You’ve heard of bootstrapping a business? It’s when a new venture is built up using limited funds and a lot of goodwill. It’s where you get stories of founders sleeping in their office so they don’t have to waste valuable money renting a flat!
Your practice is more liquid than that. But there’s still a place for bootstrapping – when it comes to marketing.
Because marketing doesn’t have to just cost cash. You can invest a different resource into it instead: Time.
And this doesn’t have to be your personal time. If your staff have a few hours spare every week, you can always invest their time into growing the business. Everyone benefits from that, right?
Here are six low cost / no cost marketing ideas for independent vets.
Start a Facebook group
The most robust way to market in 2019 is to build an audience, and then educate that audience about things that are important to them. At the point they are ready to switch from one practice to another; they are dramatically more likely to switch to the vet that educated them.
The easiest way to do this in 2019 is to build a Facebook group: Ask a (YourTown) vet.
You get clients and prospects to join this group, and then teach them every day about veterinary matters.
These days you will get a greater return from building a Facebook group, than you will spending time on your Facebook page. Partly because of algorithms (yawn) and partly because of greater interaction.
And an article I did last week about how one UK vet built up a Facebook group of 3,000 people (and generated so many new clients, he had to close his doors).
Ask every client this one simple feedback question
The most robust way to grow net profits is to get your existing clients to buy more from you.
New clients are nice, but they’re expensive. Whereas someone who is already standing in the practice contributes a lot more to the bottom line if they go on to buy something else. This is why businesses like McDonalds have fully systemised the upsell: “Would you like to go large / add fries to that.”
Of course we all know how tricky it can be sometimes to get vets and nurses to upsell. Even people who are passionate about talking about extra services will sometimes fall back into their comfort zone… which is to go for the easy sell , and not mention the health plan.
So how about you get your team into the habit of asking this one simple question of every client:
“What else could we have done for you today?”
- Most clients will say “nothing, thanks” on their way out of the door
- This means you have checked they are happy
- Some will use it as an opportunity to talk about something they’d meant to bring up, but hadn’t felt they’d had chance to
- This means you have uncovered some money on the table; profit you would otherwise have lost
- And a handful will tell you about a service or product they’d like to buy from you, if only you sold it
- This is invaluable market research. Look for trends… what are several people asking for. If you don’t give it to them, they will just go elsewhere to get it
Run a free to enter prize draw
People love competitions. They never expect to win, but just the act of entering brightens their day for a second. This is why the National Lottery is still going strong after 25 years.
I used to be a radio presenter, and it was weird how many people would phone up just to win a crappy Backstreet Boys CD (hey, this was back in the 1990s).
There are two types of prize draw you can do. Either offer up any old prize you can find, for the sake of running a competition. Make sure the prize is really attractive – can be as simple as a couple of Kong toys and an LED collar.
The other way to do it, is to give away a sample of something specific you are promoting. For example if you are launching a health plan, you’d give away a a year’s free membership.
Facebook is the place to do a competition. Entry can be as simple as liking or commenting on a post. If you have databases of email addresses, email your prospects to drive them to the prize draw on Facebook.
Get your local media talking about you
OK, so virtually no-one reads your local paper any more. But the local media still has massive credibility.
Free publicity is more valuable than advertising because it has higher levels of perceived credibility. When journalists talk about you, ordinary people think they have sought out the best experts.
Actually, most journalists these days just want easy content that’s put in front of them.
Here’s the easiest way to get some PR – ring your local paper or radio station and ask if they’d like to spend a few hours in the practice, “behind the scenes”. Some journalists will jump on this, as it’s an easy feature piece, and fun too.
If the newspaper and radio station aren’t interested, look up key local bloggers. They’re surprisingly influential these days.
When they visit you, make it fun and easy for them to see what it’s like behind the scenes. What is normal and relatively boring to you, can be fascinating to someone who isn’t in veterinary every day. And make sure they walk out with some free toys for their pet…
The media coverage itself is unlikely to get you new clients. So you put a link to it on your website (don’t copy it as there are copyright agencies looking for this. They operate in the same way PRS does). Share it across social media. Email it to your database. Add it to your about us page.
And put the logo of the media outlet in the footer of your website – “as seen in” or “as heard on”. This way you can make one piece of coverage influence potential clients for years to come.
Create videos every week
The most influential way of communicating with, and persuading people in 2019 is through videos.
And few independent vets create enough of them. Which is crazy, as they are so easy to make.
You can make a video in the next 5 minutes. Just grab your phone. Film something. Perhaps you showing a cute dog, post-successful surgery (no footage of wounds, thanks). Bang it on Facebook. Done.
Yes, video can be that easy. Have you seen the crap that’s on YouTube? People don’t expect Hollywood style production from you. They are very tolerant of 60 seconds of quick shot video. VERY tolerant.
If you want to invest in kit, then focus on lighting, sound and image stability. You have a perfectly good camera in your phone. Get lights to make it well lit. A microphone to make the sound spot on. And a gimble to steady the phone.
You don’t need these things, but they do make videos look more professional, for an investment of around £100.
The other way to do videos is to get them animated for you. Don’t do this yourself unless you are passionate about video production.,.. just outsource it to Fiverr.
Obsessively collect social proof
Most people are sheep; they prefer to do what most other people are doing.
This is a behaviour that is hard wired into most humans’ brains. It’s part of our survival instinct.
So you need to show people that hundreds of other people like them really trust your practice.
- Asking for testimonials
- Soliciting reviews on Facebook and Google, and
- Creating case studies for each service you want to focus your marketing efforts on
Don’t be scared to ask clients for reviews and testimonials. Sure, some will say no. But the law of reciprocity says many will happily say yes, as a thank you for the great service they have received from you.
Yes this still works despite the fact they have paid for this service! And yes, humans are strange ????
The key thing is to systemise this in the practice so it becomes a daily task, not a once a year social proof top up.
And finally, a bonus for you
I have an absolute ton of veterinary marketing ideas to share with you at my brand new one day vets marketing seminar: The Ultimate Marketing System