Internal marketing: how it can benefit your team and help you recruit
Tips and tricks for keeping your team aligned
Content submitted by GeniusVets, a dvm360® Strategic Alliance Partner
Strong, thriving, and growing veterinary practices require multiple types of marketing. Let's discuss a vital and often neglected area in veterinary practices: internal marketing.
What is internal marketing?
I've noticed this term is often misused in veterinary medicine. I've heard many DVMs use "internal marketing" to refer to marketing toward existing clients instead of new clients. However, marketing professionals have long defined internal marketing as marketing directed toward the employees and stakeholders of an organization for the purpose of improving engagement, alignment, and effectiveness. With today's unprecedented staffing, turnover, and burnout issues, internal marketing couldn't be more vital.
Alignment Is everything
In the consumer marketing everyone isl familiar with, it's easy to see that brands with a consistent and clear message are more memorable. If one hears the phrase "The ultimate driving machine," they most likely think "BMW." However, consistency in messaging is even more critical within a veterinary team. Internal marketing ensures the team is aligned on its identity and how it should approach medicine. This ensures everyone works together effectively and communicates consistently with clients. This alignment leads to:
- Improved medical outcomes
- Better employee retention
- More successful recruitment
- Less burnout
- Positive word-of-mouth (the best advertising there is)
Your employees are a vital part of your marketing
Your employees are constantly talking to your clients, each other, and your community. They're either telling your story the way you believe it should be told, or they're saying something else that could undermine your brand and create confusion.
Internal marketing is a constant process. Every time I step into my hospital, I'm constantly reminding the team of why and how we practice medicine The Drake Center way and how this benefits our team, our clients, and our patients.
Good internal marketing protects against burnout
It's demoralizing to work in a place that doesn't maintain alignment. Employees get mixed messages, and they're not sure who to trust or what key messages they should communicate. That puts employees in a position of insecurity. It's exhausting and leads to burnout and turnover, 2 of the most significant risks facing practices today.
On the other hand, when you talk regularly with your team about how your practice should be communicating, your team feels confident because they know they're doing the right thing. We've all experienced rude clients or tragic medical outcomes. These things are unfortunately part of the job. However, the way we communicate in dealing with these challenges makes the difference between a practice that pulls together under pressure and one that falls apart.
It starts with you and your leadership team
I work very hard to ensure my leadership team and doctors are all on the same page. Of course, we're not robots and everyone has their own personality, but we're aligned on the things that matter. The leadership team sets an example by consistently sticking to the plan, and the staff follows that lead.
Work should be a place people belong
Having a sense of belonging in your workplace is a really big deal. Sadly, in today's business environment, with things becoming less and less personal, people often don't feel this sense of belonging in their job. You can make your practice a true community where people feel safe and supported because they're all on the same page. Your practice will not only attract and retain great staff and clients, but it will also be a joy for you to lead and manage.
It's simple: when people feel they truly belong somewhere, they don't want to leave. When someone is looking for a new job, they want to be part of a strong team. One of our employees worked with us for several years before she had children. Then she left for a while to raise her kids. Now that her kids are grown up, she's not only come back to work in the hospital, but she also brought her daughter to join our team.
Don't tolerate "eye-rollers"
We've all had that employee who never seems to “buy in.” Sometimes these individuals are actively working against the practice. Often, however, it's more subtle. When you're trying to get the team excited, motivated, and aligned, this is the employee who is rolling their eyes, making little sarcastic comments, or simply not bothering to do things the way you've trained them.
Even if the behavior is subtle, if it's undermining your ability to keep the team aligned, that person needs to either change their behavior or find somewhere else to work. Many practice owners are reluctant to let go of sarcastic or disrespectful employees. We're all shorthanded today, but you'll only be moreshorthanded if you let bad employees drive off good ones.
Key steps you can take today
Here are a few things you can start doing right now to work toward internal alignment and team cohesion:
- Have a well-defined mission, values, and culture, and write down the key messages you want your team to be communicating.
- Hold regular staff meetings where you reinforce your internal marketing: who you are, how you practice medicine, and how you communicate.
- Listen to your employees constantly; quickly reinforce or correct.
- Listen to your receptionists' calls—at least a few for every receptionist, every week—to improve their training and knowledge
- Make your practice a great place to be. It should be clean, orderly, and odor-free, not just for your clients, but also for your employees. We all know we're supposed to take care of our lobby. Why not the break room and the treatment areas, too?
Of course, great internal marketing ultimately becomes external as well. When your team loves their jobs, they tell others. When your clients are served by a team that loves their jobs, they keep returning and referring their friends, too.
A strong brand is built from the inside out. Train your employees to deliver your key messages in every interaction with your clients and each other. With that accomplished, you're well on your way to building a true community around your practice that will help your employees, clients, and patients thrive.