By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
From a five-mile-high perspective, there are two kinds of relationships between a client and a healthcare advertising agency. Let’s label the first type a “vendor” relationship. In this arrangement, the client—a medical practice or hospital, for example—intends to buy specific ad agency services much as they might order and restock surgical masks. Passive. Detached.
Truly effective marketing and advertising services are not an off-the-shelf deliverable. An agency-as-a-vendor structure may not be quite as cold as ordering disposables from the supply chain. It is, however, a less personal, less integrated, and often, less successful approach.
If that’s what the vendor is selling, or if that’s what you’re buying, you’re not getting full value from a medical advertising agency. And you’re probably not getting meaningful results. Fortunately, there’s a better solution available when you set clear, best practices expectations in a healthcare marketing relationship.
Why a business-partner relationship works better…
In contrast to superficial “vendor” expectations, the fabric of a client-agency relationship is deeper and more effective. There are, however, some important ingredients for success in the two-way business bridge that lead to a mutual trust and confidence.
On the agency side, we label these interrelated components as Best Practices. If you have an existing relationship with a healthcare advertising agency, or if you’re considering how to shape a better partnership for success, here are some of the important guideposts.
Knowledge. A healthcare advertising agency needs knowledge to be a forward-looking, proactive business and brand consultant. A medical marketing resource is expected to be skilled, efficient and experienced in the profession of communications, marketing and advertising. That’s what the agency brings to the table at a minimum. But the healthcare agency must also be an expert in the business of the client, including a personal understanding of the objectives, prospects and customers, products and services, culture, competition, and dozens more details.
Passion. Successful clients are passionate about their business. A successful agency-partner lives their client’s brand. They share their drive, enthusiasm and competitive spirit. It is reasonable for a client to expect that their healthcare marketing and advertising agency is a partner in the desire to win, to overcome obstacles, and to motivate everyone on the team toward greater achievements.
Communications. Two-way communications between agency and client is ideal. But an agency has the added obligation to clearly and continually communicate with the client. The “no-news” axiom is counterproductive, “bad news” in a working relationship. Clients can set the communications pace, but the best relationships have close, regular and ongoing interaction.
Responsiveness. A hallmark of excellence in any service industry is providing a prompt response. From a simple question to a major crisis—and any degree in between—clients appreciate and expect a connectivity, and sometimes flexibility, that is fast and effective. Service is synonymous with responsiveness and vice versa. In many situations, this means 24 hours or less; but in reality, a nearly immediate reply, acknowledgement or resolution is best, and often possible.
Vision. The work of an agency is a mix of creative thinking and implementation science. But within that mix, the people of a healthcare advertising agency will include a strong measure of forward thinking and new ideas. Best practices include looking ahead at trends, technologies, feasibilities and possibilities.
Results. The measure of a successful client-agency partnership in healthcare marketing is delivering measurable and quantifiable results. Activities, process steps and invested time/resources may be useful benchmarks. But your advertising agency will, as a best practices standard, remain focused on achieving and reporting meaningful and specific results.
As with any business partnership, a client-agency relationship is challenging to establish and maintain. There are a lot of practical, difficult problems, in some instances, almost daily. But the best practice guidelines—built on principles of respect and honest interaction—are the foundation to valuable and mutually beneficial healthcare marketing relationship.
Use these ideas a guideposts for a best practices working relationship. And let us know if we can be of help. Contact us. We’d be glad to talk about how to move forward.
You’ll find more on this topic in our educational library, including:
- Your Healthcare Marketing Agency: When to Hold ‘Em. When to Fold ‘Em.
- CAMP: What a Medical Advertising Agency Wants in an Ideal Client (and Vice Versa)
- Getting the Best from Your Healthcare Advertising Agency
Stewart Gandolf, MBA