Your brand is the particular element of your practice that sets you apart from your competition.
No matter how strong your marketing materials are, they will fail to generate adequate returns if you haven't first developed your veterinary brand. The reason for this is simple: Your brand is the particular element of your veterinary practice that establishes your identity and sets you apart from your competition. If you don't stand out, it's nearly impossible to continue generating the long-term growth and revenue increases that you would like to see.
In today's marketplace, pet owners are bombarded with an avalanche of choices between big box stores, low-cost clinics, and services from full-service veterinary hospitals located in your community. In nearly every instance, the differentiators they advertise are products and cost. Consumers confronted with these pitches have learned that they can find what they want at a cost they believe is fair - which means they're seeking something more.
Customers aren't simply looking for their next veterinary practice; they want to identify with your veterinary hospital brand. In other words, clients want to understand who you are and the benefits you can provide for them.
Your Brand is Your Image
Your brand is the image that defines you and your veterinary practice. It conveys the value your clients receive by doing business with you. If you fail to define your the brand of your veterinary hospital, your promotional efforts will be ineffectual; instead of resonating with consumers, your name will be lost in the white noise of the many other practices advertising veterinary services and competitive pricing.
For example, one of our clients in a major metropolitan area offers a full range of veterinary services at competitive prices. However, so do all of their competitors.
Our client sets themselves apart by creating an individualized healthcare plan for each of their clients' pets and reinforcing this veterinary brand image in all their marketing materials—logo, brochures, website and newsletter. For consumers bombarded with advertisements offering competitively priced services, our client meets pet owners' desires for a higher level of customer service and personal care.
In short, their message resonates.
Establishing Your Veterinary Hospital's Brand
Marketing is about selling an image to potential clients. Branding is about creating that image. This is an important point, because it means that before engaging in any veterinary marketing campaign or creating promotional material for your veterinary hospital, you must first establish your brand identity.
The biggest mistake hospital owners make is equating their brand with the services and products they offer. Your brand is not the services or products you offer, nor is it your marketing campaign. Your brand is the unique personality of your hospital, your employees and you.
Your brand is what you stand for and what you represent. It's the enduring image your clients carry with them after they leave your veterinary hospital.
To develop a concept of your veterinary brand, reflect on your practice. Look beyond your equipment, instruments, computers, furniture and focus on the bigger picture. Ask yourself what truly sets you apart from your competition. Ask your employees what makes your practice unique, the benefits you offer, and how they contribute. Ask your friends and clients what comes to mind when someone mentions the name of your veterinary hospital.
After you have thought about your image, compile a list of features that make your practice unique. Use this information to develop a hospital mission statement. From your mission statement, create a short phrase about the benefits your veterinary practice provides, not the services that you offer.
Examples of Features That Contribute to Your Brand
- Involvement in the Community – Shelter Work, Food Drives for Animals or People, Charity Work for Pets in Elderly Centers, Speaking at Local Events and Schools
- Regular Blog Postings with Local Pet News
- At-Home Care – Euthanasia, General Examinations
- Mobile Pick-up and Drop-Off Services
- Transportation for Elderly and Disabled Clients
- Punctuality – Guaranteed Minimal Wait Time
- Alternative Therapies – Holistic, Acupuncture, Homeopathy
- On-Call Veterinarian for After Hours Conversations
- Complete Cost Transparency
- Minimal Employee and Veterinarian Turnover
- Good Specialist Referral Network
- Knowledgeable, Well-Trained and Informed Receptionists
- Pet Lost and Found
- Pet Adoptions from Hospital
- Weekend Hours
- Emergency Van (for Emergency Practices)
- Early Morning Drop-offs and Late Evening Pick-ups for Working Families
- Separate Cat Waiting Area
- Play Area for Children
- Special Reception Procedure for Nervous Pets
Most veterinary hospitals list their services in their marketing materials. Don't make this mistake. Pet owners already know that all veterinary hospitals treat sick pets. They want to know how your hospital and its services make their lives and their pets' lives better.
"Personalized Care Through Your Pet's Ages and Stages" or "Providing House Calls, Transportation Services and Convenient Hours" is a far more effective marketing phrase for a veterinary hospital than "We are a full-service veterinary hospital."
Your Hospital Colors and Architectural Design
Conveying your brand is more than just what you say on your website or the text on a direct mail piece. Every element of your hospital's marketing effort must be aligned with your your veterinary brand.
Colors are important visual cues that create strong mental images in peoples' minds. Consider the red of a Coca-Cola can or brown with UPS. These colors are thoroughly associated with the companies' brands. They also appear in all their marketing materials with consistent messages such as "Have a Coke and a smile," or "What can Brown do for you?"
The colors you choose for your hospital's brand are crucial for expressing the tone of your practice and should be linked with your message. Your brand colors should also set you apart from other veterinary hospitals, integrate within the veterinary industry and create a positive image of who you are.
Branding includes aligning the architectural design, layout, color choice and materials used for your hospital with your image and message. Reinforce your brand at each touch-point with your clients, so they carry it with them and describe their pet's veterinarian in those terms when talking to friends and family.
Your Veterinary Brand is Established. Now Go Work with It.
Once these components are in order, you have established your practice's brand. Now you need to raise awareness of it. This is where your marketing tools and a cohesive marketing strategy come into play. If you have a logo, website or brochure and they do not represent your brand, have them redesigned so they do. This may not be as difficult or expensive as you think, but it is critical.
Your veterinary hospital's brand instills confidence and creates loyalty among clients. With a favorable brand and well considered marketing measures, you are better equipped to attract new clients from today's savvy and discriminating pet owners.