In the veterinary business, word-of-mouth referrals will always be the best marketing you can get. But what’s next? Where does traditional marketing – like business cards, a Yellow Pages presence or a newspaper ad – intersect with digital marketing, and how much should you be doing of each?
First, let’s take a look at where your target audiences are consuming information. According to Statista, average daily media use in the United States is:
- Digital devices (phones, laptops, desktops and other connected devices): 343 minutes
- Television: 245 minutes
- Radio: 87 minutes
- Newspapers: 16 minutes
- Magazines: 12 minues
What is the Difference Between Traditional and Digital Marketing?
Traditional marketing interrupts audiences with advertisements, commercials, direct mail, and telemarketing, using “push” methods to sell products, services, and ideas. By contrast, effective digital marketers don’t seek to interrupt audiences. They learn where their audiences go online for answers; they try to anticipate what types of questions they’ll ask; and they use data to predict how their audiences will move from a curious browser to a longtime customer.
- Traditional marketing – This covers any type of marketing, advertising, or promotion done "offline." It includes print products (newspapers, magazines, posters, business cards, and coupons), radio or television ads, contests, direct mail, telemarketing, or promotional giveaways. These are solid, proven ways of marketing that give you a certain return on your investment, and both you and your customers are familiar with them.
- Digital marketing – Digital marketing, then, has everything to do with the internet. Your clinic probably has a website, and that’s a great first step. But you may not have a blog, a social media presence, or an understanding of how to get more people to actually see your website – people who may later become clients. Reaching this audience digitally tends to cost less than traditional marketing. Your potential customers are using their laptops, tablets and mobile phones to look up information more than ever.
If you have ever used a review on Yelp or Amazon to help you decide on a restaurant or a product, you have used digital marketing. If you get any newsletters or sales ads in your email, that’s digital marketing. And when you do a Google search for something – “how do I get red wine out of the couch?” or “what’s the best book about dog breeds?” – you get results almost immediately, with multiple websites offering you their best answers.
The hidden part is this: Those websites are working hard at their digital marketing. They have thought about you, and what you are likely to search, and have created content to respond to those searches. When you click on their website to find the answer, they’ve succeeded. You as a veterinarian can do the same.
Build Content That Answers Your Clients’ Questions
Now, think about how you could use that kind of knowledge. Think of all the questions your clients ask you or your front desk, in person or on the phone, every single day:
- “My puppy isn’t eating as much as he used to. Should I worry?”
- “Why is my dog limping?”
- “How can I get my dog to stop digging in the yard?”
- “My terrier’s eye is watering, should I bring her in?”
- Why is my dog eating grass?”
- “How long does it take to housetrain a rescue dog?”
- “Can I trim my dog’s toenails myself?”
Each of those questions could be a Google search, and you have the answers. When consumers find a website with smart, credible information, they bookmark it for future reference. If it’s your website, you have started to build a relationship with that person just by offering insight and information.
The more traffic you get coming to your website, the more chances you have to turn those searchers into clients. In other words, you want to be the website that thinks about those questions first and provides the best information, because that builds your reputation, your credibility with search engines like Google, and ultimately, your business.
Shifting Traditional to Digital Media – How Much?
You’re probably asking, “How much money should I spend on traditional vs digital?” The short answer is to spend your budget on the efforts that give you the biggest bang for your advertising and marketing dollar. How much does it cost you to acquire a lead through a newspaper ad? A direct mail flyer? A door hanger?
Hubspot, a leading software platform for automated marketing efforts, publishes an annual ebook called “State of Inbound Marketing.” (The word “inbound” typically refers to digital efforts that help businesses “get found”; conversely, “outbound” typically refers to traditional, marketing efforts that push messages through print, broadcast and display advertising.)
In 2016, State of Inbound reported that marketers indicated they see less value in paid traditional advertising. When asked, “In your opinion, what’s the most overrated marketing tactic,” about one-third of respondents selected paid print and outdoor advertising.
We’re not saying you should kill your traditional media budgets and shift all dollars to digital. We’re saying you should take a look at how much you spend on each channel and how much business you generate from those efforts, and shift dollars where you see the most value.
4 “Musts” of Digital Marketing
Where does your audience looks for information? On their mobile devices, through social media, in email, and by reading blogs.
1. Mobile-friendly website
In October 2016, Google released its newest research on how people use the internet.
- 80% use smartphones
- 81% access the internet from their mobile devices
- 40% search only on a smartphone
- 88% who search for a specific kind of business on their mobile device will call or visit that business within 24 hours
One of the important things to know about this is that your website needs to be “optimized” for mobile – in other words, it needs to automatically adjust itself to smartphone or tablet screens. (If you’ve ever done a search on your smartphone and found a website that was slow, too text-intensive and wouldn’t rotate if you turned your phone sideways, you know how annoying this is.)
Additional resources for mobile-friendly websites:
- How to Create a Better Mobile User Experience from Google
- Why Local Businesses Need to be Found on Mobile Devices from Business2Community
- Test My Site by Think With Google
2. Website Blog content
Blog articles educate, entertain, and build loyalty. If you offer a blog on your website — basically an area that can house content — you can provide your readers with pet-friendly tips, explanations of pet-related news stories, and general information about your veterinary clinic. Ideas could include:
- You have an award-winning veterinary assistant
- One of your vets is an expert on feline dental care, so you post a series of educational articles about this topic
- A new medication is now in stock
- You are changing your clinic hours
The most important thing about your blog is the quality of its content. You should be focusing about 80 percent of your content on non-branded, search-friendly topics – like the answers to the list of questions posted above – and only 20 percent on things having to do directly with your practice. That way, consumers understand that your clinic wants to be a thought-leader, not just a sales venue.
Additional resources about blogging:
3. Social media
Facebook®, Twitter®, Instagram®, Snapchat®, LinkedIn® – the list of social media providers seems to grow daily. If you are new to social media, don’t try to be everywhere all at once. Choose one or two social media channels that would enhance your business the most and learn to do a good job with those.
For vet clinics, Facebook is a must. It’s by far the most popular social media channel (1.5 billion users, according to Smart Insights), and its users love their pets. It’s a great place for the kinds of things pet owners want to know, like local pet-centric events, weather warnings, diet tips, and health threats. You can also post pictures of clients’ pets who are enjoying their visit to the vet.
Additional resources for social media:
- Beginner’s Guide to Social Media from Mashable
- Using Social Media to Attract New Customers to Your Vet Clinic
Email newsletters are a smart, inexpensive way to build your relationship with your clients (and grow your list of prospective clients). By writing about such things as pet health information, training trends, and community adoption events, you’ll be positioning yourself as the veterinarian who gives your readers up-to-date, important, and interesting information.
Remember you can also recycle or summarize much of your blog content within your e-mail newsletters. There's no need to create everything from scratch.
With a slow but steady dissemination of information via e-mail, your customers will see you as a pet advocate, not just as someone who wants their business.
Additional resources for email marketing:
- Email Marketing Best Practices for Veterinarians
- How to Create an Email Newsletter People Actually Read by Hubspot
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