How SonoPath Education built a five-figure course membership for veterinarians from scratch
Featured in this Story of Awesome: Sonopath Education
Launched May 2020
SonoPath Education is a membership site that provides veterinary doctors and technicians with resources, continuing education opportunities, and a place to exchange advice and recommendations with their peers.
The Spark: After moving from a consulting role to Director of Business Development, Chrissy started looking for ways to make SonoPath’s course offerings more robust—and to help veterinarians connect with each other, too.
Chrissy’s Mighty Moment: “The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We get people saying, ‘This is a breath of fresh air. I love having access to other veterinarians. I love not having to go on Facebook.’”
For years, SonoPath—a hub for veterinary ultrasound, telemedicine, and education founded by Dr. Eric Lindquist—has been teaching vets how to interpret ultrasounds and helping them complete required credits for continuing education.
But when Chrissy Laughlin came on as the Director of Business Development last year, she was tasked with totally revamping the latter.
SonoPath already had hands-on training in place, but Chrissy saw an opportunity to dust off their virtual education resources and bring them into 2020. While Dr. Lindquist had amassed a ton of valuable content over the years, SonoPath was selling access to it in an overly complicated way.
“We were selling everything through our website store that hadn’t been updated since 2017. Folks would place an order, check out, and then be emailed a zip file of Powerpoint presentations. They’d have to print their tests, scan them and email it back into the company for results. It was painful.”
That wasn’t all. With the way that the educational materials were set up, they were easy to reproduce. And that wasn’t exactly ideal either:
“Veterinarians by nature are super honest folks, so this wasn’t happening all the time. But Dr. Lindquist has spent 25 years developing these materials. It’s his life work. And we weren’t really protecting our property very well within that system.”
Beyond that, Chrissy saw even more potential to expand. She had the idea to connect veterinarians with each other and offer them a sense of community that most of them couldn’t get on their own:
“I don’t know if a lot of people know this, but the veterinary industry has one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. There’s a real sense of isolation within the community. They’re not really connected. And they’re set up without resources that would work in the modern-day world.”
Thankfully, Chrissy found the perfect fit in Mighty Networks, a place where she could check all the boxes. She could host both SonoPath’s educational materials and a community where veterinarians from across the country could meet each other, navigate challenges together, and really just know there were other people walking in their shoes.
With the platform of her dreams under her belt, Chrissy got to work.
Filling the void
Her first challenge was bringing members into SonoPath’s new venture, SonoPath Education. The first step? Diversifying the available course offerings.
Chrissy knew, from her experience with veterinarians, that there was a huge void in the subject of veterinary dentistry. So she approached a dental specialist that she had worked with previously and asked her to develop a series of courses.
From there, she designed an introductory program to build up the membership in her new course community. Inside, veterinarians and technicians could access 22 continuing education credits over 12 different courses, offered every Saturday:
“We have two specialists who do a case-based presentation and lecture over Zoom. Then we end the presentation with an open Q&A session. And these particular instructors are so passionate and knowledgeable, and they’re able to help vets just random things they’re struggling with. So the engagement is just amazing.”
While the Saturday sessions are free to join, attendees have to purchase the course for continued access. Once in, they’re invited to a dedicated group for veterinary dentistry where they can dive into content, videos, and guides. And while it’s been a huge help driving memberships, Chrissy has also taken a few other avenues.
Some of those avenues have worked better than others. Social media has been hit or miss, but Chrissy has found a lot of success from reaching out to small veterinary affiliated associations:
“We leveraged the Groups tool to approach a couple of associations that align with us and our target customers. Associations that are non-profit, or lacking resources, and really needed some marketing help.”
To bring those associations in, Chrissy offered each of them a free Group on the platform. That way, SonoPath is responsible for the day-to-day heavy lifting, but the association has a virtual home for their own members, and a dedicated space to communicate with their member base:
“One of the groups that we’ve brought in is the Independent Veterinary Practitioners Association. They advocate for independently owned vet practices, which is a target audience for us. We invited them over, and now they have 500 members that they have invited into the platform, and they have this chance to really connect with each other in one place.”
A quiet space for over 3,690 veterinary professionals
Today, SonoPath Education has over 3,690 members and counting. It’s free to join, but Chrissy has set it up as private to keep an eye on who’s coming in:
“We have to have some level of control to ensure that the people joining are veterinarians. So we just ask them to provide their hospital name and their hospital’s website.”
And even though SonoPath Education kicked off in May of this year, they’ve already had a huge impact. Especially because with mobile app access, veterinarians have increased accessibility not only to courses but insight from their fellow vets:
“Vets are always going, going, going. They rarely have the opportunity to be in front of a computer, but they always have their cell phones in their pocket. So they can complete their courses, and they can go back and reference something quickly while they’re in the middle of a scan.”
The community aspect hasn’t been too shabby either. According to Chrissy, the platform has very much been a place where members can ask each other for basically anything—from advice to recommendations:
“I refer to it as a quiet space. And the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We get people saying, ‘This is a breath of fresh air. I love having access to other veterinarians. I love not having to go on Facebook.’”
Here’s a peek into what SonoPath Education offers within their network.
SonoPath Education’s bread and butter is courses, and the platform offers a variety for veterinarians and technicians to fulfill their continuing education credits. And because they always have access to each of the courses they take, members are also able to build out a kind of resource library for themselves to reference.
The community currently offers both free and paid courses. In addition to their established library around ultrasound practices, Chrissy works with different veterinarians to produce evergreen content around internal medicine, cardiology, and more including:
- The Ultimate Ultrasound Image Library
- SDEP Abdomen + Echo Lecture
- The Importance of Veterinary Dentistry
- Compassion Fatigue: Identifying & Sampling
- Feline Resource Center
To keep up with her members’ needs, Chrissy surveys members to see what kind of courses they want:
“We try to offer a diverse selection of courses. We offer lots of stuff on ultrasound because that’s something we already have amassed. But we also survey the members to see what they want and to make sure we’re offering them something in line with that.”
SonoPath Education also utilizes the Group feature in a few different ways. Some Groups are a hub for broad subjects, like General Practitioners or Veterinary Dentistry. Others, as mentioned above, correspond to specific associations.
Additionally, Chrissy also creates Groups for vets who have signed up for SonoPath’s in-person labs:
“We create a Group for each of our in-person labs so that people have a static place to get logistical information. It also gives us a chance to set up pre-lab surveys, hotel information, and get people asking questions and networking before and after the course.”
Topics in the SonoPath Education membership correspond to course subjects and are the home to a variety of resources and videos that Chrissy comes across. Subjects include Cardiology, Compassion Fatigue, Dentistry, and more.
While SonoPath Education offers a lot of different resources and materials, Chrissy does her best to make sure each piece of content is offering some sort of value for her members:
“I really need to respect who my members are. They have a lot of noise and a lot of things coming at them all the time. So I’m conservative about pushing things out that won’t necessarily be super valuable.”
This is only the beginning
There’s no denying the future is bright for SonoPath Education. In the future, Chrissy hopes to be able to grow her burgeoning community and reach even more veterinarians:
“I’d love to get the platform to 10,000 members. That to me is a great number. I just want to keep attracting like-minded people to our community.”
And as a self-professed Mighty Networks obsessive, she’s finally been able to give veterinarians the thing they most deserve: a chance to connect and collaborate with their peers:
“It’s been really important to me that this platform is positive, upbeat, and supportive. It’s been amazing to see it grow and to see it really hit home for our members. So far, it’s been really, really gratifying.”
3 key takeaways from SonoPath Education’s Story of Awesome
- Not sure what your members need? Ask them. Chrissy surveys her members to get an idea of the course content they’d like to see. Asking for feedback is one of the easiest ways to A. figure out your next steps and B. get that much closer to delivering results and transformation to your members.
- Mobile access may be your saving grace. Encouraging members to take advantage of your mobile app can give your community, membership, or course an extra boost. It’s a super easy way to offer convenience, flexibility, and accessibility.
- Feeling stuck? Try a few different things. When it came to recruiting members, Chrissy walked down multiple avenues. Don’t feel like you have to pick one path and stick to it: be open to trying new things and experimenting until you find what works.