Show, don't tell
To distinguish the practice, the doctors and team members at Columbus Animal Hospital in Columbus, Neb., wanted to spread the word that they're totally dedicated to improving pet health. "A diagnosis may be elusive and treatments may ultimately fail," says Dr. Jim Kramer, CVPM, a partner at Columbus Animal Hospital, "but the people involved can still feel well-treated if they know in their hearts you care deeply and are truly committed to doing your absolute best." Here's what he and his team do to show pet owners they care.
• Encapsulate your niche. Being on the forefront of veterinary medicine is a special aspect of Columbus Animal Hospital. But it's not the whole story. The practice also cultivates a fun-loving atmosphere. To boil these two attributes down into a statement current and potential clients would remember, Dr. Kramer and his team decided to adopt the credo, "Loving our work." Before they put the phrase into use, Dr. Kramer hired a company to conduct a phone survey. The results: People thought the words captured the practice's unique selling point—the idea that the clinic is genuinely interested in people and pets. So Dr. Kramer started incorporating the line into the marketing, and he's still using it—and pet owners are still repeating it—today.• Get noticed. To grow the practice's client base, Dr. Kramer planned a contest in which anyone could submit stories about their pets. He recruited a local printing business, travel agency, and radio station to help pay for ads to promote the contest and to help provide a prize—airfare for two people to anywhere in the continental United States and a cruise to Mexico. Dr. Kramer arranged it so he could read the stories on the radio at predictable times during the day, namely while parents would be driving kids to and from school. At the end of every story, he repeated his name, the practice name, and the credo, "Loving our work."
"We wanted people to hear my voice, think I was a nice guy with a sense of humor who could be trusted, and link our name with our unique selling point," Dr. Kramer says. "It worked. I constantly met people who told me they'd pull over in their cars to listen to the stories and that their kids looked forward to the spots. I also ran into a lot of people who'd say the name of our hospital followed by our credo."
• Walk your talk. The people at Columbus Animal Hospital are devoted to improving pets' lives, which includes being dedicated to the community. The practice hired a mentally-challenged man through a local social agency that arranged work experience for challenged individuals. The man was receiving state health insurance, and his wages at the practice were too high to allow him to keep the policy. Dr. Kramer interceded on the man's behalf. "We just did it as part of our mission," Dr. Kramer says. "But somebody noticed." The practice earned the honor of local Employer of the Year. The newspaper ran a two-page spread about the award, featured the story on the front page, printed heartwarming pictures, and provided a third-party endorsement and publicity better than anyone could buy. Bonus: The whole staff got a morale boost.
Kelly Stazyk is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C. Please send questions or comments to [email protected]