Understanding branding as a companion veterinary practice owner
By definition, branding encapsulates higher level marketing messages about who you are, what you do, and why you do it. Your brand should reflect your values and mission as providers of pet health services.
Branding provides the foundation of standing out and showing how your companion veterinary practice differs from all the others. Branding also gives your team and your clients an intangible connection, where they feel like you're all working together to achieve goals for healthier pets.
Why companion veterinary practice branding matters
Standing out pays off when many others blend in. Robin Brogdon, MA, founder and CEO of BluePrints Veterinary Marketing Group, asks, “Well, how many practices say the same thing, use the same phrases to describe their services, and even have logos that look nearly identical? Sadly, most!"
Brogdon names three reasons to build a distinct companion veterinary brand:
- Attract more clients specifically seeking the type of services and experiences your practice can offer, making for a more enjoyable relationship for all parties
- Create grateful and bonded clients, leading to more recommendations, positive reviews, and growth
- Build practice value (Hint: valuation specialists recognize the value of goodwill determined by a practice's brand and reputation.)
Strategies for creating a stronger brand
On the surface, veterinary medicine practices may all seem alike, offering the same types of products and services. Yet, each companion veterinary practice should provide a unique experience that attracts the types of clients they want — and need— for business success and satisfaction.
“Branding does sound like a buzzword, but it's really common sense: It's simply your chance to tell your story in order to build and maintain positive client loyalty and repeat business," says Mary Nowesnick with MNMarketing Chicago. “Branding means identifying what's unique about your veterinary practice: What makes you stand out from other practices?"
"A brand is not a logo, name or tagline," says Brogdon. It is what you stand for and what someone can expect when doing business with you."
Consider these possible places to begin building a brand:
- Superlatives: Are you the first, only, or one of very few practices with key services, certifications or practitioners with additional credentials?
- Pace: Do you strive for a cozy, laid-back client experience or do you attract clients seeking a fast-paced, high-tech collaboration?
- Target: Does your ideal client match certain demographic characteristics — such as Millennials with young families, childless Gen Xers, or retired Baby Boomers? Or do you only treat certain common or exotic species?
- Hook: Is there something so uniquely you that no one else can copy? Consider the musical veterinarian who scored a TV show.
Karen Bolten, DVM, practiced large animal medicine for 10 years before pursuing an MBA and launching The Business Vet. She says branding takes control of the narrative, sets the tone, and connects practices to potential clients. “The thing about branding is that a lot of that relationship is actually built before they even walk in the door," says Bolton. “Tons of those people learn to trust you before they even meet you," she says.
What companion veterinary branding is not
“A brand is not a logo, name, or tagline," says Brogdon. “It is what you stand for and what someone can expect when doing business with you. In short, it's your why and how."
Branding also isn't trying to be everything to everyone or trying to match competitors step for step. Based on location, facility size, and their mission and values, different practices serve different target markets. Bolten says, “That is another thing that I didn't understand until the very end of when I owned my clinic. I was trying to present myself to everyone as a proper vet for them. And that is a losing strategy."
Justin Phillips, founder of Practice Made Purrfect, adds that “your building may be your most expensive asset … but don't mistake that for being your brand. It's the care and compassion of the team inside it that influences the decision of whom an owner trusts to care for their furry fam."
Cheyanne Flerx of Snout School calls branding a practice's personality. She says practices “share what services they offer and about their facilities and the tech they have. What they forget is that we are in the business of serving people and their pets. So, they forget to convey how they plan on serving pet owners and caring for their client's pets."
Flerx lists these common mistakes:
- Talking only about veterinary technology and not how it helps staff care for pets
- Expecting only the veterinary work clients can see to tell your story
- Thinking that educational content alone creates connections
“People are such visual creatures and crave to see how a service or product performs," Flerx explains. People want to know how you care for pets and do your important work. Otherwise, she says, it's a lost opportunity to connect with clients on a deeper level.
“All this is to say that how you demonstrate how your practice serves clients and provides care to your patients digitally is your practice's brand," Flerx adds.
Branding takes commitment
Creating and establishing a known and effective brand takes time and consistency. It is not a quick fix, but take the time soon to evaluate and update your branding efforts to better implement a distinct companion veterinary practice message about who you are and why you do what you do — express your individuality that no one else can claim. Practices that know their uniqueness and identify, attract, and serve their best clients work within a happier, more sustainable culture.