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Marketing the value of your specialty

Veterinarian's Money Digest®Veterinarian's Money Digest® (September 2023)

Once you become a specialist, it is important to learn how to communicate the value of your service and bring people in the door of your clinic



As veterinary professionals, you go through training, internships, residency training, and then achieve board certifications, which can give you the power to be the leading expert in your area. However, as you go through all the medical training, do you know how to communicate their skills in a way that gets you traction among colleagues and clients?

Jean-Yin Tan, DVM, DACVIM (LAIM), MBA, a professor at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, outlined steps specialists can take to communicate the value of your specialty, during her lecture sponsored by CareCredit at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine’s (ACVIM) Forum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Defining your value

Your specialty, in a way, is like its own business. It is a skillset that makes you stick out from the rest, and you should be highlighting that. Your clinic itself can provide a space for you to show that skillset and use it in a way that attracts referrals or just clients who are looking to get help for their pets, according to Tan.

“I'm going to put forward something called the CVP, which is not central venous pressure. We're going to switch gears from medical to business; this is the customer value proposition. This is the essence of your practice, this is your 'it' factor and if you don't know what it is for your service, you need to get one. And I'm going to teach you how to get one,” explained Tan.

“This is the core of your business model where you recognize the problem, you have created the service and communicated about it. This is your communication about what it needs to be, [and] it needs to somehow offer better value than competitors,” she continued

Tan also encouraged attendees that your CVP should also be financially feasible for them. She gave examples of veterinary clinics that have transformed spaces into better client- and patient-friendly interactions, such as private entrance and exit for euthanasia appointments or even a wine bar at the clinic. The key is to find something that your clinic thrives at or makes stick out and then use that to define the values that you have as a specialist.

Fostering local relationships

For clients that are coming in from referrals, it can create a tricky balance between the general practitioner and the specialist. With some specialty clinics also doing general practice, clinics may hesitate to send their clients for fear of losing clients to the specialist entirely. Fostering a relationship where the general practitioner knows that you are not at risk of stealing their clients could help bring in more patients to increase revenue while also getting pets the care they need.

“I was 80% primary and 20% referral. What does that mean for other practices? If I'm 80% primary care, that means I'm their competitor. That means that [when] they refer to me, they risk the client really liking me and staying with me for 100% of their care,” said Tan.

“So, what one practitioner did in my area—he was a small animal dentist, but he did the same thing he offered 80% [and] 20%—he had his clients sign a an actual contract with him, every time they visited that said, ‘I will not see you as a primary care practitioner.‘ Then it made it crystal clear to everyone, the referring veterinarian, to the client, we are not going to see you as primary care, you are referral only and I thought that was really, really smart,” she continued.

In this scenario, all parties involved know what is expected while maintaining a healthy relationship with the client and the veterinarian who referred them, and there is no risk of the referring veterinarians losing clients or revenue. This brings more clients into the door of your practice because you have earned the trust of your veterinary colleagues in the area.

Although this gesture may not be for everyone, it is a base for what a healthy relationship looks like to help specialists and general practitioners in the area figure out a system that works, and benefits, both parties and the client.

In conclusion

Specialists have worked for years learning their craft to be able to provide top-notch care to all who enter their clinic. By distinguishing yourself from competitors while also creating and honoring partnerships or potential partnerships with local veterinarians, you can demonstrate the value of your skill without hurting the other practicing veterinarians in your community, according to Tan. There are other ways to show the world your skill set, it just is a matter of what method works best for you and your patients.


Tan, J. Communicating the Value of Your Specialty Service. Presented at: ACVIM Forum Specialty Symposium; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. June 17, 2023.

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