How to use the 7 Ps in veterinary marketing
By MWI Animal Health, Will Stirling
This is the second in our series on veterinary practice branding. To learn more, read Understanding branding as a companion veterinary practice owner.
As a business owner, you understand that marketing brings awareness to services that generate revenue. But have you given much thought to a comprehensive marketing strategy? The 7 Ps of marketing are a useful framework for examining your veterinary marketing practices. E. Jerome McCarthy, an American marketing professor first introduced the 4 Ps — product, price, place, and promotion— in his book Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach. Marketing professors Bernard H. Booms and Mary Jo Bitner later expanded the framework to include people, process, and physical evidence in their book Marketing Strategies and Organizational Structures for Service Firms Marketing of Services.
The extended marketing mix added considerations for businesses that market a service, such as veterinary practices. Taking a step back, looking at the various elements, and knowing how they all connect is a useful exercise that will help you grow your business.
For veterinary practices, product equals the services the animal hospital provides. The question owners must ask themselves is: "Is our current service right for the market and customers today?" In a crowded marketplace, product is the distinguishing factor. Does your practice offer a service that's superior to the competition's? If not, it's time to assess whether you can offer a stronger product.
Periodically, your internal stakeholders should align around product to make sure everyone is following the same plan. A discussion could uncover varying definitions of your veterinary practice's core services. Before marketing your products, you must agree on what they entail and what their corresponding strengths are.
Many owners don't consider pricing a veterinary marketing function. Yet price and brand are linked.
It's important for clinics to discuss where they see themselves in the wider marketplace and whether pricing reflects the value they offer customers. If a clinic charges high prices and pet parents perceive equivalent high-quality service, they will feel as if their animals are receiving a more professional care experience.
Introducing a payment plan to your veterinary practice can encourage uptake of pricier services because it makes it easier for customers to fund them. In fact, setting higher prices could attract better customers. As a practice owner, if you are confident enough to niche your products and not attract everyone, it could bring a stronger clientele. Check who brings in the most revenue. Is it a small percentage of clients? They are the people to continue to target, rather than any pet owner.
Place has transformed. Previously, it was just about office location. Animal hospitals attracted pet parents based on proximity and convenience. The COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding lockdowns permanently altered how people think about place.
Veterinary practices adjusted by offering online booking and telehealth services. The challenge now is to find a way to embed the digital technology adopted as part of a global crisis in business as usual. For some clients, such as those living in remote areas, it's more convenient to access remote care for their pets. Practices should consider keeping these online services as a way to entice more pet owners.
Periodically reappraise your veterinary marketing tactics to make sure they continue to work for your needs. They all contribute to the story you tell your customers about your product.
How do you broadcast your services? Think about the animal owners you are looking to target. Before selecting a platform or publication for promotion, you should consider whether it will reach this core demographic. As a result, you may favor Facebook over TikTok or a local newspaper over a national magazine.
Remember to include a clear 'call to action' with any promotional activity. Include phrases like 'call to book' or 'visit the website.' Give the audience a clear understanding of what they need to do next to access your services.
Periodically reappraise your veterinary marketing tactics to make sure they continue to work. Some of the other Ps, like place and packaging, are closely tied to promotion. They all contribute to the story you tell your customers about your product.
How your practice presents itself to potential employees is a crucial part of branding. What sort of workers do you want to attract? Your employees will represent your veterinary practice's brand to your customers. Beyond proficiency in certain skill sets, it's important to consider cultural fit. Are you hiring staff who share your values?
How do you differentiate yourself in the market? What do you present as your veterinary practice's core strength? You want to reassure clients they made the right choice in picking you as their veterinarian. As with product, it's important for stakeholders to align on process. One partner might believe your price is the most important and another might believe it's people. Think of process as the value words that communicate your brand.
7. Physical evidence
Your practice's presentation adds to its overall brand experience for your customers. This includes everything from voicemail messages to office decor and marketing collateral. Is there a coherent look and feel? Do leaflets look neat and tidy when collected in their rack in the waiting room?
Appearances matter. One often-overlooked opportunity for veterinary marketing is bags for prescriptions and other takeaways. Anything a pet parent carries home should be branded.
Your marketing strategy should align with your annual business plan. Consider the 7 Ps the base of that strategy. These step-by-step actions will serve as your checklist and ensure all staff are thinking the same way. You already understand the concepts described above. It's the process of joining them together that makes the 7 Ps such a valuable veterinary marketing tool.