Footprints = profits

Footprints = profits

Is two- and four-legged traffic light on your doorstep? Are new faces rare in your waiting room? Attract new clients with these easy-to-implement, practical techniques.
Mar 01, 2008

Let me share a few quick facts for your consideration. A mature veterinary prac­tice is expected to:

1. Bring in 25 to 30 new clients per month per full-time veterinarian.

2. Retain at least 60 percent of its client base from year to year, and

3. Add more clients than it loses.

If those statistics start you sobbing, don't ­despair—just follow the feet. The best way to generate new clients is still word-of-mouth. Here are proven strategies for bringing in new ­patients—and for keeping them.

Get referrals from your refer-ees

Do you refer clients to a groomer, boarding facility, obedience trainer, pet shop, or other animal-related business? Does that business then refer back to you? You can improve the frequency of those reciprocal referrals by strengthening your relationship with these pet care providers. It just takes a little schmoozing and educating. Here's how:

  • Invite the groomer to your hospital for a tour, introduce him or her to your employees, and show the groomer how wonderful your practice is.
  • Take the obedience trainer out to lunch.
  • Host an in-clinic seminar for employees of boarding, grooming, and pet supply businesses in the area (with those business owners' permission) about emergency situations, preventive medicine, or pet first aid (see tips on first aid education). These workers will walk away knowing you're the veterinary healthcare expert and they'll be more likely to send their customers your way the next time they ask, "What veterinarian do you recommend?"

In addition to hosting visitors, you or a practice manager could call on these businesses as well. Bring along hospital brochures and business cards so they can pass them along to prospective clients. Then sit back and watch your new client numbers soar.

Increase your thank-yous

You already know you need to thank clients for referring other pet owners to your practice. But put yourself in their place: Wouldn't it be boring to receive the same old form letter every time? It's time to take your referral program to the next level.

It's easy to do. First, come up with a graduated list of rewards. Here's an example:

This strategy is all about positive reinforcement for clients who prove they're good at getting people to your doorstep. But it won't work if you don't find out when these referrals are happening. On your new-client form, always ask, "Who may we thank for referring you to our office?" Or have a team member ask the question when she's entering new-client information into your clinic database during the first visit. However you approach it, don't let this question go unanswered. Everyone comes to your hospital for a reason—a recommendation from a client or pet service provider, your convenient location, or your eye-catching sign. You need to know why.

Note that the list of possible rewards on the left stops at nine. What do you do when a client makes 10 or more referrals to you? You make that person a "preferred client." It's your version of a frequent-flyer program. Invite preferred clients once a year to a client appreciation dinner, send them special newsletters, or hold an open house just for them. Let them know you appreciate them. They'll keep telling their friends, family—and even curious strangers—about their favorite veterinarian.