There are some things that, no matter how hard you try, you just cannot control. When the veterinary practice down the road is offering dental cleanings for a fraction of your price, for example, what can you do? Should you consider lowering your prices? That would be silly, right? Perhaps it's time to pick a new competitive strategy.

So how do you compete? The answer is in the customer experience.

For a moment, let's consider coffee. It's all made from beans. Those beans are roasted and packaged and made available in stores and specialty shops. Coffee is served in practically every restaurant, from fast food to the friendly diner to the overpriced breakfast place that always has an hour wait. And then there are coffee shops. You know the ones I'm referring to: they're on just about every street corner and they charge a premium for that hot cup of coffee.

But how does an affordable bean become a premium cup of coffee? 

It's not about the bean. It's not about the coffee. It's about the experience.

Coffee beans are a commodity--an agricultural resource that's widely produced, with a price determined by market demand. The coffee beans become a good--an item produced to fill a consumer want or need--when they are roasted and packaged for sale. 

When coffee is served to you, it becomes a service--an experience you can expect at almost any place that sells coffee. You can expect it to be hot, served in a cup, and usually offered with sugar and cream. 

Now here's where the distinction comes in. When a coffee shop creates an experience around that cup of coffee, they can charge a premium for it. It's still coffee--hot, in a cup, mixed with cream and sugar--but now it becomes a compelling experience. It engages your senses and gives you a good feeling. Suddenly, your cup of morning coffee is more meaningful and you've developed feelings for and a relationship with your coffee shop. And that relationship is incredibly powerful and important to your clients.

Are you creating a compelling experience for your clients? What is different about your practice that will keep your clients coming back for more? When you build relationships and create compelling experiences, you bond with your customers, and that is much more powerful than lowering your prices. It's how you outsmart your competition. And when you build a loyal customer base, that base will tell their family, friends, and colleagues about their great experiences with your practice. You might even be lucky enough to get a glowing online review, and that is gold. Keep that in mind as you work with each client. 

Want to learn more about services marketing and creating a compelling experience? Join our expert learning facilitators for the next session of Veterinary Management Institute (VMI), beginning in February. During three in-person sessions at Colorado State University, you'll solve complex issues facing your hospital and learn the skills you need to become a leader in your practice.  

April DeMinco is a senior product marketing manager for AAHA. 

Comments (1) -

twUnited States
9/25/2015 1:25:44 PM #

Excellent point.  It is sad that so many veterinarians feel that the only bargaining chip, management or marketing tool they have is price point.  Attempting to gain market share by lowering prices only hurts your practice by decreasing income.  It also attracts the type of client who always wants low cost services.  Eventually your practice becomes low cost with low quality clients who have low expectations for veterinary care and you have built yourself a rut that is difficult to extricate yourself from.  It also drags our entire profession down.  Though it takes a little more planning and setting high expectations for your staff as well as your clients it is much more satisfying and profitable to take the approach that Ms. DiMinco outlines quite effectively in this article.  This builds the type of practice that is immune to competition, especially price point competition.  If you have to go to the VMI to learn how to do it, I recommend going.  You will be much happier in practice when you implement this strategy.  You will be able to offer truly high quality pet care to deserving animals and appreciative clients while doing what you were trained to do well and turning profits you only dream of.

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