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How to Find New Revenue Streams for a Veterinary Practice

The world around us is getting more and more expensive. The cost of education rises every year. Groceries go up, insurance goes up, rent goes up, property taxes go up. Even the businesses that don't want to price gouge need to raise prices to compensate for all the other rising expenses, and that includes veterinary practices.

Financial burdens were one of the many sources of stress for vets even before the pandemic, and the rapid inflation of the cost of just about everything has made it all the more important that your practice be financially solvent. If your practice struggles, the added stress can mount on top of compassion fatigue, life stress, and all the rest.

Until such time as a rapid shift in the American and Global economies happens, you need to find ways to bring in additional revenue to keep your practice – and your personal life – going strong. It isn't about profits; it's about staying functional and open.

So, what options do you have for additional revenue streams for your veterinary practice?

Make Use of PPC Advertising and Affiliate Marketing

One of the best things you can do for a practice is get better at efficient advertising. If people don't know you're an option, they won't book appointments, will they? Many veterinary practices either view themselves as too small to compete with advertising or believe they have saturation in the community and don't need active advertising when passive advertising will do.

This isn't really true. There are always new people adopting new animals and looking for vets, and if they never had a reason to care about local veterinary care before, they might have no reason to know who or where you are. While word-of-mouth referrals can be very powerful, they're still limited to social webs, unlike something that can reach everyone in your geographic area: the World Wide Web.

PPC advertising requires a strong online presence because it's based on digital marketing channels like Google and Facebook. It's not enough just to get people to see your name; you want them to click through your ads and book appointments. That means understanding what they're searching for, what kind of care they need that you can offer them, and a quick and easy way for them to book an appointment.

Here's a great guide on getting started with PPC advertising for veterinarians. There are also plenty of more generic guides on PPC out there for further reading.

Another way you can leverage your online presence for additional revenue is to make use of affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing allows you to recommend products (or, in some cases, services) with a tracked link, and when a website visitor uses that link and makes a purchase, you get a kickback. How can you use this?

Start by creating a blog. Regular publications of vet-related content give you opportunities to recommend everything from food to litter boxes to toys to grooming tools. You can then link to those tools on sites like Amazon with an affiliate link. There are also vet-specific affiliate marketing companies you can look into. Anyone who clicks that link in your blog and buys the product will earn you some money. It's not much, but it adds up over time and takes you virtually no effort beyond creating that content, which you can outsource to content marketing agencies.

As an added bonus, if any of your blog content gets popular enough to be visible beyond your area of operations, you can still monetize that traffic. A practice in California can make money from purchases made by people in New York or even in other countries!

Invest in Telemedicine for Simple Appointments

Telemedicine is a growing field, and while there are always going to be things you can't do via a video call, there are a lot of veterinary services you can provide remotely without having to wrangle a patient and bring them to your practice, including: 

Simple consultations where a client presents the patient's symptoms, and you help determine whether or not they need emergency care, a standard appointment, or just home treatment.

Remote diagnosis, where you can identify simple and common issues like eye infections, skin conditions, and minor injuries with appropriate follow-up.

Follow-up appointments, where you can check in with a client after a patient's surgery or other treatment to make sure they're still doing okay without needing them to be brought into the practice for no real reason.

Second opinions, where you can offer your own judgment of a scenario based on the symptoms, diagnosis, test results, and other information provided by another vet. This can confirm the suspicions of the client or the treatment path for the patient, and you can potentially offer your services in place if it makes sense to do so. This is one of the things we at Hope Vet do, though, without trying to snipe patients from other vets.

Preventative care and wellness checkups, which can help make sure everything is fine for animals when their owners aren't keen on bringing them to a vet.

Medication management, so you can check for side effects, evaluate whether or not a medication is doing what it should, and adjust as necessary.

Telemedicine is a powerful tool. More importantly, it has three significant benefits for you and your practice. The first is that you can charge for telemedicine appointments, making it an additional revenue stream. The second is that the appointments can be fast and worked in between other in-person appointments, so it's not taking the place of other services. The third is that the pricing for telemedicine appointments can be correspondingly lower, making them attractive to clients who would normally go without.

Find Additional Services to Offer

In addition to remote telemedicine, you can continually seek out additional services you can offer. These can be whole new service categories, or they can be extensions of services you already offer by way of upselling existing clients.

Examples include:

  • Dietary and nutrition consulting. Recommending food (that your practice happens to sell), helping to diagnose allergies, and improving the weight and overall health of patients can be a great additional revenue stream.

  • Emergency and critical care services. If you can swing it, keeping your practice staffed for emergency and critical services – like urgent care for pets – can be a great way to fill a role in between a typical vet practice and a veterinary hospital emergency room. Just make sure to establish referral options with the local animal hospital for cases you can't handle overnight.

  • Pet boarding and daycare services. There are often many local options for these services, but clients may not feel comfortable with them or may not trust them. However, they already know and trust you, so leaving their animals with you in a comforting environment can be a great option. As an added bonus, establishing your practice as a place where animals can go to be pampered rather than poked and prodded can help make those animals more comfortable with the office and area as a whole.

  • Grooming services. While you shouldn't be providing grooming yourself – your skills as a vet are needed elsewhere – you can easily hire a groomer to provide those services in a side office, adding a whole extra revenue stream. It can even be an upsell attached to traditional appointments, so pets that may be stressed or anxious can end their visits with a bit of pampering.

  • Mobile services. There are often pet owners who either don't have the mobility, the schedule flexibility, or the opportunity to bring their animals to you for care. Dedicating a day each week to mobile services, where you can provide house calls, can be a great way to open up additional options.

  • Palliative care. Some vets don't like to provide end-of-life care, either for their own personal mental health or because the opportunities and resources aren't available. If you can offer the option, adding palliative care services can be a good, if sad, additional revenue stream.

  • Adoption options. Working with local shelters to promote adoptions, catch-neuter-release programs for strays, and continuous care for adopted animals can be a great way to bring in more clients.

  • Training services. Whether an obstinate older dog, an unruly cat, or a new puppy needing training comes through your door, offering training and obedience courses can be a great way to offer additional services and bring in more revenue.

All of this goes alongside more traditional additional revenue streams. For example, having branded merchandise like leashes, harnesses, collars and tag engraving, grooming tools, and pet toys for sale in your office.

Audit and Adjust Expenses and Fee Schedules

There are several different schools of thought when it comes to the fees you charge your clients. Some people recommend charging everyone full price for everything, with very minor exceptions like elderly clients and employee discounts. Others believe that offering a sliding fee scale allows you to provide better care for low-income clients whose animals might not otherwise get treatment at all. To an extent, it depends on where you fall on the profit versus empathy scale.

There's no right answer here. If offering discounts and sliding fee schedules costs your practice money, it might not be worth it. After all, you can't do much good for the animals in your area if you can't keep your practice open. On the other hand, discounts can attract new clients who might not otherwise come to you, and if their situation improves, the sliding scale increases.

The expenses side of the coin is also important to analyze. It's very easy to go for years with the same suppliers, as costs increase over time, never realizing that you could save a significant amount of money by switching suppliers or investing in new supply lines. Veterinary technology also improves, and certain options you've offered might no longer be the best options, and there could be cheaper and more effective alternatives. Again, it's impossible to give one right answer here, but a thorough audit every year can help you identify ways to cut costs, improve outcomes, and balance the books.

You will also likely need to make adjustments periodically, even quarterly, to account for things like the adjusted fees of competing practices, adjustments for inflation, and other influences.

Unfortunately, there may come a time when you need to cut off problematic clients. Clients who frequently cancel, who continually reschedule, who argue over every fee and waste everyone's time, or even who rely on deep discounts you can't sustain can all be a drain on your finances. It's fine when times are going well, but if times are tough and expenses are high, the empathy of keeping their business may be too damaging to the practice as a whole.

Optimize Who Provides What Services

One of the biggest drains on finances for veterinary practices is employees – up to and including yourself as the vet – providing services that are quote-unquote "beneath" you. We're not trying to denigrate those services, though.

Think of it this way. As a vet, you're highly trained and skilled. If you have half an hour for an appointment, which is better: to use that appointment providing diagnosis and care for a sick pet, or grooming a patient?

You don't need vet training to be a groomer; by hiring someone to groom, offer training, work with pet adoptions, or handle simple services, you free yourself up for the more complex tasks.

More complex tasks are, by their nature, also more expensive tasks. Your time is worth money, and when you spend it on services that someone else – who is lower paid than you – could be doing, you're effectively wasting the difference.

This is not to say you shouldn't help out around the practice or do those tasks on occasion. However, surveys have shown that vets often spend as much as 50% of their time on tasks that don't require their skills or training.

While it may seem daunting to hire someone for tasks you used to handle yourself – after all, it's an additional expense for the same services – it's worth realizing that it opens you up to do a similar volume of work that brings in more revenue. Outsourcing, whether it's to a groomer, a veterinary technician or nurse, a behaviorist, or even just a data entry clerk or accountant for back-end practice work, can be immensely valuable.

When you take advantage of these various ways to improve your revenue across your practice, you can take a struggling practice into stability and bring a stable practice into success. It's often tricky and requires a lot of auditing and analysis, but it's worth it in the end.

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