How many veterinary practices are focused on attracting new clients? All of them, right?

Most practices easily spend 1% to 3% of their gross income on new client acquisition and practice growth efforts every year – that’s not a small amount.

You do everything you can to get clients in the door, and you try to provide the best experience possible when they are in your practice. But after they leave, how do you make sure they keep coming back?

Providing great service is a key component, of course, but retention marketing is also vital to practice growth. This type of marketing focuses on keeping your clients engaged with your practice after their initial visit. You’ve spent a lot of money attracting those new clients, so retaining them should be a top priority in your overall marketing strategy.

Here are the top five mistakes practices are making when it comes to retention marketing—and how to fix them.

Mistake #1: Not Measuring Client Satisfaction

Solution: Measure, Measure, Measure After the Visit

You may think you‘re providing a great client experience, but how do you really know? You need to use tools to actually measure how clients perceived their visit to your practice. If you aren’t measuring client satisfaction via online surveys, you may find out the hard way that someone had a less-than-perfect experience at your practice. A negative review can affect not only your online practice reputation but also your revenue. So what can you do to make sure you stay ahead of the curve and learn about your clients’ opinions before you stumble upon them online?

Incorporating post-visit surveys into your overall marketing strategy is a great first step. Surveys provide clients with the opportunity to engage with your practice before going online and possibly posting a negative review, giving you the chance to learn more and correct any ongoing issues. Ideally, you should send automated post-visit surveys within 72 hours of each client visit. Make sure the survey is short and to the point—five simple questions at most. Many clients want to share feedback, so make sure there is an open text field at the end of the survey.

The Rapport suite of client communications tools offers client satisfaction measurement services, such as automated thank-you emails with surveys for your practice.

Mistake #2: Failing to Appreciate Brand Advocates

Solution: Appreciate Clients Who Appreciate You

Who are your brand advocates? And what are brand advocates anyway? Brand advocates are the people who come to your practice and then go online to tell everyone how amazing you are. These clients aren’t just telling one person how great your practice is—they’re telling the world. It is a great accolade for one of your clients to take the time to go online and post a five-star review of your practice.

And did you know that positive online reviews contribute to a higher ranking on Google? This positive word of mouth online will help you gain new clients and build revenue. That’s why, in addition to seeking new online reviews, part of your retention strategy should be to appreciate and respond to clients who give you positive reviews. Doing so is a great way to separate yourself from your competitors.

Mistake #3: Sending Reminders Only Via Postcard/Letter

Solution: Add Digital Reminders

Even though the veterinary world is moving toward a more digital platform, postcard reminders remain critical to the overall success of your practice’s reminder program. With reminders, the key to success is delivering digital messages in conjunction with postcards.

Today’s practices must find new ways to connect with busy clients. Not only do text reminders allow clients to act instantly — most text messages are read within 3 minutes and have a 45% response rate1 —but text messages also reduce the time your staff spends making phone calls and saves the practice money. People don’t ignore text messages; on the contrary, most get excited when they see a new message in their inbox. Be sure to ask your clients for their mobile number instead of home number.

Mistake #4: Forgetting About Lapsing and Lapsed Patients

Solution: Institute an Ongoing Lapsed Patient Marketing Campaign

Your lapsing or lapsed clients are those who have not come in for a visit within the past 18 months or longer. As time goes on, these patients are less likely to return to the practice because at this point your reminder program has already gone through its cycle. Many practices tend to forget about these clients, but the fact is they offer untapped potential within your overall marketing strategy. We know it is more expensive to gain a new client than it is to retain an existing client. So don’t give up on this group. Instead, create a campaign to re-engage these clients.

Target clients who have not visited the practice in more than 18 months. Reach out to them via telephone, email, postcard, and/or letter. Should you include an offer? Studies have shown that not including an offer is often more successful because it feels more sincere and less promotional. Track your success, learn from your clients, and clean up your database.

Mistake #5: Not Engaging with Clients on Social Media

Solution: Share, Like, Post

When we think of social media, we tend to think automatically of Facebook. But, what might surprise you is that your practice may already be on Instagram and you might not even know it. Why should Instagram be part of your overall marketing strategy? Your customers may have already tagged you in posts and with Facebook owning Instagram, if you advertise on Facebook you will often also appear on instagram.

Try downloading the Instagram app on your phone. Then, open Instagram, click on the magnifying glass, and type in your practice name. At this point, you may see a number of photos and postings. These are from people who have “tagged” your practice on Instagram. As a retention strategy, you’ll want to engage with these clients by replying to their posts and thanking them for sharing their pets’ photos and their experiences at your practice. All of the information they are sharing is public. Social media “word of mouth” advertising on platforms like Instagram is an easy way to enhance your brand.

1 Vetstreet Data