COVID-19 has changed the world around us. Little has been left untouched, from social norms to our business landscape. Virtual meetings, digital learning, telemedicine, and e-commerce have become staples of business in all industries; the veterinary profession is no exception.
Here’s the reality we as marketers must address head-on: Consumer behaviors likely will not suddenly revert “back to normal.”
The changes we’re seeing now are a new normal, and may persist over a long period of time as restrictions are gradually eased.
We need to understand these new patterns of consumer behavior and take steps to adapt to the potential long-term impact. Here’s what you need to know, and how your business can drive innovation and unity during this crisis.
Technology-Facilitated Communication Becomes the Norm
As no-contact guidelines change the way we meet, learn, and work, we become increasingly reliant on technology-facilitated communication for our day-to-day operations.
Virtual Meetings Replace Face-to-Face Communication
How many times per day do you hear “let’s hop on a Zoom meeting”? Virtual meetings have quickly become the closest alternative to face-to-face communication. Popular virtual meeting platforms include Zoom, GoToMeeting, JoinMe, Google Hangouts, and Skype. Many of these services are offering (or already offer) free access.
Virtual meetings can facilitate internal communication as well as keep conversations going with customers and prospects. Consider offering virtual product demonstrations and video check-ins, which have a more personal feel than a phone call or email.
Digital Learning Goes Mainstream
Amid widespread school closures and event cancellations, digital learning has gone mainstream. For schools and businesses, online education has enabled us to keep educational priorities on track.
As business slows, many companies are providing employees with educational opportunities that will help them better serve customers in the long term. Common topics for training include business skills, advanced product training, communication strategies, and technology. Companies that use this time to increase the value of their team will be the ones who come out on top when business resumes.
Veterinarians are engaging in education to improve their skills and innovate for the post-COVID landscape. Being a source of valuable education for veterinarians can build trust and brand equity for your business in the veterinary community. The equity you build now will have a direct impact on your brand’s success later.
No-Contact Veterinary Medicine
In this new normal, veterinarians have been presented with many challenges, both in medicine and communication.
Decreased Clinical Services
The limited availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) has impacted the types of procedures veterinarians can safely perform. Many clinics are performing teleconsultations and scheduling elective procedures for future dates.
One of the most difficult communication challenges for our customers has been the new practice of curbside dropoff. Veterinarians are rising to the challenge by adopting text-message–based technologies to give pet owners more immediate information while they are separated from their pets.
Reduced Access to Pet Owners
The elimination of face-to-face contact has forced many veterinarians to improve (or develop) their social media and email marketing strategy to keep in communication with clients. For practices trying digital marketing for the first time, training and resources on this topic are incredibly valuable.
Telemedicine Becomes a Staple of Practice
Across human and veterinary medical markets, telemedicine has become a staple of the new normal. Both markets are experiencing the growing pains that come with new technology adoption as they search for the right platforms to suit their needs—and learn how to use them.
How to Leverage Telemedicine for Your Brand
If you offer products or services relevant to telemedicine, consider developing education about implementing this service. Use the opportunity to provide case studies illustrating how your product works within the framework of telemedicine. Get advice on leverage telemedicine for short- and long-term growth strategies here.
In the veterinary market, some clinicians are using FaceTime and other free tools as a stopgap for telemedicine. Many of these free tools lack recording features and can’t integrate with practice management software, making them poor long-term solutions.
Veterinarians implementing telemedicine—and marketers providing guidance on it—should become familiar with the AVMA’s guidelines on telemedicine to remain compliant with regulations.
E-Commerce Becomes a Requirement
Online shopping has been a staple of our economy since the internet was commercialized in 1991. As nonessential businesses close around the world, we must take a critical look at supply chain strategy as well as sales and distribution channels.
Restaurants are fighting for survival, and small businesses are quickly moving to e-commerce models. Meanwhile, grocers scramble to take their business online through grocery delivery services such as Instacart or their own internal delivery solutions.
Our new normal requires every business to have an e-commerce strategy. Veterinary industry marketers are offering education virtually and leaning more heavily upon online retail. If your business does not have a digital strategy, or lacks the infrastructure to support e-commerce, now is the time to get serious—not only about making a plan but also implementing it.
Companies Pivot to Meet Needs
Companies across all markets are pivoting to new areas of business as the need arises. Breweries and distilleries have begun manufacturing hand sanitizer, and clothing retailers are meeting the growing need for PPE. Many car manufacturers are building respirators and ventilators. Think about it. How is your brand uniquely positioned to get involved?
3 Small Steps You Can Take for Big Impact
Here are a few practical steps your company can take today that will make a difference tomorrow.
1. Create or Improve Your Social Presence
If your company doesn’t have a social presence, now is the time to build it. If you’d like to start with one platform, begin with Facebook, where veterinarians are most active. Social media is the ideal place to share updates, build brand equity, and encourage your audience when they need it most.
2. Offer High-Value Education & Support
According to a recent Qualtrics study, consumers are more likely to trust brands that are focused on the well-being of customers and the well-being of employees, and do not take advantage of the crisis to maximize profits.
Keep your customers engaged and loyal by offering high-value education and support for free. Your customers will remember the companies that treated them with empathy and respect. And your brand will benefit in the long term.
3. Extend Payment Terms & Offer Financing Programs
Many businesses are strapped for cash right now. Consider extending programs designed to support veterinarians during their time of need. If you decide to adopt this strategy, be careful with your messaging. Selling is a sensitive subject right now. Try these tips for avoiding tone-deaf messaging during the pandemic.
Not sure where to start? The Brief Media team welcomes the opportunity to provide guidance on building a path forward for your business in this new normal. Don’t hesitate to reach out!