I am becoming depressed by the continual need to defend my beloved profession. I just want to do my job to educate my clients, save the lives I can and ease the suffering of those who walk through my doors. I do not wish to be rich but I do want to keep the doors open so that I might continue to work to help those without a voice. ~ Dr. Janet Henderson, Canada

I read this in a comment on a Facebook page and my jaw dropped. This succinctly describes how I think many veterinarians in practice today feel, myself included.

A-list clients, for those not familiar with the term, are those clients that appreciate how I can help their pet, they value what I do, and support my practice. Not to be confused with A-List celebrities with lots of fame and money. A-list veterinary clients might not have much discretionary income, but they get what I do and support that. They make it possible for me to help patients owned by pet owners that don’t necessarily support my practice.

I started veterinary school when Ronald Reagan was president, which officially makes me old, I think. I remember the days of how it was to practice medicine before the Internet was around. My desire to help patients live long, healthy and happy lives is the same now, as it was back then. The Internet and technology have brought great things to our lives- both in medical practice and treatment options- to everyday things like ordering a pizza.

I believe that a lot of the frustrations of veterinarians are the result of the Internet and being so connected. The challenge is in using technology to help our patients while keeping the doors open. To attract A-list clients that support a practice and value what vets are trained to do, we have to adapt to today’s digital age.

I am reading this book by Sally Hogshead, How the World Sees You. It was published last year. Sally had an award-winning career working in advertising on big brand campaigns- Coca-Cola, Godiva, Nike, and BMW. Her first book, Fascinate- The 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation looked at the 7 ways that brands or companies stood out in the marketplace. It was published in 2010. Shortly thereafter, she began to wonder if the same principles could be applied to people. And they could. “How the World Sees You”, talks about how to identify one’s fascination advantage to stand out, with a question and answer survey, called the Fascination Assessment.

In private practice, we want to help patients of our community. But to do that, we first have to attract the attention of clients- both new and old. We have to stand out in the marketplace to build awareness for veterinary services, help them (clients) understand the value of our services, and educate owners about proper pet care.

According to Sally’s research, there are 3 archenemies for businesses.

The first one is distraction.   People aren’t aware of what we as veterinarians do or offer. Ever had someone walk into your office and ask how long have you been there? Or announce that they didn’t realize that your office was here? Or ask for the mobile groomer’s number in town because they don’t realize that you offer grooming services? Yep, yep, and yep. You have a visibility problem.

The second archenemy is competition.    Depending on where you live, there might be more veterinary hospitals and practicing veterinarians than there used to be. Veterinary class sizes have certainly not gotten smaller or less in numbers. The Internet and mail order pharmacies are certainly competition. Feed stores offer pet medications over the counter. Many rescue organizations blame veterinarians for homeless pets in animal shelters and have started providing veterinary care to clients with no proof that the pet owner actually needs assistance. There is a difference between not being able to afford something and not just wanting to.

The 3rd archenemy is commodity.   And commodities compete on price. Brand loyalty goes out the window. It is a race to the bottom. and you as a veterinarian will lose that race if you try to compete with Walmart, Amazon, Fosters and Smith, and the spay/neuter bus that rolls into town.

Does that sound familiar? As a practice owner do you feel like you’re being squeezed from different directions? And not in a good way? A veterinary hospital is a business, and how does a business stand out in a crowded marketplace?

This was my reason for reading How The World Sees You and where Sally’s research comes in. To be less affected by distraction, competition, and commodity, a business has to standout in the marketplace and community. Focus on how you work best, your strengths, and put more of your personality, values, and beliefs in your practice to attract A list clients that support your practice.

Clients can’t always recognize better and in a competitive market, everyone has strengths. Different is better when it comes to standing out and being noticed.

Better isn’t better. Different is better. ~Sally Hogshead

I came across two other articles the other day discussing similar issues – one was this one from a local web marketing company, Pitch Perfect Concepts, about using your personality to create stickier online content- Click here to read it.

And this one from Duct Tape Marketing about using a hug and handshake to compete with online companies such as Amazon. Click here to read it.

Problem is, there isn’t a super quick, simple, 3 step, “one size fits all” solution. Your solution depends on your strengths, your clients, and your community.

It takes a little time to define and implement a strategic plan.

Are you dealing with distracted clients? Need more supportive A-List clients? Feel like Dr. Henderson? Do you agree about the archenemies? the same 3 or others?

Leave a comment below.

PS- Thanks to Dr. Janet Henderson for allowing me to share her quote.