Maximize Marketing in an Increasingly Complex, Digital World was previously published in Canadian Vet, January 2012.
Most veterinarians consider expanding their marketing efforts as new opportunities present themselves. From Facebook to LinkedIn and Twitter, we’ve accumulated quite a few new opportunities over recent years. In fact, the list continues to expand before our very eyes with video and mobile apps.
So, how can you take advantage of all this opportunity without wasting time and money marketing your clinic? You can begin your journey by implementing the following ten steps focused on planning, customizing, delegating, and integrating marketing activities, large and small, online and off.
- Protect your options – Make decisions about how to market your clinic at the beginning of the year while you still have a budget and the time and space to evaluate each and every option, for its ability to meet your goals. This proactive, bird’s eye view of your marketing plan will help you to stop second guessing yourself and feeling tempted to try new experiments on an ad hoc basis without giving anything a chance to succeed.
- Do less, better – Instead of feeling pressured to do it all and overextending your resources, choose your marketing efforts carefully. You’ll see better results if you really commit to a few activities than if you dabble in a long laundry list of items. Repeat encounters with the same audience will make it far likelier that they will respond, as will a better quality campaign.
- Account for lifestyle and seasonality – Create a turnkey system that positions you to maintain your marketing program through busy seasons and holidays. This process will encourage you to simplify where necessary, leverage technology, and make the best use of downtime, in order to maintain marketing at a steady pace all year round. If you don’t market when you’re busy, it will be harder to avoid the slow periods that typically follow.
- Define success – If you want to measure success, start by defining it and setting up appropriate indicators to measure data from each marketing activity. Review your reports regularly and adjust your plan as needed. You don’t need to commit for the sake of it. Successful veterinarians know when to stay committed and when to adapt to change with a nimble entrepreneurial spirit.
- Don’t treat marketing like medicine – Instead of taking marketing like a bitter pill, consider your personal talents and interests to be relevant to your plan. There’s no reason to force yourself to give seminars if you don’t like speaking in front of large groups of people. Your marketing activities are far more likely to succeed if they are designed to serve you, rather than the other way around.
- Establish meaning and difference – Work with a marketing professional to communicate the unique and valued aspects of your professional identity, across your fundamental marketing activities. Establish a strategy to consciously reinforce this identity with all other activities, from how you answer the phone to the voice used in a newsletter or article.
- Share responsibility with your team – There are two levels to a successful veterinary marketing plan: the clinic plan (this includes fundamental marketing elements such as logos, websites, and brochures) and the individual plans (which can range from blog contributions to networking and charitable work). It would be a mistake to assign the same tasks to all your team members, just to keep things equitable. Think instead, just as you would with your own plan, about basing each person’s contributions on his or her unique talents and interests. This approach will help you to renew enthusiasm and creativity with everyone, including yourself.
- Give enthusiasm direction – If you want your team to help you build your clinic, give them the tools they need to do the job, starting with a formal understanding of your vision and values. Depending on your plan, you may also want to consider other practical marketing tools such as an elevator pitch, a social media policy, and telephone scripts. Such direction will help to avoid the confusion that usually results from disjointed individual marketing efforts.
- Connect your marketing activities to each other – Think of your marketing plan as a relay race where each event has a place in the overall chain, rather than as a series of splintered activities. So, while you know that you may create goodwill if you give a strong seminar, this goodwill may simply dissipate as you leave the room if the time and circumstances aren’t right for participants to act on their interest. Taking the relay race approach, if you invite the audience to sign up for a newsletter or you leave behind a brochure or other material, you give them the option to continue to hear from you. They can build an attachment to your clinic and act when they are ready.
- Build a marketing toolbox – Each marketing effort needs to be designed to deliver on your objectives for that specific activity, but that doesn’t mean that you have to go back to the drawing board every time you want to market. Treat your collection of professional marketing materials as a toolbox. Make use of it repeatedly to ensure that your core messages don’t change and that all your marketing efforts stay true to the character of your brand every time you add something to the mix. You can keep things fresh while instilling in your audience a sense of trust by being consistent.
As this list suggests, marketing impact is in part dependent on choosing suitable activities and delivering them with adequate frequency. However, maximizing the return on your marketing efforts isn’t just about committing to a plan.
Marketing impact is driven to an even greater extent by the depth with which your message resonates with your audience, emotionally and intellectually, and the speed at which this connection happens.