By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
The business partnership between a medical advertising agency and a healthcare client should be an enduring, win-win relationship. But the reality is that most would-be associations are non-starters, while some strategic alliances last for decades.
Admittedly, there are a lot of moving parts in any client-agency “marriage.” The client wants to tap into the “ideal” healthcare advertising agency, and the agency takes pleasure in working for an “ideal” client.
The odds of these interests finding their “perfect other” amid a forest challenges—and hoping to be a business success—is tricky at best. Consider the complexity of this picture: Our readership represents the healthcare marketing spectrum.
Our 15,000 subscribers include prestigious hospitals and solo practitioners, large multi-specialty groups and medical sub-specialty doctors, as well as health-related corporations and businesses. On a daily basis we communicate with practice-owner providers, health system executives, administrators, practice and hospital marketing and public relations professionals, and physician liaison folks.
But as diverse as this picture appears, the one thing these entities have in common is that they are all successful. What’s more, our subscribers and clients want to be more successful. And in order to create an ongoing, win-win working relationship, both the healthcare advertising agency and the healthcare client contribute heavily to the partnership.
C-A-M-P: the criteria for an ideal client/agency relationship.
In our experience, the many and complex challenges of a solid and successful client/agency relationship can be distilled to a foundation of just a few building blocks. The acronym we created is C-A-M-P. So, before we contract with a prospective new client (and they with us), both sides of the table should, at a minimum, work through the CAMP criteria:
- C is for Chemistry: The first (and foremost) criterion is simply about people liking each other. This has little to do with the art and science of healthcare marketing and advertising; more simply, it is about having a positive working relationship, personal chemistry and mutual respect from the outset.No chemistry? Don’t start. The hard fact is that people do not have to do business with people they don’t like. Without this foundation the client/agency relationship will not endure the inevitable give-and-take that occur in a healthy partnership.
- A is for Approval: An ideal client/agency relationship has a clearly defined and timely process for presenting, considering and approving various ideas and recommendations. An agency routinely involves a client with the creative and implementation steps of a marketing plan. Likewise, a client needs to know the agency leadership and structure.Implementation steps, issue resolution and action items—both large and small—need to be acted upon quickly and with authority. Without empowerment on both sides of the table, indecision becomes inaction. (Hint: A “committee” approach to marketing is, in our experience, immediately problematic.)
- M is for Money: An ideal client will have a defined budget and a willingness to invest it in ways that achieve reasonable and specific goals. The client, on the other hand, expects an agency to be a responsible steward of the available resources. Marketing success for both parties is defined by Return-on-Investment.”M” also is also means having realistic expectations about budget, costs, performance and results. From the beginning, the budget needs to be aligned with defined deliverables and goals.
- P is for Politics: Both the agency and the client need to be fully aware of the environment in which they operate. For example, the agency can better serve the client when they appreciate both the immediate and the long-range objectives, such as positioning a practice for a merger or acquisition event.
It is not surprising, as another example, to find multiple perspectives among the members of a group practice or competing interests among departments in a hospital. While it may not be possible to serve every interest, it’s usually best for everyone to be fully informed.
These guidelines can be the start of a good medical advertising agency/client fit, an enduring business partnership, and ultimately a record of healthcare marketing success. It’s proven to work well in for us as criteria for the ideal client.
For more on this topic, read our previous article, 3 Critical Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Hire a Healthcare Advertising Agency.