How to Use Local Events to Build Awareness for Your Veterinary Clinic
By Gabrielle Seltzer, Social Media Manager
The first step when it comes to growing your new client base is to make sure that every dog owner and cat owner in your local area is aware that your veterinary clinic exists. The most effective way to engage potential clients is through a variety of touchpoints multiple times. In fact, many marketing professionals believe in the “Rule of 7,” which states that a potential customer typically needs to see your marketing message seven times before acting on it.
Much of what we do at GeniusVets focuses on reaching your dream clients digitally, though there is still tons of value in engaging with potential clients face-to-face. In this article we will focus on the best ways to use local events to ensure that your practice is seen as a local fixture in the community, as well as build general awareness for your business. This way, when your services are needed, people will have already engaged with your brand. In turn, they are more likely to take the next step of looking you up online, and then ultimately book an appointment.
Participate in Local Events
Local events provide great opportunities to introduce your practice to new people within your community. Make sure you not only show up, but also strategize ways to engage and build relationships with people in your local area. It can be far more impactful to maximize your participation in just a few events per year, as opposed to spreading yourself thin and doing nothing more than showing up at every event in town. Choose a few events per year and reflect on the outcomes to see if it was worth your time, energy, and resources. If not, don’t feel bad not participating again!
There are two categories of local events: Pet Specific vs. Non-Pet Specific (general local community events). At first glance it may seem as though the pet specific events are the only ones worth doing. You know for 100% certainty that the majority of attendees already own a pet. However, you may find that these events attract owners that are already very loyal to their pet's current doctor. When you participate in street fair events, such as Oktoberfest or parades, that attract the general public, you may find that you will get to interact with people who have pets, but may be new to the area and not have a veterinarian yet. It is worth trying both types of events out and seeing which one is more successful.
Make sure you create a booth that is not only well branded, but engaging as well. Your pop up tent, vinyl backdrop, table cloth, and/or signage should all be branded with your colors and logo.
It is not enough to just be present at the local event. Try to think of ways that will engage people to want to stop at your booth and interact with you. Here are some ideas to help get you started:
- Create a branded and event-relevant photo op at your booth: Have props for people to use with your logo backdrop for fun photos, create a cardboard or wooden “kissing booth” for a doggie photo op, or create a cardboard cutout that is event specific that people can use as a frame.
- Consider having a staff member dress up as your hospital’s mascot. Make sure they are wearing a t-shirt or something that has your logo on it. People LOVE stopping by for a photo, or at the very least they will notice your booth and give a quick high five as they walk by.
**Bonus: All photo op experiences also have a good chance of voluntarily getting posted on social media, which is FREE publicity.
- Create a lounge space, complete with shade and water for dogs that may need to rest and hydrate.
- Always have dog treats at your booth! Pet parents can’t resist snagging goodies for their pups.
- Create a fun game for event goers to play, and give away small logo’d prizes.
- Host a free giveaway (people love seeing the words FREE + GIVEAWAY, so make sure you have a sign). Give away a gift basket and/or free exam, and make sure to collect contact information in exchange for entering.
Create Your Own Local Event
Creating your own event can be great for client retention, as well as creating an opportunity to meet pet parents in your local area. This can be done by hosting an event at your hospital, or you can host it at a local business that serves food and drinks (if they are dog-friendly, even better!). Involving other local small businesses and nonprofits in your area can help cross promote your business, too!
Creating an event allows you to entertain, engage, and create brand awareness at the same time. By providing value to people in your community, they will get to know your business more intimately and you will ultimately be able to gain their trust.
People love posting on social media while attending events. So make sure they have photo opportunities that include your branding! Consider creating a hashtag for your event, and encourage attendees to use the hashtag in their posts. There are unlimited possibilities when it comes to the type of event you create, but here are some Genius ideas to help get you started:
- Open House: Allow clients and prospective clients to get a behind the scenes look at your practice. Plan activities, talks, and maybe even a contest to help you show your local community what sets you apart from the competition.
- Mother’s Day Tea: Celebrate moms of human kids and “fur kids” by inviting them to an adorable springtime afternoon tea. Light refreshments for both people and their dogs are always a great draw! You can have crafts available, such as fingerpaint paw and handprint Mother’s Day cards or cookie and pet treat decorating. Moms deserve appreciation, and you can establish bonds with local pet owners who know that you and your staff truly care about them.
- Kids' Day: Create a behind the scenes experience for local kids. Offer this to current clients, children in your local community, and Girl Scout or Boy Scout troops. Consider hosting this once a month. Kids love it, and in no time you will have a waitlist of parents who want their child to have this experience.
- Kids' Camps: Does your local Humane Society have kids camps during the summer? Allow the campers to come in for a tour, have a doctor show campers a mock exam, or help them participate in other age-appropriate activities. It is a great photo op for campers, who are sure to tell their parents about their amazing experiences.
- Haunted Hospital: Create a spooky experience at your practice! It is a fun way to essentially give locals a behind the scenes tour of your business and showcase your fun-loving company culture.
- Santa Photos: Have someone dress up as Santa Claus for “Pet Photos with Santa.” Rather than a fee, consider collecting a small donation for your charity of choice.
Fundraising events are a great way to give back, and people love attending events centered around charity. It is a feel-good activity, not to mention, a great PR opportunity for your business as the organizer and host. Post about it on social media, create a blog on your website, include it in your newsletter, and invite local journalists to cover the event! A feel-good story that involves animals is pure gold to news cameras.
Check out these fundraiser ideas you can try at your veterinary practice:
- Yappy Hour: Host a “Yappy Hour” at a local dog-friendly brewery or popular happy hour spot. Ask the business to give you a percentage of sales and also host a raffle in order to raise more money. This is a great way to meet and greet local dog owners.
- Paint n’ Sip: Host a “Paint n’ Sip” night. Clients and anyone from the community can attend to paint a pet-related painting and sip wine. Sell tickets to cover your costs, and all proceeds go to your charity. If hosting at a local restaurant, ask them to give you a percentage of food and beverage sales generated from your event.
- “Spirit Night”: Similar to what schools do to raise money, you can ask a local business to give back a percentage of sales to anyone who brings in your flier on a certain afternoon.
- Pet Photos: Create a photo op for different holidays, such as Valentine’s Day, Halloween, or Christmas. Allow the public to come have their pet’s photo taken for a donation.
Don’t have time to host your own fundraiser? You can give back to local charity events by donating pet-related gift baskets. Make sure to include something that helps you market your practice, such as a free exam or gift card.
But, wait! Just how do you get RSVPs and attendees? Check out our blog “How Veterinary Practices Can Promote Local Events On Social Media”!
Marketing Shouldn’t Stop Once the Event is Over!
Just because the event is over doesn’t mean your opportunity to market to your new contacts is over. Remember when we suggested creating a giveaway in exchange for your attendees’ contact information? Create a series of emails that can go out to people you met at an event, or if you collected their phone numbers, consider giving them a call. You can contact winners with information about prize pickups, and you can send a heartfelt “Thank You” to those who attended your event or visited your booth. Be sure to include a relevant call-to-action (CTA). You can encourage subscriptions to your newsletter, RSVPs for your next event, appointment scheduling to take advantage of a special offer, and more.
Following up after an event is incredibly important to staying top of mind. People who have attended an event may have been handed tons of marketing materials and met a lot of new people. Even though they may have had every intention of following up to either book an appointment or get more info, they may have simply forgotten. Everyone has busy lives, and they may be actually very grateful for the reminder!
Want more tips for creating awareness of your veterinary hospital to local pet owners? Be sure to join our Facebook group, GeniusVets Veterinary Marketing Professionals!