Walmart recently announced that it will be opening over 100 veterinary clinics as well as a competitively-priced online pharmacy. Understandably, many veterinarians and practice owners are terrified by this prospect. I mean, how can anyone compete with the buying power of Walmart?
I don’t mean you just call it a day and retire early. I mean you take a more scientific approach to the situation. We all like that, right?
I’ve talked before about the different practice models, based on Porter’s generic strategies: you’ve got low-cost, differentiation, and focus. Each of these are ways to create a competitive advantage in your field.
Low-cost is easy. That’s Walmart. They can win because they the buy the most and therefore get the best prices from the suppliers. Unless you are Amazon (which, hey!), you cannot compete directly against them using this strategy. It is a loser, and you will go out of business.
Number two: Differentiation, or “high quality,” although I find that to be a bit of a misnomer. With this model, you take your skills, provide really good services, and make sure your customers understand you’re providing really good services.
Note that you need all parts of that equation for this to be successful: technical education, good service, and marketing so your customer “gets” that you’re good at what you do.
The differentiation model is where a majority of veterinary clinics SHOULD be placing themselves.
Three: Focus. This is when you start focusing on segments of the market, another topic that I love. Focus is a subcategory of either Low-Cost or Differentiation.
Not sure what a segment is? You should dive into this topic also! Market segmentation helps you figure out what customers you really should be focusing on, then you only focus on them. I wrote a “How-to” on finding your target market, which you can find here.
So, let’s put this all together into a recommendation for those among you who have a new Walmart clinic opening in your backyard:
1. You are most likely a clinic that needs to follow a Differentiation Model. You need to understand what that means, and ACTIVELY make the choice to pursue this route.
2. You need to follow through on what it means to be a “HIGH QUALITY” Business:
You keep your medical skills up to date.
All customer service is as pain-free for the client as possible.
Are you surveying your clients about their experience? Trust me – I know this is rough, but this is one of the best ways to find the areas that you can improve your customer service. Take all answers as ways that your clinic will excel in the future, not personal insults. Click here for help in generating a survey that will help you find customers’ concerns!
What’s going on with your marketing? I thought I was doing great on my marketing until I went to business school! Turns out I was completely under-utilizing it, and my messaging was garbled – at best. Perhaps your marketing efforts are best left to a professional.
Are you spending any money on social media marketing? Recommended marketing budgeting for the veterinary industry varies based on who you ask - I’ve seen numbers in the 3-5% of annual revenue range. However, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends a minimum of 8% of your gross revenue. They even recommend up to 20% during the early stages of your business!
3. You DO need to figure out your target market. Once you do, you will have a lot more clarity in your approach to your business and your marketing. Quite honestly, I suspect most of you will probably start caring less about Walmart once you go through this activity also. Walmart’s target market is most likely NOT your target market, and once you accept that and start acting upon that, you will have much less anxiety in your life.
4. Don’t just read this article, feel better, and do nothing. These concepts are real, and they are super helpful, but they only work if YOU put the hard work into executing them!
I hope you found this helpful, and it relieved some Walmart-induced anxiety. Let me know what you think, and share with friends who could use this also!