Episode 2 | How to Step Up your Marketing Game and Take on Dr Google

author

Jack Peploe
Veterinary IT Expert
March 9, 2021

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In this week’s episode

  • Have you been thinking about updating your marketing strategy? Struggling with consistent, systematic marketing because your day to day tasks are getting the way? If the answer to either of these is yes then this episode is for you…
  • Jack and guest Paul Green talk about unlocking the power behind inbound marketing, unleashing serious marketing potential and bringing vets into the new digital age.
  • Paul Green explains why vets are rubbish at marketing and how this provides an opportunity to really take advantage for those who are willing to out the work in. 
  • Plus on the show this week, a  Jack addresses why the old equipment and software in your practice needs an update, highlighting the startling consequences for both your practice and your patients if you don't.

 

Show Notes

  • Out every other week on your favourite podcast platform
  • Presented by Jack Peploe: Veterinary IT Expert, Certified Ethical Hacker and dog Dad to the adorable Puffin.
  • Jack talks about the dangers of out of date software and catastrophic effect it can have when it finally 'falls over'.
  • Jack’s special guest was Veterinary Marketing Guru Paul Green. They talked about the power of an inbound marketing strategy, why vets should adopt this strategy and how your clients and bottom line will benefit.
  • Many thanks to Andy Edwards for recommending the book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
  • In our next episode Jack will be joined by Vet Dynamics Alan Robinson, where thet'll be talking about the spectrum of human potential, whats standing in vets way of achieving it and how to go about reaching it.
  • Please send any questions, ideally in audio-form (or any other feedback) to jack@veterinaryit.services

Transcription

Jack Peploe:

Coming up a Modern Veterinary Practice.

Paul Green:

We are in a wonderful state of technology where you are held back by your imagination rather than by what you can do. And that's only really happened in the last 10 years. You think of anything you want to do in terms of tracking people, in terms of reaching people, in terms of communicating with clients, in terms of sending out personalized messages, all of these things can be done relatively easy, and there's stable, good software out there that can do it.

Jack Peploe:

Welcome to Modern Veterinary Practice. I'm your host and veterinary IT expert Jack Peploe. On this episode, I'll be talking to veterinary marketing guru, Paul Green, about the power of an inbound marketing strategy and why vets should be adopting it and how to get started. I'm also going to take a few minutes to talk about the importance of updating old IT equipment. Not the most exciting subject, but I promise it'll be worth the lesson.

Jack Peploe:

So let's dive straight in. Old IT equipment. I hear you mutter. Well, just bear with me here. The majority of the practices that we're asked to come in and help all have the same issue. There it is outdated. And we get it, it's just not a priority when compared to ensuring that the imaging devices are up and running or fixing the sterilizers. These are critical to your practice functioning and the care that you give your furry friends on a daily basis, but there are multiple levels of risks that old IT equipment and software poses to your practice, all of which can have a serious damaging effect on the veterinary practice. Things such as downtime, preventing delivery of patient care, damage to practice reputation, costs, whether direct to the practice or from lack of revenue, impact on team performance, or even client frustration.

Jack Peploe:

Simply put, out of date software leaves you extremely vulnerable to cyber attacks. And just because you're a small business, it doesn't mean that you're exempt from this rule. Over 43% of cyber attacks are aimed at smaller businesses like veterinary practices. In fact, 99% of the vulnerabilities exploited have been known by security and it professionals for at least a year, yet remain unpatched. That's a staggering statistic. Much of the software and hardware that you will use will have updates available on a regular basis. This means that 99% of breaches are avoidable just by keeping your systems up to date. You know, those pesky windows updates that you keep ignoring.

Jack Peploe:

Technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate. So it's easier, especially in the veterinary industry where you're under such pressure caring for your patients to keep on top of how old your IT equipment is, or to remember to update it every week. But out of date systems run slowly. So it's likely that your systems performance will be impacted, affecting your team, your clients, and your patient care.

Jack Peploe:

Finally, your practice makes use of lots of different types of equipment, which may need to integrate with your IT systems to enable them to work. For example, you need your imaging devices to sync with your pack so you can view the images. And your PMS such as Merlin, Robovet, Assisi, or Animana, to name but a few, has to be able to work within the operating systems your practice has. The danger with out of date software and equipment is that the other companies may stop supporting it too, which means it may not be compatible with the latest versions of the veterinary software and equipment that you currently have, affecting your practices, ability to offer the latest treatments to your patients.

Jack Peploe:

So as you can tell, reviewing and updating old it equipment should definitely be pushed to the top of your to-do list, but don't worry. If you're not technically minded, ask for the help of an IT expert. Any good IT support company should be able to guide you through this process and could even complete it for you, if you'd rather focus on caring for your patients.

Voiceover:

The interview.

Paul Green:

My name's Paul Green and I used to be a veterinary marketing expert sometime in the past. I've been a marketing expert for about 10, 15 years. And I run a business called Vet's Practice Growth UK, which I sold back in 2016. And that was pretty much when I stopped working with vets, but for around about eight to 10 years I worked with vets all over the UK, helping them with that marketing. And I have to say, I think veterinary is just ... There's been so much change in this sector, even in the small number of years that I've been involved in it, but it's just such a wonderful sector to work with from a marketing point of view, because most vets are rubbish at marketing, and that creates opportunities for practices in every single area.

Jack Peploe:

Cool. Paul, well it's great to have you on the show. Really appreciate you taking time out of your day to sort of get on the podcast. So I thought I'd start with picking up on your marketing expertise and history of working with vets. And really wanted to get your insights into the veterinary world and their current marketing practices, especially considering you just said that they're really rubbish at it.

Paul Green:

Yeah. So saying a statement like that, which is a slightly provocative statement, is just based on pure experience of having worked with vets. So most practice owners, managers, and the vets themselves are obviously great clinicians, huge amounts of passion for the animals, and sometimes for the people involved with those animals as well, and generally very good at running incredibly complex businesses.

Paul Green:

However, they're not great at marketing. And by marketing, I mean consistent, systematic marketing, where you're doing stuff day in day out to attract new clients. Let's be honest, most veterinary practices have it really easy, which is they open their doors, they put something on Facebook or Instagram and along comes some animals and they make some money, which is great. But there's a lot more to marketing than just attracting new clients. There's keeping clients, there's selling them onto the health plan. There's doing special things like targeting, for example, pugs French Bulldogs, with all of their unique problems, and talking to people and educating them about the problems they could have and the potential preventative procedures that could stop these animals getting into trouble. And all of this is marketing.

Paul Green:

If you think of any communication with a client, if it's not directly about something that's happening to their animal, all of it is marketing. And I see practices ... So it's been four years since I sold my veterinary marketing business. I have kept in touch with a number of practices just doing a little bit of consultancy work and stuff, but I still see practices doing things the really old fashioned way. I still see practices asking, should we really be text messaging clients? It's like, Oh my goodness. We're past that now. We're WhatsApping people. We're automating all sorts of clever things between the PMS and all the systems that are out there. And I think the UK veterinary world as a whole is just ... I was going to say a little bit behind, but behind isn't quite the right word. Hasn't perhaps embraced marketing technology and all the things that you can do in the way that many other sectors have.

Paul Green:

And it's been really interesting, as obviously the consolidation of the market has, has sped up and sped up to see slightly better marketing coming in. And some of the big chains are doing slightly better marketing, but there's no one group that's doing marketing absolutely brilliantly in the UK right now. And I do think in virtually all marketplaces, there are massive opportunities, both for the independent practices that are left, but also for some of the big corporate players as well.

Jack Peploe:

Yeah. I was going to pick up on your point with regards to the fact that the marketing isn't great. They haven't sort of fully adopted it and run with it. Partially I feel that that's kind of down to the fact that they are extremely busy people. There's a lot going on in their worlds. But also I sometimes feel like it's a technological limitation as well. Picking on technology, picking on specifically PMS systems, because I'm not sure if you've found this with your experience with working with vets, but they sort of very much resound and focus all their efforts around their PMS systems and kind of expect this one platform to do absolutely everything ,rather than venturing out and seeing what the other platforms are out there. Would you say that's the case?

Paul Green:

100%, completely agree. And I think everyone's in a very difficult place because the people that develop the practice management systems, they are in a difficult place where their clients want the system to do a thousand things. And it's quite hard to program one piece of software to do a thousand things very well. But they then also make that make the lives difficult for the vets by not allowing something called APIs, which stands for application programming interface. So you'll know more about this just because you're a technical person, but it basically allows one piece of software to talk to another.

Paul Green:

And in the world of software, the vast majority of software that you use these days has APIs, and those APIs will talk to bits of software. And you've even got services like Zapier, which will happily sit in between two pieces of software. So you don't even need to get a developer to get two pieces of software to talk. Zapier does the hard work for you. None of these are perfect, but you can generally get pretty much any two systems to talk to each other, apart from veterinary PMS's. Now, I'm four or five years out of date, so I don't know if this has changed in the last few years, Jack. But the vast majority of practice management systems don't have APIs, because so far as I can see, that the practice management system operators don't want the practices connecting things like MailChimp and text messaging software and all these other clever tools up to the practice management system. Because they see that as a revenue stream.

Paul Green:

So we've kind of got ... It's almost the perfect storm where the software cannot do everything the vets want, and there are solutions out there for the vets, but they don't link to the practice management system. So you end up with some kind of half ... Well I guess botching it together kind of solution, which is not perfect for anyone. And I think that's probably one of the things that stops vets from looking around and trying new things.

Paul Green:

However, having said that, we are in a wonderful state of technology where you are held back by your imagination rather than by what you can do. And that's only really happened in the last 10 years, but you think of anything you want to do in terms of tracking people, in terms of reaching people, in terms of communicating with clients, in terms of sending out personalized messages, all of these things can be done relatively easy and there's stable, good software out there that can do it. I think that there's going to have to come a point for some practices where they say, "Right, we can't integrate this with the PMs. That's a pain, so we're going to have to put in place a little bit of manual shuffling around the data from one system to the other, but the advantages of that far outweigh the disadvantages."

Jack Peploe:

Yeah, I completely agree. And I think we're starting to see a little bit of a change. The technology adoption since the COVID-19 pandemic has been vast. I've never seen the veterinary market move so quickly and adapt to the current situation, which has been great to see. And I'm kind of hoping that this will continue on beyond COVID, so that where they've got this hunger, this potential drive, and they've seen what technology can do with regards with things like telehealth platforms. I'm really hoping that vets will continue on this path and on this journey and look at other areas within their business where they can potentially improve, and marketing being a really key area.

Jack Peploe:

So one thing I've really wanted to talk to you about was one key challenge that I consistently hear on other podcasts, looking on the web and speaking to clients. And that's Dr. Google. So I saw a really interesting survey conducted by Bayer and it actually highlighted that 77% of pet owners consult Google for medicinal information rather than their vets. What's even worse was that 39% of people claim they consult Google when their pet is ill before going to the vets. I think that's crazy. Now, again, I know that this is a problem that they're aware of, but more importantly, how could they address this issue?

Paul Green:

So essentially you're asking me, how do we stop millions of people behaving in a way that they've got used to behaving over the last 10 years?

Jack Peploe:

Unfortunately.

Paul Green:

That's a toughie, that is. I don't think we're ever going to ... I think that the genie's out of the bottle with Dr. Google. And it's not just animals, is it. We all do it with our own personal health. I can't imagine what a nightmare it must be for a GP to sit there and have someone come along and say, "I've got these symptoms and I've Googled it, and it's one of these three diseases." And I know that happens to vets as well. I think you've almost got a constant educational thing there of educating your clients that Google is only one side of the story. And the reason that vets, , spend years and years studying, and have the CPD and everything else is because it's not just taking those symptoms and putting them into the Google machine. It's actually interpreting it and looking at the context of what the animal is presenting.

Paul Green:

And telemedicine almost doesn't help with that in a way, because as much as I appreciate it, I think the vast majority of vets would rather physically see the animal in front of them. Telemedicine is almost an extension of the Google machine. It's just a bit more personalized advice than actually what Google's coming out.

Paul Green:

So I don't think we're ever going to be able to change people's habits. However, what we can do, and what a number of veterinary practices will be able to do is actually to become Dr. Google. And there's a marketing strategy that I know you're familiar with Jack, and it's called, "They ask, you answer." And this is actually based on a book, which I thoroughly recommend every single practice owner and manager gets. It's a book by a guy called Marcus Sheridan. Now I'll give you the 60 second overview of the book, and as I'm doing this you're going to hear words like swimming pools, marketing companies. I want you to scrub those words out of your head and imagine veterinary practice, because I've never read a book that is more suited to veterinary marketing than this one.

Paul Green:

So Marcus Sheridan, who's an American guy, about 13, 14 years ago he had a swimming pool installation company somewhere in the states. And they were spending a lot of money on paid traffic to try and generate enough leads. And they had the same problem most small businesses did. They were running around doing lots of work. He would go and see five or six sales appointments a day, which involved 10, 12 hours of driving, but he'd only convert one of them. And essentially they just couldn't generate business fast enough in that business to cover the costs. And he and his business partners were going to lose their houses because of the debt secured on it, and it sounds like a complete nightmare. And he switched to a different kind of strategy, which is instead of just trying to constantly be doing what we call outbound marketing, where you're physically doing all the effort, let's see if we can do some inbound marketing and attract people to us. And he came up with the concept of what is now called, and known worldwide as, "They ask you answer."

Paul Green:

And how it kind of started was, was he said, "What are the most common questions that people are asking us?" Now for swimming pool installation, there's a surprising number of questions that people ask. I guess, before you're about to spend $40,000 on having a couple of blokes and a digger dig a hole in the ground, there are things you want to know about that. So he started to write incredibly long, in-depth content, answering the questions that his prospects were frequently asking him. So he would track over a period of time that they were the same questions. And remember I said here to think about this is a veterinary. I want you now to just think, "What are the common questions that your pet owners ask you?" And we'll come back to that in a second, because actually the vast majority of questions are the same thing. In fact, the 80/20 rule will apply when it comes to those common questions.

Paul Green:

So he developed this long form content. We're talking 2-3000 word articles on the website. They moved into video, they moved into infographics. And over a period of time, what happened was wherever anyone in the states typed in a specific question, for example, "Should I have a fiberglass pool or should have a vinyl pool," which are two different types of pool, typically hit more and more his website was coming up as the answer. And he developed this into an entire strategy and a culture, a way of running the business. Where as a business, you focus on educating the prospect, not selling to them. And then what happens along the way is as long as you've got some good sales processes in place, they end up buying from you. And in fact, it's turned that company around so much that they are now a manufacturer of swimming pools with the distribution network across the whole of the states. And of course they're generating thousands of leads a week, which they're passing on to their distributors. So they've done very, very well out of it. And it's explained incredibly well, in layman's terms, in the book They Ask, You Answer.

Paul Green:

So how would this ... And he's gone on now to develop a marketing agency using exactly the same strategy. And he talks in the book about lots of different types of sectors. And as I was ... I only read this book this year. My God, I wish I'd read it years ago. As I was reading it, I do think back sometimes about the veterinary world I left behind when I sold the business, and I had a non-compete, which is why I had to get out of veterinary. As I was reading it, I was thinking, "There's an opportunity here for a practice to implement this because, to the best of my knowledge, there are no vets in the UK doing this." And by doing this, I mean you look at the questions that ordinary pet owners ask and you position yourself as Dr. Google.

Paul Green:

So for example, I said about the 80/20 rule, that's the Pareto principle that 80% of pet owners ... Sorry, 80% of the questions asked by ... Hang on, I've got myself confused here. Basically, the vast majority of questions asked by the vast majority of people will be the same.

Jack Peploe:

Yes.

Paul Green:

So how many times do pet owners ask, "Do I really need to worm my dog every year?" And you probably give the same 12 second answer that you've always given, but actually wouldn't that make a fascinating 2000 word article? And you might think, "Well, there's no way I could write 2000 words about that without getting clinical." But actually there is. If we were to sit now, if we had a couple of competent vets on and we sat talking about it and discussed it in great detail, we generate five to 10 minutes worth of audio, which itself becomes a thousand, 2000 word article.

Paul Green:

If you look at, again, what are the most common questions that people are asking? Why do senior cats need to see a vet more often? What would it be another question? What are the most common symptoms I should look out for in my pet? And we're not talking here about specific condition questions. I'm aware there's things like Susie Samuel's symptom checker, which a lot of vets have on their practice. I think that satiates that need for that. But we're talking here about capturing their most common questions, literally when you're in the consulting room, writing down on a bit of paper, "Oh, that's a question I hear all the time. Yeah, that's the kind of common question." Writing it down, and then finding someone, if you can't do it yourself, finding someone to generate that content for you. And actually Marcus Sheridan suggests that you employ a full-time content manager to do just that.

Paul Green:

Now that's going to be over the top for a lot of practices, but for an independent with some resource, or for one of the corporates, that's going to be an enormous opportunity. Because what you do is you flip things around then. So instead of you going onto Facebook and Instagram and constantly advertising, looking for people, and there still needs to be an element of that. If someone's first initial reaction, when there's an issue with their pet, is to Google it, and your practice comes up high, and you can see how one of the corporates should be all over this, because they would benefit the most from it because they've got the biggest distribution network. If someone's going to Google and do that and get onto your website, the chances of them booking an appointment with you is dramatically higher than if you've tried to go and look for them on Facebook or Instagram.

Paul Green:

So you need to have elements of both. You still need to have a really good website that converts visitors to appointments, to bookings. There's a whole series of things that need to be in place. But as a core concept, and it's a long-term commitment. This is not a three-month project. This is a five to 10 year commitment to saying, "We're going to have a website with a thousand pieces of content on it. We're going to have the best veterinary resource, the very best veterinary layman's resource in the world." Who cares if people in Australia end up on our website getting information about their pets? That doesn't matter because what we're trying to do here is we're trying to dominate. And this would lead to domination. We're trying to dominate the world of marketing for veterinary. And it would make a practice or a small group of practices completely untouchable from a marketing point of view. Because there's one thing that will never change with Google, and that is that it loves content.

Paul Green:

Google was founded originally, more than 20 years ago, to organize the world's content better than the search engines of the time. Which if you remember, it was things like Altavista and Ask. It seems crazy now when we think about how they used to have humans curating those search engines. Google came along and did it so much better. And Google has changed beyond recognition, and will continue to change beyond recognition, but the pure search ... Oh, have I just set off my Google assistant on my-

Jack Peploe:

I love that.

Paul Green:

Yeah. It's creepy though. She's listening. Don't say Alexa's name either.

Jack Peploe:

I know. Don't say that, because that's off in my office.

Paul Green:

Well, there's a great example. I've paid Google money to have speakers all dotted around my house, and I've done that for a number of different reasons, but maybe the way I interact with her in five years time will be more through voice than it will through typing things. We're already going that way. We can all see we're going that way. With Siri and the two ladies we've just mentioned. But the thing that will never change is content. The people are always going to want to dive into content. And one of the things they talk about in They Ask You Answer is how, when people are seriously at the research phase, and people do this with their pets more than they do with anything else, because their pets are like their children. They will consume vast, huge amounts of content.

Paul Green:

One of the examples in the book is where a couple who were thinking of buying a swimming pool consumed, between them, 320 pages of content. And the author knew this because they were using tracking software on the website. Well, I wouldn't be surprised if you had a veterinary site that was packed with content, and it was about older cats, for example. I used to have cats. And when our cats got older we looked things up and we talked to our vet and we did everything that our vet said, and we joined the health plan and got insurance and went to the senior cat clinics and all that kind of stuff. Responsible pet owners, the people who are compliant with you, exactly the kind of clients you want, are exactly the kind of people that will hoover up content off your website.

Paul Green:

So I think this is a massive opportunity. But the reality is, every single practice owner in the UK could be listening to this, and still only a tiny majority will take action on it. So that's why I think it'd be so exciting for the few that actually go and do it.

Jack Peploe:

Yeah. Yeah. And it's only getting more prominent now. The target market, or the veterinary practices target market's changing with the introduction of millennials. Or consistent millennials and introduction of Generation Z growing up with things like technology. They actually absorb a huge amount of content. Again, read up on a really interesting survey that Adobe conducted around average content consumption per generation, and how it's increasing. And I believe millennials on average spend 8.5 hours a day consuming content whilst Generation Z are consuming 10.6 hours.

Paul Green:

That's insane.

Jack Peploe:

That's a 25% increase.

Paul Green:

Yeah.

Jack Peploe:

It's scary because I'm in that bracket, and I can't believe that I would be consuming that much content. But it just hits home how important the sort of They Ask, You Answer methodology and inbound marketing, how important it's going to become. And how vets, someone really needs to jump on this. It seems like a great opportunity. But no, that's fantastic. Thank you very much.

Voiceover:

Recommended reading.

Jack Peploe:

Every week we ask a veterinary professionals to suggest a book that might resonate to our listeners. And this week's recommendation is from Andy Edwards, an accredited behavioral psychologist who helps professional practices understand that the real currency of business is relationship.

Andy Edwards:

About, gosh, 12 years ago, 10-12 years ago, came across a book called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. That sounds quite a negative title, doesn't it? The five dysfunctions of a team by Patrick Lencioni. Lencioni. The reason why it's such a good book is because it's a good read. It's a story. It's a story of a brand new leader who comes into a highly competent set of people, her team. Her name's Catherine. And they're highly competent individually, but they are not playing nicely together. From a behavioral point of view, that team is utterly dysfunctional. And Catherine, the leader comes in, and it's a parable like I said. It's a story. And you can't [inaudible 00:25:42] down because one of the chapters finishes, "But nobody realized what was going to happen next," and you can't help but carry on. So it's quite an exciting read in many ways, but highly informative. And Catherine comes out with five basic dysfunctions that stop a team achieving what a team can.

Andy Edwards:

Just a spoiler alert, it starts with trust. And it literally goes on how she worked out how to make sure this group of people trusted each other, in order that the other four dysfunctions were obviated, such that they work together brilliantly. It's a great read. I always tell people, if you're not a reader, read the first 18 pages and put it down.

Jack Peploe:

Coming up next week, we'll be talking to Vet Dynamics's Alan Robinson about the spectrum of human potential. What it is, how to achieve it, and what is holding vets back.

Alan Robinson:

In veterinary, we've got a particular circumstance. We are really regarded as frontline workers. We haven't stepped back from COVID, we've actually stepped into it. We're massively trying to maintain and manage our PPE and COVID security in our practices, and we're having to still deal with all the stuff we had prior to COVID. We've got to deal with clients, got to deal with our own workload.

Jack Peploe:

That's it for this episode. All links and recommendations we talked about are in the show notes. Don't forget to subscribe and share the podcast if you found it useful. In the meantime, thanks for listening, and see you next time.

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