executives
To make any client marketing effort work, internal promotions must precede any external effort, but this means more than just selling services or products to existing clients. The Internal Promotion process is explained in greater detail in Chapter 5, Building The Successful Veterinary Practice: Programs & Procedures (Volume 2), by Blackwell Publishing. Any internal promotion or marketing effort must be sold to the staff members before ANY effort is expended toward clients; this is called getting buy-in from your most important clients, your own staff. The training of clients requires leading by example, walking the talk rather than just talking the talk. If you want an increase in nutritional sales, then everyone in the practice must be feeding those premium products to their pets. In an Illinois practice where we consulted, the veterinarian was not feeding the premium products to their own pet; by just converting the feeding habits of the veterinarian and staff, the nutritional sales increased by 19 percent during the first quarter. We must sell ourselves and our staff before we set about selling the clients.
In a practice we work with in Michigan, every employee is required to have a pet, and have regular wellness care, to include brushing the teeth of their pet. Once this became an established and accepted expectation, dental hygiene marketing efforts automatically increased. If we don't do it, the staff won't either. It is a basic principle of leadership applied to marketing; you must lead by example. What the leader does speaks so loudly, the followers cannot hear what they were told.
Computerized practices are data heavy, reams of paper that say what has happened. Some practices use this data to beat the staff into submission, comparing average transaction by veterinarian, comparing over-the-counter sales by receptionist, or creating similar internal conflicts. This method has an initial shock value, but team members are pitted against one another rather than toward a client-centered goal, so the benefit loses value quickly through justification and excuses. Once this data goes through the cause-and-effect analysis process it becomes information. Training bridges the gap between the leaders perceived information and belief by the staff. Internal marketing means training our staff in the why of the outcome not in the because of the sale. Outcome is the perceived benefit; because is only the process.