Most veterinary practice leaders want to grow their practices and strive to implement marketing initiatives that will result
in increased revenues for the practice. Unfortunately, the efforts by many veterinarians and managers fall short due to a
lack of proper planning. Without appropriate marketing planning, the execution of marketing plans tends to be less effective
and the desired results of increased revenues or enhanced profitability may not be achieved. Proper planning includes making
assessments about the current status of the practice and analyzing hospital data in order to develop marketing goals that
are tied to improving the financial health of the practice.
Organization and planning is the foundation for successful marketing plans. Before writing a marketing plan, engage in strategic
planning on an annual basis. Strategic planning starts with developing a clear vision and/or mission for the practice if
you have not already developed these statements. The mission statement usually defines the core purpose of the organization
while the vision is generally a loftier statement that creates a picture for where the practice wants to be- it is more long-term
in focus. Marketing initiatives should be aligned with the mission and vision of the business. Likewise, the entire healthcare
team needs to know and understand the mission and vision of the practice so they can fulfill their critical roles in achieving
the practice goals.
Strategic planning also includes performing a situational analysis or SWOT analysis which refers to strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities and threats of the business. Strengths and weaknesses involve an internal assessment of the business while
opportunities and threats involve an external focus on the competitive environment. It is beneficial to involve staff in
the SWOT analysis since team members often have knowledge, creative ideas for marketing and excellent feedback that can augment
the assessments of the leadership team.
A thorough SWOT analysis helps practices focus on developing appropriate and effective marketing objectives. Carefully consider
the information gathered from the SWOT analysis. For example, what did you discover about your client service? Is it mediocre
or exceptional? If the SWOT revealed that client service is a weakness due to some communication problems, then marketing
efforts should center on improving service. Likewise, if a potential threat to the business is reduction in caseload due
to competition, then marketing efforts should center on how to minimize or overcome this threat. Perhaps the practice needs
to consider offering new services to be competitive. Maybe the staff needs further training in client communication.
Tracking Key Performance Indicators
Analyzing financial data and hospital data as well as trends in the data helps to guide marketing decisions. For example,
are revenues increasing, decreasing or stagnant? Which profit centers are stagnant or decreasing? Are new client numbers
per month stagnant or declining? How does the practice measure up based on industry benchmarks? Answering these questions
and many more will help you know which marketing goals make the most sense for your practice. Let's take a look at some of
the key performance indicators or KPIs that every practice should routinely monitor.
Revenues need to be tracked on a monthly basis and compared to the same month from the prior year. Don't forget to look at
trends. A slight dip in revenues for one month may not be a concern but a steady downward trend is a problem. The sooner
you notice a decline in revenues or a downward trend, the sooner you can take action to improve revenues. Regardless of whether
revenues are up, down or stagnant, further analysis needs to occur to see what is driving the numbers. For example, revenues
might be up to a price increase that was instituted the prior month or quarter. But maybe the number of client transactions
is down. Don't be complacent and miss the fact that the number of clients or pets being seen is declining.