Choosing Your Communications Platform
I am thrilled to see practices using the variety of platforms available to communicate with clients and ease the workload of the practice staff. This is a really important component to your digital marketing so I thought I would share my experiences regarding what to consider when choosing your platform.
Cost should only be a consideration if you do not think you will use every bell and whistle offered - you will get what you pay for. A solution offered for $100/mo will most likely not do as much for you as the $300/mo platform. Using a provider because it's cheaper may not be the best approach if the product offered does not fulfill the practice needs. Be sure to consider what you want the platform to do for you. IMHO, ROI is what you're after here, not the cheapest monthly outlay.
When considering your platform provider, consider their experience not just in the veterinary industry, but in the communications industry. Are there dollars and research at their disposal that keep their product evolving and changing as quickly as our digital market changes?
Some solutions emphasize the client portal as a value added component. Consider this carefully. Ask for statistics regarding the number of clients they see actually log into the platform to access portal information. Next, consider if this is a good idea for your clients. Frankly I want your clients to call you or walk in for pet health information - any contact with you is another opportunity to discuss pet health, product, and make a great impression ...in other words, to bond. When it comes to pet records however, you might miss some important information if the client can access the records without you knowing. Are they moving, have they found a new veterinarian, are they seeking a second opinion, do you offer grooming services but they need records because they are going somewhere else? I shy away from solutions that place a barrier between you and the client. Some solutions allow you to turn this feature off - but then why pay for it?
Having said that, some convenience for clients is an absolute must ... confirming appointments, two way texting, scheduling appointments, email and text reminders are a few examples we can offer that make doing business with a practice easier.
Can you consolidate? If you have a service sending your reminder cards for you and another managing your online reviews and website and yet another taking care of your practice surveys, the monthly fee for a service that will do all of that and more may be well worth the switch. On this note, analyze quickly how much it costs your staff to send reminder postcards versus the platform you're considering doing this for you. In my experience the platform will always be more expensive but often times their reminder cards are bigger, prettier, and just more eye catching. They offer the opportunity to include a stellar client review and even let clients know about specials or a helpful pet tip.
I know ... getting a bit long winded so I'll end with this. Your practice needs reviews, surveys, an e-reminder system, a method to blast emails, send newsletters, manage appointments and communicate in real time (two way texting). You should also be able to see the status of your communications ... whether emails have been read, opened, and delivered successfully. These functions are the nuts a bolts of a communications platform - if you feel some bells and whistles some products offer are worthwhile and you will use them to benefit the practice, feel good about paying for them. Ask the provider for a spec sheet that compares their services with competitors, and before you meet create your list of elements that are important to your practice. This will help you identify "fluff" elements that you can live without. Have fun with your search and don't rush your decision - you just need to do some due diligence and you'll choose wisely.