Why I Hate the Grouponization of Vet Medicine

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I’m always surprised to see how far some veterinarians are willing to go to sell themselves to the public. It’s no longer enough to slap up a shingle, do a great job and reap the benefits of hard-earned goodwill through earnest referrals.

Nowadays, vets not only feel compelled to advertise guerrilla style and gain social media savvy, but they’re also offering coupons. Two spays for the price of one on Wednesdays, anyone?

Tacky, right? But it works.  Some vets have joined the ranks of thousands of companies nationwide by tapping  Groupon and Living Social to help sell their services. I know this because I read Veterinary Economics, which recently ran an article on Groupon for veterinarians. Here’s how it worked for one hospital:

The Deal: $22 for one grooming session ($50 value), $40 for a six-week obedience class ($85 value) or $40 for five days of doggie daycare (up to an $85 value)

The practice sold 171 packages during the promotion, which ended in February. The veterinarian got the idea from talking to her hairdresser, who sold 750 Groupons in a single day. It costs nothing to offer a deal on Groupon, and businesses receive roughly half the proceeds from each Groupon sold. For vet practices, the real benefit comes from the new clients a practice can gain from the promotion.

Sure I think it's tacky for an animal hospital to sell services like this — even if, in this case, the services weren't medical.  But it isn't just that the practice is distasteful to me, it is because there are better ways to find a vet. I've gone to great lengths to explain the importance of finding the right vet through prudent research and referrals, so the notion that a fellow professional could undermine this by offering a coupon to draw in clients just rubs me the wrong way.

And this goes for all kinds of advertising in medicine — bodacious plastic surgery ads (you know the ones), hospital fliers sporting hot surgeons in scrubs, ginormous Lasik billboards, etc. Since I’m fundamentally opposed to selecting a medical professional based on advertising, you can understand why I can’t condone the Grouponization of my profession.

Is that old-fashioned of me? Idealistic? Pollyannaish?

Perhaps all of the above. As a veterinarian with an MBA in marketing, I understand the drive, the need, to advertise. Yes, it works — but it also makes mad men of us all.


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