Don't be sheepish! Send a thank-you!

August 15, 2017
Kathryn Primm, DVM
Kathryn Primm, DVM

Kathryn Primm, DVM, owns Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, Tennessee, but has a growing career as a writer, a speaker and an online voice for veterinarians and pet owners alike.

I scored four appointments for $20. That's pretty good marketing ROI. An old-fashioned thank-you, in the snail mail and personalized, did the trick.

Because the city won't give you permission to put up "thank you" signs, you'll have to go with old-fashioned letters. But it turns out veterinary clients might really like them! ( all want easy, low-cost ways to bond clients to our practice, right? And we expect some newfangled techno-gadget magic that reaches clients on their smartphones or computers to convince them of how dedicated and valuable we are. Unfortunately, it's not that simple ... or is it even simpler?

People like to be thanked

An email productivity app company recently surveyed more than 350,000 emails to ascertain which closing statement would garner the most responses (read more here), and some variation of “thank you” at the end of an email elicited the best response rate. It seems that people like to be thanked. I'm not suggesting that you find a way to send all of your clients an email that ends in “thank you,” so sit on your hands, overachievers, and finish reading this article!

Do you remember a time when someone thanked you in a heartfelt way? I have framed thank-you gifts on the walls of my office, and each one triggers a memory of a pet and their people.

A "thank you" is powerful.

People love to get things in the mail

I mean the real mail-you know, snail mail. There's no substitute for a tangible, physical item you can hold in your hand or hang on the refrigerator, or that sense of anticipation you feel when an unexpected letter arrives addressed personally to you. Few of us take the time to physically write letters these days, but I remember the pen pal days of my youth. The smell of the paper and the sound of the envelope tearing touch a person's senses with more fullness than a digital communication. We know that triggering more of the five senses can create more effective memories and associations.

Start with 20 cards

I recently ordered a pack of notecards with dogs and cats and the name of my hospital on them. I started with 20 for my favorite clients. (They're the ones who frequent my practice the most, but if you need a little help finding yours, you can use your practice software to search for the top clients in a time period.) I wrote a slightly different personalized message for each one, but I made sure they all incorporated my appreciation of their continued patronage and also something positive about that person or their pet. For clients with geriatric pets, I mentioned that it has been my privilege to be with them on the journey of their pet's life. For new puppies or kittens, I mentioned my excitement about the coming years of fun watching them grow.

Out of the 20 I sent, four clients thanked me personally within the first two weeks. You know why they were able to thank me? Because they were in my hospital within the first two weeks of getting those cards!

Did they come because they're good clients? Maybe.

But maybe they came because the cards put me at the forefront of their minds and inspired them to book whatever services their pets were due for. All of the four clients-incidentally, that's 20 percent, an impressive return in any marketing strategy-mentioned enjoying the card. One man took me aside to specifically thank me for the time I took to write to him.

The best part is, I found myself smiling as I wrote them because everything I wrote was true. I do feel special that they continue to choose me in my competitive area. I love seeing them and their pets, and it's my privilege to be their partner in caring for their pets. I like imagining their surprise when they found those letters in the mail.

So, for less than $20 (including postage) and my time writing a handful of notes, I've already seen 20 percent of those clients within two weeks. Perhaps more of them mentioned it to my staff or will continue to come in from the ripples created by my cards. But even if there are no more ripples, I will continue to do this periodically because I too like to feel appreciated and thanked. Maybe someone will even write me back!

CVC educator Dr. Kathryn Primm owns Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, Tennessee, but has a growing career as a writer, a speaker and an online voice for veterinarians and pet owners alike. She was also the nation's first Fear Free certified professional.