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Veterinary Forum May 2007 (Vol 24, No 5)

Doctor to Doctor: "Becoming a Marketing Master"

by Ronald E. Whitford, DVM

    The exam room is where you can effectively market your practice. This is your chance to impress clients with your interpersonal skills as well as your professional skills. Be an active listener, show compassion and conduct each examination in a clean, adequately stocked and well-organized space.

    Setting the stage

    Ensure you have an adequate number of exam rooms in your practice. Each room should be large enough so it is comfortable for your clients and their pets. To maximize space, try using chairs that fit into the corners of the room. One seat should be placed adjacent to the exam table so pets can easily climb up. Keep coat hooks on the back of exam room doors for the clients' convenience.

    To ensure exam room cleanliness, create a staff preparation checklist. Staff members should examine the cleanliness and conditions of the following:

    • Ceiling tiles
    • Cracks and crevices
    • Baseboards
    • Wall coverings
    • Cabinets and other wood surfaces
    • Exam tables
    • Sinks

    All staff members (yourself included) should wash their hands in front of clients when they enter. Also be sure that lighting, ventilation and odor control are adequate and that the temperature is comfortable. Humidity control is just as important as temperature control.

    Marketing messages

    Passive marketing displays and wall decorations serve as marketing billboards for your practice. Everything should be framed, with no thumbtacks or Scotch tape. Hang up charts to outline the following:

    • Ear and skin anatomy
    • Teeth and periodontal disease
    • Heartworm life cycle
    • Internal parasites
    • Physical examination components
    • Senior pet programs
    • Allergy testing

    Keep bulletin boards in the exam rooms and change the posted materials each month, including CE attended by veterinarians and staff, interesting newspaper stories related to veterinary medicine and preventive health care recommendations. A client brochure rack should include common preventive health care information. All literature should have labels with clinic contact information.

    Exam room efficiency

    The counters, cabinets and drawers in each exam room should be stocked identically to increase practice efficiency. This way, all staff members should be able to quickly locate important equipment, regardless of the exam room they enter. Be sure that the file drawers are organized; you never know whether a client will look through them when no one else is present in the room. The following items should be easy to access in every exam room:

    • Sharps disposable units
    • Pet treats
    • Models, specimens and anatomical pictures
    • New client and new pet kits
    • Frequently needed forms
    • Towels for exam table
    • Cleaning supplies

    Each exam room should contain adequate equipment, including syringes and needles, skin scraping supplies, ear- cleaning supplies, thermometers, fecal loops, radiograph viewers, hand instruments and other necessary tools.

    Your best behavior

    The March installment of "Doctor to Doctor" stressed the importance of staff appearance and behavior. As the practitioner, you must set an example for each employee in your practice by emulating "model" behavior. When you enter the exam room, introduce yourself immediately. Touch and talk to the pet throughout the physical examination while explaining the clinical presentation and discussing the various treatment options. Demonstrate medication administration to eliminate confusion.

    Be sure to ask the client: "Have I answered all of your questions?" Offer a professional business card, thank the client for coming in and ask for any referrals.

    Personally escort the client to the reception desk when the examination is complete. The receptionist should schedule a follow-up appointment and ask the client the following questions:

    • Do you need anything else today?
    • Do you have any other questions?
    • Do you understand the home care instructions?
    • Were you satisfied with your service today?
    • How can we make improvements?

    Just as the client is accompanied to and from the exam room, a staff member should show the client to his or her car. Again, that staff member should encourage the client to call the office with questions or concerns.

    A closing thought

    Keep your exam rooms clean, well-stocked and organized, with plenty of informative marketing materials. Show your clients that they made a smart choice when they made their first appointment at your practice. Hopefully, their positive experience will serve as a referral for subsequent visits.

    NEXT: Editor's Note: "Monkey Business"


    Did you know... Successful practices make convenience for clients a top priority—starting with that very first phone call to when they exit the parking lot. Read More

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