Perhaps fewer clients are beating a path to your door. Maybe the schedule's a little less full or your bottom line looks a
little anemic. Small comfort, maybe, but you're not the only one. Although many veterinary practice owners are getting better
at boosting their per-client transaction, with the slower economy and increased competition, they're seeing fewer visits.
An average full-time veterinarian should generate about 3,200 professional transactions a year, but many of you are struggling
to do so. If that's the case for your clinic, it's time to put those door hinges to work. Here are five strategies for getting
more clients into your clinic.
1. Re-energize your reminder system
Start by evaluating your reminder system. It should be 80 to 85 percent effective, meaning that after you complete the entire
reminder system protocol, you've generated an 80 to 85 percent response rate. If your response is lower, ask yourself these
questions. Are you sending out e-mail reminders? How many reminders are you sending out? How long do you wait between reminders?
In many practices, e-mail reminders or text message reminders can increase reminder effectiveness by as much as 17 percent.
There's no perfect reminder system, and you'll need to customize your system to your practice. But in general, sending three
reminders 30 days apart offers the best results. For example, you might mail a basic postcard for the first reminder, a tri-fold
letter for the second, and a pet health reminder postcard for the final reminder. I recommend sending an e-mail along with
each of these reminders. You may also consider outsourcing reminders so you know they're getting done—and your team can focus
on other projects.
If you look at the number of clients who've visited your clinic in the last year who aren't receiving any reminders from your
practice, you may be shocked. Your veterinary software can generate a report to identify these clients. They may have brought
their pets in for skin, eye, or ear problems or some other medical condition, but because no one ever asked about vaccination
history, parasite prevention, wellness exam schedule, or nutrition regimen, your team never entered reminders into the computer.
You'll never see these patients again, unless they're ill or need medical attention. This is unacceptable from a preventive
care point of view. It's also an enormous opportunity for your practice.
Next, look for pets with expired reminders. Maybe you vaccinated them or input reminder information in the computer, but those
reminders expired. Print a report listing these patients and send their owners a purging letter or contact them to see if
they'd like to bring their pets up to date on their preventive procedures (to download a sample letter, click here).
2. Launch a practice outreach program
Have you ever called the owner of a local business, such as a pet shop, pet grooming salon, doggy daycare, or training facility,
and introduced yourself? Animal-related businesses often share the same clients. Think about how many new clients you might
attract if you could develop a relationship with a local facility that referred people to your hospital. Of course, you must
be careful that the business you reach out to has a good reputation and offers high-quality care and service. And if you offer
boarding or grooming, you probably don't want to approach other boarding or grooming facilities. But how about cat clubs,
ferret clubs, dog training facilities, or pet shops in your area? Once you make the call, you'll probably find a receptive
voice on the other side.
I know an associate who visited a local pet store and invited the owner to lunch. After lunch, they toured the veterinary
practice. Next, the practice held an educational meeting for the pet store employees on first aid for animals and signs of
an animal in distress. Finally, they then gave pet store employees a VIP tour of the practice. Since that time, the hospital
has seen a 70 percent increase in new clients. Most of these new clients are referrals from the pet store. When customers
ask pet store employees which veterinarian they recommend, they can tell pet owners about their positive experience—for example,
"I took a tour a few months ago and spoke to the doctors at ABC Animal Clinic. It's an awesome place!"