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Pet care marketers are missing opportunities with the middleman (AKA the veterinarian).

This is Part 2 of a three-part series about top opportunities for pet marketers today.

In our first article, we explored the importance of welcoming new pet owners by supporting them. In this article, we will explore the critical role veterinarians play and how you can help them help you.

What have you done for veterinarians lately?

Veterinarians are stressed. They’re seeing patients while pet parents wait in parking lots. They’re getting raw noses from wearing masks. And after work, they’re undressing before they enter their own homes and showering before they see their children. They’re on the front line. They’re are anxious. They’re trying to meet everyone else’s needs all day long.

We asked independent clinic owners a single question: How are companies supporting you during the pandemic? More than 50 practice owners responded. As expected, a lot depends upon the behavior of individual sales representatives and clinic volume. Still, we found their responses interesting.

Many felt there has been little to no support. Sales representatives who they usually heard from were silent and not calling or had called once and never followed up. Others expressed how companies had supported them, but also how alone they truly felt.

Most animal health companies have offered some form of extended terms, and many have offered continuing education (CE). Elanco, BI and Royal Canin were mentioned repeatedly as having offered free CE. Similarly, many sales representatives are falling back on their traditional go-to tactics and are buying lunches for clinics.

Animal health company activity.

A few animal health companies have gone further by sending masks and gloves — Zoetis and Elanco are specifically highlighted as having done this. Let’s take a closer look at other efforts. On the telemedicine front, Boehringer Ingleheim is offering its own platform, PetPro Connect, for free; and Zoetis is partnering with BabelBark and Airvet to offer two of free telemedicine. Elanco has increased sampling, especially of Galliprant and Credelio.  On the diagnostic side, Idexx and Antech are releasing some clinics from contracted monthly minimums, but not from annual targets and IDEXX was praised for doing COVID-19 testing on thousands of pets. Finally, on the pet food side, Royal Canin was highlighted much more frequently than Hill’s or other pet food brands. Royal Canin has worked hard-to-manage backorders and ensure clinics have the food they need — gaining clinic loyalty in the process. The company is also doing home shipping of food to veterinarians and staff for their own pets’ use. This program is the closest we’ve seen to creating an emotional connection with our veterinary respondents.

So, what does all this mean? It strikes us as a missed opportunity.

Veterinarians are in a personal crisis. Free lunches and CE hours are great, but the pet care companies that win will show up in a real way to understand the strains and stresses and help to relieve them. The door is open, and no one company currently holds a significant advantage in perception. Which company will step forward during this crisis and become a meaningful ally rather than an observer?

We think the company that wins will offer more than a free lunch, delayed billing and CE. It’ll offer real solutions built from an in depth understanding of what it’s like to be a veterinarian during these times.

How will your marketing team reach beyond product features, attributes and benefits to talk instead about veterinarian needs and experience? How will your team take responsibility for creating an emotional connection with veterinarians rather than simply allowing the field force to own the relationship? How can you use what you’ve learned doing consumer marketing to improve your B2B marketing?

Interested in a conversation about applying the best practices you’ve learned in consumer marketing to your B2B channels? Let’s talk.

What’s ahead: In the next article of this three-part series, we will look at the importance of context and creating an emotional connection with pet owners.

About the Author

Blair McConnel brings extensive experience to the Bader Rutter Pet Care Practice. She is a veterinarian who worked in industry for ten years and led Zoetis’ marketing team. She has led several start-ups, including 2 businesses which provided people management and business consulting services to veterinarians. Her passion is growing businesses, and her belief is that good strategy is the foundation to growth.