Ignore the web? Joke's on you


All the work at a veterinary practice to maintain websites, blogs, online reviews and social media is tiring but cannot be ignored any longer. You wont thrive without it.

Are your clients laughing with you on your website and social media ... or at you? (Photo: Getty Images)You've heard it before, a million times about a million different things. But this is the one that won't go away: Veterinarians need to understand that practice management has been forever changed.

In 2015, 84 percent of American adults were using the Internet, including 58 percent of our senior citizens. With Google and Yahoo! and Bing … with Facebook and Yelp and Twitter … with websites and blogs and e-newsletters … today's clients have a seemingly infinite number of ways to choose us or to find someone else.

“Today's veterinary practices have the ability to literally ‘show and tell' who they are every hour of the day, every day of the year,” said Bash Halow, BA, CVPM, LVT, partner at Halow Tassava Consulting, at a recent CVC show.

Advertising on the web-and angling for good online reviews-is only part of the package. Direct communication with clients through digital media adds value to a practice and is becoming a huge client draw.

Can't do it alone?

You don't have to. Visit us at Fetch dvm360 every year for lively practice management courses as well as interactive sessions on social media, websites and online reputation. Head to fetchdvm360.com to learn more and register.

“What better way to show that you care about clients than to regularly interact with them, online or otherwise?” Halow says.

But tens of thousands of the nation's practice owners cry out at once: Who has time for this crap? How do you even start setting up an online identity that will lead to a successful practice? Bash offered those time-strapped, world-weary practice owners and practice managers these five basic steps:

Step 1. Know thyself

“Sit down with your staff and list the qualities that distinguish your service, care and practice team,” Halow says. “What are the elements of each of which you are most proud?” In other words, what makes your particular practice unique from the practice down the road? Write them down.

Step 2. Pick a goal

You can't do everything all the time. Figure out what you want most out of your digital advertising, marketing, social media and blogging strategy. Do you want to capture the attention of potential new clients? Do you want to engage and educate existing ones? Do you want to showcase-with pictures, video and personal stories-your practice's expertise and care? Halow says practices with a clear goal write better content and can measure efforts better.

Step 3. Map out a plan

Ask yourself what form your online content will take, where it will be posted and how it will work to achieve your goal.

Step 4. Learn the system

Someone in your practice needs to understand the basics of how search engines, social media and online advertising work. “It's not enough to write content and post it,” Halow says. “You need to understand what to do with it and where to put it to ensure that your audience sees it.”

Step 5. Measure and improve

Halow strongly recommends that you maintain and manage your online presence-no matter how simple or how complicated-with data analysis.

“At the very minimum you should understand what specific online analytic data points mean,” he says. “You don't have to have the expertise to improve your practice's online visibility, but you should understand enough about it so that you can successfully manage someone else who can.”

That means you should feel free to partner with third-party website managers, client reminder companies or social media managers, but you should know what they're doing, why and whether it's working the way you want it to.

In the session at CVC, Halow was sympathetic to the plight of harried practice owners: “I know you don't like the idea of another big ‘to do' item.” Learning about and implementing a new program can be time-consuming and complicated. But with change comes inspiration, and today's potential online to find and keep new clients and grow your practice is enormous.

Carla Johnson, DVM, practices emergency medicine at Berkeley Dog and Cat Hospital in Berkeley, California, and general practice at Cameron Veterinary Hospital in Sunnyvale, California.

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