Veterinary specialty practice, which was once confined to teaching hospitals and universities, has been growing since the 1980s and is now widespread and commonplace. As younger pet-owning generations become accustomed to specialty offerings and demand higher, human-medicine-level care, veterinary specialty medicine continues to expand and provide ever-advancing diagnostics and treatments.
Some clients, primarily older generations and new pet owners, may not realize the full care spectrum available for their pets, which is compounded by referring veterinarians who are unfamiliar with services in their area or have strained relationships with specialty hospitals. VESPECON consulting services wants to eliminate these barriers, so we’re sharing ways you can improve community awareness of your specialty services.
Expand your referral network
Most pet owners learn about specialty services when their primary veterinarian recommends a referral, which means that ensuring area veterinarians understand your services and feel comfortable sending you their patients is the best way to expand awareness of your services. Referral relationships can be tricky, but you can forge lasting relationships with the following tips:
- Make your presence known — Send brochures and referral forms directly to hospitals, along with a picture, short bio, and list of your services and commonly treated conditions. You or your staff can also reach out by phone or in person to set up a short meet-and-greet and introduction to your services that fits with the rDVM’s appointment schedule.
- Focus on good communication and collaboration — Poor communication and bad past experiences are main reasons why primary veterinarians fail to refer cases that would benefit from your care. Communicating and collaborating with the rDVM means the patient receives the best care, and ensures all parties stay on the same page throughout the process.
- Join our specialist network — VESPECON offers consulting services for general practitioners to help them work through challenging cases in-house, and we can transfer cases to in-person specialists when advanced diagnostics or treatments are required. Joining our specialist network immediately expands your referral base, as we remove the guesswork for clients and make their appointments directly in your predetermined schedule slots. We can also help to facilitate smooth, effective communication between our consulting specialists, the referring veterinarian, and yourself.
Reach clients through marketing efforts
Another strategy for reaching clients directly is through digital marketing platforms. Your website and social media platforms are the first things clients see when searching for a specialist, or after their primary veterinarian recommends a referral, and they can make or break the client’s decision to schedule an appointment. A professionally-designed, aesthetically pleasing, informative, and easy-to-use website builds trust before clients walk through the door. Keeping the website active with regular blog posts not only helps you build an informational library for clients, but also improves your website traffic. Regular social media posts should augment your website, direct clients to your website or blog, and help potential clients understand what you’re all about.
Establish a strong community presence
Clients and referring veterinarians are more likely to trust and choose your services over another practice when they meet you and get to know you in person, in addition to how you can help their pets. Invest in promotional materials, ensure your cards and letterhead are up to date, and set up a booth at a local pet convention, rescue event, or veterinary CE conference. You can also get more attention by sponsoring an event and speaking on relevant pet topics.
Another strategy is offering specialty CE topics for primary veterinarians and their staff, either through sessions at their hospitals, or by invitations to larger groups to your hospital. Inviting larger groups for a CE event or open house allows them to see your facilities, tour the hospital, meet the team, and learn more about how you manage your specialty cases. Some referring veterinarians may request to shadow you for a day or two so they can see how you perform procedures and treatments, and you’ll forge strong relationships with those veterinarians for future case referrals.
Putting yourself out there and setting aside dedicated time to work on these strategies can help you expand your referral network, improve referral relationships, and improve awareness of your specialty services. The VESPECON team makes specialty referral easier and smoother for primary veterinarians, which helps them feel more comfortable referring cases sooner, and getting the word out to their clients.
If you’d like to join the VESPECON in-person specialist network to funnel more clients and cases your way, visit our website to sign up and learn more.