A lot of veterinary teams are feeling disrespected by clients these days. Since the pandemic, I’m seeing constant posts asking, “How can we ask clients to be nicer to us?” But can we blame everything on the pandemic? I think there’s a clear missing piece to veterinary medicine earning respect from the public.
I’ll put it in meme language, as it is my native tongue:
Vet med: “The public doesn’t understand the worth of our DVMs, LVTs, and the entire veterinary team!”
Also vet med: *Does nothing to consistently and effectively communicate the value of veterinary professionals to the public.*
Why do we need to increase public awareness for the work veterinary professionals do?
This disconnect drives me bananas as a marketer, but it also bothers me as an advocate for veterinary professionals. The gap between what veterinary professionals do and what the public thinks they do is at the root of so many issues.
If pet owners don’t see the value in educated, skilled workers, then vet clinics can’t charge for the full value of those workers. Can’t charge appropriately? You won’t be able to pay your team the wages their skillsets deserve.
We’re facing unprecedented staffing shortages. Yet why would someone choose a career where they get a lousy ROI on their degree or training?
Marketing can’t solve everything, but it’s clear to me that it could have an impact on educating pet owners. Effective marketing communicates, educates, and connects. It could teach pet owners about the value of veterinary professionals.
So why don’t we market more effectively to the public? There’s a few things at play.
1) The curse of knowledge makes us think the public is stupid and disrespectful for not knowing what vet med involves
Yep – the “curse of knowledge” strikes again.
The Harvard Business Review explains this psychological phenomenon with the following:
“The problem is that once we know something—say, the melody of a song—we find it hard to imagine not knowing it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. We have difficulty sharing it with others, because we can’t readily re-create their state of mind.”
Veterinary professionals are too deep into understanding their work to remember that everyone doesn’t spend their days in a veterinary hospital. You’ve got to realize that while your world is vet med, the entire world doesn’t revolve around vet med.
People aren’t stupid because they don’t know what working in veterinary medicine entails. I have RN friends with zero clue that a LVT does their job (and more). I know highly successful business people that have zero clue that veterinarians are literally doctors.
Veterinary medicine needs to take a step back and realize that most of the world assumes vets are James Herriot, popping casually around the countryside. And support staff? They think you’re just that.
This sounds harsh, but I believe in being direct when things must get addressed. Instead of seeing this as a personal insult toward your career, see it as an opportunity. This is your chance to communicate your whole story so that the public better understands your work!
2) There’s disrespect, confusion, and fear of overcharging amongst veterinary professionals
If we want the public to respect and understand veterinary professionals, we need to look within first.
I see infighting between licensed/registered/certified veterinary technicians and OTJ trained techs daily. There’s so much confusion about what “veterinary technician” even means. The title isn’t even protected in over 31 states, according to a recent report by NAVTA.
Practice managers with CVPMs are constantly complaining about practice owners who don’t empower them to lead. (And I’m constantly explaining what a CVPM – certified veterinary practice manager – is to people!)
Some clinics want accolades for offering a $15/hr minimum rate to support staff when that’s hardly a living wage in most areas. How can someone feel respected in their career is when they can’t afford to live?
I could go on and on. (I won’t even begin to unpack the psychological blocks veterinary professionals have around charging appropriately for their services in this blog. but it’s worth noting as a contributor to why we suck at communicating value). The TLDR version is that… a lot of vet med is a hot mess.
We need to support each other and get our story straight in order to communicate our worth effectively to the public!
3) There’s a lack of resources put toward effective marketing
I started Snout School in 2014 because I wanted to teach veterinary clinics how to effectively market themselves. Although my goals for the brand have changed over the years, that essence is still at our core.
Yet too often I see the job of marketing a vet clinic randomly thrown at whoever is the best at taking pics or loves social media the most. They’re given little to no training, let alone clear, concise direction on how to communicate the value of veterinary services. I want to be clear that people can learn to be great marketers, but they need guidance. Marketing a multi-million dollar business isn’t easy, and communicating about the value of a massive profession isn’t for a newbie.
At an industry level, there either aren’t campaigns focused at the public or when there are, they fall flat.
Moral of the story: Posting pics of veterinary professionals isn’t effective marketing that will communicate their value, nor is a few posts celebrating your team’s credentials.
To achieve that, you need a clear brand strategy. If marketing how you communicate your message (eg: social media), then branding is strategically planning what that message is.
Brand strategy looks at things like who you’re trying to speak to, what lesson you want to teach them, and what makes you uniquely qualified to teach it.
The gap between what veterinary professionals do and what the public thinks they do can close with some effort.
It will happen as more individuals build personal brands to tell their stories. Clinics can invest in developing a clear brand strategy to educate local pet owners. And industry partners? They can prioritize public-facing campaigns too.
Need help with building a brand strategy to communicate the value of veterinary professionals?
It can get tricky, but with years of expertise – I can help you get it done in a matter of hours!
1) DIY in our industry-leading Veterinary Branding Lab!
Whether you’re trying to communicate what makes your team members or yourself valuable to the public, this course will leave you with a specific plan. Take your first class free here to see if it’s for you!
2) Work with me on your veterinary brand 1-on-1 through my agency, The Snout Group.
We offer everything from VIP day sessions to plan your branding and marketing strategy to gorgeous logo design! I’ll personally help you figure out exactly how to communicate your value to the public! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can help.