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3 Critical Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Hire a Healthcare Advertising Agency

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Handshake against blue light backgroundBy definition, your healthcare advertising agency is a partnership arrangement. Choose this business associate carefully; it's not an ordinary vendor or supplier resource. You're not buying latex gloves or file folders here. You're hiring a trusted professional colleague that understands your business and your growth goals.

If you are buying "creative services" or "website design" where the work is measured in billable hours and the final deliverable is a "pretty picture," you really don't have a health care agency. Chances are you need more, and should expect more, than simple "consumables."

To be successful, the relationship that you establish is one where the medical advertising agency stands shoulder to shoulder with you and puts itself on the line to produce tangible and measurable results.

The confusion between a "creative vendor" and a true agency relationship is more common than you might think. We see it often in our work with healthcare providers, medical group practices, hospitals and health care systems across the nation. In part, the reason for this could be that doctors and surgeons—who are highly skilled in the art and science of their medical discipline—are usually not well trained in business or marketing.

It could also be that anyone can claim to be in "marketing." There's no license required and the definition is often loosely interpreted. You need look no further than your reception area to find a "marketing person" who is selling refrigerator magnets, phone directory display space or flashy website assembly.

Some faux-marketing providers are easy to identify, but others are not. For example, each year we are invited to attend or make a presentation at various healthcare conferences and meetings. Inevitably we'll spot an elaborate presentation that says: "We're really creative and we'll give you a better brand."

It's a polished and compelling pitch, but at its heart, it is not far from the folks who want you to buy what they sell (like magnets), not because it's what you need, what works or what will deliver results.

So, exactly how do you avoid classic mistakes like these and hire a qualified, professional healthcare advertising agency? Here are three fundamental questions to put you on the right course. Ask yourself:

  • Are you willing to make a partnership-level commitment? Choosing a medical advertising agency or healthcare marketing company includes bringing a professional colleague into your confidence and trusting them with the good and the not-so-good issues of the medical practice or provider platform. To truly be effective, there can be no hidden agenda, quietly held problems or unstated goals.Conversely, the mutual trust factor with a medical marketing firm includes a willingness to hear, understand and accept recommendations and hard decisions where they are the experts...even if they differ from your personal perspective. You are bringing this resource onboard for their unique professional expertise. A rubber-stamp endorsement of your ideas may seem flattering, but you need to expect much more. Many agencies will not accept (or will soon resign) a one-way engagement.
  • What is your tolerance for risk? The would—be medical advertising agency that courts you with words of "guaranteed success" is—in the kindest of terms-kidding you. (You can now politely adjourn the meeting.) The reality is that there are no absolute assurances of results. Marketing and advertising involves some element of risk. But, as in the practice of medicine, drawing on experience and applying best practice techniques reduces the degree of risk.The degree of confidence that you have in the health care marketing company as your agency helps to balance and reduce that measure of risk. But in addition to trust, you need to expect measurable performance.
  • Do you have a means to quantify and measure results? There are dozens of wrong reasons to hire a health care marketing company, and nearly all those reasons are some form of disconnect from real, tangible and hard-dollar results. Marketing and advertising isn't for the purpose of making you feel good or to impress friends and family. (You would be surprised how often we encounter this.)A competent and successful marketing and advertising plan will be predicated on clearly defined goals and specific Return-on-Investment (ROI) metrics. You'll want a medical marketing company that defines performance and success by meaningful numbers. It's not about having won ad industry awards and it's not an ego thing. It's about your bottom line.

In the interest of full disclosure, we are a medical advertising agency. (And frankly, we're pretty good at what we do.) But the point of this article is that hiring a healthcare marketing firm is an important, executive level decision. No matter whom you work with, our guidance is to make a well-informed decision. It's an important one. Look for a partner that you can trust, and one that brings real world experience and medical advertising expertise to your team.

You'll find more on this topic on the Healthcare Success website, and at Stewart's Gandolf's Marketing Magic. His post is titled Insist On A Specialist - 7 Reasons to Choose a Medical Advertising Agency.

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