Learning New Moves

By Mark Thill
May, 2016

Last December, we wrote several articles on millennials – primarily veterinarians and office managers – in the veterinary community. But there’s another leg to that stool, and one that we didn’t talk about – the millennial client.

At roughly 80 million or so in the United States, millennials now outnumber baby boomers. And millennials love their pets. They share their photos on social media; they feed them well; they spoil them; they try to keep them as fit and trim as the millennials themselves.

Recent data from the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association’s Insider’s Insight Benchmark Report corroborates the trend.

When asked, “What percentage of clients in your practice do you estimate are age 35 or younger?” approximately two-thirds said somewhere between 21 percent and 40 percent. (More than 180 managers filled out the survey.)


Next question: “What are you doing to attract younger clients to your practice? (Check as many as apply.)” Most frequently cited:

• Use social media to communicate with clients (92 percent).

• Use email to communicate with clients (89 percent).

• Mobile-friendly website to appeal to mobile users (84 percent).

• Offer third-party financing to help with unexpected pet care expense (77 percent).

• Use text messaging to communicate with clients (63 percent).

• Recommend pet insurance to help clients should pet emergencies occur (60 percent).

• Offer high-tech services, e.g., lasers, pet therapy, non-invasive procedures and diagnostics (60 percent).

• Hire younger staff members to complement the team (55 percent).

• Remodel/modernize décor to show that your practice is up-to-date (54 percent).


Change is the darndest thing. It’s pretty simple to see how others should change, but ourselves? Not so easy. Believe me, I speak from experience. Yet, faced with these demographics, veterinary practice owners have little choice but to change.

Sales reps can help. You know – probably, more than most – which practices need to change the way they approach their clients, and how.

That’s because you call on all kinds of practices. Walk through the door of one, and I’m sure you get a feeling of brightness, cleanliness, energy, caring, laughing. Walk into another, and you feel the weight of the dark, warped, brown faux wood paneling; the Formica front desk; frayed furniture; and maybe a surly greeter.

The issue – as one inimitable consultant once said – is this: How do you tell someone their baby is ugly? The answer: Gently.

Do you have an office design department? They probably have attractive photos you can share with the practice. Have you read any articles about how pets are becoming part of the family, particularly among young people? Perhaps you can clip one out and share it with the office manager. It could open a dialogue about millennials and how the practice can appeal to them.

It’s time to (gulp) change. That’s particularly true for your customers who have been around for, say, 10 years or more. To them, appealing to millennials might at first seem a little like learning a new language, or a new dance step. But after awhile, they will get the hang of it. They just might need to hold on to you a bit as they work their way through it.

Topics: Editor's Note


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