Inside AAHA: December 2020

Mark Thompson, DVM, MBA, CCRP, discusses the importance of marketing through effective and focused communication. Low-cost staff holiday gifts, more virtual options for Connexity 2021, and Dear AAHA tackles the question of how to deal with angry clients.

View from the Board

Marketing Helps You, Helps Patients

Marketing your practice is an essential component to success in the veterinary profession today. Marketing can be aggressive or passive. However, everyone must have some form of marketing to thrive. Some practices choose to use large budgets and a multimodal approach; others choose to passively market their practice through word-of-mouth recommendations from current clients. Neither approach is wrong. The key to marketing is to measure your success. You will never know how well a program works unless you measure its return on your investment. It does not matter what mode is used; it only matters what mode reaches the target group. Therefore, before you spend any significant time or money on marketing, make sure you have a clear target audience. There are many ways to spend money marketing your practice, but you need to choose the method that produces the best results for that target audience.

The use of a professional marketing company can help you determine what methods of communication are best in your area in order to reach that target group. AAHA recommends the Strategic Alliance Program, which includes InTouch Practice Communications, Vet Success, and GeniusVets, as well as Beyond Indigo Pets, a provider in our Member Values Program. These companies can provide reliable, veterinary-specific, cutting-edge resources to drive your practice forward. If you choose to develop your own marketing plan, make sure you know what marketing mode will reach your targeted group. Successful marketing is dependent on delivering the right message to the right people at the right time. In some situations, social media may be the best marketing tool, but success is more than just how many likes you have on Facebook. You need to convert the money spent developing the site into revenue.

In my career, I have tried many forms of marketing, from internal marketing to major external marketing campaigns. In my experience, some of the most successful marketing methods have been low in cost and some of the biggest failures have come with large costs; a bigger budget may not produce better results. The marketing modes I have tried include billboard ads, radio ads, newspaper ads, Google ads, paid digital marketing, local yellow page ads, social media, client-referral programs, reward programs, direct marketing, and internal marketing. All plans had their advantages, but the most effective, for us, has been the internal marketing of services. Often, we forget that it is far easier and less expensive to recapture noncompliant customers and increase compliance levels for underutilized services rather than focusing on the acquisition of new clients. You may not need to add one more client to increase your revenue significantly. Therefore, capturing this low-hanging fruit in services may be a good place to start.

In my opinion, the best way to market a practice is to focus on what your practice does really well and communicate that to as many people as you can. Remember, the most expensive marketing campaign is the one that doesn’t work. Therefore, know your audience, measure your results, and try different modes of marketing to see what works best for your practice in your area. Never stop marketing yourself and your services to your clients; it will produce not only a healthier practice but also healthier patients.

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson DVM, MBA, CCRP, is a director on the AAHA Board of Directors. He is owner and hospital director of Country Hills Pet Hospital in Eden, Wisconsin, which was the AAHA-Accredited Practice of the Year in 2018.

Low-Cost Staff Holiday Gifts

Searching for the right holiday gifts to show appreciation to your team? Try one of these low-cost trends.

  • Personalized gear. Mugs, T-shirts, socks, hats, tote bags—anything can be personalized with team members’ names, the name of your practice, or a unique message all your own.
  • Practical items for working in your practice. Look for things your team needs to do their jobs more efficiently. Something as simple as a high-quality pen can improve someone’s workday and be a reminder that they are appreciated.
  • Gift cards. Go beyond the standard gift card and buy team members credits to rent a movie online or to download an audiobook.
  • Care packages. Assemble a holiday TLC package with snacks, tissues, hand sanitizer, lip balm, and other goodies.
  • Creativity tools. Who can resist fresh art supplies? And getting creative is great stress relief. Gift your tired team adult coloring books or bound journals.

We’d love to hear your staff-appreciation ideas in the AAHA-Accredited Members Facebook Group!

Virtual Options Continue for Connexity 2021

We’re taking what we’ve learned from the first all-virtual Connexity this year to inform changes and improve online capabilities for 2021.

“The transition to an online-only conference was a huge undertaking for AAHA, but it also taught us a lot about how to deliver Connexity’s CE and networking opportunities digitally,” said Erin Parrott, CMP, AAHA’s senior manager of meetings and events.

While the association plans to continue in-person events whenever possible, newly expanded virtual options allow for more people to participate through single-day registrations and on-demand viewing options. Registered guests can watch recordings of sessions for a full year following the conference.

“Many practices didn’t have the time to get away for the entire live Connexity conference this year with COVID-19, so the on-demand option allowed us to open up this content for a longer period of time and generate more engagement to give the best offerings to our members,” Parrott said. “We hope to continuously improve AAHA’s virtual CE so we can share this content with as much of the veterinary profession as possible.”

Purchase on-demand access to Connexity 2020 sessions and stay informed about Connexity 2021 at



Dear AAHA,

Do you have any insight on how to deal with angry clients? December can be particularly tough because of the holidays. Clients can be more stressed and emotional than normal—as well as more sensitive to spending money.

—Holiday Cheerful  in Chattanooga

Dear Holiday Cheerful,

These are always difficult situations, and there aren’t easy answers. Every practice should have a client-conflict protocol to prepare team members for just these types of scenarios. We recommend the Aspire course “Mastering Difficult Client Communications,” available through AAHA Learning. The helpful NEWStat article “How to handle angry clients without losing your cool” is also available. There are also many great resources in the AAHA Press Store, including Exceptional Customer Experience: 80 Tips for Compassionate Care, Clear Communication, and Authentic Client Connections. We wish you luck!

—AAHA’s Member Experience Team

Have a question you’d like AAHA to answer? Email us at

Photo credits: iStock via Getty Images Plus



Subscribe to NEWStat