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 modernmovement 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 an interesting quote from George Bernard Shaw:
“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
Headquartered in Central Massachusetts, Pet Cause Media is the national leader for improving veterinary practice outcomes using data. Smart Outcomes™ is a portfolio of integrated client outreach technologies for veterinary offices that focus on just-in-time messaging. Veterinary staff are made aware of products, procedures and best practices to discuss with management, trainers and product reps. Pet owners, while in a “pet frame of mind”, are presented with contextually-relevant information to discuss with veterinary staff. Benefits include increased compliance, improved pet health outcomes, and elevated practice revenues. Visit PetCauseMedia.com for more details. Follow Pet Cause Media on Facebook and Twitter.