In attempt to measure and analyze how dog and cat owners perceive their veterinary clinics, and their understanding of the clinic’s involvement in good works, ‘cause Digital Marketing launched a Veterinary Client Survey in August of 2018. The results provided a baseline for what clients and pet owners perceived to be true about their pet organizations as well as a jumping-off point for a larger 10-year survey ‘cause Digital Marketing is undertaking to better understand the changing perceptions of pet owners. The long-term intent of the effort is to provide insights and tools that assist veterinary practices and other pet-industry professionals with connecting better to their clients and providing the best care for animals.
The 2018 survey reviewed answers given online from more than 469 primary caretakers of dogs or cats in the United States. Key takeaways are indicated, but deserve deeper analysis over time. Overall, the survey found that fewer than half of pet owners (47%) are aware of any good works being performed by veterinary hospitals, and more than one in five practice clients admits to questioning their practice’s motives. However, strong potential exists for reducing that perception with 71% of clients indicating they’d like to see (know about) their hospital doing good works more often and 82% of clients saying they’d be more likely to refer others to a practice doing good works.
Ironically, a number of anecdotal factors leads the team to believe that most practices are already doing good works, but the public is simply unaware of these efforts. We’ve identified the four most common reasons given during interviews with hospitals and have provided supplementary materials for practices to leverage to overcome these objections.
In August 2018, ‘cause Digital Marketing randomly surveyed 526 U.S. dog and cat owners to better understand their current perception of veterinary practices and practice-loyalty motivations.
We looked at four core factors:
- Do they go to the vet at least once every few years? Those who do not were removed from the sampling so we could focus in on the owners who are more likely to be practice clients.
- Are they the primary caregiver of at least one dog or cat? Those who are not were removed from the sampling so we could focus in on the owners who are more likely to be practice clients.
- Do their perceptions of their veterinary practice’s community involvement shape their loyalty to and recommendations of the practice?
- Are they aware of ways their veterinary practice is currently involved in helping the community?
After filtering individuals who reported regular veterinary visits and were the primary caretakers of a dog or cat, the sample size was 469 for majority of the answers.
Data was collected from both male and female genders, ranging in age from 18 to 60 years old. Of the male and female responses, 43.28% were male and 56.72% were female.
Request more information about our sample size.
Definitions were used as following:
- Pet Owners: Participants who were surveyed and owned at least one dog or cat (n=526)
- Clients: Participants who were surveyed, are the primary caretaker for at least one dog or cat and visit the veterinarian at least every few years (n=469)
- Good Works: Veterinary practices that provide some form of education, communications or services that they do not receive financial remuneration for and assist in the better life of animals and the people who care for them.
Post-survey, four hospitals that promote publicly their own good works were approached and interviewed to understand better the objections given to publicizing such works, and how each practice works to overcome them.
- A 3.5 doctor, single location practice focusing on small animals and “pocket pets”
- A 3-location, 11 doctor practice specializing in small animal care
- A single location of a national specialty hospital chain with 13 in-practice specialists
- A 1.5 doctor, single location practice focusing on small animal care
FINDING #1: CLIENTS RECOGNIZE AND SHARE VETERINARY PRACTICE’S PASSION
What did clients perceive to be true about pet-health professionals? The vast majority believed that veterinary professionals shared their love and passion for pets.
Likewise, the ‘cause Digital Team found in qualitative interviews with four veterinary practices involved in good works that the staffers often cared about the same issues as those clients:
FINDING #2: PET OWNERS AREN’T AWARE OF GOOD WORKS OR MOTIVATIONS
Unfortunately, neither pet owners at large, nor clients are aware of good works being performed by veterinary practices.
This seemed significant to our team. After all, nearly all the veterinary practices we’ve come in contact with over 16+ years in the industry were involved in giving back in a multitude of ways.
Our Founder tested this during her presentation of this preliminary data at the September 2018 American Animal Hospital Association’s Connexity Conference. She listed off seven unpaid ways the ‘cause Digital Marketing team has witnessed veterinary practices helping others and had the attendees raise their hands if their practice was doing one of them. By the end of the list, 100% of the veterinary practices in the room had their hands raised.
Perhaps more concerning is that one in five clients has questioned practice motivations, with 22% agreeing that they’ve questioned whether their veterinary practice is in business for money more than providing the best care and another fifth on the fence, neither agreeing or disagreeing.
FINDING #3: PET OWNERS WOULD LIKE TO SEE HOW PRACTICES ARE DOING GOOD WORKS
The good news is that this is more of a perception gap, from what we can see. But why does it exist?
Clients are open and looking for practices to be more active in good works (which, in this case may just mean being more vocal about what they’re already doing.) In fact, the survey revealed that 71% of clients would like to know about the good works these companies are doing.
Pet health professionals stand to lose a lot by keeping silent about their good works. Keeping quiet has the potential to distance clients, and ultimately harm their ability to provide the best patient care due to consumers questioning their motives. While our team understands the rigors and challenges the modern practice faces, dispelling the perception of practices being in business for the wrong reasons is something the industry as a whole would be good to stand up and correct.
That leads us to a very important question: Why don’t clients know about the extra effort’s practices are making in their animal care?
The answer is complex: Many practices actively avoid talking about their great works.
In discussions with veterinary practice managers, four primary objections arose regarding sharing information about how their practice volunteers to help animals.
Those objections were:
- Lack of time
- Fear of an abundance of requests
- The feeling of boasting about themselves
- Fear of clients thinking they are being overcharged
FINDING #4: OVERCOMING THESE OBJECTIONS OPENS THE DOOR FOR STRONG PRACTICE GROWTH
The potential of sharing good works to attract clients, keep them loyal and attract top talent has been well documented. The ‘cause Digital Marketing Veterinary Client Perception Survey looked at veterinary clients specifically and found that not only do they try to purchase from organizations that do good works, they would be more loyal and likely to recommend a practice they know is doing so.
Here at ‘cause we understand that pet care professionals do not get into this business to be marketing masterminds. In fact, like most pet professionals, marketing and communications is likely to be the last thing veterinary practice staff enjoys doing. Practices want to share their passion for healthy pets by doing what they do best, and that already entails everything from clinic upkeep to answering phones to saving lives. We get it, and we can help.
From what we found, the majority of veterinary practices and pet-health professionals are already involved in fundraisers, pet education, non-profit partnerships, and likely attend a few local events in their community. That makes 90% of the hard part done already.
To give back, and help the community make a bigger impact in changing lives, we’ve surveyed four veterinary practices who are doing great works and uncovered simple ways you can overcome the four primary objections in your practice.
This path was debuted during Cause Marketing and the Veterinary Practice at AAHA Connexity 2018. Request your FREE copy of the presentation and workbook by getting in touch.