Many veterinarians become frustrated about a stagnating practice – especially when they pour their heart and soul into being the best veterinarian they can be. But while providing great veterinary care is the most important thing you can do for animals inside your hospital, it is simply not the greatest predictor of business growth. The greatest predictor of the growth of your veterinary practice is your ability to acquire and strengthen relationships with pet owners.
The focus of this article will be on teaching you what it takes to become more successful at that. This first requires an understanding of how relationships develop. The strength of any human relationship is the level of trust felt. So the question becomes: what creates trust?
As a survival mechanism, biology has wired us to form bonds when we feel our needs are cared about. And while we certainly value the competency of your craft, our emotional security is one of our largest needs in any interaction. Simply put… if you don’t show us that you care about and can empathize with our emotional experience, we are just not going to form a very strong bond with you.
What you need to do is very simple: just practice being aware of the pet owner’s perspective. Remind yourself to pay attention to the emotions that their body and words are telegraphing, and put conscious effort into understanding what they are feeling. Start small – make it a goal to do this for just one patient tomorrow, and then build off that as it gets easier to pay attention. This effort alone is enough to make a meaningful difference, and the results should strengthen with practice.
That’s how to strengthen relationships. Now let’s talk about how to acquire them in the first place. Strong word-of-mouth has always worked well because people trust their friends, so there is a built-in level of comfort with you. But there is a very obvious trend towards online searches instead of asking for referrals from friends. And the same principle applies here – we will only feel comfortable in a relationship with you if we trust you. What does this mean? Your website has an enormous job to do.
When a pet owner comes to your website, there are two needs they are trying to fill. One is conscious and logical: who you are, what you do, and where you do it. The other is unconscious and emotional: can we trust you? And at this point in the relationship, we will answer that question based almost entirely on the experience we have on your website. Every veterinary practice has a unique story to tell – your website should focus on telling it in an engaging, interactive, and impressive way.
There is a movement in web design called UX – meaning “user experience.” It is an obvious parallel to prioritizing the empathetic approach we described earlier. In UX design, we make predictions based on psychology, test our theories with data analytics, and create new tools with software engineering. We believe it is very clearly the future of web design.
Biology has taught us that life constantly faces a choice: grow or decay. The way to growth for your practice is through a deep understanding of how your clients work, and taking deliberate steps to capitalize on that knowledge.
If you’d like to read more about implementing a smart digital strategy, we’ve got you covered with this article: Three pillars of an effective digital strategy