Content creation is the basis of any digital marketing strategy. In today’s post, we’re going to take a closer look at how to go about creating both the quality and quantity of content required to engage an audience.
There exists a fantastic opportunity to grab the attention of pet owners and significantly grow your practice. Those that do will fare well. Those that don’t, I predict, are doomed to slide into irrelevance as communication preferences rapidly change.
The Yellow Pages are long dead. And even the static practice website is now becoming (or has become) obsolete. What’s required to win the battle for local pet owner attention is quality content, published frequently enough to build awareness of your brand and your story.
This content can come in many forms: words, sounds, video and images. A good strategy will take advantage of as many formats as possible.
Before writing this, I reviewed a few websites around the UK to get a sense of where things currently stand. What I found was the average number of posts on a practice blog or news page (from 1 Jan 2017 to 12 Nov 2017) to be a miserly six. Six posts in an entire year and many had no new content published for months.
Not only was this frequency poor, but the quality of the content was very weak, with multiple articles focussing on "disease explainers" from drug company leaflets. In one sense then, the lack of quantity was a blessing. At least no-one is likely to be reading these terrible articles.
If this is what your digital marketing effort is producing, then you are already, or soon going to be on the losing team, particularly as Millennials start to become the core of our client bases.
Forget this formula at your peril. Poor content = no attention = no relationship = no sales.
My advice is to publish content to a blog or youtube channel every week or a facebook/instagram page every day. Anything less and you are invisible.
Unsurprisingly, the most common question I get asked is how to generate this level of quality content. The constant search for new ideas and unique angles on the pet world can seem like a grind and the next deadline is never far away.
Over the last decade, I have written three books. I currently publish two blogs each week, plus a regular feature column for a The Vet Business Journal. So how have I managed to generate so much content while working full time as a vet/business owner and not go completely mad?
Here are eight techniques I rely on that will work for you too. (I focus on blogging/writing as the written word is my primary marketing device. But the tips can be adapted for video, audio or image creation as well.)
Tip 1: Think about your audience first. What do they want, what do they need? What do they love or hate? What keeps them awake or drives them crazy about animals.
What things get them super-curious? What makes them laugh? What things make them go “awwww” about their pets? Write about things that evoke emotions not put people to sleep.
Tip 2: Your story is amazing, so tell it. Vets have a gift that many business owners would kill for - subject matter that is genuinely interesting. Saving lives in sexy. Pets are engaging (which is why kittens dominate the internet). Our path in life is an emotional journey, an engaging soap opera unfolding before our eyes daily.
The simplest way to write a meaningful blog is to simply describe the things you see and do each day. Just do so with the pet owner in mind. They are unlikely to care about the specific technique you used to repair the problem. But they will care about the impact or your fears and hopes going into the surgery. They will appreciate and connect with the sacrifice made by the vet or nurse that slept over at the clinic to love on and medicate a critical patient. Or how much you tried and cared, even though you still lost the case.
Veterinary medicine is a wonderful daily mash-up of tragedy and comedy, use this to your advantage.
Tip 3: Just write. If you want to get good and anything, you have to do it regularly. I schedule time each day for "freewriting". Freewriting is the act of journaling whatever is in your head, pouring your brain onto paper or a screen. Very often I write complete junk using this technique. But sometimes I produce the core of a good idea that can be developed.
Many of the posts on my Hamster Wheel Blog started life in this way. Think of it as alchemy. The initial words are just a heap of iron ore. But through the work of redrafting and editing, the transformation from rust into gold begins until you finally create a piece of work that gleams and attracts the attention of your audience.
Tip 4: Hire someone to write for you. Everything on The Hamster Wheel is my work, but I have three other writers who create content for my Vital Pet Blog each monthly. This is less expensive that you might think and removes 75% of my workload. Plus it adds fresh voices to the mix; keeping things varied for the reader.
Tip 5: Make hay while the sun shines. If you journal daily, then you will be producing more content that you require. So when your inner muse is on top form, build up a store of articles for use on the days when the sun refuses to shine.
Tip 6: Reuse or recycle. I occasionally cannibalise older articles or redraft early blogs from years ago that were published when my audience was small. Sometimes they need no extra work. Other times the core is solid, but my perspective has shifted, so I can edit things to reflect my thoughts or current thinking.
Tip 7: Right to reply. If you read something that you disagree with, then write about it. I’ve done this countless times. In fact, I built a vet business on the back of such a counter view.
In Australia, the mainstream view is that bones are great for cleaning teeth. My opinion as a pet dentist is that bones break teeth and put dog’s lives in unnecessary danger. A view I could support with facts, figures and data from the US and UK professional associations, plus my anecdotal data as a vet dentist who had worked in both the UK and Australia.
Though my views did not always make me popular with the pro-boners, I wrote and spoke about this endlessly. It was our "truth", and it set us apart. With each post, my notoriety may have grown, but I could live with that because so too did my readership and client base.
Tip 8: Write a list. "Top Tips" articles are quick, easy and when done well, grab attention. Think of a topic. Start with the title and then the rest flows easily. Try it. Write a list of “The Top Five Diseases That Kill Cats Without Their Owners Noticing A Thing Is Wrong.” I bet you can complete this list in under two minutes.
Tip 8: Publish a Q & A interview with one of your team or a client. I bet you have some fascinating clients or team members who would be happy to share their tips on subjects like pet first aid, or the best dog parks in London (change the location to suit) or the best local pet-friendly cafes. This is super-easy content - all you have to do is compile the answers, edit, grab a photo and post.
Regardless of the technique you use to generate your content, the most important thing is simply having the will to meet your deadline whenever that falls. Most people fail because they lack the commitment and patience required to execute a content marketing strategy.
If you are thinking about going down this route then before you begin, practice and develop your content production skills. Whether this means writing articles, creating videos/podcasts or cranking out the Instagram photos, it helps to make sure you have a small bank of content ready (I have about one month’s worth of material available at any one time).
Then click publish. Then do it again. And again…
And then, if your content is good enough, you will be in a great spot to start winning the digital battle. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen.
Have a great week.
PS In part 3 we’ll discuss how to use your content to connect with clients.