Top 5 Digital Strategies to Build a Client Base
Next time you are standing in line, eating at a restaurant, or just driving down the road, look at the people around you.
Most likely you will see people buried in their smartphones, oblivious to their surroundings. Technology has changed the world completely—from how people discover new products and services and make purchasing decisions to how they communicate.
Now, with the help of smartphones, every individual and every business, no matter its size, can be a media company and reach the masses. That includes veterinary practices.
Top 5 Digital Strategies to Build a Client Base
- Choose a Measurement Method
- Set Goals & Analyze
- Make the Most of the Minimum
- Know the Audience
- Test & Try Something
The key to effectively building a practice’s client base digitally is knowing what produces the best return on investments of time and money. Following are 5 strategies every practice should adopt.
1 Choose a Measurement Method
Measuring results may not sound cool, but it is critical to growth. If team members are unaware of the traffic generated by efforts on the practice’s website and social media, they cannot understand which methods are effective. Google Analytics is a free service that can help identify weaknesses in the website that need to be fixed, and can provide valuable insight into how clients find the practice website and what happens when they visit.
Many other valuable free tools offer insights based on the medium used, including Facebook Insights on your Facebook page, Facebook Ad Insights through Ads Manager, and email marketing reports through the practice’s email marketing service. Ensuring the medium or marketing activity can be measured and assessing how effectively the desired goal is reached are important.
2 Set Goals & Analyze
When a method has been established, decide what to measure. Is the goal to:
- Create a special advertisement or enticing special offer to attract new clients?
- Grow the email list? (See Building the Practice Email List)
- Increase attendance at events (eg, a practice open house)?
- Increase client awareness about a specific pet problem (eg, heartworms, fleas)?
- Increase engagement on a specific social media platform?
- Increase the length of visits to the practice website?
- Increase the number of Facebook page likes?
- Increase the number of readers signing up for the newsletter?
Building the Practice Email List
- One easy way to grow the practice email list is to ask the client care team to collect email addresses from clients and the practice website.
- Set a goal of adding 3 new addresses daily, which is quite feasible, and grow the practice list by more than 1000 contacts in 1 year.
The only way to ascertain if a post, campaign, or new piece of content is effective is to know the goal. Then, once a goal is set, analyzing the relevant analytics is important. For example:
- If the goal is for more clients to set appointments via the website after seeing a Facebook ad, clients using mobile phones will be the majority of traffic because most Facebook users use the mobile app.
- If the data in Facebook Ads Manager (relating to the ad performance) and Google Analytics (relating to the landing page performance) shows ads are not converting to appointments as hoped, even though the ad click-through rate is good, the website landing page can be analyzed to find the problem.
- If the data shows visitors on a mobile device stay on the website for an average of only 7 seconds but desktop viewers stay an average of 1 minute and 13 seconds, the website likely is not mobile-friendly.
- If the landing page is converting traffic into sign-ups or clients but no one is clicking on the Facebook ad, the ad should be changed.
Regular measurement of certain data points can show whether the practice is growing and help determine how to spend time and resources. Every practice should measure:
- Email address opt-ins
- Email open rate
- Facebook page likes
- Weekly Facebook page engagement
- Newsletter sign-ups
- Weekly likes and engagement on other social media channels (eg, Instagram, Twitter)
- Visitors to the practice website broken down by traffic source (eg, organic visitors, direct visitors, paid ad visitors, referral visitors)
If traffic or engagement drops suddenly, the practice can determine the reason immediately rather than months later. The internet and social media are changing constantly, and drops based on search engine or social network algorithm changes are common. Setting benchmarks helps a practice identify the piece of the puzzle that is different.
3 Make the Most of the Minimum
At a minimum, every practice should have a mobile-friendly website, Facebook page, and email list, and each element must be used to its maximum potential. (See Getting the Most from a Practice’s Existing Media)
Once the practice team is satisfied all the basics are covered, consider adding new elements such as Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube, or any new website or app many clients use.
Getting the Most from a Practice’s Existing Media
- The website must be user-friendly and easy to navigate, and each page should have a single function. For example, do not let clients make appointments from the About Us page.
- Make sure website navigation is easy on all devices (eg, smartphones, tablets, desktops) and the practice’s phone number and address are listed on each page. The phone number and address should be clickable links so someone using a mobile device can easily call the practice.
- A practice’s address and hours should be visible on each page as a clickable link so clients can easily find the information.
- Use social media accounts to post special offers, as well as content solely designed to engage readers (eg, client’s grateful comment, cute patient photo).
- Do not connect social media accounts so a post on Twitter or Instagram automatically posts on Facebook. Each social media channel should have its own style, context, and format.
- Batch work by scheduling posts using Facebook’s scheduling feature or a third-party program (eg, Hootsuite.com).
- Set aside time to engage with clients who comment, like, and share.
- As well as social media posts, use email to let clients know about special offers. Clients are more likely to buy when they know a special deal is available.
- Collect client email addresses on the website and in person.
- Create clear, simple calls to action via email. For example, if the practice sends out heartworm treatment information, be sure to provide a simple procedure for clients such as Call Now or Click Here to Buy.
4 Know the Audience
If the practice’s goal is to increase client base, for example, the key is to take people from cold traffic (ie, clients who have never heard of the practice), to warm (ie, awareness), to hot (ie, new client).
A blog with useful content and compelling social media posts can be a good way to build and maintain relationships with current and potential clients. Most people consider the practice’s social media a giant megaphone that broadcasts to many people at once, but this approach frequently is unsuccessful.
Knowing the ideal audience means knowing who they are, how they spend their time, and how they should be targeted.
Think about the best brands that engage their customers and give great customer service (eg, Nike, JetBlue, Starbucks). They treat their customers like special individuals and not just potential revenue sources. For example, they are always listening to their clients on Facebook and Twitter and go out of their way to appease an unhappy client or follow up on a suggestion to improve the company.
Knowing the ideal audience means knowing who they are, how they spend their time, and how they should be targeted. Try to duplicate the clients who love the practice and are kind to the team and good to work with.
5 Test & Try Something
The best way to learn how to promote a practice is by doing. So much great information is available that a veterinary team could spend a lifetime learning how to market a practice if time allowed. Try something new that sounds interesting (eg, livestreaming on Facebook, creating Instagram video content, creating compelling content for a blog), knowing it is best to master one thing at a time.
Veterinary practices should, at a minimum, have a simple website, be gathering emails and sending out monthly email broadcasts (although weekly is ideal), and using social media, including posting to Facebook regularly. This may sound like a lot if a practice does not spend much time or have large resources, but these tools can help team members keep in touch with current clients more frequently, reach prospective clients and patients, and grow the practice.
The practices with the most successful marketing efforts slowly add more tools to their repertoire and reap large benefits over time.
- Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World. Vaynerchuck G. 2013.
- Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends, and Friends into Customers. Godin S. 1999.
- Search Engine Journal (SEJ).
- Find information on digital ad platforms, social media, and search engines
- The Veterinary Marketing Podcast
- Learn to increase and retain clients and improve client compliance through digital marketing
- Veterinary Social Media: The Snout School. Facebook group.
- A place for veterinary professionals to ask questions and engage
Having a website or Facebook page does not automatically equal marketing success. Use these tools to analyze the practice’s efforts, identify what clients are looking for, and deliver relevant educational content to enhance client connection to the practice.
Digital marketing does not have to be overwhelming. Choose one strategy at a time, set a goal, determine how to measure the success of that goal, and give it a try.
Engaging content is an important component of a digital marketing strategy. As you work with patients each day, take patient photos (with client permission) and make note of cases that will make a great post.
Collect email addresses from all clients as they arrive at the practice to grow the email list.