Canada West Veterinary Specialists came to us with a challenge. With a staff of over 100 and 24/7/365 emergency coverage they are the largest veterinary hospital in Canada, with approximately 20 veterinary specialists in fields as diverse as cardiology, neurology, surgery and critical care. They are the professionals that regular family veterinarians turn to in the most complex* of cases. But unlike their publicly-funded counterparts in human medicine, Canada West is a private owner-operated company, and all revenue to maintain the facility’s operations and multi-million dollar operating budget must be derived directly from patient fees. As such, the owners knew they needed to increase their marketing efforts to generate more revenue, but were unclear on how best to go about it. Skunkworks interviewed key stakeholders, reviewed client satisfaction survey data and thoroughly analyzed the hospital’s business model. We recognized that as a specialist hospital, strengthening Canada West’s ties with the referring family veterinarian community was critical to the hospital’s long-term financial health.
To help increase engagement with referring veterinarians we developed a two-pronged plan:
- Use Professional Development seminars to enhance their already excellent reputation as an industry thought-leader and encourage face-to-face interaction and relationship-building between Canada West’s specialists and referring vets; and
- Establish and grow an ongoing e-newsletter program to keep referring vets informed of hospital news and events and to keep Canada West top of mind on a recurring basis throughout the year.
Canada West’s flagship day-long fall professional development symposium (held at a downtown Vancouver hotel) is now the largest annual gathering of the veterinary profession in British Columbia, and is supplemented with a more informal “spring shindig” event at the hospital itself as well as periodic guest lectures throughout the year.
Canada West’s e-newsletter program publishes updates approximately 5-8 times a year to maintain ongoing contact with their target audience without veering into “email overload” territory, and provides updates on upcoming continuing education events, introductions to new staff and services, and other news of interest to their audience. Having a targeted, active and carefully built mailing list also served the hospital very well when Canada’s new anti-spam legislation (a.k.a. “CASL”) came into effect in July 2014, enabling the hospital to continue publishing in compliance with the new regulatory requirements with minimal disruptions to their established routine.
* (During our research phase a Canada West anesthesiologist explained to us the challenges involved the time he had to anesthetize an elephant. Just wow.)