Wellness Plans Are A Business Strategy: Discussing the Features of the Business of Wellness

In an earlier post, we covered the five goals of the Business of Wellness. Today, we expand on that post with a deep dive into the features of the Business of Wellness.


First, let’s recap quickly with a bit of background if you missed our earlier post. The goals of the Business of Wellness are:


  • Build a practice brand and culture
  • Create a club/membership program around your plans for loyalty
  • Provide real-time program analytics and insight
  • Incorporate additional practice areas into the membership
  • Increase practice valuation

Why these goals? Because VCP believes a well-performing wellness program can be a significant driver of business for a veterinary practice. As such, you want to get the most out of your program and set your goals high — and have access to tools to see how you’re doing. Absent these goals and tools, you’re flying blind. Or, as the saying goes, hope is not a strategy.


So, what are some of the key features you’ll need in your wellness plan solution? The first thing to understand is that “features” don’t simply refer to software features, which is what many vendors focus on. Features, broadly defined, refer to people, processes, and technology that are needed to help your program be successful.


Today, we’ll review three features in this post, and then finish up with the remaining three features in next week’s post. Use these features as a handy checklist as you compare wellness plan solutions.


Innovative Best Practices for People, Process, and Technology
People, process, and technology are fundamental to the success of your wellness plan program. Let’s break them down one by one.


The people aspect of wellness plan programs involves helping your staff understand how to position the value of your wellness plans. The process can often involve change management with your staff, who often will find it easier to talk about a discount to get your client’s attention, rather than value.


Education is critical in this process. Your employees must truly understand they’re providing services that pet owners not only want, but ones that genuinely benefit pets at a great value.


Key to understanding the change management task at hand is understanding the unique personalities of your employees and “teaching them their role in the wellness plan discussion,” says Ron Nelson, vice president of operations with VCP. “We understand that different members have different roles and unique personalities, and so have different interactions with the pet owners,” he explains. “Key to that is teaching them about how to position the value of wellness plans to both the pet and pet owner. In this way they can learn how to communicate effectively with the pet owner.”


Nelson says client communication can include both “push” and “pull” strategies. Depending on a staffer’s individual personality (introvert or extrovert) they may or may not feel comfortable proactively addressing wellness with clients. Many may feel that they’re not “salespeople,” but will respond when clients ask questions. With pull strategies, clients will ask your staffers about the plans, making the introductory conversation much easier. Common pull strategies include marketing materials, email campaigns, social media activity, and more.


“It’s essential to make sure you have strategies for the personality types at your practice, no matter the position of the employee in the practice or how the conversation comes up,” Nelson adds.


Throughout this, you also can’t neglect the process, which includes marketing strategies, pricing analysis, staff training, and positioning your practice against the competition. Wellness requires changing how you and your staff hold conversations with your clients; many practices struggle with change management.


It’s important not to underestimate the work required here to make sure that all aspects of your process are well understood — from marketing, to positioning the solution, to signing members up, to providing services, and finally to demonstrating value over the life of the plan to maximize renewals.


While people and process are critical to a well-run solution, well-trained people with a well-defined process will quickly tire of a wellness plan program if the technology is lacking. It’s very important to pick the right software that handles all of the requirements for a program.


Beyond just having the functional tools to run your program, Bob Richardson, president of VCP, adds that “access to the performance characteristics of your wellness plan program is critical to make strategic business decisions about your program. Without it, it’s very difficult to understand if you have a well-performing program.” Besides understanding the behavior of your wellness plan participants, being able to set goals and track your progress against them requires software to make the process easy and manageable.


Specialty Branding and Marketing
When you think of a brand, iconic names like Apple might come to mind. But your veterinary practice is a brand too. Your brand expresses the identity of your practice. Your brand is what makes your practice unique and sets you apart from the big discount chain down the street.


Ideally, once you’ve determined your brand, you’ll find ways to continually communicate it — through your tagline, doctor’s message, emails, on-hold message, and website. Educating your team and building a culture is also crucial to convey your brand proposition to pet owners. Your team is on the front line and is the embodiment of your brand. This ties back to the concept of people change management that we just touched on.


When enlisting outside help, access to marketing resources with a background in membership marketing (a category wellness plans fall into) is also a must. For a deep dive on branding and marketing, we created a helpful roadmap in an earlier post. Read more here.


Support for Employee Plans
If you’re like most vets, you provide your employees with wellness care at a steep discount. Creating an employee pet wellness plan will allow you to track this generous benefit. Doing so not only shows your employees the actual dollar value of the care, it also helps to transform them into natural evangelists for your wellness plans.


As Richardson explains, “If employees pay monthly for their wellness plans, even if their plan is 75% off, they start to understand there’s a value to the plan. Then, employees can honestly tell customers — ‘I’m on this plan myself, I love it.’”


Conversely, when your wellness solution doesn’t track the value of the services you’re providing to staffers, they tend to undervalue the plans. What’s more, tracking employee plans offers an added advantage around tax-time because of the tax implications of the plans.


Next week, we’ll continue our discussion of the features of the Business of Wellness by digging into three other elements that are essential in a well-run wellness plan program.

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