Build a pet health plan that customers want to join and watch it grow…
As subscription-based services become an increasingly large part of life, preventative healthcare plans are becoming the norm in veterinary practice in the UK.
Clients ask for them, and most forward-thinking practices now have one. It’s on the checklist for any practice that wants to grow in a predictable way.
A health plan should be the cornerstone of your business.
With a good pet health plan, your vet practice can:
- Build predictable monthly recurring revenue – a game-changer.
- Identify the proportion of your active clients who WANT to take the best care of their pets – these are the ones you can promote your best-kept-secrets too (often the potentially most profitable services – for example, that diagnostic machine in the corner that you spent thousands on, and thousands learning how to use, but rarely do).
- Encourage loyalty – delight your clients and get them raving about you to friends.
- Reinforce your brand values – Remind them that there is no other vet practice they’d rather bring their pets to.
Perhaps you’re reading this as an established practice that doesn’t yet have a plan, or as a start-up wondering whether to launch a healthcare plan. Perhaps you ticked ‘launch healthcare plan’ off your to-do list, but something about your plan is out-of-line with who you are now, or what you want to achieve.
Whichever point you’re at, this is a good time to go back to basics and do a quick audit.
Is your current path still heading towards your end-goal? What are you doing, and do you know/remember why?
Every now and then – and I’m talking personally and professionally – it’s important to take stock of where you are and where you’re heading. Small decisions in life can often build steps on our path without us really noticing, and at some point, you realise that – whilst you made every decision with the best of intentions – things aren’t quite how you wanted. Your health plan is no exception, and it’s rarely too late to make a few adjustments to your direction.
Your 4-point pet health plan audit…
1. What makes you, YOU?
Before making changes to your pet health plan, take a look at the local community and identify who your best clients are.
Is your current branding and marketing appealing
directly to customers or addressing any of their needs?
Working out what makes your clients tick
Are they busy people? Do they need a more straightforward way to keep up with parasiticides and vaccinations? Would they benefit from a home delivery service?
Are your clients’ budget-conscious pet lovers? Would they benefit from a way to split the cost of essential healthcare across monthly payments?
How do your clients spend their day? Do they shop at other local independent businesses, read the local paper, get most of their information online?
What do they value? – transparent treatment plans and pricing with clear explanations of what’s essential and what’s ‘nice to have’? Appointments with vets they know or have heard of?
Or, do they prefer an easy, truncated ‘essentials’ approach and have a just-get-it-done approach?
You have to be relevant to the lives of the people who use your services. Speak to them directly with your marketing. Show them how you can make their lives better and easier. Without spending time thinking about who they are and what they value, how can you expect to get this, right?
Understanding your customer’s needs
will help work out what your messaging needs to be.
Are you offering savings for the budget-conscious, or are you offering reassurance to those who just want to do what’s best?
Look at your brand and all you believe in.
Your clients have an emotional response to your messaging.
Whether subconsciously or consciously, those emotional responses become – in your clients’ minds – your brand.
And, the triggers for those emotional responses are many and varied: how easy it was to find you online, the reviews others have left online, your website and how easy (or not!) it is to navigate, the greeting they receive when they call the practice, how easy it is to park, the smile from your receptionist when they walk in the door, the smell of your waiting room, the feel of the paper they touch while they read your leaflets, the fuss your team makes of their pet before, during and after each appointment, uniforms your team wear, the advertisement they see online, the video they watch of other clients telling their story.
And this is before they’ve even spoken to a vet.
In the words of Simon Sinek, “Find your WHY“.
Are you a gold-standard practice who offer the best of everything? Fantastic anaesthetic safety standards, gold cat-friendly status, and embraces – and uses – modern technology.
Are you a community-focussed and caring veterinary practice that values time with clients and their pets. Do you go above and beyond to keep customers informed while their pet is with you for the day? Does your practice embrace the local ‘In Bloom’ festival?
Does your health plan – as well as everything else – accurately reflect this ‘Why’?
2. What’s in your pet plan?
Is your product right for your clients?
When evaluating the new, valuable demographics you have about your clients, are you giving them something they want?
If they want a way to budget, are the savings of membership clearly outlined?
Maybe they want a plan that offers VIP service, that provides them with total reassurance?
Is your product right for your practice?
Have you checked your margins recently? Your plan doesn’t need to make a lot of money IF you’re using it as a gateway to chargeable clinical work – which you definitely should be – but it shouldn’t make a loss. If there hasn’t been a price increase for a while, it’s time for a review.
If you’ve decided to include unlimited consultations, are you using these as an opportunity to identify and charge properly for any follow-on work?
Your plan should be the backbone of your business.
Engage existing clients by reminding them of the benefits membership brings. Advertise to new clients by designing a targeted marketing campaign that shows how your services will benefit their pet.
3. Does anyone know about your pet health plan, and will existing members renew?
Vet Success uses a marketing model called the Customer Journey Map to audit and strategically plan future marketing for vet practices.
Our tried and tested model follows the journey of the client. Illustrating the journey from initial awareness, to advocacy.
In essence, it mirrors the stages of a healthy human, relationship growth.
With good marketing, we can predictably move a customer from one stage of the journey to the next.
Left to their own devices, clients can drop out of this journey map. They may end up forgetting why they chose your practice in the first place, never mind why they joined your health plan, or whether they took full advantage of its benefits.
The stages of the Customer Value Journey are:
Look at your touchpoints at each step of this journey. Is your advertising strategy showing people what you offer, and does it encourage them to move seamlessly from one stage to the next?
- What’s the call to action?
- Where’s the incentive?
- What’s in it for them?
Don’t be afraid of an ‘ethical bribe’, e.g. send them to your website and ask for their email address in return for a useful download.
Create useful auto-responders to gently remind them you are there and put your brand at the forefront of their mind when they need veterinary healthcare.
Remember – people buy when it suits them, not when it suits us.
When your clients first come to the vet practice, do you exceed their expectations? Don’t just meet customers, engage them! – Clients are more satisfied if they depart with genuine, positive feelings.
Check your processes.
What’s your onboarding process like for new clients? Have you given them a welcome pack?
A follow-up email saying thanks for registering, letting them know that you want to take the best care of them and their pet and have designed a health plan to make that possible?
What’s your client hand-over process like?
Do you know if a vet has spoken to the client about the health plan and would like you to continue the conversation?
Do you do these things consistently, for all new clients?
Once clients become members of your healthcare plan, how do you EXCITE them?
Do they know they’re special?
Are they reminded of all the benefits now available to them?
We find that people are happy to receive monthly e-newsletters – especially emails that address the needs of their pet. Merely reminding customers of the ways you will take care of their pet goes a long way to retaining their custom and helps push them to the next stage of the customer journey.
4. Everyone in the practice needs to BELIEVE
Your healthcare plan may be right for you and your client, and maybe you have a clear and robust marketing plan, but all of this is in vain if your staff don’t truly believe in the plan and feel comfortable talking about the benefits.
A carefully thought through call-to-action on your new door-drop leaflet should get customers calling to ask for more information. However, if they’re met with a negative response, or told to “just mention it next time they’re in”, that investment is wasted. Your team are your in-house advocates – they need to be enthusiastic and endearing.
To help the team get behind the new initiative, use paid-for training or lunchtime meetings – whip up some excitement and to help everyone understand:
Why the plan is best for the practice:
- predictable revenue,
- bonded clients,
- a gateway to chargeable clinical work,
And, why the plan is great for the client
- easy to set up,
- easy to budget monthly with a direct debit
- it’s the best way to provide routine preventative care,
- year-round protection for their family,
- potentially expensive conditions can be spotted before they become difficult and more costly to treat,
And, for the pet
- year-round consistent protection,
- they get seen more often so health issues can be spotted early, which allows for the best chance of a positive outcome.
Of course, the team will only be enthusiastic if you are too! Your energy and direction will ENABLE them to have conversations about the plan and promote it in a way that doesn’t feel like selling (often a major concern for staff).
Once they BELEIVE in the plan, it will instantly be more natural if they understand why membership represents the best choice for a client’s pet.
Would your team choose membership for their own pets?
And – perhaps the real acid test – would each person in your team recommend membership for their mum’s pet(s)?
Re-framing the conversation so that it doesn’t feel like sales patter, but as a genuine recommendation for the best interests of the pet is one of the keys to unlocking your growth potential.
Your practice health plan is exactly that – YOUR practice health plan.
It should be a thing of pride for all the team and accurately reflect where you, veterinary medicine and your clients are now. Don’t be afraid to rethink it and tweak it. Evolve and be proud.