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A clever strategy and tactics to bring in new clients...

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01 February 2015, at 12:00am

PAUL GREEN looks at various ways by which practices can gain new clients and suggests a four-stage strategy followed by seven ‘acquisition’ tactics which will have been proven to work well

EVERY practice needs a constant flow of new clients.

If you think of your practice as a bucket full of water, you need a tap dripping in water (new clients) at the top, as you are constantly dripping out water at the other end (when clients go elsewhere or their pet dies).

Your strategy to do this is actually quite simple. When someone is looking for a new practice, there are four stages when you can influence them:

1. Reputation

What people believe about your practice affects whether they are likely to seriously consider you or not. Reputation is not about your brand or your logo. It’s the cumulative effect of what’s said about you online and through word of mouth.

Your reputation is more affected by what people believe than the actual truth. That’s because marketing is more about perception than it is reality.

2. Attention

At the exact point someone is ready to look for a vet, that’s when you need to be in front of them. Up to this point, they simply don’t see your marketing. We all have a part of our brain called the reticular activating system (RAS) which filters out information it believes the conscious mind doesn’t need to see.

This is why, when you decide to buy a red Audi A5, you suddenly see lots of them on the roads. They were always there, but your RAS was filtering them out for you.

Someone who Googles for a vet in your area is ready to see your marketing. Now you have to shout, and make sure they seriously consider you before any other local practice.

3. Leads

Many will visit your website. Only about one in 100 will actually register their pet with you. More are interested and are potential clients … it’s just that they haven’t got round to making the commitment of registering yet.

The smart thing is to add data capture to your website. This is a low commitment way to get someone to give you their name, e-mail address and phone number. Having a box that says “sign up for our newsletter” doesn’t work anymore. Instead you must offer an ethical bribe – something that they perceive is of great enough value that they will give you their contact details in order to get it.

A pet healthcare guide is a good example of this, or even extra value in their first consultation – money off, or a new pet pack, for example.

4. Sales

People buy when they are ready to buy. So once they have been through your data capture, you follow them up again and again until the right moment for them. For a veterinary practice, getting the sale means getting them to register their pet with the practice and book their first appointment.

I highly recommend you allow and encourage online registration. This doesn’t have to be driven by your PMS; it can be as simple as a web form that e-mails information through to your receptionists for them to follow up.

You and I know that all the pet owner has done is fill in a form. They will consider that they have made a commitment to the practice; and the majority will follow through with that. That’s a sale. The strategy seems fairly simple, but of course there’s a lot of devil in the detail. You need to pick the right tactics to operate the strategy for you. Here are seven new client acquisition tactics that work well for a veterinary practice:

1. Get better at Google to drive quality traffic. Invest in pay per click (PPC) adverts. And consider investing in remarketing – the adverts that seem to follow people around the web. They are incredibly cheap and offer a fantastic return on investment, as they get in front of someone at the point they are ready to commit to a practice.

2. Differentiate from your competitors by using yourself and your staff. Tell stories and appeal to people’s emotions. Don’t try to compete on price, service or quality.

3. Revamp your content. Chances are it’s rubbish. Write it from the prospect’s point of view avoiding “we we we”. Use the AIDA writing strategy (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action). Focus on headlines.

Headlines sell – or kill sales. If you’re not a confident marketing writer, just hire one. There are plenty out there. Just make sure they fully understand veterinary.

4. Educate web visitors how to buy. Most of them don’t know a good practice from a bad one. Tell them what to look for, and what to be aware of. Of course, all of the things you recommend your practice must have! Typically, the educator is the one to win the sale.

5. Use videos online. Don’t make it a Hollywood production. On your home page introduce yourself to your potential future client (a video speaking directly to them, look at the camera). Do a second video showing them around the practice.

6. Create a better “about us” page. A lot of your traffic will visit this page. Don’t make it dry and boring, listing your staff ’s qualifications and dull life histories. Bring it alive with photos, videos and by telling stories. People love stories. They help them connect with other people. Ultimately, people buy from people, not from practices.

7. Be obsessive about collecting testimonials. Get real names, photos or, best of all, videos. It’s a powerful concept called social proof – most people prefer to do what most other people are doing.

If you have 50 testimonials on your website, you will be perceived as the safe choice.