ArticlePDF Available

Establishing quality online presence for veterinary practices

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Digital marketing is a modern concept, and there is no doubt that developing online presence is becoming more important for businesses to maintain success. The effectiveness and affordability of digital marketing makes it more accessible than ever before, enabling even small businesses to begin interacting with a wider array of potential clients. With improved web traffic comes increased public scrutiny, and businesses need to have strategies in place to respond to all feedback and listen to what potential customers want; only then will digital marketing lead to loyal clients in the long term. Digital marketing plays an important role, and with only a few small steps any business can improve online presence using a number of simple marketing methods, including design and development, digital marketing, reputation management and investing in the future.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Education
64 March 2013Vol 4 No 2The Veterinary Nurse
Millions of people are using the internet on
a daily basis to access information and
connect in social networks. Online access
to instant communication and unlimited availability
to knowledge has changed the face of business, and
more consumers are now nding what they need on-
line and are more willing to buy and pay for things
electronically. These internet resources are becoming
part of our daily lives, and for many businesses ventur-
ing into web development is going to be essential for
maintaining a competitive edge in the years to come.
For many veterinary clinics, as with other small busi-
nesses, the idea of marketing may seem too dicult,
expensive or inaccessible, and if marketing strategies
are not ideal it can be discouraging to see little benet
from signicant investment; however, digital market-
ing has made it vastly less complicated for small busi-
nesses to promote themselves with very little invest-
ment of time or money. Admittedly, better returns can
be assured with considered planning and nancial
outlay; but even if these are forgone, a business can
still take small steps to improve its online presence.
Digital marketing
In a literal sense, when talking about developing
an online presence for veterinary practices we are
talking about digital marketing (otherwise known
as internet marketing or online marketing). Digit-
al marketing is promoting a business to clients and
prospective clients via the internet or other types
of online-sourced media. There are several basic
types of digital marketing, which are outlined in
Table 1.
Delving into the benets and drawbacks of each
and every one of these digital marketing methods is
beyond the scope of this article, but suce it to say
each plays an important role in reaching a particular
niche of the client base, and even the simplest meth-
ods can be eective when done well.
In a sense, digital marketing has made marketing
more accessible to small businesses than ever before.
Many digital platforms are virtually free, yet they can
reach large numbers of people merely by investing
a few hours at the desktop; this is signicantly bet-
ter than traditional marketing platforms comprising
print, radio or television advertising. In fact, with
digital marketing a business can get ve to ten times
the number of potential clients as traditional Yellow
Pages, magazine and newspaper advertisements,
and for less cost (Trye, 2012).
Starting out with digital marketing takes some
planning, but it can be taken in stages according to
the business’ resources and goals. There are three
basic tiers of development for the average small
practice looking to develop their digital marketing
strategy (Figure 1):
Establishing quality online
presence for veterinary practices
Abstract
Digital marketing is a modern concept, and there is no doubt that developing online
presence is becoming more important for businesses to maintain success. The
effectiveness and affordability of digital marketing makes it more accessible than
ever before, enabling even small businesses to begin interacting with a wider array
of potential clients. With improved web trafc comes increased public scrutiny,
and businesses need to have strategies in place to respond to all feedback and
listen to what potential customers want; only then will digital marketing lead to
loyal clients in the long term. Digital marketing plays an important role, and with
only a few small steps any business can improve online presence using a number of
simple marketing methods, including design and development, digital marketing,
reputation management and investing in the future.
Keywords: business strategy, digital marketing, internet, online presence,
social media, web development
Jennifer Hamlin AS VT DipVN NDipAEdT
GCertAEdt is Programme Manager and
Lecturer, National Diploma in Veterinary
Nursing, School of Veterinary Nursing, Otago
Polytechnic, New Zealand
Table 1. Types of digital marketing
Social media marketing
Search engine optimisation
Pay-per-click advertising
Press/public relations
Social networking
Email marketing
Directory listings
Paid advertising
Link sharing
Design And Promote (2012)
Education
66 March 2013Vol 4 No 2The Veterinary Nurse
zDevelop an online presence — this is done by using
digital marketing such as social media, by creating
original content that is hosted on a main website
and by curating content that is newsworthy to your
audience
zInvest in digital managementas marketing needs
increase for the business and budget allows, the
strategy of digital marketing can be streamlined to
increase eectiveness
zIncrease conversions improved eectiveness
translates to more unique visitors to a website and
more interaction by visitors. As these visitors be-
come more connected to the practice's brand, they
can be nurtured to become paid clients.
Ultimately though, the eort and outcome of digit-
al marketing varies considerably depending on how it
is applied; the evolving ways that people are using the
internet make a website alone insucient to promote
a business. Some thought must be put towards de-
veloping online presence and what aspects of digital
marketing are best for attracting potential customers.
Online presence
Online presence is generally the prole of the practice
on the internet, and managing this prole is about
balancing dierent areas of digital marketing in order
to draw viewers to the brand. Managing online pres-
ence involves some key areas, which are outlined in
Figure 2.
While these components may at rst seem compli-
cated, they can be easily broken down into their key
features:
zDesign and development are the foundation for
good online presence; without these, a business
will have a much harder time achieving its goals.
While design is the look and feel of the brand’s in-
formation online, development includes a strategy
for managing online presence that will meet the
practice’s goals
zDigital marketing for a veterinary practice can
include a Facebook fan page, a website and search
engine optimisation for the website. These can be
easily managed by one sta member in an hour a
day; however, it is extremely benecial to initially
invest in web development with a company that
specialises in this area so that it can be run smoothly
by a sta member that can help the business achieve
its goals
zReputation management includes consistency in
branding, security to ensure reliability with online
data and website navigation, obtaining feedback
from consumers and implementing strategies for re-
sponding publicly to negative and positive feedback
zInvesting in the future involves analysing trends,
increasing conversions from website viewers to
paying clients and investing in future development
every few years to keep the brand current in a fast-
changing market.
The process of managing online presence gener-
ally begins with determining goals for the business
and setting a plan in place to achieve those goals
Figure 1. The three tiers of developing a digital marketing strategy.
Design and
development
Reputation
management
Digital
marketing
Investing
in the future
Figure 2. Key components of managing a
positive online presence.
Develop online
presence
zSocial media
zOriginal content
zUser involvement
Invest in digital
management
zBrand importance
zDesign and strategy
zImplementation
Increase
conversions
zReect
zEvaluate data
zAdapt
Education
68 March 2013Vol 4 No 2The Veterinary Nurse
allow the user to engage with the content in some way
(Table 2).
A large number of veterinary clients and prospec-
tive clients are becoming increasingly accustomed
to using social media to connect with the businesses
that they frequent; while social media may not at rst
appear to lead to sales, it is the digital equivalent of
word-of-mouth marketing (Trye, 2012). More impor-
tantly, social media has changed the way sales are pre-
sented and how businesses are marketed (Figure 3).
The data to support the power of social media
are signicant. Statistical surveys depict that nearly
two-thirds of online adults use social media, and
well over half are Facebook users (Brenner, 2013).
More importantly, 80% of social media users prefer
to connect with brands through Facebook, where all
of their interests can be presented to them in their
newsfeeds. For each person that comments on a
post by a business page, their comments are visible
to friends who in turn may like other pages and
social media platforms, opening the door for a vastly
extensive marketing reach (Jorgensen, 2012).
Social media has also changed the way that people
share feedback about businesses. Sites such as Yelp
enable users to post reviews about businesses in a
platform that many people can see. Negative feedback
is one fear that many business owners have, but there
is a way to deal with that feedback that can preserve
the business’ reputation as well as being useful for
both the business and the clients. How you deal with
negative feedback in a public forum is a key to public
perception; considering how many people might see
your response, it is important to make sure that it does
using the most eective methods possible. By ana-
lysing web data and identifying what viewers are in-
teracting with the most, the online activities can be
tailored to rely on interactions rather than on paid
advertisements.
Importance of social media
Social media is perhaps one of the easiest ways
to begin building online presence. The modern
consumer is becoming more accustomed to engaging
with businesses via social media, so it is a useful way
to attract loyalty and interest in your practice. While
we are all familiar with some social media platforms
there are new ones developed every day, all of which
Table 2. Examples of common social media platforms
Type Examples Description
Social networks Facebook, Linkedin Connects people of similar
interests and background.
Enables users to create a prole
and interact in various ways with
other users in order to build
social connections
Bookmarking sites Pinterest, Delicious,
StumbleUpon, Yelp
Enables users to recommend,
save, organise, search, share
and manage links to various
websites, resources and
businesses
Microblogging Twitter Users can publish short updates
that are pushed out to anyone
subscribed to receive their
updates
Media sharing YouTube, Flickr,
Photobucket
Users can upload and share
various digital media such as
pictures and video. Most services
have additional social features
such as proles and commenting
Blogs Wordpress, Tumblr Enables users to publish
updates of any length and
design. These are pushed out to
anyone subscribed to receive the
updates. Viewers can comment
on blog entries
Discussion forums,
real-time chat
Numerous different
platforms
‘Chat rooms’ are used for real-
time discussions, while forums
act more as a community where
users hold conversations by
posting messages and replying
to other peoples’ messages
immediately or at a later time
Social news Reddit, Digg,
Slashdot
Users post news items or links
to outside articles and vote on
items that others have posted.
Items with the most votes are
displayed the most prominently
From Grahl (2013) Figure 3. The new sales funnel (Trye, 2012).
Education
70 March 2013Vol 4 No 2The Veterinary Nurse
not send the wrong message about your willingness to
accept responsibility for something that may not have
been ideal in the client’s eyes (Table 3). Responding to
feedback is essential in a social media climate, even if
it is only to acknowledge a client’s bad experience with
regret and a promise to look into ways to help prevent
a similar problem from happening again in the future.
It is a good start for a business to venture into social
media as a way to develop online presence, but simply
being on Facebook is not enough; a business needs to
do something with that online presence (Capern, 2013).
Importance of generating
original content
Nothing will grow a business faster than an image or
story gone ‘viral’, where it is shared with thousands of
potential customers; but one of the keys to success
with a viral story is that it is the practice's own con-
tent that is being shared so that interested viewers
will be able to link back to the practice website.
Original content can vary, but it usually involves
information or media that has been created by the
practice and which is being hosted on the practice's
own website. In contrast to creating content, curating
content is the reposting or sharing of links to other
sites and it can be just as popular if the content is rel-
evant to your viewers (Kanter, 2012).
Creating quality content is a skill in its own right and
is closely linked with knowing your audience. Some
general rules for creating quality content include:
zMaking the information short and concise so that it
is quick and easy for viewers to read and share
zEnsuring that the content is understandable to
your audience by minimising jargon and present-
ing ideas in ways that they can appreciate
zEncouraging interaction by inviting users to share
and comment or asking them to take action in their
community.
The ultimate goal of all of this content is to tell a
good story. By creating compelling stories that po-
sition the practice as helpful, valuable and trusted
experts in the eld, casual readers can be converted
into loyal readers, and in turn those readers can be
converted into loyal clients (Pulizzi, 2013).
Quality content is important, but it is also vital to
develop content that is suited for the platform that it
will be presented. For example, creating content for
an e-newsletter is quite a bit dierent from creating
content for a Twitter feed. Content should have one
purpose, and this needs to be dened; for instance, is
the content designed to teach, to inform or to enter-
tain, or is it to inspire or start a conversation? Viewers
will appreciate a variety of content, and being aware
of the intent of a piece of content can help to ensure a
good spread (Hanbury, 2011).
Online content is important for success but it will
not lead to additional clients if the quality of your
product is not good.
Quality services and what can be
learned from prospective clients
While inexpensive marketing may seem like a dream
come true, it does have its potential costs. No mat-
ter how good members of the practice are at social
media or digital marketing, a poor-quality product
or bad customer service is going to be detrimental to
the business’ goals. An unhappy client can post a bad
review online, and if you do not deal with it well then
it can mean certain death for your marketing strategy
(Jarvis, 2005). Listening to feedback is essential to a
business’ success by enabling insight into what po-
tential clients want.
All online fans are important to the business, even
those who will never be paid clientele. Viewers can
be loyal promoters of a brand, even if they never
walk through the doors as they can recommend the
practice to their friends. Similarly, bad feedback
can negatively aect the practice's reputation, so
listening to feedback and responding by doing
something valuable with that input needs to be part
of the overall marketing strategy.
Conclusion
The ultimate goal of marketing in any form is to cre-
ate loyal customers, and with digital marketing there
is a wider pool of potential clients than ever before.
Traditional print, radio and television advertising can
Table 3. Key tips that can be used to address negative feedback in social media
There will always be the occasional negative post and social media users
know that, so never remove negative posts — instead always reply with an
understanding message and an apology or effort to make things right
Always respond to negative feedback or it can look like you are avoiding the
issue or do not care
Be understanding and polite — an apology can go a long way
Contact the client privately to extend a personal touch
If you think the post will erode your reputation even after it has been
resolved, consider asking the client to remove the post but only if the client is
happy with the resolution
Let the community respond as well — sometimes they will be the biggest
resource for diffusing a heated situation or they could provide your best
endorsements
As a last resort, if people giving feedback are rude or abusive and there is no
resolution that would be satisfactory to them, they can be outright banned
from your page
From Belosic (2011)
The Veterinary Nurse Vol 4 No 2March 2013 71
Education
hardly compare to the eectiveness and aordability
of digital marketing; as such, digital marketing is be-
coming more accessible to smaller businesses. Build-
ing online presence is becoming one of the most
important things that a veterinary practice can do
to promote itself, with simple steps such as creating
quality content and maintaining consistently good
customer service feedback; however, at the heart of
any marketing strategy, good customer service and a
quality product will always be the biggest factors that
keep clients coming through the doors. VN
Key points
zManaging online presence is about balancing different areas of digital marketing
in order to draw viewers to the practice's brand.
zSocial media is perhaps one of the easiest ways to begin building online
presence.
zAround 80% of social media users prefer to connect with brands through
Facebook.
zHowever, simply being on Facebook is not sufcient a business needs to do
something with that online presence.
zOnline content is important for success, but it will not lead to additional clients if
the quality of the product is not good.
Belosic J (2011) Seven Tips for
Dealing With Upset Facebook
Fans. Available from: http://
www.socialmediaexaminer.
com/7-tips-for-dealing-with-
upset-facebook-fans/ (ac-
cessed 11 March, 2013)
Brenner J (2013) Pew Internet:
Social Networking (Full De-
tail). Available from: http://
pewinternet.org/Commen-
ta r y /20 1 2 /Ma r ch/P ew- In-
ternet-Social-Networking-
full-detail.aspx (accessed 11
March, 2013)
Capern C (2013) Content Strat-
egy and Social Media. Failing
to Plan is Planning to Fail.
Available from: http://ct-
social.com/content-strategy-
and-social-media/ (accessed
11 March, 2013)
Design And Promote (2012)
Types of Internet Marketing.
Available from: http://www.
designandpromote.com/
types-of-internet-marketing/
(accessed 11 March, 2013)
Grahl T (2013) Think First — The
Six Types of Social Media.
Available from: http://out-
thinkgroup.com/tips/the-6-
types-of-social-media (ac-
cessed 11 March, 2013)
Hanbury K (2011) Five Steps to
Creating an Eective Content
Mix. Available from: http://
contentmarketinginstitute.
com/2011/02/content-mix/
(accessed 11 March, 2013)
Jarvis J (2005) Dear Mr Dell.
Available from: http://buz-
zmachine.com/2005/08/17/
dear-mr-dell/ (accessed 11
March, 2013)
Jorgensen K (2012) Business-
2Community. Available from:
http://www.business2com-
muni ty.com/facebook/face -
boo k-marketing-s tatistics-
you-need-to-know-0289953
(accessed 11 March, 2013)
Kanter B (2012) What Comes
First, Content Creation or
Curation? Beth’s blog. Avail-
able from: http://www.
bethkanter.org/content-cura-
tion-creation/ (accessed 11
March, 2013)
Pulizzi J (2013) Four Reasons
Why Content Marketing is
Scaring the Pants O Media
Companies. Available from:
http://contentmarketingin-
stitute.com/2013/01/content-
marketing-is-scaring-media-
companies/ (accessed 11
March, 2013)
Trye K (2012) Social Media — I
was Wrong. Available from:
htt p: // www.d igitalmarket-
ing.co.nz/social-media/i-
was-wrong/ (accessed 11
March, 2013)
References
Article
Aim:Veterinary practice websites have the ability to attract and retain clients. They also have the potential to influence clients' perceptions of the veterinary team. This paper investigated ‘Meet the Team’ pages on UK practice websites to identify the current portrayal of veterinary professions and occupations.Method:One hundred random practices, treating any species, were selected from the RCVS' list of practices. Information on the team was collected.Results:Meet the Team pages existed on 82 websites. All Meet the Team pages included veterinary surgeons (VSs). Veterinary nurses (VNs) were included on 82.9% of pages. Of the 14 pages that did not include veterinary nurses, six pages belonged to practices which did employ veterinary nurses. ‘Other’ occupations (such as receptionists and administrators) were included on 90.2% of pages. Of the eight pages that did not include other groups, four belonged to practices which did employ other groups. According to their biographies, 76% of VNs are RVNs, 13% are qualified, while 11% had no indication of qualification. There was no significant difference between the proportions of individuals per profession who had photographs within their biographies, or between the focus of photographs per profession. VS's biographies were significantly longer than VN's.Conclusion:The analysis was largely reassuring. The majority of practices included all groups which make up their team. However, some do not, or put more emphasis on certain groups, which may influence clients' understanding and value for other members of the veterinary team. Some suggestions for Meet the Team pages are made.
Conference Paper
We hypothesise that agents who engage in task oriented dialogue usually try to complete the task with the least effort which will produce a satisfactory solution. Our analysis of a corpus of map navigation task dialogues shows that there are a number of different aspects of dialogue for which agents can choose either to expend extra effort when they produce their initial utterances, or to take the risk that they will have to recover from a failure in the dialogue. Some of these decisions and the strategies which agents use to recover from failures due to high risk choices are simulated in the JAM system. The human agents of the corpus purposely risk failure because this is generally the most efficient behaviour. Incorporating the same behaviour in the JAM system produces dialogue with more "natural" structure than that of traditional dialogue systems.
Seven Tips for Dealing With Upset Facebook Fans
  • J Belosic
Belosic J (2011) Seven Tips for Dealing With Upset Facebook Fans. Available from: http:// www.socialmediaexaminer. com/7-tips-for-dealing-withupset-facebook-fans/ (accessed 11 March, 2013)
Pew Internet: Social Networking (Full Detail)
  • J Brenner
Brenner J (2013) Pew Internet: Social Networking (Full Detail). Available from: http:// pewinternet.org/Commentary/2012/March/Pew-Internet-Social-Networkingfull-detail.aspx (accessed 11 March, 2013)
Types of Internet Marketing
  • Design And Promote
Design And Promote (2012) Types of Internet Marketing. Available from: http://www. d e s i g n a n d p ro m o te. co m / types-of-internet-marketing/ (accessed 11 March, 2013)
Think First -The Six Types of Social Media
  • T Grahl
Grahl T (2013) Think First -The Six Types of Social Media. Available from: http://outthinkgroup.com/tips/the-6-types-of-social-media (accessed 11 March, 2013)
Five Steps to Creating an Effective Content Mix
  • K Hanbury
Hanbury K (2011) Five Steps to Creating an Effective Content Mix. Available from: http:// contentmarketinginstitute. com/2011/02/content-mix/ (accessed 11 March, 2013)
What Comes First, Content Creation or Curation? Beth's blog
  • B Kanter
Kanter B (2012) What Comes First, Content Creation or Curation? Beth's blog. Available from: http://www. bethkanter.org/content-curation-creation/ (accessed 11 March, 2013)
Four Reasons Why Content Marketing is Scaring the Pants Off Media Companies
  • J Pulizzi
Pulizzi J (2013) Four Reasons Why Content Marketing is Scaring the Pants Off Media Companies. Available from: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2013/01/contentmarketing-is-scaring-mediacompanies/ (accessed 11 March, 2013)
Social Media -I was Wrong
  • K Trye
Trye K (2012) Social Media -I was Wrong. Available from: http://www.digitalmarketing.co.nz/social-media/iwas-wrong/ (accessed 11 March, 2013)