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DVMs in trust business, not animal health, expert says
Veterinarians are in the trust business, not the animal health business, says an expert in marketing and branding at Harvard University.
Boston-Veterinarians are in the trust business, not the animalhealth business, says an expert in marketing and branding at Harvard University.
Dr. David Shore, executive director of the Center for Continuing ProfessionalEducation at Harvard School of Public Health and international marketingconsultant to companies like Nike, told attendees at the recently concludedannual convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association here, that"trust is the currency of all commerce."
Shore says one need only look at the difference between how the Tylenoltampering tragedy was handled versus the recent Firestone tire situation.Tylenol took responsibility and the brand is stronger than ever; Firestonehas not taken responsibility for faulty tires, but instead is engaged infingerpointing while people continue to be hurt and killed.
Question of equity
Shore says veterinary medicine hasn't reaped the equity it deserves.
In a survey last year, veterinarians were third, behind nurses and pharmacists,as the most-trusted profession. Physicians were fourth. Shore believes statisticslike those can leverage a practice's ability to market and brand itselfbecause of the high level of trust the public places in veterinary medicinein general.
Shore says veterinarians need only look at what is happening to physiciansnow to see five or 10 years down the road what could happen to them if thepublic's trust is squandered.
"Consumers have become educated and are holding physicians accountablefor the advice they're given as well as when mistakes are made," hesays. "Fifty-two percent of physicians are now employees. There arelaws that mandate patients be told when mistakes are made because hospitalsand physicians weren't taking responsibility for failures. The physicianis becoming demystified and less trustworthy."
Not good enough
Trust breeds satisfied customers, but for DVMs to have merely "satisfiedcustomers" is irrelevant.
"They (satisfied customers) are not repeat customers and they arenot loyal," Shore says. "Only 'very satisfied' customers matter.They are not only loyal, but spread the word and stay with your practicelonger." He says it is six to seven times more expensive to get a newclient than to retain an old one.
"Remember, branding is not about money; it's about strategy,"Shore says.
The best strategy to make your clinic a "power" or "proprietary"brand is to remember the three Rs:
1. Recognition-you must at least be in the client's "considerationset" to even have a chance of getting their business.
2. Reputation-once they are aware of your existence, they must know somethingabout you. Shore says this is where you define "the space you wantto own" or your niche.
3. Repetition-your health education message must be repeated over andover again in written and verbal forms in order for clients to retain it.
"If you have a true power brand, people will pay more, travel longerand wait longer to get your services," Shore maintains.
Branded products, in general, are four to nine times more expensive,even though the competition is exactly the same.
Shore gave the examples of Tide detergent and Coca-Cola.
"Why is Tide the number one laundry detergent?" he asks. "It'sbecause its brand is generational. Your mother used it so you use it. Cokedoes not come up number one in most taste tests, yet it is the number oneselling carbonated beverage. People want products familiar to them."
Shore says DVMs need to ask themselves a hard question: "Why dowe do what we do? What unique benefit (in marketing parlance your "uniqueselling proposition") does my clinic offer clients?" He says notto be fooled by the first thought that comes to your mind.
"When was the last time you saw a sneaker in a Nike ad?" heasks. "Amazon.com isn't in the book selling business, it's in the distributionbusiness. The fact that they know this has allowed them to be successfulin many other markets."
Shore says successful organizations offer consistency-look at McDonaldsand Coke, the two most well-known brands in the world.
"You are in a service business (as veterinarians) but you have ahard time offering consistency because every patient is a 'custom job.'However, even though clients change, the wants are consistent. Try to standardizeyour procedures as much as possible."
Identifying those wants and satisfying them is the way to build yourbrand and have very satisfied clients or "brand demanders."
"If you took the logo, name and address off your clinic, would anyoneknow it's you?" he asks. "What benefit do you offer that yourtarget market feels is important and is not offered by the competition?"
Most people know what company the most recognized slogan in the 20thcentury, "A diamond is forever," belongs to-DeBeers.
Positioning your brand or practice is how you want the public to perceiveyou. Shore says you must identify the clients who will buy your services,the services you will sell, the price, the place, promotion and performance.
"If you can identify these things for your practice you will gethigh quality and high yield," Shore says.