Every business has a brand identity, and equine veterinary practices are no exception. Some firms work hard to create that identity, and some are completely unaware of how they are viewed by the equine community. When it comes to attracting clients to your veterinary practice who fit your values and areas of interest, your brand identity is essential.
Businesses’ brand identities can be seen as similar to their personalities. Branding can be defined as who you
are as a company. It’s your values and your mission; it’s the way you treat your customers. It’s the look and feel of your truck, your office and your team. So, before you can move forward with the more practical steps like designing a logo, you need to invest time to understand who you are and who you want to be as a practice—in other words, your brand identity.
One can even think of a brand as being like a person and use words to describe it. A word to describe Apple might be “innovative.” A word to describe Walmart might be “affordable.” What word describes your practice? “Compassionate”? “Specialized”? “Reliable”?
Why do people prefer certain brands? When you think of buying a can of cola-flavored soda at the convenience store, do you prefer to buy the generic brand, or do you spend a little more for a Coke or a Pepsi? If so, why? The consistency of the experience with a name brand is typically what motivates people to spend more. It’s worth it to them to know what they’re getting in the can, and that it will be exactly the same every time. So, too, clients will typically choose to be loyal and willing to pay more when they know they will have a reliably superior experience at your practice.
Once you are committed to creating a consistent brand identity, there is freedom to determine how to position the practice within the equine industry. The practice should create a brand that is reflective of the skills and values of the owners. The values of kindness, reliability and effective communication could be the foundation of one practice’s brand. Or the values of technical excellence, cutting-edge medicine and excellence might be the identity of another firm. Clients will most often choose a practice that shares their values and priorities. Consequently, their satisfaction with their experience is often superior.
It is similar for a doctor serving clients who appreciate that person’s brand identity. Clients who have chosen you deliberately for who you are and what you do have a much more satisfying partnership with you than if you are trying to please someone who doesn’t actually respect who you are or want what you are offering.
Attracting the Clients to your Veterinary Practice
Attracting clients to your veterinary practice who appreciate your brand and share your values requires informing them on what you represent. This is what shaping, creating and reinforcing your brand identity is all about. The process for building an intentional brand identity begins with identifying your most strongly held values as a practice. Does ethical practice trump being known worldwide for your expertise? Does reliability mean more to you than financial success? Not that any of these attributes are mutually exclusive, but it is important to understand where your priorities lie. It is only in this way that you will have clients who trust your recommendations wholeheartedly because they share your views about the relative importance of things.
Creating your brand encompasses thinking of what kind of a person you’d like your practice to be, hiring people that share those values, communicating your company values regularly to your staff, and bringing them to life in every experience that clients have with your business.
The consistency of that experience is what makes a brand powerful. If you want to attract clients who love their horses through sickness as well as health, every interaction your team members have with the patients and their owners must exhibit caring and kindness.
If supporting world-class athletes is your dream, you can be kind, but your team must demonstrate world-class medical care in every moment. The expertise of the services might sometimes exceed the kindness in the exchange, without any loss of client trust. Conversely, a client who prioritizes compassion will likely be unsatisfied about receiving unparalleled technical expertise with a dismissive bedside manner.
To maximize your clients’ satisfaction, they need to be aligned with your brand identity. Communicating that identity to attract the right people will be most successful if you have a unique visual symbol, or logo, and a tagline or slogan.
For example, a practice that prioritizes compassion throughout the lifespan of patients might have “A Lifetime of Caring” as its tagline. A practice that prizes ethics might use “Ethical Practice, Every Day.”
Another practice that treats primarily competitive athletes might have the slogan “A Winning Edge.”
You can quickly understand what is important to each of these practices without knowing anything else about them.
Logos that Reflect You
When choosing a logo design, you want an image that is unique, colorful and memorable. Willow Creek Equine might feature a willow tree. Twin Pines Equine might understandably have two pine trees. Pretty Valley Equine might utilize the “V” of the word Valley to create a picture of a pretty valley.
Incorporating your tagline into your logo design can be an effective way to communicate what your practice is all about.
Once created, your logo and tagline should appear on all of your paperwork, invoices, advertisements, social media, e-mail signatures, etc. Hats, shirts and jackets are great canvases on which to display your brand. Every touchpoint with your client is another opportunity to showcase your brand identity through visual means and the attributes of the entire interaction.
Showcase Your Practice
To filter the clients you want from the general population, consider showcasing your practice’s talents with an educational seminar featuring your doctors. If using a projected presentation, add your miniaturized logo to the corner of every slide. Your team’s personality will demonstrate the priorities of the practice in the way they present material and answer questions.
If this is a hands-on demonstration, the subtle differences in the way that the presenters and handlers work with the demo horse will inform participants through non-verbal communication. Just as some people believe that dogs should sleep on the bed and others are firm that they should never be on the furniture, horse owners have similar ingrained beliefs. Practice is so much easier when those values are shared. When creating social media posts or other marketing pieces, be consistent with the feel that you want to promote. Photos should elicit the emotions and words that you want your brand to promote—compassion, excellence, winning, the human-animal bond. You get to decide.
Typically, you should decide on two colors to represent your brand, then use them consistently. Try not to change any visual representations of your brand, even if you are getting tired of them. That’s often when clients have finally recognized your brand symbols! Use these colors on your social media, website, work clothing and in your office.
Round Peg, Square Hole
With the number of equine veterinarians decreasing, there is an opportunity for practices to more carefully select the clients they truly want to serve.
You might find that you have accumulated clients over the years that simply don’t fit your brand. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation about your values if you knock heads over care. For instance, if a trainer pressures you to do maintenance joint injections before the show season on horses that you have not examined in a year, perhaps you will want to discuss how important it is to the practice to only provide clinically warranted care and request permission to perform soundness examinations on the horses on the list. If your request is refused, this might be a client who is better suited to a different practice.
Your social media posts and client seminar topics will help you with attracting clients to your veterinary practice with similar interests. If your business does a lot of work for Thoroughbred breeding farms, you are likely to post “win” pictures of horses that you helped to conceive or foal through your work. This in turn might attract other breeders to try your services.
If you serve many geriatric “pet” horses, your posts might include educational pieces on PPID, chronic laminitis and nutrition for the older horse. This will encourage horse owners to see you as an expert on aging equines.
If you have added a new skill or service, be sure to highlight it regularly in your posts and personal interactions with clients in order to drive new business with clients who value that service. As with any service, understanding the “why” they would use the service will help clients determine whether their horses are likely to benefit. A practice of primarily pet horses would emphasize the benefits of increased comfort for services such as acupuncture or chiropractic, while a practice concentrating on show horses would emphasize improved performance.
Attracting clients to your veterinary practice who will most value the way you provide services will happen organically when you create a strong brand identity and market it well. Knowing your practice’s values and hiring a team that shares those values is the foundation of your brand.
Every interaction with patients and clients can strengthen that identity if there is consistency in every client experience. When everyone in your practice believes in the same vision, they intuitively know the right answers when questions arise. By creating a strong brand, you will attract the “right” clients and be more successful in your work.