One concern many veterinarians have as they integrate holistic modalities into their practices is replacing the OTC sales income. There are many ways to address this issue, including restructuring your hourly charges for services. Many integrative practices do well selling OTC diets and supplements. My practice in New Orleans successfully sells raw food diets and supplements; currently, the practice income is approximately 48% medical services and prescriptions and 52% sales. Of these sales, 30% to 35% is raw food.
Selling raw foods
Some practices are challenged in their efforts to retail any type of diet. Clients can often find lower prices at stores or even on the internet. They may purchase when recommended during an office visit, but then not come to the clinic for any further purchases. One benefit of selling raw meat diets at your practice is that they are not readily available at all pet stores, so clients are more likely to come back to your clinic.
Several concerns arise when deciding to provide prepared raw food diets to clients. One is how to get them to change to a new diet. They may be reluctant to try for many reasons. “Will my dog/cat like it?” “Will it cost more?” “Why should I change?” “Will it be harder to feed?” Another concern is finding space for the freezers, choosing the brands and stocking appropriately.
My integrative practice is based on finding the best treatments (often homeopathy), lifestyles, exercise and environment for every patient, and empowering clients to see the unique needs of each animal. A cornerstone of my practice is nutrition, so at every visit clients will hear about the importance of individualizing diets for their animals’ specific needs. Many clients seek me out for nutritional consultations when their animals are being treated for cancer and they want a no-grain diet. Even with no specialized nutritional training, you can be the “go-to” clinic for anyone seeking complete, raw food diets for health benefits. Let the community at large know you are offering these foods.
Choosing lines of supplements and deciding how much inventory to stock can be a challenge to conventional as well as holistic practitioners. To maximize sales, it is important to determine the following:
1. What companies do you respect?
2. What conditions benefit the most from supplements?
3. What specific nutritional supplements are needed for the daily diet?
4. What’s the percentage of feline and canine products needed?
5. What are your profit margins (will clients buy from you, or via the internet or at a local pet store if it is available at a lot less there)?
Supplements fall into five categories:
1. Basic nutritional health supplements (vitamins, minerals, whole foods, probiotics, digestive enzymes, etc.)
2. Digestive disorders (nutritional, flower essences, enzymes, anti-inflammatories)
3. Renal and liver support
4. Immune building
5. Detoxification – herbal pills, herbal tinctures, herbal teas
At this time, we carry supplements from 15 different companies. The
companies change as new products are added or quality changes. The key to successful sales is educating clients and letting them be part of the selection
process. Since my clients already know that my practice recommends individualized
treatments and values their feedback, most continue to purchase supplements from
us. We often send samples home with the owners, since many are concerned their
animals may not readily accept the supplement. If the owner cannot get her pet to
take the supplement, or if for any reason we need to stop it, she can always return
whatever portion she has remaining.
I often will stock a few bottles of a rarely-used supplement I feel is beneficial. If
my office manager brings to my attention that one or more products are staying
on the shelf too long, I decide whether that product is important enough to
continue stocking in small amounts, or if I can use a replacement product from
a different company.
Improving health and practice income
Our commitment as veterinarians is to maximize the health of our patients.
We also want to be financially successful. Selling raw food diets and healthy
supplements will definitely improve patient health. Many clients are now
searching the internet for “natural” foods and products, so you can become the
source for products in your own community. By providing sampling in the clinic,
sending samples home and educating your clients, you will improve the health of
your patients and your practice.