Why Bother Marketing when You've Got a Waiting List?

You know those Facebook ads for things that look so appealing, but then you look at the comments and everyone is mad because they’re (a) very pricey and (b) always sold out? Do you think those companies mind that kind of feedback? Do they reduce their advertising spending when their stock is low?  

The answer is most likely no – which we instinctively know, because we keep seeing those ads. If the ads keep showing up, the products will stay front of mind – and the target customer will keep trying to buy. This is why I own jeans that feel like yoga pants, a carry-on bag that cost twice as much as any bag I had before (but has a lifetime guarantee!), and oversized glasses with interchangeable snap on frames.  

It’s probably true that many vets are not great self-promoters. We want to treat animals and help people and go home at night feeling like we did a good job. But Eric Garcia, an in-demand speaker and thought leader in IT and digital strategy, makes an excellent case for marketing our services all the time – not just when we’re trying to attract new clients.  

Take a look at some excerpts from our conversation, made possible with support from CareCredit, in Eric’s episode of Central Line: The AAHA Podcast, “Front Desks, Facebook, and Five-Week Waits: Marketing When We’re Really Busy,” which aired May 3, 2022. 

Katie Berlin: I have not talked to anybody in our profession in the last two years who isn’t just totally slammed, short-handed… just feeling like they’re overwhelmed. But the good news is, when you’re so busy you can’t take new clients, you don’t have to focus on marketing. Right?  

Eric Garcia: The reality is… we should always have a brand presence or some sort of marketing that we can easily scale up. It’s critical because if we don’t invest in these things on a routine basis, especially when we’re busy, and then when we start to see [a] decline happen, then we’re going to have to spend months creating a website, investing in a search engine optimization strategy, fine-tuning a Google ad campaign or creating content for social media. If you already had a system in place you could scale up.  

…The second part of that is, retention is a form of marketing. If we’re not investing in retention marketing strategies… any growth you receive, your marketing is just going to replenish what you’re losing. [Retention marketing] has always been important, but definitely within the last year, it’s probably the most important part of that strategy.  

KB: So let’s talk about the strategy a little bit. If you’re currently in that situation where you just feel like you can’t take one more client – what kind of strategy does that look like for your marketing? What do your ads and your social media posts and your website look like?  

EG:  When it comes to retention, it is important that we deliver the appropriate number of touch points that are necessary to yield high compliance. What I mean here is any time a practice sends a text message, an email, a push notification, a post card, any of those is called a touch point. There was a study done years ago in the veterinary space [that showed] that the practices that sent between 9 and 12 touch points yielded the highest compliance possible.  

The reason most practices don’t [use so many touch points] is because they apply their own personal feelings to what they think all of their clients would feel. A major online pharmacy in the veterinary space sends 4.8 emails per week to our pet owners. And they don’t do that because pet owners are annoyed that they’re getting almost five emails a week – they do It because it leads to the desired action, which is purchasing something online. So it’s important to recognize that we shouldn’t really apply how we personally feel, we should always go where the data leads us.  

…The other thing I always say is if you get a client who’s annoyed with too many touch points, we have to work with them. We should have our CSRs say, “Hey, Mr. Garcia, we’re so sorry that you received a text message and a post card – what is your preferred method of communication?”  

KB: Like the personalized care we’re always talking about for the patients. Have the default be to communicate more, and you can work with clients who want less. I love that.  

EG: Absolutely. But I don’t want you to listen to this podcast and just change to 9-12 touch points – I want you to know where you were before. So use a financial dashboard or some sort of practice health dashboard, find out what your bonding rate or attrition rate is, make the change and monitor success.  

When it comes to marketing new clients, it’s important that we have something in place. Say a new client won’t be able to be seen for 2-3 weeks, and that’s been consistent. Then the strategy is going to be, “Let’s have a website. Let’s make sure it looks good… Let’s take this opportunity to swap out pictures, make the website functional, make sure it’s mobile friendly. Let’s spend that time engaging with our existing clients on Facebook and Instagram and sharing cases and the cool things we’re doing.” It’s just to have those systems where we’re constantly pushing ourselves out there.  

And then when you see your 2-3 week [waiting] period is starting to shrink... now you have the confidence to push an ad out through Google or Facebook or Instagram… to ensure that you continue to fill that schedule back up in the way that it should have been. Take this as an opportunity to make change.

Catch the rest of Eric’s episode anywhere you get your podcasts, including Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher; on YouTube; or find links to all of these platforms, full audio and video, and transcripts to every episode at aaha.org/podcast 

This episode was made possible with generous support from our friends at CareCredit 

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