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Running a successful weight clinic

Weight clinics can be an effective way to keep pets healthy, raise awareness of the benefits of healthy diets and exercise, and help bond clients to your practice

01 February 2021, at 8:55am

The new year is traditionally a season when us humans start to think about shedding some excess Christmas weight, and maybe notice that some of our furry friends could do with losing a bit of puppy fat too! This means that now is the perfect time to run a weight clinic at your practice.

The benefits

As well as increasing footfall at a quieter time of year, weight clinics help bond clients to your business and they clearly display your ongoing commitment to the well-being of people’s pets. They are an important preventative tool against the ramifications of obesity – such as diabetes, arthritis, heart problems, pancreatitis and much more.

You can take this opportunity to highlight how diet and exercise are fundamental to the health of dogs and cats, with a reduction in medical problems and an increase in lifespan being just some of the benefits for our furry friends.

The strategy

The aim of running weight clinics should be to increase the number of free weight checks carried out by nurses at your practice, using these checks to identify portly pets that would benefit from signing up to your nurse-led weight clinic course.

Not everyone will want to sign up to a course and that's fine, you can still give each attendee a selection of leaflets and information on pet weight management and information on your recommended diet food to address their specific needs.

Courses

Once you have signed up a pet to your course, weigh them and keep a record, and make an assessment of the pet's body condition score at each visit. Tracking each pet’s weight loss in a clear and visual way with a graph or chart will really help maintain motivation for your clients. The easiest way to track weight loss in an understandable way is as a percentage of original body weight (you can use a spreadsheet to work this out for you).

It’s also very important to take “before” pictures on the very first visit, as these are your secret weapon to creating a really successful promotional campaign further down the line. The bigger the difference between the before and after photos, the more impact your promotion will have.

How long should the promotion last?

Clients could come to the nurse clinics initially every two weeks, then every month. Due to the amount of time required for meaningful weight loss, practices can use the period January to March to get as many pets as possible signed up, and then run the courses through until June or July.

With such a long duration, it's important that you keep up momentum with participating clients. From the very start of the promotion, you need to make a big deal about prizes for winners with the highest percentage weight loss – you should have meaningful prizes for first, second and third place for cats and dogs. As an example, a large bag of diet food makes a good prize for a relatively low cost.

You could keep a league table as the course progresses and email it out once a month to participants as a way to keep your clients motivated to finish the course.
One thing is for sure, anyone who has taken the time to take part in the weight clinics deserves recognition for their efforts. An easy way to do this is to give everyone that enters an official-looking certificate showing their total weight loss as a percentage and a small prize.

Further marketing

For the first three months of the promotion, you should schedule an educational Facebook campaign to run alongside it, focusing on the signs to look for in overweight pets and the benefits of a healthy pet diet and lifestyle. This will help to raise awareness among pet owners who may not know the signs of obesity to look out for.

You can also set aside one day per week to display Facebook posts featuring weight clinic participants and their stories (with client permission). Most customers will be flattered to see the support and attention they will receive on their pet’s progress from well-wishers.

Once you have selected your winners, make sure you take their photographs when they come in to collect their prizes. You can then take these pictures and put them alongside the “before” shots on Facebook to make very dramatic proof of the effectiveness of diets and the high levels of care and support your team provides.

Finally, consider making a press release to local papers with your winner’s story, as well as before and after shots. If you can do all this, you’ll have fully maximised every part of your weight clinic promotion, creating a successful campaign and lots of healthy happy pets with a new spring in their step.

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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