This is XOXX’s Guy Blaskey’s article for Vet Marketing Magazine about what products vets should consider stocking.
How to decide what to stock in your surgery.
Many vets don’t like to admit it, but in-surgery product sales are important to a veterinary practice. One of the main problems for vets is that some of the products that they want to recommend to their clients are available cheaper online or in the pet supermarkets. So what do you do?
In the talk that I recently did at PATS – The Pet and Aquatic Trade Show (online at www.poochandmutt.com/patstalk) I made the point that if an independent pet store stocks the same products as a supermarket or chain pet store they will end up selling very little and wasting shelf-space. The supermarkets and chain stores have far more buying power, so can buy, and sell, for less. The same is true for vets. However as veterinary professionals you are the pinnacles of trust when it comes to people and their pets. Your clients trust you to recommend the best products to them and unfortunately for many veterinary professionals the principal source of knowledge on new products is the reps that visit you and the publications that you read.
The companies that can afford to put reps on the road and ads in the larger publications are not always the ones making the best products (despite what they tell you). There are other ways to find out about the new products out there such as asking your customers, following companies/ dog enthusiats on facebook/ twitter, searching online, visiting shows like Crufts and PATS and reading more consumer titles like Your Dog, Dogs Monthly or Your Cat.
Doing a google search for problems like diarrhoea or hip dysplasia will bring up myriad different products designed to help. It is true that there are a lot of not-so-good products out there that you will find out about, but if you do the research you will cut the wheat from the chaff and find some extremely good products that your customers will not be able to get elsewhere. As scientists, a bit of research should be enjoyable and you will gain some interesting insights about what is both good and bad that you can pass on to your clients.
As a manufacturer of health supplements for dogs, one of the questions that we often get from vets concerns the availability of trials and research results. Most small companies cannot afford to do full double-blind trials, however this does not mean that their products are inferior. If you find a product that you are interested in and you have a client that could benefit from that product then you should contact the company and ask for a free trial. As a manufacturer I can assure you that we are normally more than willing to get vets to trial products for free, in return for your professional review. We are not as likely to give free product direct to customers. This is great for your customer, as they get to try a free product and great for you as you get to see the results first hand on one of your patients. Hopefully you will agree that seeing a product work first-hand is preferable to, or at least as good as, trial results. Especially when you consider that a “Scientifically Proven” equine joint supplement just had it’s ads pulled by the ASA, when it turned out that their tests were based on just 8 horses over a period of just 2 weeks.
The answer to the question “what should we stock in the surgery?” is not simple, but the first thing to think is that you should not be stocking products that are easily available elsewhere at lower prices, you should stock more unique products. This takes some reseach, but here are a few tips/ products/ companies to get you started.
1) Staring with one of our own products – I will try not to be biased : Bionic Biotic (www.poochandmutt.com/bionicbiotic). No doubt one of your regular reps has been to see you and told you about their new product, FortiFlora. FortiFlora is a probiotic in a sachet. The probiotic used in FortiFlora is the same as the one used in Bionic Biotic. In Bionic Biotic it is more accurately dosed and combined with other beneficial neutrceuticals. More importantly it also works out cheaper for your customers. As I pointed out this is a biased example, but I felt it is important to make the point that there are often alternatives to the better-known, more heavily marketed, more widely available products that offer the same, if not better benefits to your customers..
2) Brit pet foods (http://www.brit-petfood.com/). Brit is a Czech-based food manufacturer that make super-premium, hypo-allergenic food for cats and dogs. I am told that this is at least as good as the better-known super premium feeds made by the larger companies, but it costs less. Brit is available in the UK via Doggy Things 020 8346 0500.
3) Treats, toys etc: Whilst it is true that clients look to their vets for advice on health products you have a captive audience of pet owners regularly visiting your surgery. Whilst I am not suggesting that you turn your surgery into a small pet store it could be worth stocking a few small toys, treats, etc. People are going to be buying these things for their pets, so they may as well buy from you. Plus, many toys and treats have health benefits. Simply running after and fetching a toy in good for a dog’s cardio vascular health, weight and mobility and there are many new “Brain Train” toys such as the Intellibone or DoggyBrainTrain that can aid a dog’s cognitive function. A Halti collar may make it easier for your clients to walk their dogs, so their dog will get more exercise and all the health benefits that come with that. Thrive Cat Treats (www.petproject.co.uk) are pure, freeze-dried chicken and fish treats for cats that are great for cat’s health as they have nothing added to them.
4) You can sell more than just pet products. The people who are paying over the cash are human and they might want to buy something for themselves. Stocking books like Marc Abrahams ‘Vet on Call’, MacPherson’s ‘easy to bake dog biscuit recipes’ or DVDs by the likes of Cesar Milan could be good sellers that don’t take up a lot of room. Also you do not have to keep the same products in stock. Once you have sold out of one book get a different one in. Then the customer who bought the first one you stocked might by the second one too.
5) Supplements in general. Again this is a biased opinion, but often when faced with a patient starting to show signs of a problem like arthritis the first instinct is to suggest that the dog changes food to a joint-specific prescription food. Alternatively you could suggest that they stay on the same food and add a supplement to it. This is better for the dog if they are happy on their food. More often that not there will be higher levels of active ingredients in the supplements than the prescription food. This method will normally work out cheaper for your customers. Most importantly you will be able to sell to customers immediately, and supplements do not take up much shelf space.
If you have suggestions for next month’s article please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are looking for problems faced by vets that you would like a marketing/ product development expert to look at.