How to maintain client loyalty by utilizing effective retention marketing

dvm360dvm360 July 2021
Volume 57

Check out these 6 steps for successfully implementing a retention marketing strategy at your veterinary practice.

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You may be gaining clients, but are you retaining them? There is a science to it. A successful client retention marketing strategy heavily relies upon your veterinary practice’s vision, core values, and mission. What matters to you will matter to your clients. Let’s take a deeper look.

Retention marketing aims to strengthen your existing relationships with clients via ongoing and consistent communication, proper education, and becoming a go-to source for information. Never again should a client say, “I did not know that.” Here are 6 steps to help you implement a successful client retention marketing strategy at your clinic.

Step 1: Identify key client education topics

There are dozens of untapped subjects to explore with your clients. Here are a few topics to help you get started: senior care, weight management, dental disease, breed-specific concerns, chronic skin and ear conditions, behavior, internal parasites, and external parasites. The goal is to properly educate pet owners about health conditions pertinent to their fur babies to help them live healthier, happier, and longer lives.

Step 2: Properly utilize practice management software

You and your team must create customized communications with clients based on individual patient needs. Ensure your team knows how to sort by age, breed, services provided, products dispensed, body condition score, etc. Pets who are not on heartworm preventives, for example, will get a different set of communications than those that are taking them. Additionally, kittens and puppies would not get a senior care workup education email. Mrs Jones, who just brought in her 3 dogs for expensive dental care, would not receive a postcard informing her that her dogs are overdue for a dental cleaning. These communication errors can erode client trust.

Step 3: Create targeted educational content

Educational resources should be tailored to address specific patient needs while explaining the consequences of not addressing these health concerns. For example:

  • Dental disease untreated leads to….
  • Obesity unresolved can cause….
  • Older cocker spaniels have a high risk of hypothyroidism, which leads to…
  • Senior cats are very prone to kidney failure. If left untreated it could lead to...

Your content should also range from letter size to postcard size. Additionally, remember that every message must have a call to action (eg, an examination, a fecal, a tooth check, a weigh-in). You may also consider including incentives such as a free tooth cleaning, exam, or pet food to help encourage adherence.

Step 4: Identify current and new marketing outreach tools

Letters, postcards, and newsletters—like email, e-cards, audio emails, video emails, telephone calls, Facebook posts, Tweets, and Pinterest posts—are effective marketing tools. It is important to note that there is nothing wrong with educating your clientele en masse while focusing on specific client and patient needs.

Step 5: Create a targeted marketing list

Identify pets that meet the parameters for a specific campaign. Examples of issues around which to create a campaign include obesity, senior care, dental care, etc. Then use this list to send out the marketing pieces to the owners of these pets. Not all pets and not all clients should be targeted. Patient demographics and client demographics can be used to filter the list to pets who meet clinical parameters and clients who are most likely to take action—your so called ‘A’ clients. Depending upon your marketing budget, you can expand the number of patients and clients you reach out to.

Step 6: Scheduling, and repetition, are key

Mail-merge the list in Step 5 into the marketing pieces in Step 3 using the tools in Step 4 to send to clients. Letters, postcards, emails, and phone calls should all be scheduled at different times and sent to the same client. Repetitive communication helps drive home key points. By sending the same message multiple times using different outreach tools to the same client you can keep track of which tools get the best response and which tools motivate which clients to take action. The goal is to stay top of mind by staying in touch. As ATT used to say—Reach out and touch someone!

The bottom line

If we use the metaphor of marketing and relate it to vaccinations and the immune response, 1 shot is usually not enough to stimulate the immune system to provide long-term protection from the disease against which you are being vaccinated. Similarly, marketing is rarely effective as a single shot that has long-lasting impressions on either your clients or potential clients. In the case of vaccinations, early in the animal’s life there is usually a series of shots necessary to provide sufficient immune response to afford long-term protection, and even then boosters are needed later. For marketing, constant exposure, education, and communication (the vaccinations) are needed to provide enough interest and motivation for the client/customer to take action.

Think of marketing as constantly educating your clients so that they demand the products and services you provide and share that enthusiasm with their friends and family members.

Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA, is executive director of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association, coauthor of The E-Myth Veterinarian with Michael Gerber, and president of Simple Solutions for Pets.

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