Posts Tagged ‘Veterinary Marketing’

Got Serenity

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

by Fritz Wood, CPA, CFP

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. At the Central Veterinary Conference, one of my presentations focused on the Serenity Prayer, and specifically its application to product sales in veterinary practices. The quality of your life may improve dramatically if you let go of those things over which you have no control. Examples of things you cannot change include:

  • The fact that popular parasite control products are sold online
  • The fact that popular parasite control products are sold by Big Box stores
  • The fact that some of your clients will choose to buy those products outside your practice
  • The fact that many rational consumers are motivated by low cost, convenience and wide selection
  • The fact that you lack a multimillion dollar advertising budget and the ability to buy product by the train load

Yeah, yeah…life’s not always fair. Now stop complaining and compete! Have the courage to change the things you can. Things you control include:

  • Price (price matching? price competitively? display price per month or dose? etc.)
  • Promotion/signage/merchandising
  • Reminding clients to refill (phone, text, email, postcard, etc.)
  • The value the client gets when buying from you (e.g. doctor/client/patient relationship, time, attention, advice, counsel, expertise, professional opinion, education, questions asked and answered, demonstration on how to apply product, peace of mind, manufacturer guarantee or warranty, etc.
  • If you want to provide complete product selection and total convenience, opt for a veterinary friendly online pharmacy that carries every product, never closes, and delivers to you clients’ home tomorrow
  • Doses dispensed (e.g. single-dose dispensing versus larger-dose dispensing)

I find myself silently reciting the Serenity Prayer several times each day. Now, when something hits me over the head, my learned instinct is to ask myself, ‘Can I change this?’ It’s proven amazingly helpful in my life. I enjoy much more peace and calm than ever before!

About Fritz Wood: Fritz is the former Personal Finance Editor for Veterinary Economics, the monthly business authority for practicing veterinarians. He has authored more than 100 articles related to the business of veterinary medicine and personal finance. He has also contributed content to several books and on-line educational experiences, including the Veterinary Nutritional AdvocateSM and VetMedTeam.com. Fritz conducts 50 to 75 seminars each year, each very well-received and highly evaluated by attendees. He teaches annually at most veterinary medical schools, as well as local, state, regional, national and international venues. Fritz has presented in nearly every state and in more than a dozen countries. His presentations have positively impacted thousands of individuals and practices worldwide. To learn more about Fritz Wood please go to www.fritzwood.com.

Yellowpages or No Yellowpages

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

It is so tempting to just send off that check to your local YellowPages (or equivalent) and call it done, isn’t it? I see so many businesses struggling with this issue. Most animal hospitals have little data to base their decision on whether or not to continue advertising in the YellowPages for another year. Either the practice lacks a system to ask how people found their business, or, even if they do track this data, time is a factor in collating the results.

Let’s discuss reality today vs. 1996. The “new” concept of marketing is called content marketing, which has been created and nurtured by the Internet. We expect to find answers to our questions, interact with friends and brands/businesses, and research products and services before we purchase them. As consumers, we have learned that this information is at our finger tips, 24/7, on a plane, train, boat, or automobile. Want to know what is at the foot of the ski hill for lunch? No problem, because at 12k (I have tried this) the Internet works on your phone. We are constantly connected wherever we go. In fact, by 2014, more searches will be done on mobile devices than on laptop or desktop computers.

The world is changing because of our new thirst for this on-the-go, two-way communication. Here are some facts that you may find interesting:

  • ATT, who owns YellowPages, is selling this portion of its business to a private equity firm because revenue dropped last year (www.brandchannel.com, April 10, 2012, YellowPages).
  • The city of Seattle gave residents a chance to opt out of YellowPages directories (www.seattlepi.com, May 5, 2011, Seattle unveils YellowPages opt-out registry).
  • The city of San Francisco has banned YellowPages directories from being delivered unless requested (USAToday.com, May 18, 2011, San Francisco Bans YellowPages).
  • “Use of the printed YellowPages has dropped from more than 15 billion instances in 2002 to roughly 11 billion in 2010, some figures speculate, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down” (www.seattlepi.com, April 3, 2012, Reputation Changer).

To adapt, YellowPages and its sister publications are trying to move online. Many vet hospitals I have talked to have said it is quite unpleasant dealing with their YellowPages representative because of strong-arm tactics and the clinic’s lack of knowledge about how marketing on the Internet works. Is the YellowPages representative right? Am I missing out on the market? Do I have to pay hundreds to thousand of dollars a month to YellowPages to keep my business running?

The answer is NO. You do not.

People, when searching online, want information immediately. Google has researched and found immediately means within 400 milliseconds or a blink of an eye. We do not want to work to find the information we are seeking, and we want to be satisfied on the first search. Try this for yourself. Either take out your smart phone or pull up your computer. Go to Google, type in yourtown, state, and the word veterinarians. For example, Maple Grove, MN veterinarians. Google will provide a list of results for you to view. The results at the top of the page are in a yellow or lightly shaded box. Only 25% of people click on this ad space and the space under the map. Within this space is where you sometimes find YellowPages listed. After this search result, you will find a new hybrid result (read July’s article for more information) and then the local search results. Regardless of whether you find a listing for YellowPages in paid search or in the hybrid results, you still have to click on that link and conduct a further search when looking for information.

How satisfying is that type of search? (Answer: Unsatisfying and frustrating.)

Instead, when we are searching, we want to do a quick eye spy and find a hospital by name right on the page, glance at the reviews, and click through to its website. Especially if we are on our mobile devices, we do not want to be making multiple clicks to find the information we are looking for. Because of this behavior, we have found our Beyond Indigo websites clients who still are holding on to YellowPages listings receive a measly four to six click-throughs from YellowPages to their website per month. YIKES. That is not many.

Beware if the YellowPages representative in your area shows you thousands of clicks or impressions a month for your business. What does that number represent? Is it the number of people who see the YellowPages link on Google but didn’t click through to YellowPages? Is it the number of people who scanned the page for all veterinarians in your town? Or is it the number of people who clicked on your link within YellowPages AFTER searching on Google to get to your website. Tricky business those statistics.

Remember summer of 2012 as the year your business gave up or drastically reduced its YellowPages presence. Give up the fear of the unknown and base your decision on facts. Start asking and analyzing where your new clients find your business. If it is the YellowPages, make sure what you are spending to advertise there brings in enough new revenue to justify the cost. If people are not using your local YellowPages, then it is time to move that investment to another aspect of marketing that will bring in new dollars.

Also, look inward at yourself and take the leap into that world of Internet marketing. Realize that as a veterinary hospital your primary communication space is face to face, which makes talking to a YellowPages representative in person a comfortable environment for you. Move beyond your own comfort zone and reach into the world where your consumers are engaging and interacting with your brand. Take the positive leap into content marketing. You can do it.

SEO Ranking Reports – Considerations

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

As most savvy online users know, search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing or improving the visibility of a website or web page so that searchers can more easily find that site. Needless to say, the more frequently a site is ranked on page 1 of search engines (e.g., Google), the better the chance that a searcher will visit that site. So, how do we measure how a site is ranking? A search engine ranking report is a simple way to give us a sense of where a website stands in major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing; these reports are a reference point for visibility and progress from month to month, especially given that traffic and queries can vary over time, from season to season.

For those receiving ongoing SEO services and ranking reports, broadly speaking, what are some basic aspects that are generally included?

Before we get into components of an SEO report, let’s first consider that the reporting should feature highly relevant keywords—meaning phrases pertinent to your industry, relevant to your area, and used frequently by searchers. Selecting appropriate keyword phrases is the foundation of getting a site found. Once these phrases are determined, elements of a ranking report basically include:

1) Monthly status updates
2) Keyword progress and change in status from previous month—again using keyword phrases that are relevant to your industry, your area, and what searchers actually use in search queries
3) Tasks performed
4) Recommendations for continual improvement

Numbers to look for: The lower your ranking number, the better your position. For example, if you are #1 in Google rankings, your site’s link is what searchers will see at the top of the search results page. Please note that rankings are definitely a moving target. Search engines are continually tweaking their algorithms and competitors are also working to improve their positioning and traffic. Your ongoing ranking will depend on such factors as the competition in your area, quality of incoming links to your domain name, and location for optimization, to name just a few.

Ranking reports should be kept in context and are certainly only one facet of the much larger picture of an online marketing campaign. Although good rankings do not guarantee traffic and new customers coming in the door, they are worthy of consideration and a piece of the overall performance pie.

Equine Marketing & Online Reviews: Accentuate the Positive

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Did you know that approximately 70% of local consumers reportedly trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations? Although some business owners are not so happy about the fact that reviews can be posted about their business without their consent or knowledge, these reviews can offer valuable feedback that might not otherwise be heard. Business owners can certainly influence the conversation and turn a negative situation into one that has a positive outcome for both the consumer and the business. With a large majority (and ever increasing number) of consumers now searching for local services and reviews about services online, its imperative that business owners become engaged in monitoring and improving their online reputation and credibility. Check out Beyond Indigo’s upcoming webinar, and learn how to use reviews to your advantage. We’ll be covering popular online sites where businesses find reviews posted, how review management works, as well as what you can do to improve your overall rating. In addition, we’ll be touching on some changes and additions to Google Places as well as the latest on the easy-to-use smartphone app for finding local services and posting reviews on Google. And if DIY reputation and reviews management sounds all too daunting, give us a call and an opportunity to show you how we can help.Google Places Mobile App

What Should I Write About? Tips for Your Equine Blog.

Friday, October 28th, 2011

If you’re thinking about starting a blog for your equine practice, you may be wondering, “What should I write about?” Well, your high school English teacher was right. Write what you know.

Almost anything that affects your practice can be turned into a blog post. Unlike an article or pamphlet, blogs are intended to be immediate and casual. Strive for an informal, newsy tone.

For starters, try these:

HorseInformation about equine care. What are the signs of good health, how to properly groom a horse. Any general equine health information you routinely give clients can make a great blog post.

Current events or issues affecting horses in your area. Has a feed recall affected your area? A equine encephalitis outbreak? A heat wave that could pose a danger? Blogging timely issues like these help get information to your clients (and potential clients) quickly. Over time, they’ll think of your site as a place to look for answers to timely issues.

Questions from clients or readers. “Mailbag” blog posts are always popular. You probably get asked dozens of questions each day about common pet health issues. Select a few of general interest and answer them in a blog post. Better still, ask readers to submit their questions by email or give them to your receptionist. Of course, you’ll only answer those where you’re comfortable giving general information.

Changes in your practice – Just finished remodeling your boarding area? Show it off. Hired a new vet tech? Introduce him or her! We all like to hear what’s new. It’s fine to be excited to let everyone know what’s happening at your practice. The key is to keep the tone light rather than like a press release.

Local events you’re hosting or participating in. Holding an informational presentation at your facility? Attending an upcoming conference or convention?  Let people know about the event in your blog so they can participate. Don’t forget to do a follow-up post with photos of the event.

Write about what others are writing. One of the great things about blogs is that you aren’t limited to your own content, but can comment on news, articles, videos and other blog posts. Give your take on a local news story affecting horses, share a useful or interesting video, bring an article you read to your client’s attention or even comment on another blog post. Just be sure to give credit and a link to the original work.

Feeding the Beast: Google’s Panda Update and Your Veterinary Website

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Google recently released Panda 2.2, an update to their SEO ranking factor that is geared at helping to filter “low quality” pages from search results. What does this mean for your veterinary website? Is your website Panda 2.2 friendly? When it comes to keeping the bear on your side, it all boils down to content.

What is Google Panda?

Panda 2.2 is Google’s latest attempt to ensure that websites with poor or often irrelevant content are filtered out. This means that when your searches are returned, the highest-ranking websites are those that Google has deemed the most useful for searchers.

The Panda filter seeks to accomplish one goal: reward websites for producing high-quality content pages that are relevant to what searchers are looking for, and penalize websites that are sometimes exploiting SEO by flooding the Internet with low-quality content.

Panda-Compatibility

Avoiding having your website targeted by Panda is simple when you know what to look out for. Google posted some ideas for what you should look for in your website content to ensure that it is as Panda-friendly as possible.

Here are some useful tips provided by Google:

  • Make sure that the information provided on your website trust-worthy and well written. Especially when it comes to health (or pet health!) related information.
  • The content on your website should be geared towards the reader, not simply written to perform well in search engine rankings.
  • Make sure that information provided on your site is as unique as possible. This does not mean that you need to be featuring information seen no where else on the Internet, but the content on your website should be not be mass-produced or used on dozens of other veterinary websites.

The bottom line is that the best way to avoid having your site be negatively affected by the Panda update is to make sure that there is a purpose for all of the content within your pages, and that the writing all appears within an appropriate context.

You can think about the Panda filter as similar to what many of us do whenever we pickup and begin reading the back jacket of a book. If you think that the content of the book looks as though it will be a waste of your time, would you open the cover and begin reading it? The goal of Panda is to help Internet users by going through those jackets for you, and separating the worthwhile from poorly written books on the shelves.

For more details on the Google Panda 2.2 update click here.

The New (inter)Face of Google Analytics

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Google Analytics version 5 recently launched and includes a completely reworked user interface and many, many infrastructure improvements. Navigation has been simplified to let you jump to the areas that are most important to you, including a new Dashboard section and My Site for Reports.

The new Dashboard tool has more data visualizations options, including:

• Absolute metrics

• Data over time graphs containing multiple metrics

• Pie charts

• Tabular data

You can also apply filters to each widget on the dashboard to further customize the data in the widget. These changes will make it much easier to create reports and visualize important data about your site traffic.

Visit a recent blog post from Google Analytics to learn more about what the new version has to offer and what’s coming in the near future.

Google Analytics is a web analytics tool that gives users insight into their website traffic and marketing effectiveness. Easy-to-use features let you see and analyze your website’s traffic data to help you know how you can strengthen your marketing initiatives. To sign up for this free service from Google, visit the Analytics home page.