Operating a successful veterinary practice is often more about the art of balancing than luck of the draw. Working with thin profit margins, it’s in the practice owner’s best interests to protect the budget as closely as possible.
However, operating on a tight or shoestring budget presents a unique set of challenges. Experts say that good marketing brings success — but can this be done without a full-scale marketing budget?
First and foremost, every practice must have some sort of marketing strategy. Even if the office is constantly busy with appointments, there will always be a competitor to chase or a new industry trend to incorporate. The customer life cycle is one that must always be cultivated, so shirking on marketing simply isn’t a good business decision.
In addition, marketing requires knowledge, skill, and perspective. Reaching new customers can be challenging, but with a bit of assistance even the smallest practice can elevate its marketing to a new level.
Luckily, there is a plethora of free or essentially free tools available that can help practice owners or office managers with their marketing. Particularly for those who find themselves short on time, budget, or both, these tools can prove invaluable.
Best for: Design
Canva is a gold mine for those wanting to produce visually appealing graphics. In fact, it’s a wonder that Canva is free, with robust features available to even the most basic users.
Designed to make graphic creation as simple and intuitive as possible, Canva offers an array of features such as templates, font choices, and as much control over the aesthetic of a design as anyone could want.
Strong creative assets can go a long way toward supporting a business. Clean, appealing graphics that catch the eye elevate the quality of the brand in the consumer’s eyes. This applies to veterinary practices too.
Instead of relying on old-fashioned flyers created in Microsoft Paint (is that even around anymore?), turn to Canva and take the visual marketing up a notch.
Best for: Email
More and more businesses are turning to email marketing as a way to cultivate customer relationships. Email marketing is a fantastic opportunity for veterinary practices to stay in touch with their customer base.
After all, pet owners in particular love to know as much as possible about caring for their animals and ensuring their overall well-being. As the pet population continues its explosive growth trend, owners will continue to be more involved in the health and care of their animals.
And so, email is a way to achieve customer loyalty. But it seems that email marketing platforms are a dime a dozen, all boasting about different options and capabilities.
Mailchimp offers several tiers of capability within its simple and intuitive email platform. Its free account option is enough for a mailing list of 2,000 emails or less. Mailchimp also offers easy, drag-and-drop design templates for making emails visually appealing and engaging.
With marketing, eliminating steps and guesswork and making the end product something that a customer will engage with is the ultimate goal. Mailchimp helps simplify email marketing, making this an even more accessible option than ever before.
Best for: Social Media
Social media can be tedious to manage day in and day out. Fortunately, there are many tools intended to make social media management and planning a bit simpler.
But often, they cost an arm and a leg, designed for businesses with more robust budgets or multiple accounts to juggle. One of the more competitive platforms with a free account option is Buffer.
Buffer allows users to schedule posts for social media platforms and analyze results from each post over time. Both of these are important elements to managing and growing a practice’s social media presence.
Rather than dealing with social media on a daily basis, Buffer allows for bulk scheduling. And while it’s not a good practice to “set it and forget it,” having a scheduling tool allows you to allot time for managing social media.
Reporting is an important part of growing social media. After all, why post content if it doesn’t bring measurable results? Buffer has a fairly robust reporting capability, even at the free level, that will give managers an eye into what type of content does well among users following the practice.
Best for: Analytics
Linking a practice’s website to Google Analytics is simple and requires just a small snippet of code installed on the website’s backend. Once this is done, the information provided can almost be overwhelming to someone who isn’t familiar with how to interpret it.
Maintaining a strong online presence, particularly given modern reliance on the internet, is an integral part of success for a practice of any size. Google Analytics makes the process of gathering and analyzing information simpler.
By implementing it on the practice website, managers can see exactly how useful the website and its content are for customer growth and retention. Google Analytics monitors everything from traffic or referral sources to the success of marketing campaigns and ads.
While Google Analytics can take a bit more time to get familiar with, the appealing feature is that it can be used as much or as little as a veterinary practice finds is best for its needs.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all option for optimizing a practice’s digital footprint and marketing strategy. This must be approached individually, with a clear idea of what the intent and goals of the strategy are.
Marketing doesn’t have to be overly complicated or costly. With the help of these powerful free tools, a veterinary practice can optimize its marketing approach and harness the power of digital software to help grow its customer base without the need to constantly monitor each element or, more importantly, spend thousands of dollars.