With the responsibility of attracting customers and turning them into long term clients, we all have to wear the marketing hat from time to time. The easiest (and most rewarding) way to do this is by building strong relationships with clients so that they feel part of a greater community or tribe.
But how do I get my clients to feel like they are part of a community when I see most of them just once a year for scheduled appointments?
Spoiler alert: online is a key component.
4 tips for building a strong community
Let’s get creative and dig into this one. Here are a few things to focus on when creating a marketing plan that embraces community building.
1. Perfect your customer experience
Provide an excellent customer experience for your clients each and every time they enter or interact with your practice. Strive to wow them and exceed their expectations.
2. Reward loyalty
Customers can go anywhere, but they’ve chosen your practice. Reward their continued loyalty. Develop a loyalty or rewards program for your practice.
3. Host creative events
Give clients a positive reason to walk through your door by creating holiday-inspired events, client appreciation parties, and fundraisers. These events create warm fuzzies and bring clients to your practice more often.
4. Build an online community
Stay connected with your clients even when they aren’t actually in the physical space of your practice. Get comfortable with technology and show clients you understand their needs.
Let’s talk a little more about #4, building an online community…
It’s more than just setting up a Facebook page
I’m sure most of you have a Facebook Page for your practice, which is great because as of October 2018,169.5 million people in the United States (and 2.32 billion worldwide) were using Facebook and this number is still on the rise.
While this doesn’t mean that all of those people are using Facebook all of the time, it does suggest that Facebook, and other social media platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Twitter offer an unbelievable opportunity to connect with customers.
But you knew this already, right? That’s why you created a Facebook Page for your practice in the first place, which is fantastic! Now it’s time to optimize the opportunity that social media platforms provide and really connect with clients in a meaningful way.
Here’s how to do it.
How to build an online community in 4 steps
Step 1 – Define your community
Who are your clients? Are most of them men or women? Do they have dogs or cats or other animals? Do they live close to your practice? You get the picture. The VetSuccess Practice Overview Report can easily identify some of this for you.
[bctt tweet=”The better you know who your clients are, the easier it will be to create a community they want to be a part of. “]
Obviously, not everyone is going to fall into the same category, but having a snapshot of who you are talking to will provide you with the opportunity to make the right choice when it comes to step two.
Step 2 – Pick your platform
Based on how you’ve defined your community, select a social media platform that appeals to them. I generally lean toward Facebook first with most of my clients because of the sheer number of people using it.
Most platforms have their merits and if your clients are mostly under the age of 30 you may want to look at SnapChat. Instagram is great for showcasing photos and providing quick moments of connection.
Step 3 – Choose your content wisely
Selecting the right content is key to creating your community.
Does your community like funny pet memes or heartwarming stories? Do they respond to polls? Using a blend of curated content (memes and content from other accounts) that evoke emotion along with posts that are specific to your practice are a great way to establish your community.
It’s important to emphasize that “posts specific to your practice” means so much more than advertisements. Do you have a practice pet or a hilarious vet tech that cracks the funniest jokes? This type of content is so valuable and is the very best way to give your practice personality. Forming a deeper relationship with your clients is easy if you can create this type of relatable, authentic content.
Of course, you also want to share information about upcoming events, promotions, and other types of information that will inspire a visit to the clinic but don’t overdo it.
Commit to posting at least three times a week and use a social media scheduler like Buffer or Hootsuite to help you be consistent.
One thing to note is that engagement is an important component of a healthy social media page so make sure you check in at least once a day to respond to messages and comments people have made on your posts.
[bctt tweet=”The more people engage with your content the more you know that you are on the right track with forming your online community.”]
Step 4 – Experiment
While there are some tried and true methods to creating an online community, such as, posting consistently and responding to comments in a timely manner, it takes time to find the content that will truly connect with your clients.
So experiment with different types of content on different days and at different times and you will find the right mix to make your community building efforts a success.
Building community is worth the effort
It takes time and dedication to build a community with clients, but, much like our personal relationships, the payoff is loyal, happy people. Invest in strengthening your customer tribe and you can expect stronger word of mouth referrals and increased retention.
One last piece of advice – tell your clients about your social media pages as part of your customer experience process. Make sure they know there are fun and easy ways to connect with you on a regular basis.
Elissa Fesyk is the owner of Fesyk Marketing and specializes in building impactful brand identities and designing and managing custom marketing plans. With a background in event planning, social media management, and community relations, Elissa has traveled the world and put her skills to work for some notable companies including the US Olympic Committee and the San Jose Sharks. Outside of work you can find her spending time with her family in Edmonton, Alberta. You can reach her at [email protected].