5 ways to #market your @vetpractice on social media


Say goodbye to old-school advertisements and hello to online engagement with clients. It's going to be quick and painless-we promise.

Still relying on practice signs and Yellow Pages ads to get clients in the door? These types of outbound strategies—or one-way conversations—relay that your practice exists, but they don't create dialogue between the practice and current and future clients.

It's time to launch your marketing strategy into the 21st century and initiate client engagement through inbound marketing. A well-designed, inbound marketing plan is based on education, building relationships, and two-way conversations that create or show value to your current and future clients.

First, consider your budget. How much are you currently spending on Yellow Pages, Google AdWords, veterinarians.com, radio, television, newspaper, and other one-way advertisements? Consider reallocating those dollars to inbound marketing strategies. Next, identify the content you want to communicate and platforms you'll use (e.g., practice website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, blogs, e-newsletters, e-mail, brochures, and so on).

If your practice is rolling out a new service like breed-specific wellness plans for example, incorporate that into your practice's message. (Read about wellness plans in Benchmarks 2012: A Study of Well-Managed Practices at dvm360.com/benchmarks.) Equally important as the content, is the timing and frequency of your communications.

Next, identify a team member who will be responsible for the marketing efforts. This job includes addressing client comments and questions within a certain time frame. (Hint: The sooner you respond, the better!)

Consider these five tips to fully flesh out your new social media marketing strategy.

1. Pump up your practice website. Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical if you want your clients and potential clients to find you so keep your website relevant and up to date. (Check out dvm360.com/seotips for answers to common SEO questions.) Identify the resources for credible content (see dvm360.com/clienthandouts) and share these client handouts on your website. See the examples on the next page for pictures of a prime veterinary practice website, tweet, and Facebook post.

2. Learn to "Like" Facebook. Have a new online pharmacy? Post information about the importance of purchasing drugs from your veterinarian in coordination with the launch of your new service. Want to share your recent involvement in a community event? Post pictures and testimonials about the cause on Facebook and challenge your community to get involved. (Check out the new column "Get Social" for more tips on posting and tweeting.)

3. Try tweeting. In just a little more than five years, Twitter has become one of the most visited websites on the Internet. In 2012, practices reported that they promote their services to existing clients with Twitter more than they promote during outpatient visits. Two examples of great practice tweets: "Today is National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day! All cats visiting us today will receive a free gift" or "Here are some tips to help your pet deal with the back-to-school blues." Follow Veterinary Medical Center (@easton) and Veterinary Associates of Cape Cod (@capecodvets) on Twitter to see how they connect with their veterinary clients on a regular basis.

4. Become a YouTube sensation. Create an account and post an educational video (for example, search "Brumby Visits the Vet" on YouTube) or footage from your most recent open house or community event. Be sure to link your channel to your practice's Facebook page to capture cross traffic.

5. Blog with the best of 'em. Strike up a conversation with an interactive blog. If the purpose of your blog is to educate, then post information on the importance of dental cleanings and explain the procedure. You can also talk up the importance of wellness visits and write a blog announcing the launch of your new wellness packages, or host a Q&A for pet owners on a specific breed.

Keep these tips in mind as you develop your marketing plan. Engaging with clients on social media will, most importantly, get them in the door to chat with your veterinaryteam in person.

Denise Tumblin, CPA, is president and owner of the veterinary practice consulting firm Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates. Christina Materni is a financial analyst at the firm.

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