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Clinic takes on new marketing tactics
Small animal hospital relies on customer service, not low prices, to fuel business
On the edge of the state's fastest growing county sits a quaint small animal and exotic solo practice unspoiled by the encroaching city and its fast-paced lifestyle.
The Cloverleaf Animal Hospital, where clients are anything but rushed,is nestled on 3.5 acres just off a busy highway in Westfield Center in northernOhio. There, practice owner Dr. Linda Randall heads a close-knit team offive staffers and a barrage of in-house pets, which include a cat, ferret,chameleon, tortoise, three dogs and a 12-foot-long Burmese python, to namea few.
When asked about her unique ensemble, Randall responds, "About 22percent of my practice consists of clients who own exotics, so it makessense to have some around."
The remainder of the hospital's 2,500 active patients consists largelyof small animal clients. It's with these clients that Randall focuses manyof her marketing strategies, which venture from the norm in terms of clientservices, callbacks and the pharmacy and vaccination business.
Case in point: Randall relies little on pharmaceutical sales and vaccinationsto generate dollars in her practice, which grosses around $500,000 a year.In fact, she carries only a small pharmacy inventory, preferring to writeprescriptions for clients and send them elsewhere to buy drugs.
"There just came a point when I had to stop worrying about all thecompetitors, like PetMed Express," she says. "Even when I wasmatching prices, I'd find people preferred to buy prescription drugs andvaccines online.
"I think it's a lost cause, and I don't want to get caught in it."
Paying the price
To offset the lost revenue, Randall raises services fees - a lot.
"We emphasize health and well-being and preventative care,"she says. "So I raise most of our services by a percentage every quarter.
"I rely on my staff to tell me when prices are getting too high,then we review the costs. Three months ago, I lowered my spay and neuterssignificantly because they came to me and said we were losing business.I trust them. We were $100 more compared to at least one nearby clinic."
As for the hospital's other service, clients are willing to pay more,especially if house calls or deliveries are rendered.
"You can sometimes doubt yourself on pricing," Randall says,"but when I think about it, I would rather be slower with loyal clientswho care about their animals then have a busy practice with clients whodon't care as much."
It's those loyal clients who take advantage of the hospital's specialprograms, such as senior care packages Golden Paw and Silver Whiskers, whichinvolve a complete physicals and blood work-ups for older pets.
Everything that leaves the hospital is personalized, including the fliersclients take home. Kitten Care Packets come with litter scoopers and toothbrushes. Brochures advertising dental health month and heartworm awarenessmonth contain cutout coupons decorated with the practice's name and information.It's these details that sets Cloverleaf apart, Randall says.
"Clients appreciate it, and it's a relatively inexpensive and easyto do," she says. "They're small details, but they show we care."
Don't be a bother
To keep established clients coming back, callbacks post appointmentsare a must, but reminders about practice specials, annual exams or dentalcheckups present their own challenges.
While the hospital's office manager mails promotional fliers, clientsaren't bombarded with useless paper. They also don't receive repeated callsregarding reminders or specials.
Instead, the hospital's policy is to ask if the client minds receivingsolicitations.
"Nothing will irritate or drive a client away faster then if theyfeel like they're being harassed," Randall says. "I know that'snot what practice experts are saying nowadays, but it's so true. Clientsaren't afraid to tell you that they want you to stop calling or send mail,and if they are, my staff is great at reading them."
In the future
Eventually, Cloverleaf Animal Hospital could grow to stay open 18 hoursa day. For that to happen, Randall says, she'd have to hire at least twoassociates and double her staff.
She also would consider adding on to her 3,200-square-foot facility,which appears larger due to the white walls and vaulted sky-lit ceilings.Expanding on to the building's fenced-in backyard could bring in a boardingbusiness, which Randall now rarely accepts.
"The business is there, but it's hard to get associates to cometo work in this area because it's so rural," she says. "Unlessyou grew up around here, you'd think there's nothing around. You don't knowhow close we are to metropolitan areas like Akron and Cleveland."
But for now, Randall doesn't want to share. She's happy, enjoying thepractice she's cultivated for 11 years.
"At this moment, I can't imagine doing anything else. This is whereI want to be."