This environment is leading veterinary professionals to seek out new and innovative solutions that will make their practice stand out, and encourage clients to use their services, products and expertise on an ongoing basis.
Whilst there is work involved in setting up a clinic – whether it be a weight loss clinic, puppy clinic, senior pet club or specialist service offering – the benefits can be huge for a practice, helping to boost profits and awareness of the services on offer. This could really help differentiate your practice from the competition.
Running clinics should significantly contribute to generating new business, by helping to build close relationships and bonds with both new and existing clients. With the right planning, marketing, promotion and continued assessment, a viable return on the time invested should be assured.
The inclusion of clinics within a practice helps provide a more integrated approach, where pets can benefit from multiple services in the same place, such as gaining the medical care they need, whilst also taking part in sociable activities such as puppy clinics. As this encourages owners to use the services on offer, it also ensures that pets benefit from an end-to-end health service which can enhance their overall welfare.
Prior to starting a clinic, it’s important to create a thorough plan of how it will run in order to ensure financial success and manage the expectations of attendees. Practices should consider the wider timetable and environment of clinics. They should be run at a quiet time at the practice, to avoid too much stress for the animals – particularly important when dealing with puppies and kittens.
Another key consideration is cost. Should you charge a fee or not? This is an individual decision for each practice but it’s necessary to place value on your time and accept that costs will be incurred by running the clinic. The objective of a clinic is to encourage repeat custom from new attendees and to enhance the practice-client bond. This should ultimately outweigh any initial set up costs. An enrolment fee can be considered to encourage attendance, and combat any fears about a low turnout. If positioned smartly, an enrolment fee can be returned to the client on attendance at the consultation.
Finding a suitable host is also of critical importance. For example, a vet nurse hosting a puppy clinic should have a good knowledge of how to safely introduce unknown puppies to each other and be able to clearly communicate with owners. In addition, they should possess knowledge in the areas of parasite control, vaccinations, nutrition, neutering, dental care, insurance, micro chipping, and grooming in order to effectively cross sell other services offered by the practice.
Marketing is another essential aspect to factor in when launching a clinic. Promotional materials in reception, and personalised invitations, will raise awareness among existing clients. Offering a new service to existing clients is an easy step to launch the clinic, while at the same time it can help encourage an old client to revisit the practice.
Setting up a clinic requires an investment of time from each member of the practice team and usually a monetary input, depending on the type of clinic. To ensure a return on this investment, set out a list of areas where the practice expects to see an increase. For example, following a series of weight loss consultations, potential sales should be seen in cat and dog play toys to encourage exercise, interactive feeding tools, and selected diets recommended.
Be realistic about the number of consultations that can be scheduled in a given week and what is an expected result for practice sales. It is important to monitor all saleable items that are directly related to the advice of the clinic so results can be assessed and feedback used to adjust the clinic focus if necessary. Remember the sale of a diet alone will result in a new customer returning to the practice between eight and twelve times a year. This very effectively bonds the client to the practice and will lead to the sale of other over-the-counter items, such as flea and worm treatments, toys and veterinary clinical advice.
In summary, whilst there is certainly a time commitment involved in setting up and running a clinic, there are multiple benefits to the practice. By promoting staff expertise and areas of specialities, clinics can ensure the welfare of animals seen, encourage repeat visits by owners and improve the overall financial outlook of the clinic itself.
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