We all know that eliminating unwanted litters reduces both euthanasia and shelter intake. In spite of this, many new clinics find it difficult to fill their surgery schedule. Unfortunately, the saying, “if you build it they will come,” only works in the movies. In the real world, clinics need effective marketing.
Marketing can be distilled down to a core essence — delivering a message to a target audience to get them to take action. As simple as it sounds, this brief statement contains four elements that clinics need to consider in their marketing approach: desired action, target audience, message and delivery.
Here are my “top five” marketing tips for spay/neuter clinics:
- Define your target audience. Understand the specific people and pets you want to serve. Recruit staff and volunteers from your target audience to gain insights.
- Tailor your message and delivery to your target audience. Design your messages and your delivery mechanism based on the target audience. What works for young male pitbull lovers probably does not appeal to a busy working mom. To engage different audiences, customize what you say – as well as how and where you say it.
- Pound the pavement. No fancy marketing tool can compete with a good old fashioned conversation. Go where your target customers spend time and have conversations with them. “Table” at grocery stores, canvas in parks, go to community events and talk to people. You will learn very quickly what your audience cares about and what messages engage them.
- Embrace online tools. A 2014 study showed that 87 percent of adults use the internet and the vast majority of consumers research products and services online before making a purchase decision. Thus, you need to be easy to find online. Tools such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Google Adwords for nonprofits, and Yelp can all help you get more people and pets into your clinic.
- Don’t give up. It may take some trial and error to figure out what works best in your community. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get traction right away. Gather feedback and keep trying. After all, pets (and their people) are counting on you.