By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Building a cohesive marketing strategy that supports your long-term business goals takes collaboration, time, and expertise—not to mention continuous oversight and optimization.
Hiring a marketing agency is an excellent option, especially when you need specialized expertise or simply don’t have the necessary resources available.
The challenge? Not every agency-client relationship is fruitful. And some can cause more problems.
Whether you’re working with a marketing agency or are in the process of hiring one, it’s possible to build a healthy relationship that benefits your bottom line.
This blog post shares valuable tips to help you establish a solid foundation for a fruitful relationship.
But before we dive in, here’s a quick rundown of the two main types of client-agency relationships and how to choose which one is right for you.
Types of Marketing Agency Relationships: Partnerships Vs. Transactional Work
Can your healthcare marketing agency wait on the sidelines and execute tasks as needed? Yes. Is this approach the best way to build an effective marketing strategy and get your leads to convert? Absolutely not.
Not all transactional relationships are bad. However, purely transactional relationships are less effective. Why? This type of relationship not only invites inconsistencies with your branding and marketing efforts but also harms your long-term business goals.
Benefits of a Partnership
A collaborative, long-term relationship is vital for building trust, mutual respect, accountability, and creativity on both sides.
Here are just a few ways partnering with a healthcare marketing agency can benefit your business:
• It saves your team time and money
If you’ve done your due diligence and chosen a high-quality, industry-specific marketing agency, you will save money on getting the projects done right the first time around. Here are a few ways to ensure you’re choosing the best marketing agency for your business:
- Conduct agency interviews with you and your team
- Analyze client portfolio
- Research case histories
- Evaluate the agency’s breadth of expertise
• Establishes consistency with branding and marketing
Empowering your integrated marketing agency to develop an integrated strategy (consistent messaging across all of your marketing channels) provides your target audience with clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact. This is true no matter where they interact with your brand:
- Digital marketing
- Traditional advertising
- Social media
• Creates potential for long-term partnership
Long-term partnerships allow marketing agencies to better understand their client’s brand challenges, cultivate essential knowledge, and optimize their strength over time. As they know better, they can do better.
• Improves the quality of your work
Partnering with an experienced marketing agency provides professional perspectives and valuable insights that will help attract new clients. Marketing agencies often have robust IT departments knowledgeable about new and emerging technologies. This means they know which technology or platform will help you achieve the maximum results.
• Offers specialized professionals
When you hire the right agency, you’ll have access to a team of expert specialists, including content writers, search engine optimization professionals, graphic designers, and web design professionals skilled in creating and executing integrated marketing strategies.
Moreover, choosing an industry-specific agency means you will have a partner with a deep and broad understanding of your business and target audience.
Once you’re ready for a partnership, you can take the steps required to build a healthy relationship.
How to Develop and Nurture a Long-term Relationship with Your Healthcare Marketing Agency
Avoid common stumbling blocks that jeopardize agency relationships and lay the groundwork for long-term success with these nine guidelines:
1) Define the type of partnership you need
If you’re looking for a trusted partner to lead your marketing initiatives and raise your bottom line, it’s vital to lay a strong foundation from the start. A straightforward and in-depth conversation about your needs, wants, and expectations is crucial for getting the proper level of support.
Your healthcare marketing agency structures its services based on your needs as they understand them. You must be as clear and concise as possible in all your communications (e.g., phone calls, project briefs, feedback, etc.).
Levels of service typically include:
a. Transactional (tactical)
This includes hiring a marketing agency for one-off projects, like web development or logo creation. This level of service gets the job done, but the contract ends once the project is delivered.
Building and nurturing a strategic relationship with your marketing agency provides more opportunities to optimize cross-channel messaging and provide more effective problem-solving.
2) Define roles and responsibilities
It’s important to know who’s doing what and why, so you know exactly where to turn if issues arise. Moreover, agencies can get off track when they don’t know their scope of authority.
Discussing who owns what (e.g., client vs. agency) will eliminate ambiguity, uncertainty, and the potential for confusion. It will also allow your agency to confidently work toward your goals and reach out if and when needed.
Identifying the key players on each team and what they do is equally important for success. Identifying one central point of contact and their preferred methods of communication (e.g., email, text, phone calls) helps streamline and facilitate feedback, so each team reaches their goals on time.
3) Establish the basics
There are six key components clients and agencies need to align on to build a strong, collaborative partnership. Both teams must identify their needs, wants, and expectations during the project kick-off call or meeting. This ensures both the agency and client are clear on:
- Marketing goals
- Roles and responsibilities of each team and team member
- Buyer personas or target audience for your business
- Communication expectations
- Project strategy
- Reporting plan for key performance indicators (KPIs)
4) Be honest about what you don’t know or need
As with most relationships, honesty and transparency are crucial for its success. Now is the time to talk openly about any marketing problems you’re experiencing and what you need to achieve your definition of success. And it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers, in fact, most agencies expect to fill in the gaps. For example, if you don’t have analytics on your website or an established brand style guide, your agency can help.
5) Be honest about your budget and timeline
There are many stages of marketing production, including concept, design, print and online advertising, broadcast, photoshoots, promotional items, signage, events, and more. It’s essential to consider each stage of the project and determine a fair budget and timeline based on your needs. It’s also an opportunity to be realistic about what is possible, given your budget constraints and deadlines.
6) Share your vision
The more you can share with your agency, the better. Take time to talk with them about your brand vision, mission, and values. When your marketing agency understands what makes your products, services, and brand unique, they can leverage it to create and execute the best possible project that resonates with your target audience.
7) Develop good project briefs
A project brief is a short description of key project information. It’s a good starting point for a project plan and, ultimately, a successful project. While it’s meant to be a summary, many project briefs suffer from these common problems:
- It’s too vague.
- It’s too ambitious.
- It’s too long.
- It’s not presented to all stakeholders at the same time.
Because all projects are unique and have specific requirements, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all template for a project brief. Each one depends on the scope and complexity of the project and should be a condensed version of your project plan.
Knowing this, it’s easy to see how project briefs can end up being too vague, too ambitious, or too long, isn’t it?
Project briefs should only include these five elements:
- Target audience
- Project scope
At the end of your brief, you should always link to any relevant documentation your marketing agency will need to be effective. If you need help developing a good project brief, your agency can jump in and interview your team for the information.
8) Work together until you are satisfied
Ideally, you will work together as a team until you are 100 percent satisfied. When each team is willing to discuss complex issues in a straightforward, confident, and honest way, the quality of work inevitably improves.
To further my point, marketing agencies thrive on feedback, especially when it’s concise, actionable, and represents all stakeholder opinions.
Tips for giving actionable feedback:
- Consolidate all stakeholder feedback into a single email.
- Clearly explain what is missing or what additions you want.
- Point back to your original ask or project brief.
9) Nurture the relationship
Once you and your healthcare marketing agency establish a good rhythm, it’s easy to put your relationship on auto-pilot. Don’t do that—I can not express this enough. When you help your marketing agency succeed, you help your business achieve its marketing goals.
Continue being responsive to your agency’s needs, straightforward about your expectations or concerns (e.g., have difficult conversations), and always be transparent. Also, don’t be resistant if or when your agency gives you constructive feedback about your business.
Take the opportunity to celebrate wins, whether they happen internally or due to combined marketing efforts with your agency. Encouraging teams to celebrate each other’s success is key to creating a motivating work environment. Not only does it boost morale, but a culture of praise increases engagement, productivity, and resilience to any challenges that may arise.
When you mindfully nurture your long-term relationship with your agency (and they do the same), everyone is more capable of creating and executing projects that move the needle on your business.