Companies with Web site templates and directories help veterinarians pack in new clients.
Sometimes it pays to not cut out the middleman. At least that's the case for veterinarians who are turning to Web-services companies to build their sites, increase their search-engine hits, and add their clinics to online directories. The Web is fast becoming the 21st century's signage and front door for practices nationwide. Because many veterinarians lack experience in Web site design or online marketing, they're enlisting the help of others. Here are their stories.
At first Dr. Cheryl Sammons, owner of South Franklin Animal Hospital in Franklin, Tenn., tried to build her own practice Web site. It was difficult and time-consuming, it didn't look right, and it was a pain to update. So she looked to a company that specializes in veterinary Web sites to build the site for her. Now the process is easy. It's simple to customize her pages with templates she can add, delete, and change. It's also a breeze to send and archive e-mail newsletters. And every month the site delivers a handful of brand-new clients and first-time appointments the practice wasn't getting before the site existed. In addition, clients e-mail Dr. Sammons and send questions, updates about their pets, or other concerns they have.
National veterinary group VetCor is larger than the average veterinary clinic. With 40 locations in 13 states, each with an individual name and identity, marketing them can be complicated. So VetCor marketing and communications manager Diana Byrne works with a referral-generating Web site that lists veterinary hospitals for free in return for a small fee for every new client who shows up for an appointment. In addition to delivering new clients, the service also records pet owners' phone calls to the practice so that hospital management can evaluate employees' phone skills and front-desk protocols. VetCor managers sit down with team members to review these recordings. Byrne has found that even though practice employees are polite and helpful, they can sometimes overwhelm callers with confusing terminology. "One new client asked what was included in our wellness blood work, and the receptionist responded with a lot of numbers," Byrne says. "When she heard herself later, that receptionist laughed and couldn't believe she'd said it that way."
These days, every veterinary practice needs a Web site and a way for people to find it online. Clients expect it. Attractive, informative sites make a great impression, and as Byrne and Dr. Sammons have found, there are companies willing to help—you don't need to feel your way in the dark. For resources that can provide additional help with your online presence, check out the list at left below.