Start The Year Off Right By Satisfying Your Clients
Dear Clients and Friends,
The New Year has just begun and we're all making resolutions. Your resolution is to impress your existing clients and work hard at getting new clients.
Tablet computer and smartphone sales are soaring. Currently, almost 400 million mobile phones are active in the United States and more than half are smartphones.
Smartphone owners are accessing websites more than ever from these devices. If your practice doesn't have a mobile veterinary website, you are probably losing business. Our first article lists the "Three Essential Reasons Why Your Hospital Needs A Mobile Website."
The next article is about blogging and why you should have a blog. A bad blog is ineffective and can even be detrimental to your practice. However, a good blog can immediately drive many new clients to your front door.
Also in this issue, we address legal problems facing busy veterinarians in "Vaccinating Your Practice Against Legal Troubles." This is the first in a series of legal articles that will appear in successive VetNetwork newsletters.
Finally, we get back to veterinary website basics with "The Right Photos Maximize The Image Of Your Veterinary Practice." Because even amidst all these technological advancements, your veterinary hospital's full website is your most important veterinary marketing tool. Good, professional photos (on your website) speak volumes about you and your practice.
Think about these suggestions. Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter. And do get your practice off on the right foot. Happy New Year!
—Dr. Mark Feltz, DVM, and the Creative Team at VetNetwork
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As a veterinarian, you're always on a learning curve. You want to know about the latest advances in veterinary care so that you can provide your clients with the best possible service. The same principal should hold true about how you market your practice.
Not every veterinary hospital has a veterinary mobile site – that is, a website that downloads easily and quickly onto a smartphone. But it won't be long before your competition adapts to this new technology and reap its benefits. That's why you need a mobile veterinary hospital site for your practice now.
Recent data posted by the Mobile Marketing Association tells you the story:
1. 70% of all mobile searches result in action within one hour.
What does that mean for you? If someone in your market is looking for a veterinarian and your website is listed at the top of their search, chances are high that search will result in a call to your hospital. A mobile website makes it convenient for a prospective client to get in touch with you almost immediately. If you don't have a veterinary mobile website, chances are that call will to go to your competition.
2. 91% percent of all U.S. citizens have their mobile device within reach 24 hours a day/seven days a week. (This was originally reported in a Morgan Stanley survey.)
If someone is searching for a veterinary practice, they almost certainly will start that search on their handheld device. You want prospective customers to be able to find you there first.
3. Mobile coupons get 10 times the redemption rate of traditional coupons.
That alone is a startling statistic. If you're having a special or want to introduce a new service, the place to promote it is on your mobile site. Don't be out-marketed by your nearest competitor.
Mobile websites are convenient, affordable and essential. VetNetwork is the expert in developing results-oriented mobile sites for veterinarians. We are extending our special price for Mobile Veterinary Websites until January 18. Act now and save $250.
Call VetNetwork today to get started
For more information about Why Your Practice Needs A Mobile Website, Click Here.
Are you in a fog about the value of a blog? Is it worth the time and effort? Recent marketing publications take aim at professionals who prioritize blogging and suggest that the rate of return on a blogging investment is low. The arguments trend in the same direction: blogging won’t raise your online veterinary hospital’s profile and your blog is probably preaching to the converted. When you read these arguments, however, you’ll find that blogging is not the issue. The problem is poor blogging. A badly written, sporadically published blog is worse than not blogging at all.
Let's answer three basic questions about why veterinary blogging can help your hospital:
The answer to question one is: of course, you should have a blog. A blog (which is a contraction for the term web log) no longer has the stigma of being a second-rate or an untrustworthy form of communication.
Ken Makovsky of Forbes Magazine has the most succinct and relevant list on why both small and large companies should blog:
Hubspot, the influential marketing software company, released a survey in 2011 that emphasized the importance of blogging. A few of its many excellent points were:
Our second question centers on length of blog posts. These days, everyone wants to share their knowledge and opinion, but the key to any successful blog today is brevity. That's simply an established and accepted fact. Information is now absorbed in sound-bites. Even those of us who grew up in a more analog age have adapted to the new forms. You need to make your postings brief and to the point. What do pet owners most need to know? What issues or topics are relevant to their curiosity or needs?
Neil Patel, the marketing guru from SEOmoz emphasizes that the trick is to keep it short. Simple words and short sentences will keep your readers' attention and interest. No one wants to read a dissertation on the latest laparoscopy technique. Publishing short blog posts will make your life easier – but that is not to say they will be easy to write. Writing a polished blog requires research, time and quality writing and blogs should be published regularly so they benefit your hospital. As a veterinarian, your challenge is to identify a timely topic that interests pet owners and write about it well.
Thus, we arrive at our third question: who should write your blog?
Carol Tice, writing in Entrepreneur.com, gives her number one reason as to why companies should not start a blog: "No one has time. Be honest with yourself about whether you could spare at least two or three hours a week to write." Her point is that starting a blog, and then letting it simply fade away, will do your veterinary hospital more harm than good.
She then offers a solution: "If no one at the business can do it, consider hiring a professional writer or a company that specializes in writing blogs. Without somebody committed to posting, you'll end up with a dusty blog that hasn't been updated in six months. This makes a worse impression than if you never blogged at all."
Here's one trick about hiring someone to manage your hospital's blog: Don't be dazzled by youth. Hollis Thomases, in an article posted on Inc.com, said: "Just because you don't understand the technology doesn't mean you should forfeit all common sense and hire your niece, nephew, or any other recent college grad (say, your best friend's sister-in-law's child) because 'they're really good with the Internet.'
Therefore, consider your current employees. Do you have an office administrator who is also a strong writer? Is there a college intern on your staff whose time could be used toward researching relevant veterinary topics? Perhaps even two staff members could blog as a team – one as the principal researcher, the other as the blog writer. Be creative. Accept the trendy marketing colloquialism and 'think outside the box."
Blogging in a new, shorter and more focused form can do wonders for your animal hospital; it can bring your hospital instant perks such as an Internet search engine lift and a reputation that is current and professional.
In today's tech-obsessed world, it's important to be diligent about your online presence. Neglecting it, or contrarily, spending too much time marketing ineffectively, will only set you back in your quest to grow your veterinary hospital's online reputation.
As the practice of veterinary medicine becomes more complex, so, too, do legal issues facing veterinarians. As with other licensed professionals, practitioners engaged in veterinary medicine may oftentimes be distracted from their practices by demanding business complexities. Veterinary hospitals involve multiple and potential legal issues as veterinarians regularly deal with contracts between professional colleagues and employees, practice affiliations and mergers, commercial lease negotiations and, occasionally, malpractice lawsuits and/or disciplinary investigations.
Identify your Business Type
It is important to consider how you want to classify your veterinary practice and select that type which is most appropriate for your business. The type of entity classification will help you maximize your legal protection from personal liability in the event of legal action. A corporation, limited liability partnership, or limited-liability company classification can help protect your personal assets should a business-related liability arise. Moreover, regardless of the chosen entity, veterinarians in a group practice should execute appropriate "buy-sell" agreements to address what happens to their individual equity interests in the event of death, disability, or retirement.
Growth and Contracts
The growth of your veterinary practice is exciting and promising. However, with sustained growth comes the necessitation of legal protection. As your practice expands, you may want to employ additional veterinarians and/or other staff members. Legal assistance in contract development can protect your practice by including legally-enforceable non-compete clauses in employee/partner contracts; it will also aid in production-based compensation terms (should you choose to implement such payment methods). It is also wise to develop employment agreements with your management staff so that when an employee separates from employment, you and your practice are well-protected.
Publishing and regularly revising your employee handbook is clearly advisable. Make sure to include pertinent policy topics, such as employee hours, wages and salaries, and employee benefits, so that your employees are aware of your practice's rules and expectations. Such a policy also assures your staff members that you value their rights and that they can rely upon certain guarantees and protections. Be clear about your practice's policy regarding termination and resignation. A clear description of your employee policy will prevent future legal ramifications should one of your staff members become disgruntled or unhappy.
Veterinary Client Complaints
Anyone who works for or with the public soon learns that sometimes no effort is enough to satisfy a client. Managing a disgruntled veterinary client calmly, however, can mean the difference between serious repercussions for your veterinary practice and protecting your staff from constant complaints and criticism.
The singular most important tip to remember is to listen, listen, listen to your client. Whether the pet owner is ranting or simply criticizing the delay in her scheduled appointment, it is best to respond calmly and thus defuse a potential volatile situation.
Another helpful piece of advice is to simply provide your clients with information. If you're running behind, make sure your front office staff informs pet owners. Everyone appreciates common courtesies and pet owners are more apt to forgive and forget if they are told that the veterinarian encountered an unforeseen delay in surgery or an emergency.
Many clients feel apprehensive about the costs involved in treating their sick pet. Before they even receive an invoice, pet owners may feel anxious and agitated. Offering refunds and discounts can often placate clients who are upset about fees. Additionally, it is advisable to permit your employees to authorize small discounts or rebates when nothing else is working to appease a client.
Lastly, never underestimate the importance of honesty. If you or a staff member makes a mistake, own up to it. Most people don't want a prolonged confrontation; they want to feel respected and "right" when wronged. A simple apology can boost your client’s trust in you and facilitate a stronger veterinarian-pet owner relationship in the future.
Merger/Affiliations and Practice Sales
In order to realize significant cost savings, you may want to combine efforts with other professional practices in order to take advantage of bulk purchasing, share back-office functions, and schedule "on call" assignments and rotations. Legal representation can help you develop specific affiliation agreements and also ensure that you remain in compliance with state law. A carefully selected law firm can further help you determine the value of your practice should you ever seek to sell it or merge with another veterinary practice.
Veterinary Malpractice and Peace of Mind
Modern day society is moving away from the traditional view of regarding pets as property; it is increasingly representing and projecting pets as "cherished companions" and, thereby, attaching an almost human quality (and sentiment) to the animals. While the legal system still considers animals as personal property (and thus limits a plaintiff's recovery to the pet's cost replacement), adequate malpractice coverage can bring you peace of mind. As courts slowly begin to allow owners to recover "reasonable sentimental value," your legal exposure will inevitably increase. To guard against this, it is important for you to forge a reliable relationship with a law firm who can offer you professional legal representation at trial should you need it in order to protect both you (and your family) and to ensure the continued viability of your practice. Veterinary law has become a fast-growing legal subspecialty. It behooves you, the veterinary hospital owner, to acquaint yourself with the legal protections available. A short consultation with an attorney may provide you with long-term professional satisfaction in the future.
Is a picture really worth a thousand words? You bet it is. Especially when trying to attract new clients to your veterinary hospital website.
What you may think is an important image or attractive photo may not always be the most optimal image to present to potential clients. Yes, you should be proud of that recent laparoscopic-assisted intestinal resection performed through the wound retractor on Mr. Smith's Schnauzer. And yes, your veterinary hospital did receive recent acclaim for its sensitivity and memorialization with its pet cremation services. But do these facts translate into good pictures? Not so much.
When uploading photographs and images to your veterinary hospital's website, consider which pictures best reflect your veterinary hospital's values, services and ideals. But also keep in mind what your clients, the pet owners, most want to see. While they might be interested to know that your practice offers sophisticated surgical procedures, chances are they may not want to see pictures of such procedures. And while euthanasia or pet dentistry are services that pet owners often select, they are not likely images that pet owners want to view online. As the old adage says, some things are better left unsaid... and unseen.
So the next time you want to update your veterinary hospital's website or Facebook page, consider stocking your photo directory with customized, pet-friendly images and pictures that portray your hospital in its best light – both literally and figuratively. A well-lit waiting room photo illuminates not just the viewer's computer screen but also his perception of your veterinary practice. What could be considered a typical standard waiting area may suddenly appear as a clean, inviting, and hospitable atmosphere for pets and pet owners alike.
If you're having trouble deciding on the appropriateness of an image, let our top team of graphic designers at VetNetwork help. Often our third party objective and professional eye can mean the difference between offending potential clients and enticing them to call you for an appointment. With over 300 customized veterinary websites in our portfolio, VetNetwork's experience can work to your advantage. Let our professional team guide you through those difficult decisions, enhance the your images on Facebook and your website, and boost your veterinary hospital's online reputation. There is no obligation; our graphic designers' expertise is here for your benefit. Contact us today to discuss how best to maximize your veterinary snapshots and client potential.
VetNetwork is a veterinary marketing and design company exclusively for the veterinary industry. Our services and products are guaranteed to increase your profits and attract new clients.
Mark Feltz, DVM and the Staff at VetNetwork
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