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Issue: 71 - Nov 14, 2014
Breed Specific Client Education
By: Dr. Steve Kornfeld, DVM, CPCC
Veterinary Success Services

Let's say you came across a new medication for heart disease in dogs. You want to educate your clients on this breakthrough drug and create demand for it. So you send an e-mail to everyone in your database, and you even send letters and postcards to those clients whose e-mail you do not have.

What is the response? Likely close to zero.

Now you ponder, “How can I get a better response?” You have an idea; heart disease is more prevalent in older dogs. Great. You identify all your senior dogs and send their owners a message. However, this time you connect it to the age of their pets.

The response? Much better, but not overwhelming.

Now you have a brilliant idea: “What breeds of dogs are most likely to develop heart disease as they age?” Good questions yield good answers. You do a quick research and come up with five breeds. You now go to your management software and pull out all the names of such breeds and their owners. You then craft a new message, talking about the drug, the treatment and the benefits to their dogs because of their breed. Granted, the list is quite smaller than the original one, but no matter, the response is outstanding. Why is it?

It is because identifying a specific group of clients allows creating a specific message, thus making people feel you are speaking to them personally and that you understand what worries them. Hence the great response.

Now think of the myriad other breed related issues in your patient database and you can see an awesome opportunity to provide specific, to the point, education to your clients and as a result, a great opportunity to you.

Breed-specific client education can begin on two fronts: One is whenever purebred puppies or kittens are first brought in for vaccination. It is time to talk to the clients about future possible issues specific to that breed. The seeds for all future communications are then planted and followed regularly. If at the time of the first visit you can accompany your verbal education with some printed material, you will be far ahead in educating your clients and preparing them for future exams.

Create specific reminder codes and enter them into your system after such visits. These codes should trigger follow up messages at regular intervals.

Consider this as a customized program for your clients and their pets. For each purebred you see create a user's manual. In this manual, a folder they will take home with them and bring back on their next visit, incorporate all the steps and areas to pay attention to in the life of this specific pet; what specific tests to perform and what issues to look for every year at a young age, and twice a year when the pet is older. Each year you will add more information to this folder which will allow the owners to stay on track with what their pets need. Make sure to attach a picture of the pet in the front of this folder. In successive visits, replace the picture with an updated one. This way, the information in the folder will always stay fresh in your clients' minds.

The second way to build a breed specific department is to identify the 5-10 most common pure bred dogs and cats in your practice, and to begin educating them on what matters to them. Such messages may include e-mails to owners of purebred pets with specific information pertinent to them. Messages can be leveraged by a designated page on your website and social media. These media can have more elaborate information about breed related issues and should include a few testimonials from happy clients who have received service at your practice. You should also consider following up through phone calls to the top 5-10% clients in these lists to educate and offer them to come in for exam.

If you follow this systematically you are likely to generate great interest among your clients. However, what will make this program truly successful is educating your team to answer clients' questions about breed related issues and show value with every interaction. A knowledgeable team will understand the value of the service and will be enthusiastic when talking with clients. Part of this education will also include training your team to call clients to action. Every communication needs to have a purpose and the team should be able to ask clients to take action based on it.

A creative idea to build your breed specific program: Offer free breed selection assistance to anybody considering acquiring a new pet. Put a message on your home page and invite anyone to make a free consultation with you on the best pet for them. Your advice could be around their lifestyle, age group, age of children, etc. Once you help people zero in on their favorite breed, offer them a free or a reduced price on their first visit. This will likely turn them into long-term clients.

By creating a breed-specific, pet specific, plan for each client, they will get the feeling that they are unique in that the kind of care they receive was created with them in mind. This will greatly increase their bond with you and their readiness to comply with the recommendations throughout their pets' lives.

To summarize, there is greatly untapped opportunity in your practice: breed specific client and team education. Build it once and enjoy it for many years.