Finding good clients
I'VE WATCHED SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS, glued to the TV screen, to see what new tactics businesses will use to woo clients to their wares. Companies spend millions on these creations to grab customers in 30 seconds or less. Equally remarkable is that with minimal advertising, Google established itself as a household word.
What these different strategies—and price tags—say to me is that there's more than one way to attract clients. That's good, because horse owners are a varied group. And so are equine veterinarians. The key is to match up the client with a veterinarian who meshes with his or her mindset.
Types of clientsFor some, horse ownership is purely a business. They make their decisions based on the cost, benefit, and bottom line. "Will the cost of the treatment and likelihood of success provide a good return on my investment?" they ask.
More plentiful are hobbyhorse owners, who make decisions based on what's best for their animals, from regular vaccinations to an expensive colic surgery.
Trainers often fall somewhere between these poles. They want the healthy horse to stay in their barn; perform adequately; and be a positive asset, for example, by garnering ribbons for its owner or by being a potential lucrative sales prospect. But the question "What's best?" may not always be the first one they ask.
When a client seeks a veterinarian, he or she is looking for someone who responds to his or her needs and offers quality veterinary services. The location of the practice and the anticipated costs may not be as important as the client service and level of patient care.
Pulling clients in
The old "just hang out a shingle" marketing plan may still work for some mixed animal practitioners in small rural areas. But with fewer people living and working on farms and ranches, most equine veterinarians will need other ways to attract clients.
Advertising, which until about 25 years ago was considered taboo, is now mainstream. Some ways to introduce your practice to potential new clients: advertise in telephone directories and equine publications, sponsor community equine events, and maintain a practice Web site.
You could also speak at an exhibition or fair; or 4-H, FFA, or breeder association meetings. Such speaking engagements are an honor—and you can introduce yourself to potential clients.
If you're a specialist or have a professional area of expertise, you may not think of it this way, but your colleagues are also potential clients. Consider speaking at various seminars, local associations' meetings, or the AAEP convention. Public speaking gives you an excellent opportunity to communicate with your peers and establish your credibility as an expert.
Strategies to keep clients
Once you've attracted clients, you need to provide high-quality service that meets their needs. Some basics:
Of course, emergencies and traffic jams happen. But with today's rapid communication solutions, there's just no reason not to call the client when you're running late, explain the reason for the delay, and determine when and how to complete the appointment. Offer to reschedule if you need to.
Most horse owners understand that emergencies take precedence; after all, they'd want the same treatment if it were their horse. But they want to know ahead of time when possible.