I want to preface this blog by first saying that I GET IT! I We speak with veterinary professionals every day who have the same thoughts, questions, and concerns about their digital marketing efforts. With so many options out there, it can become extremely overwhelming to know how to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. In many cases, it can become so overwhelming that ultimately people end up “sweeping it under the rug” and do nothing to increase their marketing efforts. Out of sight, out of mind…right?
I’m sure a lot of question keep you awake at night when it comes to your practice, many which can lead back to your digital presence:
- How do I avoid going down a rabbit hole so that I don’t end up wasting time and money on pointless marketing efforts?
- What’s right/what’s wrong when it comes to digital marketing?
- How can I impact pet owners in my area?
- How can I bring in new business and retain current clients?
…And the list goes on and on!
Keep in mind that you have to spend money to make money. When you implement an effective ongoing digital marketing strategy that uses today’s best practice’s for website design as well as ongoing digital marketing, ultimately you should be profitable. I’m going to make it easier on you and provide you with some information that will help you to make educated, informed decisions about your digital marketing efforts.
How do I know which marketing firm is the best choice?
The first step is to make a list of goals that you want to accomplish through digital marketing.
- Do you want to bring in new clients?
- Do you want to increase your presence in the search engines?
- Do you want to promote specific products and services?
- Do you want to increase compliance?
After you create a list of goals, you should then create a list of the things that you value in the marketing firm you work with for your digital marketing. How serious are you about your digital marketing efforts? Keep in mind that your #1 marketing tool is your website. If you want a website just to check the box, but don’t really care about your digital presence, then anything is probably fair game. However, if you are serious about your marketing and want to make an impact, then you need to take time to learn about the marketing firms you are comparing, and what exactly they are going to do to help grow your practice.
The following list will give you an idea of what questions to ask as you compare companies. Through process of elimination, you should be able to narrow down your list of choices.
Does this firm specialize in veterinary medicine?
This may not seem like a big deal, but it is everything! How can a firm that does not know your industry, goals, and targeted audience possibly implement an effective marketing strategy? It’s not impossible, but it would require much more time (that you don’t have) on your end in order to oversee everything and help teach them about the industry.
Which brings me to the next question you should ask…
Who’s going to write the content for the website if they don’t know veterinary medicine?
You are! This may not seem like a daunting task to you, however, you should know that there is a difference between just putting content on your site and actually creating optimized content for search purposes.
Here are some examples of options that might sound like a good idea on paper, but most often end up sending you down a rabbit hole and hurting you in the long run..
- A client who knows some web design and is willing to barter for services
Seems like it makes sense because it’s more cost effective to give services rather than pay for services. It’s a win/win, right? Wrong! The practice always ends up getting the short end of the deal! Why? Because that client is doing it for a free service that may be a onetime exchange or maybe annual or even every 6 months, at best. What is the value in their services vs. what you are providing? They are not going to spend the time to build you a really robust website for a free checkup or exam. You then have to rely on your client for changes and updates, and even though they will do it, let’s face it… you’re not at the top of their priority list. The same applies for family members. They might do this for a living and build you a website to help out family, but you’re not going to be a top priority.
- The local company down the street
Who better to market your practice than the company right down the street? The owner of the firm grew up right there in town and knows the area like the back of his hand. Website design and SEO do not always go hand in hand. Just because they are local, does not mean they are the best option. If they don’t know veterinary medicine, don’t waste your time.
- Hire a full time marketing person that can work right there in the practice, just for you, and can handle all of the marketing
Again, sounds good on paper, but here is something to consider. When you work with a firm that offers various aspects of digital marketing, you work with teams of people that have departments dedicated to each service. At InTouch Practice Communications, we have a SEO department, Social Media Department, Copywriting Department, etc. and everyone on our team knows what it takes to stay abreast of the latest in digital marketing and web design. It is impossible to think that one person within the practice can manage all of that effectively. He or she would have to know veterinary medicine and all aspects of digital marketing. Just like the saying goes “it takes a village to raise a baby” the same goes for your digital marketing…it takes a village!
The point is, you wouldn’t go to a chiropractor for a root canal just because they are a doctor, so why go to a marketing firm that does not specialize in veterinary medicine, just because they design websites?
Okay, so you’ve narrowed it down to a firm that does specialize in the veterinary industry, now what? The first step is to make sure that they really do specialize in veterinary marketing, and it’s not just a gimmick to earn your business. As you shop around and make your comparisons, here are the questions you should be asking:
- Do you specialize in veterinary medicine?
If not, move on! We covered this already, but I can’t stress this enough.
- Do you build responsive websites?
If not, move on! Yes, there is a difference between a companion mobile site vs. a responsive site. Do not waste your time with a companion mobile site! Not only is it a separate website from your desktop version, it is a watered down version of your website. If you are not sure what the difference is between mobile companion and responsive, read our blog about responsive design.
- Are your websites fully custom or templates?
(warning! some companies will say they are fully custom when they actually are not, be sure to look into this!)
If you want to brand your practice and set yourself apart from your competitors, you don’t want a website that resembles theirs or lacks the ability to express the personality of your practice. Price might be less for a template website, but keep in mind that there is a reason why: they’re cookie cutter and premade so all that would need to be done is plugging in your information. (Here’s a secret, if you eliminate the firms that do not specialize in veterinary medicine and offer template websites, your list will be very short!)
- Do I own my website?
If I were to leave your firm, would I be able to keep my website? If you’re not sure why this is important, just think of it like an apartment vs a house. Do you want to rent or own?
- Who writes the content?
If they write the content, find out the steps they take to develop that content. Regardless of what anyone may tell you, duplicate content is bad! NO ONE has a preferred relationship with Google which allows them to have duplicate content on their site without the potential of being affected negatively.
- Do you outsource your work?
Many firms may not be forthcoming with this, but you should still ask. Many firms outsource work to other countries because the labor is cheaper for them.
- Is this company an actual marketing firm or is this a service provided by one of your vendors as a freebie or bundle?
If the answer is yes, you most likely will end up with a website that is more like a digital business card and not a very effective marketing tool.
- What exactly do you do for ongoing digital marketing?
Do you provide ongoing organic SEO services? If you don’t know the difference between Pay Per Click and Organic SEO, ask them to take a few minutes to help educate you.
- Can you provide some references that I can call?
After you’ve done all of your due diligence in comparing firms and their services and still find you’re having a hard time deciding between a couple of firms, ask for references. Don’t be afraid to let them know that you are comparing with other firms and to ask them how they compare to another firm.
If you are ready to get to work on optimizing your digital marketing efforts, call InTouch Practice Communications today at 800-493-9003. We will be happy to show you The InTouch difference!