For many practice owners, a unique selling point (USP) may often be overlooked. However, without developing your own USP, how can you ensure that clients will choose to visit your practice over a competitor?

What is a USP?

Your USP is what differentiates your business from others in the market and is generally what clients will remember you for. We all make decisions based on USPs every day. Why do you shop at a particular supermarket or use a certain mobile phone? It is often down to quality, price, or, quite simply, a better customer service experience.

It is unlikely that your practice is the only clinic in the local area, meaning that pet owners will always have a choice of where to register. It is important to stand out – and for the right reasons.

What do clients remember?

Studies suggest that when visiting a healthcare facility, a layperson will generally judge their experience based on the client journey, not just on the level of the clinician’s medical expertise. This does not mean that there is no need for gold standard in veterinary medicine, but more that we must not neglect the ‘softer’ services that our practice offers, in addition to excellent care. This is especially important in a business – such as a veterinary practice – where the product is a service based on trust rather than fast-moving consumer goods.

Why are you doing what you do?

If you asked yourself what your practice does, you could probably answer the question quickly and confidently. But what if you asked yourself why your practice is doing what it does? If you asked your team the same question, you would probably get a variety of answers. They may all be excellent responses, but the point is that there is not a clear, unified purpose for existing as a business and this will be evident in your marketing. Once you have established the ‘why’, it will become part of the experience for your clients and this will evolve your marketing strategy.

Focus on the value – not the price

When we compare what we offer to that of our competitors, the obvious point of focus is price; and to a new client, it may be hard to immediately justify why you may charge more for a vaccination course than the other practice in town. The instinct here could be to keep lowering prices, but this could quickly spell bad news for your bottom line and switches the attention to quantity rather than quality of service. Focus instead on the value your client will receive for visiting your practice – what can you offer that the competitors do not?

This is where independent practices can really have an edge. Word-of-mouth marketing is often considered the most valuable source of marketing, and in a close community of pet owners, you can offer a trusted, caring and individualised experience; all qualities that the anxious owner of an unwell pet will be looking for.

Being independent, you will have more freedom to offer bespoke services in your local community, rather than needing to define yourself as part of a big model.

Step into the shoes of your clients

To establish what your practice offers and where you could improve, it is good idea to walk through the client journey from start to finish – step-by-step from that initial telephone call, the arrival, and to the time of leaving – and make objective, detailed notes of everything that you notice and experience. Better still, ask a new member of staff to do this for you – and encourage them to be completely honest. There is nothing like a fresh pair of eyes to notice small details that we have long overlooked.

Try to think from a client’s point of view. The waiting room is most likely the place that they will form their first impressions and where they could spend a considerable amount of time. How comfortable are the seats? Could you put in a tea and coffee machine? Are clients kept up-to-date with appointment delays? These details will ensure that you stand out from the crowd and that your clients feel valued.

There may be services that you have been offering for years that your competitors do not. Make sure that you identify these and include them in your marketing.

Focusing your USP

You cannot be everything to everyone, but by focusing on what makes your practice unique, you will streamline not only your marketing, but the overall communication and experience that will ensure your clients keep coming back and recommending you to others.