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At one time, the mass market was every veterinarian's target population. Today's best strategy, however, is niche marketing, which targets a specific population of pet owners, identifying their needs, and then addressing those needs more competently than anyone else.

At one time, the mass market was every veterinarian's target population. Today's best strategy, however, is niche marketing—targeting a specific population of pet owners, identifying their needs, and then addressing those needs more competently than anyone else.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. provides a well-documented example of this strategy. Instead of competing for the highly lucrative frequent-traveler car renter, Enterprise caters to the occasional renter. Usually, this is someone in need of a car for a few days while his or her car is being repaired. This person isn't likely to travel out to The Hertz Corp. or Avis Rent A Car System Inc. airport locations to rent a car for a few days' use.

The single most significant characteristic of Enterprise's strategy has to do with its choice of customers. Everything else flows from this decision. The infrequent renter typically has a unique set of needs that the competition doesn't meet well, Enterprise does. Proof: Enterprise Rent-A-Car had more than $8.2 billion in revenue in the fiscal year ending in July 2005.

Action step: Give some thought to the types of clients you might focus on—exclusively or otherwise. Cat owners? Clients willing to pay for the services of a specialist on staff? Time-pressured people who might greatly appreciate house calls? Other clients with special needs that aren't being met by area practices?

If you're the only practice in town, you can be all things to all people. But if you're in an urban area or in a community with more than two or three other practices, consider the benefits of setting yourself apart.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is a speaker based in Roslyn, N.Y., who focuses on profitability and practice growth, and the author of 101 Secrets of a High-Performance Veterinary Practice (Veterinary Medicine Publishing Co., 1996).

Bob Levoy

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