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How to communicate more effectively with your veterinary clients

Posted in Client Service @ Jun 9th 2022 - By Cordene Midgley, Platinum CPD
How To Communicate More Effectively With Your Veterinary Clients

How often is the communication with your veterinary clients less than successful?

Communications with clients in the veterinary practice is often a topic of hot debate. “But I told them that!” or “How did the client misunderstand me?”

How often have you heard vets say those words in practice? And where is this breakdown in communication coming from?

In all forms of communication with clients, are we taking the time to select the right channels, or the right message to successfully communicate the intended message?

Why your message may not always get through

People live fast-paced lives and are forced to continuously multitask. This means they're in a constant state of partial attention, putting extra pressure on us to grab the attention that is constantly divided [1].

The other issue is that not every client’s preferred way of communication is what you may be currently using and so introducing some innovative strategies to help your clients actively listen can make a big difference.

One of the innovative strategies that can improve the success of your client communication is an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) framework.

What is IMC and how can you use it?

Integrated Marketing Communications is defined as a company’s amalgamation of all available communication channels to send a consistent, clear, and compelling message about the business and its brand [3].

Or in marketing jargon... IMC refers to an organisation’s ability to apply tacit knowledge and decision-making to integrate and change tangible assets (e.g. point of sale, advertisements) and intangible assets (e.g. slogans and brand identity) into performance results (e.g. sales, return on investment and brand equity) [4,6]. 

When successfully implemented, IMC can improve the strategic capability of your business and become a competitive advantage over your veterinary competitors [7]. Which basically means that clients will prefer to come to your veterinary practice over your competitors because your communications are more consistent, clear, and more effective in every aspect of your business! 

Source: [3]

Using an Integrated Marketing Communications Framework will help you to choose the best type of media to suit the intended message, thereby achieving successful communication with your clients. This may involve using a mix of traditional and newer types of media to achieve the most effective communication depending on the message and clients being targeted.

The benefits of Integrated Marketing Communications

The benefits of applying the IMC framework to all your marketing are many, including:

  • Helping to focus your resources (time, money, and effort) on your top clients and potential clients
  • Ensuring that all communications from your practice are meaningful, credible, persuasive and measurable
  • Helping to ensure that everyone within your team delivers a consistent message - from reception, during the consult and in all social media posts
  • Positively impacting your overall branding, marketing campaigns and ultimately financial performance
  • Helping you to focus your messaging and allowing for better segmentation of your client groups e.g. dog owners, cat owners, horse owners, thereby ensuring they'll receive messages that are specific to their needs.

What do you need to implement an IMC?

1. Identify your target audience

As a practice, it is essential that you know what type of clients you would like to target e.g. dog owners, cat owners, rabbit owners, etc. Maybe you would you like to attract new pet owners, or are wanting lapsed clients to return?

You could also choose to use the demographics of owners to define your target audience. For example, millennials are a great audience to target as they are having children later in life and often treat their pets as their kids and so may be more willing to spend on veterinary care if they understand the value.

2. Establish the communication objective

What are you trying to communicate to your client? What would you like to achieve with your message? For example, you might want to:

  • Create awareness of a new product, service or your practice in general
  • Impart knowledge so you can be seen as an authority figure of veterinary science
  • Promote your brand image - especially if you've just had a re-brand
  • Influence or shape attitudes clients may have towards your practice
  • Stimulate a desire or want, or
  • Encourage them to purchase

Each of these objectives will require the message to be designed differently.

3. Design the message

When formulating the message you want to communicate, the most important aspect is to keep it simple, but not condescending. Use simple language and images and explain the consequences of not addressing the issue - using stories to get your point across works well. Always keep the communication objective in mind to ensure your message is focused on the desired outcome.

4. Select the media

You also need to determine the best way to communicate the message - will traditional media work? Or is it better suited to digital media? When you know which segment of your clients you are targeting, then selecting the best media becomes easier.

You may also decide that the use of multiple media channels is the best way to get your message across. For example, you could have a display in your waiting room, posters in the consult room, share posts on Facebook and Instagram, your receptionists might mention it and your veterinarians discuss it during consultations. Remember, the source selected must be matched to both the target audience as well as the objective of the message.

You could also use a local newspaper or online community platform to get a message out. Often happy clients, a reporter, blogger, or any external source can carry more weight with clients as they will not feel that you are actively selling to them.

5. Select the message source

Where will the message come from and who is the most appropriate source of the information that you want to get across? For example, should one of your veterinarians write an article, or will the message be written by an animal behaviourist, physiotherapist, veterinary nurse or by the receptionist? Will you share information from a pharmaceutical or pet food company? 

6. Seek feedback on its effectiveness

Always, always, always do a post-mortem on any campaign, post, or message that you have spent time and money on. If you discounted your dental scaling and polishing by 10% – how many more dentals did you see in that month when compared to previous months? Was it worth the effort? Ask your clients whether they made use of the promotion and if not, why not? You can then use the information gathered to structure your next campaign.

What do you think?

Do you already use an Integrated Marketing Communications framework? If not, do you think it could help to improve the client communication in your practice? Or are you happy with posting a message on Facebook and hoping that your clients will receive it in the intended way?

This blog post first appeared on the Platinum CPD website: Communicating Effectively with your Clients

References:

Batra, R. & Keller, K. (2016). Integrating Marketing Communications: New Findings, New Lessons, and New Ideas. Journal Of Marketing, 80(6), 122-145.

Joo, M., Wilbur, K., Cowgill, B., & Zhu, Y. (2014). Television Advertising and Online Search. Management Science, 60(1), 56-73.

Kotler, P., Armstrong, G., & Tait, M. (2010). Principles of marketing. Cape Town: Pearson Education South Africa.

Luxton, S., Reid, M., & Mavondo, F. (2014). Integrated Marketing Communication Capability and Brand Performance. Journal Of Advertising, 44(1), 37-46.

Mayzlin, D. & Shin, J. (2011). Uninformative Advertising as an Invitation to Search. Marketing Science, 30(4), 666-685.

O’Cass, A. & Weerawardena, J. (2010). The effects of perceived industry competitive intensity and marketing-related capabilities: Drivers of superior brand performance. Industrial Marketing Management, 39(4), 571-581.

Ratnatunga, J. & Ewing, M. (2005). The Brand Capability Value of Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC). Journal Of Advertising, 34(4), 25-40.

Ratnatunga, J. & Ewing, M. (2009). An ex-ante approach to brand capability valuation. Journal Of Business Research, 62(3), 323-331.

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