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Helen is an exceptional veterinary professional. She’s been running her own veterinary practice for several years now. Her clients love her and have great trust in her.

However, she feels that she has hit a plateau because her business is not growing at the rate she would like. Finding ways to attract new clients is challenging, frustrating and intimidating for her.

She doesn’t really enjoy marketing, and her efforts have been ineffective because she’s uncomfortable promoting herself. She believes that being a good veterinarian should be more than enough to attract new clients to her practice. She relies on word of mouth to attract clients, but with growing competition in the veterinary profession this is no longer enough.

Does Helen’s situation sound familiar? Maybe you are facing similar challenges in attracting more clients and generating the full earnings potential of your business. Vet school did not prepare you for the business world. You had to go through long years of study to obtain the knowledge and skills required to be a good veterinary practitioner. And then you decided to start your own private practice. And this was an entirely new experience. An experience that requires a totally different skill set.

You want to make a difference! You are talented at what you are doing and you love helping your patients. But maybe you’re not attracting as many clients as you would like. You assume it will just happen naturally since you are good at what you do. But this is not always the case and this is why you need a marketing strategy in order to make more people aware of what you are offering, to show how you are better than competition and attract more of the clients that you prefer to work with.

Helen is in exactly this same place! And she too has been wondering what she could do differently with her business.

Let’s take a look at seven common mistakes that Helen makes that prevent her from attracting more and better clients.

 

1.    She starts with the wrong mindset

Marketing can be particularly challenging. Why? Because there’s always the possibility of rejection. When we put out our message and present our services there’s always a possibility that people might not be interested. This is why Helen, like many other veterinary practice owners, tends to avoid or resist marketing activities.

The first thing Helen needs to realize is that her own mindset is the major obstacle to the growth of her business. Like everything else in life, our attitude and mindset determine how we approach something and whether or not we succeed.

Tony Robbins says that 20% of the obstacles are around the mechanics of running a business and 80% have to do with your psychology – that is, your own fears, limits and stories about why your practice isn’t where you want it to be.

Most people think that they need to change their strategy to make real change. Whilst strategy is absolutely important, it’s not the first element to start with. Take a moment and think about your perceived limitations. They may be the “reasons” why you’ve convinced yourself you can’t achieve something.

Here are some of Helen’s limiting beliefs:

  • Marketing is bragging about what I am doing, it feels unnatural. It’s simply not me!
  • If I write this article on pet care nobody will like it and I will make a fool of myself
  • Clients get so frustrated from prices. They constantly blame me for charging them a fortune.

What does it cost Helen to think in this way? The cost is never moving an inch in her marketing, not attracting clients, and staying indefinitely stuck.

Helen has to realize that these thoughts are blocking her success and are probably not true; she needs to start exploring alternative and more realistic beliefs: “Marketing is about helping my clients learn what I am doing and to make informed decisions” or:  “Some people will like my article and might even think I’m smart for writing it.”

This shift of mindset through working with her marketing coach can have a more profound impact on Helen’s marketing effectiveness than anything else.

 

2.    She doesn’t realize the kind of business she is in

One of the most important questions Helen has to answer when working with her marketing coach is: “What kind of business am I in?”

This question may sound strange. Isn’t it obvious that Helen is in the veterinary business or the animal health business? What if I tell you that this may not be the case?

A dentist for example may think he is in the dental health business, but he could actually be in the business of creating beautiful smiles, or ‘lighting’ people up. Apple may seem to be in the technology business, but in fact they are in the business of connecting people with their favorite music and photos and with other people.

Helen as a companion-animal veterinary practitioner is in the business of making people happier and emotionally healthier by enhancing the relationship with their pets. And she does this by helping the pets live happier, longer and healthier lives. So when anyone asks her about what she does, instead of talking about the process, she now talks about the value that she brings to her clients and patients.

Remember, people don’t care about the process, they care about what they ultimately get. In order to create a powerful marketing message that will attract more clients you need to focus on the value you bring, not the process you must follow to achieve this result. If people go to the dentist or the doctor, they don’t want to focus on the pain and the process. They want to think about the fact that they are going to get the most beautiful smile of their life.

 

3.    She doesn’t know who her Ideal Client is

One of the first marketing exercises I had to go through when I was setting up my coaching business was to define the profile of my ideal client. And I was quite resistant to this exercise. Why can’t I coach everyone? Why should I restrict myself to a certain target group? Isn’t this limiting my potential target audience?

But those of you that have been in practice for some time know very well that there are clients that you love working with and clients that can be a real pain.

So how can you attract more of the clients that you love working with? This will make your work more fun and fulfilling and eventually your business more profitable. To be able to attract more of your ideal clients you need to have a clear understanding of who they are.

Helen went through the same exercise. She developed a simple profile of her ideal client. She described her ideal client in terms of demographics—age, sex, family composition, earnings and geographic location – and psychographics character, values and philosophy.

She also described her client’s needs and pain points. By understanding what her client’s issues are, she has a better understanding of whether or not her services provide a solution. Because every problem her customer has is an opportunity for her to provide the solution

She also determined where her ideal client works, where she networks, what websites she visits, what social media she is using, whether she is reading emails, newsletters, blogs, etc and where and how she can connect with her.

Helen came to realize that her initial lack of understanding of her target client made her marketing message too generic and less powerful. When she described her ideal client in great detail she was able to refine her message in order to speak directly to her client’s heart and mind. She was also able to develop a strategic marketing plan in order to target and to connect with her client though the channels that the client is using.

 

4.    She doesn’t know her Competitive Advantage

“What makes you different than the other veterinary professionals who do the same as you?” Helen’s marketing coach asked her: “If you’re pretty much the same as everyone else, why should your clients choose you?”

Helen needs to remember that she has competition. She needs to be able to clearly articulate the benefits that she provides and how these set her apart from her competitors.  But she should also have a clear understanding of what her competitors are offering and be able to show how her services provide more value.

There are many ways to differentiate yourself from your competition:

  • Your track record and list of clients
  • Your unique approach that gets better results
  • The targeted market you serve
  • The extra value you provide

One of the best and simplest tools you can use to determine what makes you different to competition is the SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Run this process for your business and be honest with yourself, and also very clear about what your competition brings to the table.

By exploring this process you will be able to determine which strengths you can rely on and how to best distinguish your business, and which areas you need to improve.

 

5.    She underestimates the power of connecting with her clients on an Emotional Level

Helen is an exceptional veterinary professional with an impressive CV. The “About me” page on her website clearly communicates her admirable credentials obtained through long study and hard work. But what doesn’t come through in the description on this page is Helen’s warm and engaging personality, her inspiring presence, her love and dedication to her patients, her strong values and remarkable contribution as a mother, wife, professional and active member of her local community.

Why is it important for Helen to share this information on her website? Because the most frequently visited page in the websites of vet professionals besides the homepage is the ‘About Us’ page. This is the page your clients visit to find out more about you! And this is where you can really connect with them.

Helen needs to share information about herself that proves not only that she can offer the services she promises, but also that she is an interesting and dynamic person. This page should also express her special interests, her values and how passionate she is about her patients and their wellbeing. When she clearly states her values she will be able to attract and connect with people that share the same values, and these are very likely her Ideal Clients!

 

6.    She doesn’t leverage Success Stories

Helen is a successful vet that has retained lots of happy clients for many years, but she is doing nothing to make sure her future clients know about it. She could use several success stories that prove she delivers what she promises.

Many people choose a veterinary practice based on its track record above everything else. They want to know who your patients are, what you did for them, how you served their unique needs and how you solved problems. They want to know that you are competent, reliable, trustworthy and responsive. If you are all of those things, don’t hide them! Tell your clients in your marketing materials, on your website, Facebook page, your blog or on Instagram. Don’t be afraid to ask your happy clients for testimonials.

How can you get a good testimonial? Ask your clients to describe in their own words the problems they were experiencing with their pet, how things improved after the treatment, what did they appreciated the most from their experience with your clinic. Keep the questions short and simple. It is important that questions are open ended to allow the client to describe in her own words.

Remember stories are powerful and there is nothing better that you can use to persuade someone.

 

7.    She has no Strategy on Generating Referrals

When I ask vets how they find most of their clients, the answer is almost always, “through word-of-mouth.” That is, clients who are happy and who refer new clients to them.

This is both good news and bad news. It is good news because, if you’re getting a lot of business through word-of mouth, it means you’re doing a great job.  It is bad news because if most of your business is coming from word-of-mouth, you may be taking a rather passive attitude with your marketing.

You’re just waiting for the referrals to come in. You’re not doing much else to generate new business. Now the funny thing about word-of-mouth is that although much of our business comes this way, very few vets have a strategy to increase word of-mouth business.

It is easy to assume that the client will tell others naturally because

they have had a good experience. In reality only 10-20% of your happy clients will take the initiative to tell others without prompting. Most people need to be told what to do!

This is exactly the case with Helen! She feels awkward about asking her happy clients for referrals.  Helen needs the right marketing support to create a system that feels completely natural to implement and is convenient for her client to follow through.

Bringing everything together

In order for Helen to attract more and better clients she will need to:

  • identify what keeps her stuck, adopt the right mindset and overcome limiting beliefs and internal obstacles to her marketing
  • clearly define her mission and how she is adding value to her clients.
  • describe in detail her ideal client and learn how to create a compelling marketing message that speaks to the heart of her clients and connect with them through her personal story.
  • articulate how she is better than competitors and leverage success stories and client testimonials
  • set up an easy to implement system to actively generate referrals.

Marketing is a game of communication. Learning how to communicate in the most appropriate ways will get the attention and interest of your potential clients. The more you communicate, the more the relationship and trust builds.

If you are facing challenges similar to Helen’s take the above steps and you will be able to greatly elevate your marketing. This will result not only in growing your business substantially, but also working with the clients of your choice, something which will greatly increase your job satisfaction.

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