For veterinarians, it can be frustrating when even the pet appears more attentive than the owner. Whether a client is on their cell phone in the exam room, or turning to Dr. Google instead of complying with your recommendations – engaging distracted pet owners is a challenge.
This is “the Goldfish Effect,” a marketing term used to describe how very short our attention spans can be.
A 2015 Microsoft study found that the average adult attention span is eight seconds, which is a significant decline from the average of 12 seconds in 2000. Worse still is the fact that goldfish (which are notoriously checked-out) can focus for 9 seconds. That’s right, humans now have a shorter attention span than goldfish.
How did this happen? The same study suggests we may have become over-stimulated by an increasingly digital lifestyle. Our attention spans have decreased, and our ability to multi-task has improved accordingly – so we can process more information at a faster speed, within short bursts of high attention.
What does this mean for your veterinary practice? It’s not all doom and gloom. Sure, it can be difficult to maintain a pet owner’s attention long enough to communicate important information – but it is possible.
Here are four simple ways you can work around the Goldfish Effect – and even use it to your advantage.

Be authentic.

When it comes to reaching pet owners online, it can be tempting to lean on what’s flashy. Whether you’re writing content for your veterinary website, social media, or blog, marketing strategy should definitely be a part of your process. That said, anything padded with over-the-top marketing phrases can turn off potential clients from your practice.
We know it doesn’t take much for pet owners to lose focus – especially if they feel inundated by jargon. Real content with a human feel to it will stand out because pet owners will relate to your practice on a more personal level.
So what can you do to keep it reel at your veterinary practice?

Showcase who you are.

Using a team page may seem obvious, but are you using the best one possible? Your team page is your opportunity to go beyond just your name, photo and educational background. Make a joke, share some interesting facts, or explain in brief why you love what you do.
Clients want to find a veterinary clinic with a human face, because it allows them to forge a connection. This bond translates into better business loyalty for you, and happier pets for them.

Showcase who your patients are.

Sharing success stories, videos, and images of healthy, happy pets can act as a confirmation that your veterinary practice is a great choice. Plus, it reinforces the connection you have with your pet patients and their loving owners.
Posting pet stories (with owner permission) on social media is one way you can approach this. It can be as simple as a before-and-after photo, accompanied by a brief explanation. This type of post is sure to gain shares and drive traffic to your page, as the owner excitedly shows their own followers their “famous” pet.
If you want to try something different, live streaming a video of a routine exam can be a fun and exciting alternative. You can show off your talents and engage your audience with a behind-the-scenes look.

Related Reading: Live Streaming: What Is It and Is It Right for Your Veterinary Practice?

While this may seem nerve-wracking at first, raw footage is what makes a live stream so appealing to viewers. When you’re honest with your clients about who you are and what you do at your practice, they will respect and trust you for it.

Be mobile-friendly.

Speaking of trust, wouldn’t it be great if you could ensure that pet owners were getting the right information online? Thanks to the Goldfish Effect, some clients are turning to Dr. Google now more than ever.
Microsoft surveyed over 2,000 smartphone users to discover that 50% reach for their cell phones when nothing else is keeping them occupied. They are likely using their phones to get pet information too – possibly to the detriment of their pet’s health.
So how do you know they are getting accurate information? To start, you could provide it for them. Using a resource like ClientEd Online can help pet owners remember after their attention spans direct them elsewhere by providing trusted information in emailed links. Plus, ClientEd Online content is optimized for mobile use.
Since quite a few Dr. Google culprits are searching on mobile, your website absolutely needs to be mobile-friendly. If it isn’t, pet owners will go elsewhere.
Your website should also drive pet owners to your social media, and vice versa. That way, you create a loop of trusted information to reclaim client education from Dr. Google.

Declutter your content.

Cluttered content takes effort to sift through, especially when a client is looking for specific information. Pet owners want answers fast, so your content needs to be efficient if it’s going to be effective.
How can you do this? There are a few ways:
Keep it short. Shorter paragraphs mean mobile users don’t have to scroll through massive chunks of text – because they probably won’t stick around long enough to do so.
Keep it simple. Most pet owners won’t understand veterinary jargon, so try to avoid using it without explanation. Stick to more general terms and explanations.
Keep it catchy. Technology is designed to make our lives easier, but because there’s so much to keep track of, it can be difficult to focus on just one thing. Breaking up text with images and graphics helps make it easier for readers to understand and stay focused.
Tip: If you’re struggling with decluttering your content, ClientEd Online may be the resource you need. Articles use all three of these techniques to keep short attention spans engaged.

Engage clients within a “micro-moment.”

One of the more effective responses to the Goldfish Effect is the Google-coined idea of engaging clients within “micro-moments.”
A micro-moment refers to that instant in which a person turns to their cell phone with a specific intent to find an answer. Clients expect an immediate response, whenever they want it, however they want it.
So if pet owners are most attentive within short, intent-rich moments like these, then we need to create a message that works fast to reach clients before they move on.
Using a call to action (CTA) is a great way to create urgency and evoke an emotive response. A good CTA will always address a pain point for pet owners – this way, it inspires pet owners to act, and it won’t just be because they were told.
For example, instead of writing a Tweet reminding clients to get their pets spayed or neutered, take a moment to address possible aggression and other pet health concerns that may result from non-compliance.Engagement is not all about client education, though. Make sure to incorporate some fun, entertaining content into the mix to encourage pet owners to stick around. By using variations of mixed media, your content stays fresh and is more likely to maintain the attention of pet owners.
So there you have it, four ways you can reel in new clients and keep the regulars hooked to make the most of the Goldfish Effect.

What are some of the ways you engage pet owners online? Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook to let us know!

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