Stronger veterinary marketing in the age of online scrolling

By MWI Animal Health

Implement these strategies to earn potential clients’ attention


Middle-aged Black man looks at smartphone with dog on his lap
For many people, scrolling through their smartphone is a mindless way to pass the time and they tune out much of what they encounter. This skimming mindset presents challenges in the modern marketing landscape. 


How to understand skimming and scrolling behaviors

Eunice Kim, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing from the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University, explains that skimming and scrolling is a way for people to prevent information overload.

“Scrolling and skimming can be so compelling for people for various reasons. A good place to start is by acknowledging that scrolling and skimming are necessary given our cognitive limitations as human beings,” she says. “Our brains can only handle so much information and so much stimulation before we feel overwhelmed.”

“Scrolling and skimming can be a strategy for processing ‘just enough’ information in our surroundings. We call that a satisficing strategy where we use just enough information to make decisions that will be satisfactory. We may not be making the absolute best decisions but, for many types of decisions, a satisfactory decision is good enough.”  

Kim explains, “Confirmation bias causes us to scan for information that is consistent with our preferences, attitudes, beliefs, goals, etc. And because we are looking for those types of information, we are more likely to notice and remember it and skip over or not pay attention to all other information. We will continue to scroll until we find what we’re looking for.”

Online venues from shopping portals to social media landscapes want people to keep scrolling. Social media plays upon FOMO (fear of missing out) to drive people to keep checking their feeds. How many people liked my post? What are my friends doing? What’s the latest news or viral thing? Did you see what so-and-so just posted?

Online venues also actively trigger the brain’s novelty reward centers. Look at that. Look at that! Look at that! Infinite scrolling means there is no stopping point. There is always something new just ahead. 

How to get potential client’s attention online

With everyone operating on information overload, how can your marketing efforts grab attention and get people to slow their scroll long enough to consume what your veterinary practice has to say? 

Kim outlines two approaches to getting attention for your marketing efforts: 

  1. Perception. “An element of surprise, an unexpected image, an unexpected sound, an unexpected conclusion, all draw attention. Movement, such as flashing, moving text, moving images, is always attention grabbing. Contrast, whether it be visual in terms of color, size, or auditory in terms of sounds and music, catches people’s attention. Having a marketing message that is interactive, asking people to click on an image, play a mini game, any way of getting people to interact with the message can also draw attention.”
  2. Motivation. “People have to be motivated to slow down and process information carefully. When they feel the information is personally relevant and interesting, they are more likely to do so.” Since veterinary practices share a love of pets with clients, and typically have much stronger bonds than other businesses may have with the same people, you’re probably already within their circle of trust and like-minded thinking.

Kim explains that common messages people find relevant that may slow them down include the following: 

  • Information that affects their personal well-being (physical, emotional, psychological, financial, social)
  • Information that affects the well-being of those for whom we’re responsible 

In addition, Kim says that messages that offer people ways to reach goals also provide motivation to slow down. Think about the goals people have for their pets—eating healthier, maintaining a check-up schedule, socializing with other pets—and use marketing messages to address ways a veterinarian can help meet those targets.

"People have to be motivated to slow down and process information carefully. When they feel the information is personally relevant and interesting, they are more likely to do so.”

Eunice Kim

How to draw eyes to your marketing messages

How content is presented visually also plays a role in whether people slow down enough to consume your messaging.

Mary Makowsky from Max Media Solutions, who specializes in content design and eye-catching templates that help focus consumer attention, shares these tips:

  • Keep it short. “Only give them the content they really need and make it as simple as possible. Make it as tightly focused and as brief as possible and avoid complex language.” 
  • Check contrast. Use fonts that are easy to read and make sure there is enough contrast between the text and the background. 
  • Make it skimmable. “Present content in bite-sized portions.”
    o Shorter paragraphs that don’t overwhelm with too much blah-blah 
    o White spaces to give the eye a rest 
    o Numbered or bulleted lists 
    o FAQs 
    o Pull quotes that highlight the most compelling information, draw the eye, and encourage further reading 
    o Hierarchical headings and organization rather than just changing font size and using bold (also important for accessibility for people who use assistive technology)
  • Use visuals. Photos, illustrations, graphs, charts, memes, videos, gifs, and other interactive tools help people connect and consume content. 
  • Be interactive. When it makes sense, invite interaction with things such as calculators, sliders, and toggles to reveal additional content in a more participatory way. 
  • Feature real people. Use testimonials from real people and stories of real patients to draw people into your community of pet lovers. “If these can come from the endorser’s personal social media post(s), that can be even more convincing. Today’s consumers are skeptical of reviews that might be fabricated.”

How to address TL/DR 

The abbreviation TL/DR means “too long, didn’t read.” If your digital marketing efforts feel daunting to clients at first glance, then a lot of them won’t consume it at all. Consumers are increasingly impatient and want marketers to get to the point quickly. Think about any time you fell for click-bait and what you found did not provide what you expected. Frustrating, yes? 

Consider your clients’ perspectives and motivations in crafting your marketing messages, then present the information in ways that feel more inviting, less intimidating, and more actionable. For example, use puppy and kitten photos on social media to get potential clients’ attention online, but do it with the purpose to drive business for your practice.

If a topic requires a heavy dose of information, consider adding a TL/DR section at the beginning. Think of it like a veterinary journal abstract. Summarize the key points, including your call to action. Then expand on the information, so those clients who want to learn more details will feel satisfied too.

When it comes to catching customers’ eyes, veterinary practices enjoy an inside track other businesses lack. Beloved dogs, cats, and other pets provide the perfect attention-getters for digital marketing tactics. Veterinary practices can legitimately include them in their efforts.

By keeping user experience front of mind and carefully designing content, veterinarians can create websites that catch attention and bring pets and profits to their practice.

MWI Distinct Advantage Partner, VerticalVet, helps you understand and use analytics to customize your digital marketing campaigns.