“RUNNING a successful veterinary practice, how hard can it be? Surely it’s a simple case of supply and demand; there are sick and injured pets and only a vet can treat them. Sounds like the perfect business to me,” said a wellmeaning but ill-informed former industry associate. If only it were that straightforward. There will always be sick animals who require veterinary treatment, but the fact that rescue v centres are at full capacity whilst the evergrowing pet accessories market is currently valued at over £600 million1 just goes to show that owners view their pets in vastly different ways and that client behaviour cannot always be taken for granted. If we use the latest figure from the Performance Index – that suggests at best only 49.5% of pets visiting a vet practice will be vaccinated2 – even those owners who profess to care for their pet do so in a very different way from what would be considered best practice by vets. As any practice owner looking to develop a clear market position for his or her practice to attract pet owners and subsequently grow the business will tell you, establishing where the owners are, and understanding their behavioural profiles, can be akin to searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack, especially if they are not already clients. However, for a practice looking to provide the very best veterinary care and at the same time generating a fair profit, it must first understand its “market potential”. Market potential is a combination of quantitative (the total number of pets within your practice geography) and qualitative (pet owners’ attitudes to veterinary care) measures. By establishing what your market potential is, you will be able to gain a better understanding of the demand within a given geographical region and ensure your services match the needs of that pet-owning population. By knowing what makes owners “tick”, you will be able to select your strategies for growth in a more structured, effective and ultimately profitable way. That might mean the provision of extra services, a review of the fee structure, targeted marketing at key demographics, or the impact of a new branch on your current client base.
Client mapping and sociodemographic profiling provides a simple way to better understand your client base and identify your market share of the pet-owning population within your locality. This can be achieved by using the data within your practice management system coupled with your own knowledge and experience. It’s possible to ascertain your practice’s market potential by reviewing the geographical region you cover, how many pet owners you “guesstimate” are in that region and their “style” of pet ownership. A more scientific method of establishing market potential employed by many other industries is Experian’s
Mosaic UK model which classifies all consumers in the UK by allocating them to one of 67 types and 15 groups. The groups and types in these profiles paint a rich picture of UK consumers in terms of their socioeconomic and socio-cultural behaviour. Vet Support+ has taken this established model and given it additional relevance to the veterinary industry by overlaying proprietary research into the propensity of pet ownership to each of the types and groups already identified in Mosaic. From “Rural Solitude” and
“Terraced Melting Pot” to “Active Retirement”, all will have a different propensity to own a pet and different attitudes to pet care. This research into propensity for pet ownership is an
industry first. With incredibly powerful and informative content, it
demonstrates where, on a geographical map, the stronger petowning sectors of the community are based, as well as their purchasing habits regarding pet insurance and premium or economy pet food. This enables a deeper insight into the buying
behaviours of pet owners and therefore the demand for various services in different regions of the UK. For a practice that undertakes an Experian report through Vet Support+, the findings
can be both surprising and enlightening in equal measure. By pinpointing on a map your competitor practices, locating your clients and their density by postcode, and understanding how far your clients travel through accurate drive-time analysis (not just an “as the crow flies” view), a practice can see at a glance where the threats and opportunities may lie.
Overlaid against this with the Mosaic Profiling is a detailed analysis of your clients and their socio-economic status and a
propensity for pet ownership for the population as a whole. Overall, this mapping will enable a practice to appreciate
where the greatest potential for growth exists and where the best
opportunities lie. Recognising that the veterinary industry is so
much more complex than the simple supply and demand
relationship mentioned earlier in the article, “market potential” is
surely the more strategic and potentially rewarding way to view your business. By knowing where your current and future clients are and their pet-owning behaviours, it is possible to increase your practice’s opportunity with the local pet-owning community through targeted marketing and matching the development and
positioning of the services provided by the practice to the needs of your clients.
- Pet Accessories Market – UK 2011- 2015, AMA Research.
- Pfizer Index, July 2011.