According to the Humane Society, “Pet ownership in the U.S. has more than tripled from the 1970s, when approximately 67 million households had pets, to 2012, when there were 164 million owned pets. In other words, in 2012, 62 percent of American households included at least one pet.”
For those running a veterinary practice, this means that half of those living in their community will own a pet who requires some level of preventative, curative, or palliative healthcare. In some suburban areas, the number is even higher, with 9 out of 10 households owning one or more pets.
This type of growth has set the stage for significant potential in terms of growing a veterinary practice, but it also comes with a great deal of pressure to remain competitive, with almost 3,000 new veterinary doctors entering the market each year. (Take a look at the most recent statistics about pet ownership as reported by the American Veterinary Medical Association.)
When it comes to marketing a veterinary practice, the single most important move is ensuring your practice is easily found online. When found, make sure shoppers are able to quickly associate it with positive perceptions as conveyed by current and prior clients.
To facilitate this process, experts in veterinary practice marketing primarily recommend two things: a highly optimized site, and careful and intentional management of their online reviews and business reputation.
Both approaches feed off each other, and both should be tackled with diligence and care. While there are thousands of ways to ensure your site is up to par and optimized for SEO and user experience when it comes to managing your online reputation, you have to stick to basic principles and their corollaries to achieve and maintain an online reputation conducive to client acquisition.
Let’s take a look at 5 great tips and tricks for veterinary doctors that will, without question, help their practices reach increased visibility, popularity, and ratings on the most popular online review sites.
Consider Yelp Your Best Friend When It Comes to Getting Found
When it comes to getting found and providing crowd-sourced assurances of quality, Yelp seems to always be one step ahead. It is important to take time to become familiar with the policies that regulate social engagement with your Yelp reviewers, and maximize every online and offline opportunity to create awareness of your Yelp listing.
Make sure you have taken over your profile, and enhance it by including photos and videos of your practice with your favorite canine and feline patients. After all, aren’t kitties and doggies the darlings of the Internet?
(Check out: “The Ultimate Guide to Yelp for Business”)
Don’t Neglect Local Review Sites
Identify when and where you are showing up in association with searchers for relevant keywords for your field. For example, you want to take time to become familiar with the search results for “veterinary + your city name,” and you want to do a reputation-based search by using the name of your veterinary clinic or the name of the doctors practicing in your clinic.
Your objective is to identify where your name is showing up and what type of comments or reviews are associated with your profiles. Once you know the most common sites associated with relevant searches for your practice, begin managing the profiles associated with said searches by proactively responding to reviews and providing the most updated information about your veterinary clinic on your enhanced profile.
Carefully Set Up Your Google My Business
This is a must-do when it comes to reputation management. An activated and well-managed Google My Business profile will provide your veterinary practice with a foundational cornerstone to help potential patients find you, using a variety of Web-based tools, and help those searching for you connect with your business seamlessly, using tools such as Google Maps with Get Directions and One-Click Calling.
Remember that Google’s review-acquisition policies allow businesses to verbally encourage a review submission from their customers. Your Google reviews might just be one of the strongest assets you will have when it comes to getting found and gaining online credibility. (Check out: “How to Claim Your Business on Google“)
Ask Pet Owners How They Found Out About You, and Thank Them for Trusting Your Online Reviews
Asking pet owners how they found you is a great conversation starter that will provide you with significant insights to help you promote your veterinary practice using the means with highest conversion. If a dog owner happens to mention a review site, convey both excitement and appreciation of what others are saying about your practice online.
Additionally, having this conversation will allow you to identify and reward promoters who, by virtue of word of mouth, are helping you build your veterinary practice. Something as simple as a referral discount is likely to further cement the relationship and set the stage for high levels of customer loyalty.
Include Review Site Widgets on Your Site
If you are fortunate enough to have great online reviews, then use the marketing tools available in association with each review site to create a snowball effect for new-review acquisition. Consider including widgets on your site that feed real-time reviews from pages like Yelp.
Additionally, if there are one or two reviews with accolades worth repeating, then consider doing a direct quote as part of your homepage content. Branded widgets that feed reviews (when you are confident you will get high marks) do wonders when it comes to increased conversion and added credibility. Finally, don’t forget to include a clear social media presence by having Twitter & Facebook business manager accounts. When setting up your Facebook page be sure it is ready to capture Facebook reviews.
If you are not yet managing your online reputation, then you are missing out on great opportunities to build and improve your veterinary practice. Review and reputation management is a low-cost move that will impact your bottom line tenfold. Put together a self-service review management plan, and begin reaping the fruits of your engagement from day one.