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Carve your niche in a competitive market


Don't blend in with your fellow veterinarians-stand out and give clients a reason to come to you.

Recent studies have revealed there’s no shortage of veterinarians these days. So in the midst of a surplus of veterinary care, how does one stand out and distinguish his or her services from those of others?

My solution: Develop a niche practice. Don’t try to be all things to all people in today’s ultra-competitive, cost-conscious environment. Target a specific population of clients or patients, identify their needs, and address those needs more competently than anyone else. Could you answer a need in your area for a veterinarian who does house calls or who focuses on a specialty such as ophthalmology, behavior counseling, or holistic medicine?

A prime example of a veterinarian doing just that is Dr. Laurie Hess, owner of Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics in Bedford Hills, N.Y. Dr. Hess is one of only 150 diplomates of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in Avian Medicine, and her thriving practice is one of only three AAHA-accredited bird and exotics specialty referral hospitals in the United States.

Dr. Hess has earned a reputation as the go-to practitioner for exotic pets, in part because of her impressive public relations efforts. Here’s how she carved out a niche in her market:

Hit the streets. When she first started, Dr Hess went to more than 60 pet stores in a 50-mile radius. If the pet-store owners recommended her hospital, she would refer clients to their stores for products and food.Share your knowledge. Dr. Hess speaks to local exotic pet clubs and also lectures at schools and conducts tours of her clinic for Boy and Girl Scout groups.

Get in the public eye. Dr. Hess has sent original press materials to more than 200 media outlets and has been a guest on TV’s The Martha Stewart Show and The Doctors.

Take advantage of social media. Dr. Hess has an extensive ad campaign on Google, Bing, and Yahoo and maintains an active Facebook page, Twitter feed, and website. In addition, she employs a marketing team at a cost of $1,500 per month to promote veterinary care for exotic pets and birds.

Despite the languishing economy, Dr. Hess says business is good. “The practice benefits from a strong referral base and relationships with nearby veterinarians,” she says. “And the added publicity is icing on the cake.”

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