Sharon Polk and Marnette Falley, senior strategists with the DMG Communication team, have more than 50 years combined experience in the companion animal industry, helping companies bring new products to market and grow sales. According to a survey conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association, expenditures toward pet’s health and veterinary care have seen a substantial jump from previously reported spending figures. That means companion animal health companies need a trusted partner to help navigate sales potential, analyze target audiences and launch the latest technologies utilizing the most effective and up-to-date marketing tools.
Q: What does the companion animal health landscape look like?
A: More than 67 percent of American households own pets, totaling nearly 400 million pets. There has been an evolution of pets as family members, and we treat them as such. We’re careful with their diet, offer regular, preventive healthcare, and often project our human emotions to them. As an example, we’re no longer willing to accept that a 12-year old lab is going to develop osteoarthritis and will simply have to live with chronic pain. We want our pets to live long, healthy and happy lives and are often willing to spend a significant portion of our household incomes to keep them healthy and comfortable. That presents an enormous opportunity for animal health companies developing new products, and veterinarians, who are the primary advocate for pets. In fact, the animal health sector is growing at a rate of about 4 percent, despite downturns in the economy. There’s significant growth in this area and pet industry sales are expected to hit $281 billion by 2023.
Q: What can DMG offer to bring companies into 2020 and beyond?
A: There is a constant demand to meet the unmet needs in the veterinary marketplace. We know a veterinarian is truly the best advocate for the pet’s health, and as companies recognize that, new products will be directed into the veterinary channel. There’s always a need for the traditional blocking-and-tackling marketing — collateral materials, direct mail, and trade shows, for example. But innovative and targeted marketing can help extend the reach of the sales force. While marketing communications can never replace a one-on-one conversation between a sales rep and veterinarian, new tools to leverage data base management, CRM platforms, and targeted social media outreach can help feed the sales funnel by generating qualified leads.
Q: How can DMG help companies cut through the clutter?
A: There are approximately 65,000 practicing companion animal veterinarians in the United States. All are called to improve the health and well-being of pets, but they approach the ‘business’ of veterinary medicine differently. It’s vital that communications tools are customized, reaching veterinary segments with messages that resonate. The focus could be financial to one segment of the veterinary audience; pet comfort and well-being is another approach. And a third segment might be most interested in the convenience of adding a product to their clinic protocols. The key is to understand those motivators and target veterinarians with a message that resonates most with each of them. Having a solid database and deploying digital marketing communication is key — layered with the more traditional marketing tools such as display advertising and printed materials to build broad-based awareness.
Q: How do you go about helping clients build a product launch plan?
Launching a new product in the veterinary space is terribly exciting — especially when you think about the impact the product could have on the health and well-being of pets! It’s important to be authentic in communication, respectful of the veterinary industry and the role animals play in our lives. We also need to find the right balance — discussing product features and benefits while recognizing the impact this product could have in veterinary practices and in pets’ lives. In some categories, new offerings will compete with 15-20 other established products. It’s essential to find the right niche, using veterinary segmentation and reaching those practitioners most likely to see the benefit — financial, emotional, scientific — of the new offering.
Perhaps most importantly, clear, transparent communication between client and agency is key. There is an enormous depth of expertise in the veterinary medicine category, but the industry is changing rapidly. Having both parties respect and value new perspectives will lead to a strong agency/client partnership and an even stronger product launch.