October 2016    
Volume 8, Issue 10    

Leveraging Clients' Perception of Value to Grow Your Practice

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Every day consumers make purchases based on whether or not they perceive the value of the product or service to be greater than the price. In other words, if they believe the purchase is "a good deal" or "good value" then they will feel good about their purchase decision.
Offering "good value" is not necessarily synonymous with lower prices. For example, almost any hotel room will offer a bed, a bathroom, a television, possibly a side chair and maybe a desk. So why is Four Seasons able to sell their hotel rooms at a significant premium to say, Days Inn? The answer is that the Four Seasons' clientele see a value in what they are paying for that goes beyond the actual facilities being provided.
While we are not suggesting that you raise the price on your veterinary services, changing your clients' perception of value for those services will help bond your clients to your practice and make them loyal customers.
How can you change perception of value?  

Establish Core Values for Your Practice: Identify your practice's core values and make sure that every member of your team is aligned with those values. Your practice's core values should represent the culture of your practice, be the basis of your relationships with your team and with your clients, and drive your business decisions.

Don't Try to be All Things to All People:
Consumers make purchase decisions based on whether or not the perceived value is worth the cost. In other words, they decide if the purchase "is worth it." What is "worth it" to one client, may or may not be "worth it" to the next. Use your practice's core values to determine your value-perception niche. Do you offer cutting-edge medicine or do you offer affordable care to as many underserved pets as possible? The client looking for the former would likely demand more time with the doctors, high-end facilities, and supervised overnight care for their pet to perceive value in your services. The client who resonates with the latter would likely place more emphasis on price. Whichever you pick, make sure that you (and your team) are passionate about your values and about the clients you serve.

Prioritize Pricing:
Whether your pricing strategies include preventative health care plans, bundled services or tiered-pricing, creating a pricing strategy that appeals to your clients will directly impact their perception of value. Do not try to undercut your competitors' prices or offer preventatives at lower costs than can be found on the Internet. Rather, pricing strategies speak to your communication to clients of how your products and services offer the greatest overall package of both cost and quality. Make sure that your fees represent a value that is perceived as being fair for the services you are offering.

Create a Lifetime of Value:
Rather than offering an annual vaccination package or an annual heartworm test with preventatives, create a lifetime preventative healthcare program that will change your clients' perception of preventative healthcare from being a discretionary purchase each year to being a necessity for the lifetime of their pet.

Communicate the Value:
Everything you do for a patient should be effectively communicated to the client so that they understand exactly what they are paying for. The client estimate and invoice are great tools for this: make sure that they explain in easily-understood language exactly what services are being offered or provided to the pet. Another way to effectively communicate the value of your services is to examine the patient in front of the client. By seeing how detailed and thorough you are, clients are more inclined to associate value with the examination fee charge on their invoice.

Leave the Money-Talk to Your Support Staff:
By directing the client's focus away from price while the doctor is in the exam room, the client is more inclined to accept the best treatment plan for their pet. This strategy also supports the client's perception of your doctors as medical professionals rather than as sales people.

Put Things in Perspective
: Think about a humanitarian organization's claim that: "For less than a cup of coffee a day, you can save a child's life." This approach communicates value by leaving the money out of the equation because people don't derive direct value from money, they derive it from the things that money buys. Instead of telling clients that if they purchase heartworm preventative they will protect their pet from the disease, increase their perceived value of the product by showing them a video of a heartworm extraction surgery on a dog with Caval Syndrome.

Convey Urgency:
Marketers ubiquitously use urgency to increase perceived value with advertisement slogans such as "limited-time offer" or "call in the next 10 minutes..." While you don't need to turn your practice into a used-car lot, conveying urgency can tip the scales when clients are making purchase decisions for their pet. For example, if a client is concerned about the cost of a dental prophylaxis, explain to them how waiting longer could result in more advanced periodontal disease, a longer and more involved procedure, and the possible need for additional treatment or extractions. By conveying the value of doing the procedure now rather than waiting, client may be more inclined to accept your recommendations.

Showcase Trust
:  Think about the last time you bought a new television. How did a friend's opinion and experience with a particular brand sway you in your purchase decision? Marketers frequently increase the perceived value of products by using strategies to increase consumers' trust in their product and decrease consumers' fears of making an incorrect purchase decision. An example of this is celebrity endorsements. You can build the trust of your clients through showcasing your accomplishments. For example, if you received an award for being one of the best veterinary practices in town, make sure you showcase your award in your reception area. Keep a scrapbook of client thank-you notes or testimonials  where clients can browse through them and include client testimonials on your website. And of course, the best way to grow clients' trust is through word-of-mouth endorsements. Make sure you motivate your clients to share their experience at your clinic with others by offering incentives for client referrals or by simply sending a hand-written thank-you note for client referrals.

In summary, your clients' perception of value will bond clients to your practice, reduce the number of declined recommendations and grow your revenues. Rather than discount prices so that clients believe they are getting a "good deal", grow your clients' value-perception so that they feel good about their purchase decision. 

What stage are you at in the Practice Lifecycle?