Big Box Stores Continue to Poach Veterinary Hospital Sales, Part II

0 Comments Posted by Alyssa Noonan in General, Industry Trends, Veterinary Marketing on Thursday, July 25th, 2013.

Synching Up With Change

Last week’s blog, Big Box Stores Continue to Poach Veterinary Hospital Sales, discussed the ongoing issue of veterinary clinics and big box retailers who now provide low cost/high volume sales of veterinary products. When product sales amount to 25% (or more) of revenue for most veterinary practices, how can you compete?

Harvard Business School professor (and business strategist and author) Michael Porter stresses that every business must determine its competitive angle—noting the four options that may provide an advantage (Veterinary Team Brief):

  • Selection
  • Price
  • Quality
  • Service

Obviously, quality and service remain in the veterinary practice’s corner while price and selection (of products) wane.  And while it is also evident that some (if not many) clients will race to the Big Box stores waving coupons, it is meaningful to focus on:

  • Client Education: I’ve assumed I pay top dollar for the products purchased through my veterinarian. However, she recently showed me a price breakdown (including those free doses and rebates) and I realized that I do not always pay more. Good advertising (sign in the waiting area, email newsletter) highlighting special offers and competitive pricing can reel clients in (or encourage them to reconsider purchase locations).
  • Product Guarantee: For those of us willing to pay more for value, a product guarantee from someone we trust is paramount. My veterinarian stands behind the products she sells: they have a valid expiration date, they are stored at the correct temperature, and they are genuine.
  • Connections & Loyalty: We all know you catch more flies with honey. But in addition to quality medical care, TLC goes a long way. As a shamelessly eccentric dog mom (often seen sporting the all-terrain canine stroller), I recently arrived at my veterinarian’s office to pick up my Havanese, Harley, and found him at the reception area surrounded by a loving, doting support staff. My day was made. And perhaps even more important, my loyalty was fortified.  One of the technicians was clever enough to grab a photo of our reunion and share it on Facebook (an invaluable tool for connecting with clients).
  • Special Services & Promotions: Services add value to any business (and they won’t be outsourced). Jessica Goodman Lee, CVPM and Mike Paul, DVM  (Veterinary Economics) advise that if we “study [our] compliance metrics … there is incredible room for improvement in multiple areas.”  They say to “educate your team on communicating the value of these services to clients, set compliance goals, and celebrate successes. The revenue earned by improving the care pets receive, both in dollars and increased client retention, will more than make up for the loss of pharmacy profits.”(dvm360)
  • Effective Marketing: Technology is powerful. Your website should consistently land at the top of Google, capture your excellence, lead clients to your door, and make a profound first impression. With social networking, email blasts, logo design, brochure development, blogs, newsletters, and direct mail promotions, you will be synching up with the times and embracing change.

Jessica Goodman Lee and Mike Paul also state that trimming down inventory translates to less concern about stagnant products or tight cash flow. They suggest charging less for pharmacy items (using a $10 convenience fee as the limit), bonding with local pharmacies (and remaining available for consults), and keeping your clients in the loop so they know you are looking out for their pets (regardless of where they fill prescriptions).

But perhaps it is Joan Freesh, MS, DVM, and owner of the St. Louis Cat Clinic in St. Louis, Missouri who offers the most inspirational outlook: “I’m not going to hide from change, complain about change, run from change, or even ignore it. Instead, I’ll provide new services that are valuable to my patients and their owners. I’ll raise my fees… as needed. I’ll come up with new marketing ideas to generate more business. My staff and I will have less inventory to keep track of and more time to focus on the basics of veterinary medicine—excellent patient care and customer service.”(dvm360) At the end of the day, it’s all about synching up with change. And without a doubt, utilizing available marketing and technology to ensure growth, reputation management, and profitability, will guarantee that quality and service dominate.


*Don’t fall behind the competition. Let VetNetwork (800-564-4215) take care of your marketing needs!


~Carol S. Rothchild

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