Marketing the Bovine Reproductive Practice

Chapter 42
Marketing the Bovine Reproductive Practice: Devising a Plan or Tolerating a System

John L. Myers

Pecan Drive Veterinary Services, Vinita, Oklahoma, USA


Nothing is more common than to hear a veterinarian complain about how little income results from the practice of veterinary medicine. While such a complaint is not limited to the veterinary profession, somewhere in each of these discussions a remedy appears as if it were as simple as turning on a light or repairing a dystocia: marketing is the remedy. When it surfaces as a cure to veterinary poverty there are as many interpretations of what marketing is or does as there are individuals engaged in the discussion.

The goal in these marketing discussions is always profit, although that also has different connotations, when in fact the term “marketing” implies aspects of a business many of which do not necessarily have a direct effect on profitability. A definition of marketing as adopted in 2007 by the American Marketing Association is as follows: Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.1 Perhaps another definition would be that marketing involves obtaining the client, satisfying the client, and retaining the client.

Principles in marketing

Pursuit of literature about marketing frequently exposes one to the four Ps of marketing:

  1. Product
  2. Price
  3. Promotion
  4. Place.

In the context of a bovine reproductive practice, the product to be marketed would be either a service offered or some specific item such as a drug, a feed ingredient, or an instrument. The price is a fee that represents a reasonable profit and would be competitive with other businesses offering the same or similar services or items. Promotion would be those efforts taken to let prospective clients know that the practice is actively pursuing delivering what is for sale. Finally, place would be how the service or item is distributed so that clients can easily obtain the service or item at a time and location convenient to the client.

For this discussion, the assumption will be that the bovine reproductive practice would be offering a service rather than an item, and as such three more Ps come into play:

  1. People
  2. Physical evidence
  3. Process.

There is an intangibility of service. A bull having undergone a breeding soundness examination (BSE) looks much the same after the examination as he did before. A person buying a pickup, however, has a tangible object that was not there before its purchase. Clients therefore make judgments about the service by looking for clues about quality of the service as it is accomplished. This is done by assessing the skill, appearance, and efficiency of all of the people involved in the examination from the office employees, to the assistants and the veterinarian. The physical evidence of the examination would be the professional quality of any documents such as a certificate, billing charges, and information materials or handouts that are presented after the service is accomplished. The process involves the entirety of the examination from reception of the client, the handling of the bull, the efficiency, availability and convenience of instruments or supplies, and the adequate presentation of the results resulting from the examination.

A marketing system or a marketing plan

Regardless of the efforts, conscious or not, of any active business, a marketing system exists. Services are delivered, processes and people are in place, and promotion, pricing and distribution of those services occur whether this system is efficient, reasonable, profitable or successful. If one attempts to modify the system, efforts toward improvement in one aspect of the business may be detrimental to other aspects.2 The veterinarian may be quite successful, for instance, in satisfying a client by doing excellent work in a limited number of services, but the efforts do not result in obtaining more clients. If that veterinarian embarks on a strategy of promotion that restricts the dedication to performing the service, there will be no resulting improvement in the marketing system. Likewise, if the veterinarian channels efforts into obtaining and satisfying the client but because of other competitor’s superior promotion efforts the veterinarian is unable to retain existing clients, then no progress is made.

A marketing plan should therefore try to address all aspects of the system instead of merely propping up deficiencies that already exist. The resulting balance should result in a more successful, profitable, and enjoyable practice.

Three pillars of the marketing plan

Before one embarks on a plan, three prerequisites must be firmly in place with commitment dedicated to each.

  1. Competence. It is one thing to desire to operate a practice dedicated to bovine reproduction and quite another to have available the expertise needed to make it successful. Competence cannot be acquired and then left unattended. Dedication to constant study, attendance at quality seminars and conventions, interaction with knowledgeable colleagues, and familiarity and openness to new ideas and techniques are essential for a successful practice and career. This dedication and effort is expensive in both a monetary and temporal significance.
  2. Dedication of resources. While no program will succeed if adequate funding or resources are not dedicated to it, the amount of resources requires careful consideration. The veterinarian’s time is an available resource, although calculating the value of that time is difficult but necessary. Regardless, if a well-balanced and carefully considered plan is in place, the appropriate numbers should be budgeted and documented and, like all budgets, adhered to or altered as necessary.
  3. Comfort with, or at least toleration of, the plan. Many times marketing plans and schemes will fail because there is not complete acceptance of the proposition. The competence to perform may be in place and adequate financing is available but there is revolt at the features of the marketing plan simply because they do not lie within the comfort zone of the personality of the veterinarian. Advertising may seem too gauche, speaking to producer groups may be terrifying, and promoting oneself may strike one as arrogance. Toleration of discomfort in the pursuit of a beneficial outcome is the price one pays for personal growth. Abandoning a program because the personal discomfort over-matches any possible benefit dooms the best plans and propositions.

Devising the marketing plan

For purposes of discussion, the assumption will be made that a budgetary consideration of 1% of anticipated annual revenues will be dedicated to the marketing plan. This would not be enough in an entity that depends heavily on product sales (such as automobiles or hamburgers) but the 1% figure does fit well within budgets of large companies that provide services and products such as a rural electric cooperative or a pipeline engineering concern. Therefore, if the annual revenue of the practice was $500 000 per year, then $5000 would be budgeted toward the marketing plan. In this budget it is necessary to place a value on the time the veterinarian or other individual spends on the project.

Obtaining the client

The best, but perhaps not the easiest to attain, promotion one can do is to benefit from positive word of mouth. When first embarking on a practice or when trying to urge the practice on to greater levels of revenue, the word of mouth technique may not be sufficient to satisfy the aggressive practitioner. While there may be overlap between the following categories, four divisions will be addressed.

  1. Expanding the service repertoire. There may be requests from current or possible clients that desire a specific service, such as fetal sexing by ultrasound or embryo transfer, which is not currently available at the practice. An investment in instruments and techniques to satisfy the requests makes possible not only client satisfaction but also brings in more clients looking for the same service.
  2. Promotion of existing services. Many times clients are unaware that certain services already exist in the practice. Brochures should be prominently displayed explaining the services, details of the services readable on invoices or receipts, and the physical evidence of these services displayed in a place of congregation such as the reception room or laboratory. Examples of physical evidence might be ultrasound images or breeding soundness examination certificates.
  3. Development of associations that lead to programs to be given by the veterinarian. Extension agencies, drug and pharmaceutical companies, breed associations, and livestock organizations are always in need of programs. Volunteering for these types of programs offers an ideal opportunity to display one’s expertise. Further, writing articles in trade magazines is an excellent method of displaying one’s proficiency and knowledge.
  4. Advertisements. Although once controversial, other medical professions have wholeheartedly embraced advertising on billboards, magazines, clothing, and other items that are given away. This is an expensive proposition and care should be taken to ensure maximum exposure to potential clients while still operating within budget and ethical restraints. A bovine reproductive practice may need to expand beyond normal practice boundaries and so advertisements in regional livestock publications or breed association magazines that the veterinarian could still service may be appropriate.

Aug 24, 2017 | Posted by in GENERAL | Comments Off on Marketing the Bovine Reproductive Practice

Full access? Get Clinical Tree

Get Clinical Tree app for offline access