Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Everyone is telling you to get content onto your website to help with marketing. But if you do it, why does it take so damn long to work? Daniel Warren asks the experts.
Are there some days your clinic feels like an emergency ward? People are bringing in animals at advanced stages of illness or requiring immediate treatment. In some cases, it’s clear the animal has been unwell for some time. It’s not that their owners are negligent. They just didn’t know what to look for.
“That’s why finding vet content online is so important,” says Mark Brown of Engage Content. “They can educate themselves about all aspects of their pet’s health and wellbeing.”
“Consistently producing and distributing high-quality content helps increase your practice’s brand awareness and visibility,” explains Cheryl Pettinau, managing director of communications specialists the Quay Communications. “When you create content that resonates with your community, they are more likely to engage with it and share it with others. This amplifies your reach, attracts new followers, and enhances your online presence. Over time, this increased visibility can lead to a wider client base and a strong brand reputation.”
But even if you are putting a lot of content on your website, it still seems to take a long time for people to book. And when they do turn up, it’s with an animal requiring triage.
“This sounds a bit counterintuitive, but that doesn’t mean your content isn’t working,” Brown says. “The type of content you publish on your website in many ways ‘creates’ your patient base. And the most valuable content takes the longest time to work. Let me explain…”
How vet content works
To understand how content works, you have to understand how people use it. If someone sees a piece of content on your website, they’re going to understand that it will relate to you, or your services. That just makes sense. There is even a good chance that they are inclined to use your services, or book an appointment. No-one goes onto a vet website looking for groceries.
“So it’s a safe assumption that if someone is looking at content on your site, at some stage in the future they are interested in making a purchase from you,” Brown says.
All buying decisions exist on a spectrum from ‘impulse’ to ‘considered’. Impulse buys are fast and emotional. Considered purchases are slow, deliberate—and more informed by factors like trust.
“Most of the services a vet could offer are more considered purchases,” adds Brown. “They are things that people want to think about before they buy. They may be something as straightforward as grooming or desexing. Or they may be something complicated, like understanding a cluster of symptoms that just aren’t quite right.
“Also, a lot of treatments you offer are seasonal purchases—but most people don’t keep track of when flea and tick season is. They’ve got other things on their mind, and fleas and ticks don’t bother them in the same way it bothers their pets.”
Creating smarter clients
A considered purchase requires education. Up until about 10 years ago, there weren’t many places the average consumer could educate themselves. Now they look online for trusted content. “Content marketing allows you to stay connected with your existing clients in between visits,” says Cheryl Pettinau. “This helps to nurture long-term relationships. By providing valuable content through email newsletters or blog content on your website, you can consistently deliver useful information and reminders about important pet health topics. This regular communication builds client loyalty, encourages repeat visits, and increases the likelihood of referrals, as satisfied clients will share your content with their network.”
So the reason your high-quality content takes a while to get customers in the door is because it’s working. People are reading it, educating themselves, and building more trust in you. As time goes on, that good information helps them make more conscious decisions about the things they care about, like their pet’s health.
“When those people do become customers, they are more loyal and less price sensitive than someone who has turned up in an emergency situation,” adds Brown. “Over their pet’s lifetime, they are more likely to return to you, so they become a much higher-value customer.”
The educating business
The way vet content works online is by educating people when they are making considered purchase decisions. It can help with impulse decisions in that it improves your search engine results. But it is most effective as a way of creating a loyal customer base.
“The veterinary field is becoming increasingly competitive, with practices expanding their services as pet ownership reaches new heights,” says Pettinau. “Without content marketing efforts, you may find yourself falling behind the competition. Marketing enables you to showcase your unique services, highlight your expertise, and differentiate yourself in the market. By keeping up with industry trends, utilising digital marketing tools and regularly evaluating your strategies, you can position yourself and your practice as a leader in the field, attracting clients who value innovation and exceptional care.”
And while that type of marketing may take a while to work, in the long run, it’s effective because the majority of purchases people make from you should be considered. “The transactions that go on in veterinary clinics are based on need, and fed by research,” says Brown. “If you don’t supply the information for people when they’re researching, they’ll go do business with someone who will.”