By: Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA
In Part 1, we discussed the foundational aspects of marketing and more specifically of Retention Marketing including the need for multiple touches and why retaining your clients is a good business move. Now we’ll move on to the 3Rs of Retention Marketing. Before any client leaves your practice, one or more of the 3Rs of Retention Marketing must be documented. What are the 3Rs?
One: Recheck. Two: Recall. Three: Remind.
Rechecks are the process of physically bringing the pet and pet parent back into your practice for a medical progress exam and evaluation of the status of a medical condition or post operatively. Or it includes a hands-on assessment of the pet to determine its health.
Rechecks are very common after skin cases or ear cases. For what other clinical conditions should a standardized recheck protocol exist? Corneal ulcers, bladder infections, post-operative soft tissue surgery, post-operative orthopedic surgery, after the start of chronic medication such as thyroid supplement, etc. Does your practice have a standardized recommendation for rechecks on the most common medical or surgical conditions that you do? If not, put this on your “to do list.” The doctors create the time frame for rechecks and all of the staff are responsible for implementing the program.
Rechecks should be given the message, we care so much about your pet that we want to make sure that the medical or surgical condition from which they suffer is improving, better, or cured before we can give a clean bill of health. The other message is that only a member of your professional healthcare team can truly assess the status of a medical condition. In other words, what looks good at home may still have a festering condition when examined more deeply.
Many clients perceive rechecks as simply a manner for practices to make more money unless you provide value and service associated with them. Thus, treat rechecks with the same importance you treat full physical examinations and let the client understand that value by explaining why they are so important. Remember it is the why that bonds clients not just the what.
If a recheck isn’t really needed, then at least one of the other Rs is.
Recalls are the use of the telephone to reach out to the clients and check on the status of the pet. A recall may be done for everything from a major medical or surgical condition to vaccination visits to boarding, grooming or bathing.
The premise behind a recall is to let the client know how much you care about them and their pet by talking to them and specifically let them know you care. A recall is best done by a ‘people person’ on your staff. If you use an exam room nurse they are a great person to follow up on a case that they worked on in the exam room. Scripts or pre-prepared guidelines allow for accurately addressing the client about their pet’s most recent visit. It is imperative to review the record before the call. Don’t lift the phone without knowing why you are calling.
Recalls also allow for the opportunity to remind clients about any recheck visits that they may have scheduled or should have scheduled.
If you remember the old adage, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care, the recall is the chance to show how much you care. The ultimate goal of a recall is not to directly generate more sales or services. The goal of a recall is to strengthen the relationship that is so important with Retention Marketing. I can’t tell you how often I had a client say, “My doctor doesn’t even call me.”
- Action Item: before a client leaves, ask them: At what number and at what time would it be best for us to call and check on Fluffy?
The final R taps into the use of all media to stay in touch with a client.
Reminders are just that—a reminder. They are communicating to the client by mail, e-mail, fax, phone call, post card, etc. that their pet is in need of some product or service. The old reminder system was used for vaccinations. New reminder systems may include reminders for annual exams, refills on prescriptions, monthly grooming, seasonal boarding, 6 month spay or neuters, or anything where a ‘tickler’ system helps re-initiate a synapse that had been disconnected and with its reconnection lead to an action.
The use of various media allow for you to create a system that best meets your clients needs as different clients may prefer different means of outreach. How do you know what a client wants? You ask them!! How would you like for us to stay in touch with you about Fluffy’s necessary healthcare services? Mail? E-mail? Etc.
Reminders are a great education tool, also. Not only should you be letting a client know that their pet is in need of care but also why they need the care and what will happen if the care is missed. Utilize reminders as one of the 5-12 touches for things such as dental care, senior care, obesity, etc.
Beyond the 3Rs, Retention Marketing is based upon the use of Direct Response Marketing to segments of your client base. As noted above, the 5-12 touches can be used for any service, product, or concern that might exist in pet healthcare. Direct Response Marketing selects a targeted group of your clients, builds an education campaign around the parameters used to select the pets, and then creates educational pieces that will lead to an action.
Step One: Campaign
Choose a campaign area that you want to educate your clients about.
- Example: Senior care (ages seven and up)
Step Two: Segment
Using your computer, select those clients whose pets fall within defined parameters.
- Example: All pets that are seven years or older that have not been in for an exam or lab work in greater than six months.
Step Three: Educate
Create educational pieces on the topic that focus on what you will be doing for the pet and more importantly why it needs to be done. These educational pieces should include: letters, postcards, e-mails, phone calls, website updates, flyers, posters, etc. and even more importantly they should include a call to action and possibly an ‘ethical bribe.’
- Example: why pets change more quickly as they age; what changes may occur; how you can identify those changes; etc.
Step Four: Do It
Set up a timeline and system whereby you will mail, e-mail, call, etc. up to 5-12 times in the next month or so, on the topic chosen.
- Week one a letter
- Week two a postcard and e-mail
- Week three an e-mail
- Week four a postcard and call
Direct Response Marketing is Retention Marketing at its finest. It is letting clients know how much you care by educating them about things that they may not be thinking about and how you can help them out. It is staying in the front of the minds eye of clients that could readily lose touch with you until it was time for a vaccine visit.
Retention Marketing’s success is based upon being consistently in touch with clients to let them know you are there, to let them know that there is no better place for the care of their pets, and to let them know you care about them and their pet.
If you don’t stay in touch, it is very easy for a client to be persuaded by someone else that they are a better choice. By being in touch consistently you are definitely not showing indifference as much as being different and wanting to make a difference in their pet’s lives. Retention Marketing focuses on individual attention, acknowledgement and a feeling that a client is genuinely appreciated.
Simple acts of education and kindness go a long way to building and keeping relationships that last a lifetime.
Replacing lost clients is expensive and time consuming. Keeping them is inexpensive and highly rewarding not only in terms of your bottom line but in the quality of the relationships you create.
If you are interested in learning more about Retention Marketing, you may be interested in Retention Marketing for Veterinary Professionals by Drs. Peter Weinstein and Steven Kornfled. It’s available from Amazon for $80 or if you contact Dr. Weinstein directly at PeterW2@aol.com he will send you the book at a discounted rate of $60 (checks only).