New strategies are attracting veterinary clients and referrals online, and they are less intrusive and less costly to you. If you are like most veterinarians, you want to know how you can take advantage of online social media, mobile web and online reputation management using today’s most cost-effective services…
After years of being exposed to over 5,000 marketing messages every single day of our lives, we have become far less receptive to traditional media and marketing messages. That’s because traditional media such as newspaper ads, TV and radio commercials, direct mail and outbound telemarketing all intrude upon our lives. Today’s consumer is looking for creative ways to stop the intrusions and reduce the noise level.
We use caller ID to block telemarketers. We use spam filters to reduce or eliminate unsolicited email messages. We use TIVO to eliminate TV commercials. We subscribe to commercial-free radio and cable TV. We read fewer newspapers. And our fingers no longer do the walking through the Yellow Pages in most markets.
The latest low-cost, long-term veterinary (and medical and dental) practice-building strategies – search engine optimization (SEO), social media networking and online content such as blogs – have helped many private veterinary and healthcare practices to compete more effectively with large, established businesses. By appearing higher in organic search results, you can attract more interested prospects to your website… and your practice.
Social networks such as Facebook®, YouTube®, Twitter®, LinkedIn®, Yelp® and Google+® are part of the hottest trend in online communications today. Social media, which is the umbrella term for these networks, blogs and other means of sharing information with others, has become much more than simply a platform for social interaction. It has evolved at lightspeed into a communication medium for business and professional interaction, as well.
Social Media: The Seismic Shift in Online Communication
Whereas traditional marketing communication is designed to help you find clients and referral sources, online communication is designed to help clients and referral sources find you. Instead of pushing your content to prospects, whether they want it or not, you attract interested prospects to your content. With the right content and a well-conceived social media strategy, your practice can become a magnet for interested, highly qualified A-clients and referral sources. Social media strategies, when combined with SEO and credible content, have three distinct advantages over traditional methods of communicating with your clients (and patients), referrers and prospects:
Qualified Prospects – TV, radio, print and direct mail are designed to reach large numbers of people, without addressing their individual needs and wants. Typically, only a small percentage of the target audience needs or wants your services, but you pay to reach them all. Social media, on the other hand, attracts only those prospects interested in your services or content. Prospects qualify themselves through the processes of search engines and social media networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. Prospects also tend to be of higher quality.
Lower Costs – Content creation, SEO and social media incur little cost except human labor. Someone has to write your blog articles, optimize your website for search engines and provide content for your social media outreach efforts. Once your content is created, there is little cost to maintain it. Results cost less, too. One recent study claimed that it costs 60% less to obtain a qualified lead online than with traditional methods.
Long-Term Benefits – Once your content is created, promoted and optimized, the impact of the initial effort grows over time. Your return on investment – referrals – increases through the trust, credibility and relationships you build online, even though your actual dollar investment dramatically decreases.
Social Media Helps You Shape Your Online Reputation
Today, with the meteoric rise of social media and consumer review sites such as Yelp, it is increasingly important for veterinary, medical and dental practitioners to build and manage their online reputations. That’s because more and more clients (and medical or dental patients) are reviewing their own personal experiences with veterinary practices online, and more client prospects are reading those reviews before they make appointments.
Too many negative reviews can seriously impact your client acquisition and retention efforts. Your goal is to build a positive reputation for yourself and your practice. The big question is how. What steps should you follow?
Set Goals – Keep them simple in the beginning. What are the pet health issues and topics you care most about? How do you want to represent yourself and your practice online? What is your professional brand? Do you want to be an influencer in your community? Do you want to enhance your reputation with colleagues, speak at more conferences or contribute to more journals? Do you want more of certain types of clients or cases?
Start a Blog – Think of a blog as a personal website. Unlike a website, a blog is easy to set up and maintain yourself. You can create original content or you can simply post information you find elsewhere that may be useful for your target audience. Your content may be client-oriented or peer-oriented around your areas of expertise. Posterous and Tumblr are two blog sites that are extremely easy to set up and manage. In 2010, 70% of Internet users were reading blogs and more than 120,000 of those blogs were healthcare-related. Today, the figure is likely to be considerably higher. Done correctly, blogs can provide your practice with an opportunity to share your expertise and knowledge with a much larger audience. Other blogging tips:
• If you have a niche, focus on it. It will help differentiate your practice and attract your target audience.
• Post entries with perspective and insight about your practice. Intersperse these with current news or events related to pet healthcare and your specialty. Blog about general health information, pet health tips, new procedures or anything related to your practice and specialty.
• Post content that mixes professional and personal entries.
• Remember that any harmful or inappropriate actions or messages online can negatively affect your reputation among patients and colleagues.
• Maintain appropriate boundaries for your client-provider relationship. When interacting with clients online, be sure you always respect and enforce client privacy and confidentiality.
It’s important to remember these tips as you get more involved with social media and online reputation management. If you want more information about online veterinary marketing, call Michael Davis, Director of Veterinary Marketing Solutions, at 800.679.1200 ext. 2009 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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