Pin the competition: How to make market share to work for you

2019-07-10
Charlotte Hansen, MS

How much of the local veterinary business is your practice capturing compared with your competitors? If you don't knowor if it's not a pretty picturethis AVMA tool can help you pin down a plan toward greater success.

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Veterinarians live in a competitive world. No matter how smart you are, or how good at your job, you might have a dozen or more competitors in your market area. These may be other veterinarians, but just as often they're big-box stores, pharmacies and other businesses that don't occupy a purely veterinary space.

In this landscape, it's critical to know where you stand relative to the competition. This means understanding and tracking your market share.

This may sound daunting, but we promise it's not that hard-and there's a free AVMA tool that simplifies it.

First, the basics

Market share measures the amount of business you're capturing in your local market, compared with the amount going to your various competitors. Just as your financial records tell you about your practice's fiscal health, market share gives you an idea of how you compare with other businesses in your area. This can help you identify where you stand in your market, your potential to attract new business and possible growth strategies.

Tracked over time, market share is also an important monitoring tool. Checking your market share regularly is like taking the pulse of your business. It lets you know if your health is stable, improving or declining. If you see market share go up, it could mean a new business tactic is starting to work. Seeing it go down can alert you to a possible problem, like losing ground to a new or existing competitor.

How to measure market share

Ready to get started? Here's what you need to do to measure your market share:

  • Know your geographic market area.

  • Identify the animal population in the area, specific to the species you treat.

  • Estimate the total number of patients and veterinary visits, as well as the total veterinary revenue, in your area.

  • Calculate your practice's share of the market.

That seems like a lot of information, and it is. Fortunately, as we promised earlier, the AVMA has an easy-to-use worksheet that will help you identify all these numbers. Our Market Share Estimator tool, available free of charge to all AVMA members, provides step-by-step instructions and calculations for companion-animal veterinarians to identify your market share based on the specific species you treat: dogs, cats, birds, horses or any combination of those.

The tool is based on extensive research conducted for the 2017-2018 AVMA Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, and it leverages those insights to provide actionable intelligence for you to use in your practice. You can find the tool at avma.org/MarketShare.

Turn market share into meaningful action

The Market Share Estimator will tell you approximately how much of the veterinary business you're capturing in your specific market. If your practice treats cats, dogs, horses and birds, you can identify the total market share for your whole practice, or calculate specific percentages for each species by looking at one species at a time.

Tools to monitor and build market share

Estimating and leveraging market share information doesn't have to be hard. Start by downloading the AVMA Market Share Estimator at avma.org/marketshare. Then, if you want to take the next steps and implement new tactics to grow your market share, these additional resources can help:

AVMA Telehealth Resource Center. For practices interested in implementing or expanding virtual care programs: avma.org/telehealth.

Partners for Healthy Pets. Toolkits to help companion animal practices implement payment plans, re-engage inactive clients, become feline friendly and more: partnersforhealthypets.org.

Once you know your market share, what you decide to do with the information will depend on your individual situation. Market share is an important piece of information about your business's health, but it's just one component of your profit/success equation.  

If you're happy with your market share and the current state of your business, then you might simply pack your market share data away to check in on once a year to make sure you're not losing ground.

For those whose market share is lower than you'd like, you might look inward first and examine the efficiency of your practice before you think about strategies for generating new business. Do you utilize all team members to their full abilities and capacity? Do you have facility space that could be put to better use, perhaps to allow your team to see more clients each week? These are foundational questions for any business to make sure you're running a lean operation. While you're at it, look at your business practices as well. For example, do your pricing strategies capture all of your team's valuable work?

Ideas to grow your business

When you're ready to turn your attention to business growth-that is, to increasing your market share-here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Deepen your relationships with existing clients. This might mean focusing more on callbacks and forward booking, or it might involve asking clients if they have additional pets at home that you don't see. Also make sure your clients know about all the services you offer. Don't assume that every client who brings their dog in for annual exams is already aware that you provide boarding or grooming services. Ask, and you might find them thrilled to learn they can consolidate multiple errands into one. Current clients can also help you attract new patients to your hospital. Consider offering clients incentives to recommend you to their friends.

  • Consider offering wellness plans. They can be a good way to stay in closer touch with clients, and encourage more frequent consultations and adherence to your treatment and preventive care guidelines.

  • Reach out to AWOL clients. Do you have inactive clients who haven't had their animals examined in some time? Consider a campaign to get them back into the practice. Partners for Healthy Pets has a free toolkit that has proven very effective for practices using it.

  • Look at your strengths. Think about the things you do best and how you can improve on them. These are the areas where you already may have an edge over competitors and may be able to gain more ground.

  • Work on expanding your market reach. This could mean adding a new species or specialty focus, or offering remote, video-based follow-up exams that could expand your market geographically. You would still need an in-person exam to establish the veterinarian-client-patient relationship with each patient, but the ability to use telemedicine technology for some follow-ups can make your practice a more convenient alternative to a competitor who's actually located closer to the client.

If you currently treat multiple species and find your market share is much higher with one species than another, that's important information to focus on as you grow your business. For example, if you have a 40% market share among dogs but only 15% among cats, then it might be time to consider making your practice more feline-friendly or reaching out more to cat owners. This could be another situation in which telemedicine-based follow-up exams could make a difference.

Charlotte Hansen, MS, is assistant director of statistical analysis for the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division.