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Developing an annual marketing plan for your practice

A strategic marketing plan is key in ensuring you have the maximum impact in growing your brand

02 December 2019, at 9:00am

A well-made annual marketing plan will help you to capitalise on those parts of your business that have maximum impact in growing revenues and promoting your brand. Creating a marketing calendar allows all your staff to know what you’re doing at any time, and creates a framework to follow to ensure that everyone is aligned and key milestones are acted upon. With a plan in place you’ll have a blueprint for success that will help you to take your business to the next level. In short – you need a plan!

Right, where do I begin?

Your marketing plan should actually be more of a strategic calendar, with key dates marked for the planning stages and the execution stages of each marketing action you want to perform over the financial year.

It should take you a morning or a day to plan a calendar that you can follow for the upcoming year. This will be time very well spent, as this is a very important and profitable process for you to undertake for your business. Following a marketing plan means putting an end to costly and unsuccessful reactionary promotions and instead gives you a clear and conscious strategy to free up your time.

Your annual marketing calendar should focus on a mix of different formats, including: clinic promotions, social media, local promotions and adverts, SEO, Google My Business and internet presence and staff-facing marketing and events.

Clinic promotions

These are the number one way to drive revenues and new customers to your clinic. Arguably the best promotions for driving revenues are around things like dentals, neutering, puppies, kittens and senior pets. However, it always comes down to what staff at your practice prefer doing: promotions that you personally enjoy running will always resonate more with staff and therefore with clients.

Try to ensure that you run season-specific promotions; for instance, flea and worm awareness promotions are best run in spring when parasites are a tangible issue.

Some practices want to do a new offer each month, but experience has shown that the ideal length to run a clinic promotion is two or three months, as it often takes a few weeks after the start of a new offer for your staff to acquaint themselves with a promotion, and for clients to organise themselves to come in.

Get social

You should make a separate social media calendar to support your clinic marketing, with a good mix between useful information about the current clinic promotions, alongside your usual features. Ideally, you’ll create a social media calendar with a fair bit of granular detail as to the exact timings and topics you will be talking about each month in the year ahead, as this will make it easier for your team to plan and create some killer content.

Focus on local

Make sure to have local marketing events planned well in advance on your calendar. Try to agree to run at least one special event day per year – summer holidays are a good time to do these. This could be a dog show in the local park or a practice open day with fun games for everyone for example.

Don't forget your team

Your brand is nothing without your team – so make sure that a key part of your marketing plan involves some interesting learning events and fun days throughout the year to keep your team happy and on board with living and breathing your brand on a daily basis.

Plan for success

The most important thing about a marketing plan is measuring your success. Once each promotion is over, you need to go into your practice management software and calculate exactly how many more procedures you did in comparison to the same months the year previously. You should be aiming for an increase of a minimum of 10 percent on the previous year. Any growth over this amount means that your promotion has really caught the public’s attention, and you should consider repeating it again at the same time next year.

Make sure you report any marketing successes to your staff and recognise and encourage their efforts to help drive promotions, and don’t forget that a marketing plan is an ongoing thing that should be tweaked and improved upon every year as you find the promotions and strategies that really work for you and your clinic.

Will Stirling is a freelance marketing consultant who has worked in small animal practice marketing for over a decade, consulting on marketing strategy. He now spends his time helping independent veterinary clinics to grow and thrive.

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