How can I be easily found on the Internet? Why are people reviewing my practice online? Do I need Pinterest? What is this thing called Snapchat? 

For a veterinary practice, these questions all boil down to one: How can I use marketing to grow my business? In today's competitive veterinary climate, this means using a wide range of online platforms to keep your clients engaged and to reach out to new ones. Pet owners want information where and when they need it, so the marketing-savvy veterinary practice aims to be there. 

There are many excellent digital marketing providers. Some specialize in veterinary marketing, while others are experts in particular local markets. Unfortunately, there are also unethical marketers, who prey on veterinary practices that don't understand how digital marketing works. How can you tell the difference? Here are some clues:

  1. Communication is clear and transparent. Your marketer represents your practice publicly, so you should always understand and approve of any work they undertake on your behalf. All activities should be outlined in writing, and you should have the opportunity to approve them in advance. You should expect to get the chance to approve postings, blogs, ads, and changes to your website. Costs should be stated in writing, and should include the marketer's fees and any online advertising fees you may incur.
  2. Reporting is understandable, regular, and in writing. Your marketer should always provide clear, written reports outlining the results of all marketing activities. Reporting should be at least monthly, and more often for active or high-dollar campaigns. Reports should also indicate the source of these statistics, and they should be from industry standard sources. If you don't understand the statistics you are presented with, ask for an explanation. It is your marketer's job to ensure you understand what you are paying for with your digital marketing. Digital marketing standard sources include:
    • Google Analytics--tracks your website traffic
    • Facebook Insights--tracks your page's likes, comments, and shares
    • Google AdWords Results--tracks clicks and conversions on your Google ads
    • Search Engine Optimization trackers--track your site's visibility in key metrics
    • Online Reviews--aggregate reviews from third-party sources
  3. Expectations are realistic. There are few, if any instant results. Digital marketing is built on an ecosystem of components: your website, your search engine placement, online reviews, social media, blogs, and e-newsletters, to name a few. Real progress is the result of carefully negotiating each of those platforms. If a marketer tells you they can "get you to the top of Google in a week," they are lying or employing "black-hat" techniques that will ultimately backfire. You should expect to lay some groundwork, then begin to see progress in each platform over time. 
  4. They play by the rules. Digital marketing uses many different platforms, each with its own term of service. A reputable marketer will follow those rules. Breaking them usually results in a backlash for your business, and may even get you banned completely. One of the most common examples is online reviews. A marketer who offers to write reviews for you, or write bad reviews for a competitor, is breaking the rules of any third-party review site. These sites monitor for bad behavior and penalize companies that break the rules.
  5. They are honest with you about the amount of involvement you need to have. Most veterinary practices have little time for marketing, so it is tempting to sign off on something that is automatic, cheap, and requires little involvement. While a good marketer can take on the heavy lifting, your results will be vastly improved if you or someone from your practice takes an active part. 

Paying attention to these simple rules will help you find an ethical marketer who is right for your practice. 

Have questions about digital marketing? Beyond Indigo Pets can help with your website, online review, social media marketing, and search engine optimization needs. 

This article was written by Jeanne Pelletier, COO of Beyond Indigo Pets. 

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