It's a Two Way Street...

– Martin Deeley

In any business, referrals from trusted people can often be the lifeblood of an operation, providing growth and financial stability for you. Referrals by previous clients are always a good source of new ones but one of the most trusted sources for dog owners is their Veterinarians. Owner’s problems, regarding their dog, are poured out over the veterinarian’s table and it begins the moment they take their puppy in for a check up and his first shots.

How do we housebreak him? Should we crate him? Is it worth taking him to training classes? Do you know a good kennels where he will be happy when we go on holiday? Who can we trust to be nice to him when he needs bathing and grooming? Do you know who installs boundary fences? You know the questions and the vets get them asked regularly. So who does the Vet recommend? He will recommend those he knows have done a good job with previous clients. He will recommend those who have provided a good service to himself and been professional in their approach. He will recommend first those he also likes and recognize his support. Ask yourself, who you refer your clients to.

Whatever canine profession you are in, often we are a little nervous of visiting other professionals and ‘Marketing” our services or goods. We are trainers, groomers, pet sitters, and kennel owners--not salesmen. But unless we can make our business succeed we will not be able to do the job we enjoy. Unless we can pay the bills from the income we receive we will go out of the business we so much wanted to create. Veterinarians can be difficult to reach due to their work load and the fact they are being constantly approached by representatives of companies within the pharmaceutical world. They and their front office staff can build barriers to visits as they could otherwise spend too much of their time doing just this. But these closed doors can be opened and to the benefit of both. Veterinarians have problems that other dog professionals can help solve. Their business can also benefit from association with related professional services and by building a trusting professional relationship it becomes a win-win for both parties.

In your own profession, consider what you do that will benefit the veterinarian – these are your selling points. These are what will open doors, that and your personality and approach. Let’s consider some of them.

  1. Time is in short supply for veterinarians. Advice and talk about non-medical matters such as behaviour and training problems is not on their charge sheet. When they have an experienced professional to refer a client to or a handout which deals with the problem, this reduces the consultancy time allowing them deal with a greater number of clients in a day. In other words, it means increased income.
  2. Often when handling and working with a client’s dog, we notice a problem that could be health related, or the client may ask our opinion. From experience we can recommend a visit to the vet and be able to provide them with a clear picture of what is occurring so they can explain it better to the vet.
  3. Trainers can assist clients in familiarizing their dog to being handled, examined and groomed, and especially having nails clipped. Again, this reduces examination and handling time.
  4. Through crate training a dog will become more accepting of being kennelled and crated. Teaching them to remain quiet while crated reduces stress on both dogs and humans--especially if they need to stay at the vet's for a period of time.
  5. Through socialization and human interaction, accidents, dog fights and bite situations are minimized.
  6. By building a good relationship through associated professional services, the veterinarian increases his or her reputation.
  7. Together with the veterinarian, a professional can help as part of a team to determine and resolve a problem which could involve medical treatment and behaviour modification through training.
  8. Working with other professionals, a veterinarian can provide a more comprehensive service to clients and be competitive with large group pet services.
  9. By working together, all the professionals can build a caring and understanding reputation for each other and cross refer with confidence.
  10. Cross marketing of each others services increases everyone's bottom line.
  11. By working together with a comprehensive service, the potential for complaints is minimized and the potential for keeping dogs within a family, reducing euthanasia, maximized.
  12. The relationship can maintain a strong and loyal client base.
  13. The veterinarian can provide specialized services, reinforcing his reputation as a result of confidence and satisfaction from clients in those recommended.
  14. Where a relationship with the veterinarian results in training classes, and/or grooming being carried out in the practice, this provides a central resource for clients.
  15. Veterinarians can be invited to give a presentation at a trainer’s establishment for such as puppy classes. This not only shows confidence in the vet but creates more visibility for him and is a source for potential clients.

These are what you as a professional can offer a veterinarian, so never think that you are going into a vet begging for business. You are offering a service he needs as much as his clients. Sometimes, however, he does not realize this and without preaching you have to bring it to his attention. The front office staff are a way in to his inner sanctum. They quite rightly protect him, as his time is limited and his clients are the most important people in his business. The front office staff are also very influential in making recommendations to the clients who visit their practice. Your card or flier may be on the front desk, but its position and whether yours is the one they hand out among the others there is dependent upon the staff.

Front office staff are extremely important in the marketing of you and your business. They need to know what you do and, if you specialize, what it is you specialize in. Do you visit homes? Do you have an establishment? Do you specialize in certain breeds, sports or activities? Give them information so they know more about you and what you can do and have achieved. Front office staff nearly always have pets – they work in a vets because they love animals. Show an interest and bring out their likes, dislikes and even problems they may have with their pet. Offer to help. Give them a non fee paying consultation or service. Show them how good you are. If the vet has a new puppy, offer to help or provide your service at no cost. And there is nothing that wins people over more than showing your appreciation for a recommendation than a box of donuts, a thank you card, a small gift at Christmas and a report back to them of what you did for their client. Ask clients, referred by the clinic, to write a letter of thanks for the referral to the vet if they are pleased with what you have done for them. In this way you show togetherness, a common concern for the client and their dog. It highlights a successful ‘partnership’ and appreciation for their support of yourself.

In the members section of the IACP web site there are handouts which can be copied by members and given to veterinarians to provide information and education for their clients. They can be easily printed from a computer, photocopied or even printed commercially. Stamped with your own logo and business information together with the veterinarian, these handouts provide a means for the clinic to provide experienced information on a variety of subjects dog owners require regularly and need to know. You do not have to be an expert writer; these are available for you to use. Even better: staple your business card to each handout. The writers name may be on the handout but that writer is a member of your Association – the IACP. This indicates you are also a member of the premier Association for canine professionals. Now when asked about a housebreaking problem or other dog related matters, the vet or front office staff can give the owner a concise piece of information which will help them. This saves them time and shows a professional approach from their business. Your name will then be in front of these owners and their family who will be able to refer to it when they require services or support which you can provide.

There are so many ways you can show your referring clinics that you are professional and wanting to help them and support them. Do not miss opportunities. Have the veterinarian’s card on display when they visit your establishment. Call in on a regular basis to say “Hi” or take in a dog to familiarize with the smells and atmosphere of the clinic. You should not be demanding of their time but show understanding and take a back seat at these visits. Your dress, your attitude and personality will be noted. If you take a dog, the way you work with it will be observed and they will make the decision, based on this, whether they will refer clients to you. Success lies in your hands and the professional approach you have with a fellow professional. As mentioned at the beginning, referrals are the life blood of our business. Build bridges, create relationships, show professional respect and understanding, become a business ‘friend’ and the ‘blood’ begins to flow freely.

Martin Deeley | www.floridadogtrainer.com | www.internationaldogschool.com



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