Consumerism & the Unusual Quote on Our Website

AUTHOR: Peter Alberti

At the Western Veterinary Conference (WVC) last week one of the presentations by Zoetis raised the issue of consumerism as one of three key drivers influencing pet owner decision-making. One of several definitions of consumerism from Dictionary.com is “a modern movement for the protection of the consumer against useless, inferior, or dangerous products, misleading advertising, unfair pricing, etc.”  This boils down to pet industry consumers trying to help each other make the “right” decisions when buying goods and services for their pets.  This seems like a noble plight… but wow, is it complicated!

Preaching To the Choir

One term I heard in every single Practice Management session I attended was “Dr. Google”.  To me, this term’s meaning has already transcended Internet searching and is more of a metaphor for “all the data and information, accurate or not, that is easily obtained with the click of a mouse.”  I know I’m stating the obvious when I say:  This is a problem!

This brings me to the choice we made for the George Bernard Shaw quote on the homepage of our website:

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

I mentioned above that consumerism seems like a noble cause.  It is clearly well-intentioned, but when it comes to medical care (human or animal), there’s a whole lot of room for interpretation about what’s “good” and what’s not.  Whether the guidance comes from a friend, a veterinary professional, Dr. Google, or the 18-year old retail clerk at the pet store down the street, it’s still highly possible that misinterpretation could happen or important details could be missed, leaving even the most sage advice morphed into something problematic.

The real challenge here is that veterinary professionals end up being more and more challenged to offset the “noise” and ensure an accurate message is delivered and received.

What’s a pet owner to do?  And how can we help them?

Carefully listening, evaluating and understanding all the information available to consumers has become very difficult.  Deciding how to activate on it is even harder.  It is therefore imperative that trusted sources (like, say, veterinary professionals or Pet Cause Media) find ways to effectively deliver credible information to pet owners.  Simply having a discussion during the exam is often times insufficient.  It’s necessary, of course – but may very well need reinforcement.

Here are a few tips to help pet owners stay on track as they absorb the noisy influx of media and other advice that is constantly trying to influence them:

  • CONSISTENCY. Words, images, video, everything that is presented to an audience should demonstrate some degree of continuity.  The more often a person hears or sees something, the more likely it is he/she will remember – and trust – it.
  • RELEVANCE. With so many alternatives, options and choices, it’s often hard for consumers to know if or when something applies to them and their pets. Short, targeted, and focused messaging can help with this.
  • CLARITY. “Keep it simple, stupid.”  Not very endearing – but still good advice.  Eliminate over-complicated terminology and multiple calls to action. One topic/action at a time is a best practice.
  • BI-DIRECTIONAL COMMUNICATION. Don’t assume your audience understood (or even heard) your message.  Validate. Ask them to explain. Check for understanding.  Measure results and make adjustments if needed.

What other ideas do you have for ensuring your message is heard and understood?


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media is the national leader in veterinary pre-education and digital out of home marketing in veterinary offices. We work closely with our veterinary and sponsor partners to ensure full compatibility and maximum results. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) or contact Marshall Akita (marshall@petcausemedia.com) for more details.

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Content is NOT King!

AUTHOR: Peter Alberti

The oft-repeated phrase, “Content is king” does not apply to digital education technology in veterinary practice waiting rooms.  Sorry, it just doesn’t.  In reality, it doesn’t apply to any digital signage system, but we specifically support the veterinary industry here so we’ll focus on that.

Why People Think Content is King

The intent of the phrase is to emphasize that poorly-designed content is ineffective, and well-crafted content delivers results.  Well, these statements are both 100% true.  But in order to evaluate “poorly-designed” versus “well-crafted” there needs to be some sort of objective or goal against which we measure.  Content that is “poorly designed” for one purpose may be completely suitable for another.  Which brings us to…

Objectives or Goals are the “King”

The king rules the kingdom, right?  The king decides what’s what, what’s right, what’s wrong, etc.  So in digital education systems, the directives for what to say, how to say/present it, when to say it, and so forth originate with the objective of the system – NOT from the content.

Pet Cause Media has a simple goal that accommodates both of its stakeholders (veterinary practices and sponsors/advertisers):  Educate pet owners so that they drive conversations with their doctors about important pet medical topics. For the practices this saves precious time during exams; for sponsors this encourages pet owners to ask for products that otherwise might not have been discussed. In both cases, revenues are boosted for both stakeholders when clients ask the doctor and more services, prescriptions, etc. are provided.

Our goal is different from other digital signage goals, which include:

  • Brand awareness/reinforcement
  • Wayfaring (giving directions)
  • Menu boards
  • Corporate communication
  • Entertainment
  • And more…

If you think about these other uses of digital signage, it’s almost self-evident that the content – created properly – would be different for each of them.  The timings, the words used, the images and other elements shown, would all vary to accomplish the goal.

Properly Integrating Content is Essential

One common error in digital signage deployment is combining content segments that are incongruous. Run separately from each other, the segments might be super-high quality, but shown back-to-back with each other they might be distracting, alarming, confusing, etc.  This should be a key consideration, not only to those running content (in our case, the sponsors) but also for those operating the network (in our case, us!).  Some collaboration is required to ensure the content works well when combined with everything else so there is a consistent, enjoyable, effective viewer experience.

In summary – if you are looking to utilize any digital education system, be sure that you and the network operator are aligned with your goals or objectives for using the system.  Otherwise, King Content may not get the rapt attention and respect it deserves.


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media is the national leader in veterinary pre-education and digital out of home marketing in veterinary offices. We work closely with our veterinary and sponsor partners to ensure full compatibility and maximum results. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) or contact Marshall Akita (marshall@petcausemedia.com) for more details.

Bringing Digital Closer to Home: A Pet Cause Media Test

AUTHOR: Marshall Akita

When I saw the numbers on digital out of home (DOOH) advertising—numbers like 33% better performance compared to print advertising according to Nielsen—I was understandably skeptical. Despite the fact that my company runs DOOH ads in veterinary practices, and despite having confidence in our system, I wanted to know more about how DOOH functions in the veterinary environment. To get a better sense, our CEO, our veterinary advisors, and I put together a simple 60-day test program in three of our hospitals to see how placing a call-to-action type message on our digital signage systems would affect sales.

The results were, frankly, surprising. Within 60 days, year over year sales of our selected product (a feline heartworm preventive medication—notoriously hard to sell, especially in the winter) had risen from 114% to 142%—triple the lift generated by an ongoing staff awareness campaign being run by the national hospital group that owned the participating hospitals. We could not have hoped for much better out of our first trial with the system.

Though we were pleasantly surprised by our results, perhaps we should not have been. Our results seem to support the findings of top research firms that digital signage is a better medium for marketers to spread their message at the point of purchase than any other—including, as our trial shows, staff awareness campaigns. Informing the clients informed their demand, and the vets followed suit, writing more scripts for this specific feline heartworm medication. In turn, the vets did more business and, more importantly, did better medicine. Who can argue with that?

To learn more about our trial, you can download the study at:

http://petcausemedia.com/documents/PetCauseMedia-FelineHeartwormStudy-2months-2016.pdf


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media is the national leader in veterinary pre-education and digital out of home marketing in veterinary offices. We work closely with our veterinary and sponsor partners to ensure full compatibility and maximum results. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) or contact Marshall Akita (marshall@petcausemedia.com) for more details.

 

http://petcausemedia.com/documents/PetCauseMedia-FelineHeartwormStudy-2months-2016.pdf

My Least Favorite Question (For Now, At Least)

AUTHOR: Peter Alberti

Our Veterinary Pre-Education Technology™ systems are paid for by sponsorships.  We work hard to find companies whose products/services are well-aligned to the needs and preferences of veterinary practices, not just pet owners. Since sponsors are paying to get their message heard, they naturally want to reach as many pet owners as possible. So they often ask my least favorite question:

How big is your network right now?  How many practices are you in?

Ugh! I understand the question perfectly. It’s an age-old concept dating back to TV market sizes and magazine circulation volume.  And it’s a reasonable question to ask – in some circumstances. But instead of asking to determine maximum reach, most people ask it to evaluate our pricing – how many people will I reach for the money I’m spending?

But that question isn’t relevant to our pricing!  Here’s why:

The Flexibility of Digital Out Of Home Marketing 

There are many benefits of digital marketing. A major perk is how fast, easy, cheap and flexible it is to deploy content.  The overall size of a digital network is not the best way to evaluate or plan a campaign’s pricing.  Because content can be deployed anywhere, any time, the “old school” style of evaluating reach is not applicable.  For example:

  • When you purchase air time in a TV or radio market, you can’t choose to divide it up and only show an ad to a subset of the market.  With a digital network – you can!
  • When you place an ad in a magazine or newspaper, you can’t select which copies will run the ad and which ones won’t.  With a digital network – you can choose which screens to run on.
  • When you buy space on a billboard, your audience size, quality and dwell time are relatively unpredictable.  With a digital network, you can get much more accurate demographic targeting and reach estimates.

Apples to Apples

There are some standards for performance and pricing metrics with Digital Out of Home systems, but transparency and consistency across different platforms and industries is still elusive.  The best piece of advice I have for anyone evaluating digital marketing proposals is:  Make sure you’re comparing similar numbers.

  • Terms like “reach” and “impressions” mean different things to different people.
  • CPM (cost per thousand) is also characterized in various ways – be sure you’re clear on exactly how each proposal defines or calculates it
  • The environment in which a digital impression is delivered matters – a lot. An ad viewed for less than 1 second while scrolling through a Facebook stream is very different from a message that’s integrated as part of an educational content segment in a veterinary waiting room.  Even medical office environments can vary. For example in human health waiting rooms audiences tend to keep their smartphones out, whereas in veterinary offices the phone gets put away in favor of keeping attention on the pet(s).

In summary, it’s completely appropriate to ask about the size of our network, as long as you’re evaluating the maximum reach you can acquire.  But since we configure our pricing based on segments of the total available market size, we always come in at very competitive Digital Out of Home rates.  And they are NOT based on the total size of our network.


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media is the national leader in veterinary pre-education and digital out of home marketing in veterinary offices. We work closely with our veterinary and sponsor partners to ensure full compatibility and maximum results. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) or contact Marshall Akita (marshall@petcausemedia.com) for more details.

Presenting a Diversified Media Campaign

AUTHOR: Marshall Akita 

In my post from January 2nd, The Truth About the Omnishopper, I mentioned three ways in which you could work to make your product’s messaging feel good to the modern consumer. Here I go deeper into the last—presenting a diversified media campaign.

Diversity can be an ally or an enemy in the effort to win over customers. At its best, a diversified campaign allows a marketer to familiarize the audience with the product, to make multiple touches, and to become an accepted part of their accepted daily experience. At its worst, a diversified campaign can feel inescapable, with overbearing ads encircling the potential customer at every turn. The differences between these two can be small, but their effects will always be great.

First, a good diversified campaign should always strive to add value to the customer’s experience. Customers don’t want to be subjected to ads, but if they can be engaged by them, all of a sudden the throngs of potential customers become an audience. This is the key to successful marketing in general, but in a diversified, omni-channel campaign, it is of the utmost importance. Failure to create content that a customer would seek out on their own will make any campaign feel like an overwhelming mass of commercialism, not the welcoming reminder that you are hoping for.

When putting together an omni-channel campaign, remember not only to add value, but to add value in different ways. If you see the exact same content everywhere you go, no matter how good it was the first time, it will start to get old. Consistent messaging and aesthetic values are good things—identical is not. Variety and diversity should go hand in hand with your omni-channel marketing efforts. In essence, you are providing the consumer more value by doing so, and they will respond positively.

Finally, it is essential that you know what messaging you are running where. When is the last time that you truly felt that a banner ad on a webpage had added value? Find when and where your consumers make their decisions, and find a way to add value to that decision. Point of purchase signage, especially digital signage, is a great way to do this, as it can help you raise awareness of your message or provide an extra touch right before the customer chooses a product. When used to flesh out an existing campaign, point of purchase signage is an excellent way to reinforce a robust marketing effort and is quickly becoming an indispensable tool in the arsenal of sophisticated marketers.

For more information on digital signage and the surprising effects that it can have in creating sales lift, look for my upcoming blog post Bringing Digital Closer to Home: A Pet Cause Media Test.


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media is the national leader in veterinary pre-education and digital out of home marketing in veterinary offices. We work closely with our veterinary and sponsor partners to ensure full compatibility and maximum results. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) or contact Marshall Akita (marshall@petcausemedia.com) for more details.

The Veterinary Industry, According to NAVC

AUTHOR: Peter Alberti

Our trip to the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC) conference in Orlando last week was incredibly gratifying.  It’s no secret that the veterinary industry as a whole is in the midst of a transformation, and not all of those changes favor the business – or practice – of animal medicine.  Yet, through a period that could rightfully be characterized by many as “difficult at best”, the overall sentiment by everyone I met was upbeat and optimistic.  That was a pleasant surprise, to say the least!

Transformation?  Really?

Nearly everyone – from doctors, techs and office staff to vendors and service providers – agreed that things have become more difficult for veterinary professionals over the last few years.  For example:

Certain revenue streams have been materially reduced (or in many cases obliterated) from top lines.  In an industry where it was common to reduce fees and even give away services when appropriate, such concessions have become completely impossible for many.  For caregivers who enter the profession because of an unwavering love for animals, this is a tough nut to swallow.
Technology advances, although a fantastic enabler for medicine, have created pressures on practices to acquire more skills, equipment and resources in order to remain competitive.  Those who cannot (or will not) advance with the rest are more and more disadvantaged.  The new technologies are great and the intentions in using them well meaning, but the holistic impact is not always favorable.
The overall reputation of practitioners as a whole is, in some places, at severe risk as more pet owners increasingly vent frustrations in their social media circles and turn to Dr. Google for “facts” about their fur babies’ conditions. “My vet doesn’t care about my pet; only about money” is unfairly uttered far too often and inappropriately. The taint of that ill-conceived sentiment unfortunately spreads far too wide.
These and other factors tend to result in significant distractions from the fundamental job at hand: Care for pets and clients in the best possible way.

How the NAVC Crowd Saw This

Although very few people disagreed that there are challenges, nearly everyone maintained a supportive, optimistic outlook.  “What Moves You?” was the theme of the conference, and it was abundantly clear that everyone there was motivated to support the industry as a whole, and each other as individual people and practices.

Almost every conversation I had with exhibitors (and others) had the same theme: “We just gotta be there for the vets!”  Numerous terms were used to characterize the sentiment:  “Boost the industry”, “Support the vets”, “Enable the practices”, etc. But they all said pretty much the same thing – that the noble profession of veterinary medicine is important and well-deserving of material support to keep it alive and thriving.

How cool is THAT?  It’s very gratifying to be in an industry full of people who care!


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media is the national leader in veterinary pre-education and digital out of home marketing in veterinary offices. We work closely with our veterinary and sponsor partners to ensure full compatibility and maximum results. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) or contact Marshall Akita (marshall@petcausemedia.com) for more details.

Staying Adaptable and Responding to What Matters to Your Customers

AUTHOR: Marshall Akita

In my post from January 2nd, The Truth About the Omnishopper, I mentioned three ways in which you could work to make your product’s messaging feel good to the modern consumer. Here I’ll talk a bit more in depth about the second—staying adaptable and responding to your customers’ interests.

Every good marketer should be responsive to his or her customers, but doing so is not necessarily as easy as it may seem. The main reason for this is, simply put, people are fickle. One day they want savings, the next day they want features, the next day they want aesthetics, then ergonomics, then savings again. It can be a challenge for the consumer to keep their desires straight, much less the marketer attempting to predict them. This is where research is key. Large market studies are invaluable for helping to understand general market trends and consumer behavior. These, in turn, can give you a general idea of how to target your messaging to better reach your customers.

The problem with research like this is that it can’t get you the specifics that you need to make your marketing efforts really resonate. To do that, you need to perform your own marketing research, something that all large companies already do. This typically involves multiple small runs of various related but slightly different messages, followed by an analysis of which variation produced the best results. The advantage of performing this type of research is that it is far more comprehensive than a large study. In effect, you can let your customers fine-tune your message for you. The problem, however, is that, when done by traditional methods, the process is long and expensive. Not only do you have to put up all the content that you wish to test, you have to take down and replace everything that didn’t work.

Digital marketing can offer a way to fast-track your market research in an economical way. Unlike other media, digital can be altered almost immediately. In addition, it is easy to test multiple variations on a particular message, because distribution of content is greatly simplified. Digital out of home advertising has an additional advantage, because managers at the site of your advertisement (for example, the veterinarians at the vet’s office) can report customer feedback on your messages directly to you or your advertising agent. Because of this, it pays to foster a good relationship with the locations that you advertise in—if you can benefit them by some form other than simple payment, you would be wise to do so. Digital marketing is, therefore, your best tool for staying adaptable and responsive to customer concerns.

All this discussion, however, still begs the question: how does being responsive and adaptable make your product feel good to the customer? Simply put, if the client feels that the marketing messages are directed to them and for them, they will feel good about the product. Customers want to know that the product being sold to them is being sold to them for a reason—if it is marketed to them, it should really help them. Of course, the only way to be sure of this is to know the customer, or at least to give that impression. If they do feel like they are understood, they will be more inclined to trust the product and to buy it. Combined with the first tip, customers will understand that you don’t just know when where they do their important thinking, but what their main desires are when they are in that state of mind. Combined, these two go a long way towards making the customer feel good about the product.


About Pet Cause Media

Pet Cause Media is the national leader in veterinary pre-education and digital out of home marketing in veterinary offices. We work closely with our veterinary and sponsor partners to ensure full compatibility and maximum results. Visit our website (petcausemedia.com) or contact Marshall Akita (marshall@petcausemedia.com) for more details.