5 reasons to throw a veterinary hospital open house


Throw your veterinary practice doors open to the world's best word-of-mouth generator.

My practice had only been open a couple of months when I hosted my first open house in 1993. Every year for the next 20 years, I held an open house that became an important fixture on our community calendar. Although the events, dates and staff would change, the fun, educational opportunities and client bonding remained steadfast. While I discovered innumerable motives to continue for two decades, here are my top five reasons you should hold an open house this year.

1 The educational opportunity. For several years, Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C., held two separate events—an open house and a pet health fair—until the fair grew so large that we merged the two events. Each open house now has a pet health theme, and we create two or three education stations loaded with brochures, giveaways and free health screenings.

2 It paves the way for new clients. Chances are, there are plenty of outstanding pet owners who'd love an excuse to see whether you're really as good as everyone says you are—and not pay an exam fee to get that peek. I'm always surprised at the number of unfamiliar faces who become clients after an open house.

3 A reason to clean. I strongly believe in having a regular reason to spruce up your clinic. Too often we get lazy and things get dirty. Hosting an open house forces you to critically evaluate how your clinic looks and smells.

4 An excuse to show off. In addition to cleaning and organizing, I like to have something cool to show off at our open house. Whether it's a new laser or simply a new vaccine or service, use your open house to showcase your progress and investments in new stuff.

5 It's an icebreaker. Many clients get locked into seeing only one of your five veterinarians. Use this open house to show off your entire staff to every client. After meeting your other doctors, you may find clients are more flexible when scheduling.

For me, the open house is about giving back to my community. Free T-shirts, food, drinks and goodies are my way of saying "thank you." I feel privileged to be able to share good times with pet lovers in my community. Get creative and have fun with what I still consider to be our practice's best word-of-mouth advertising generator.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Ernie Ward is an author, speaker and practices at Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C.

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