By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Good doctors alone, no matter how competent or innovative, do not make a hospital or practice successful. Some level of marketing is always required. It may start with word-of-mouth, but eventually, you’ll need to expand your reach—and you might start to consider what medical marketing agencies have to offer.
The most successful practices and hospitals realize that good marketing requires investment. It’s up to you whether you want to use this investment on agency experience or attempt to handle everything in-house.
Medical Marketing Agencies vs. In-House Hires: Questions to Ask First
Investing in marketing is a major decision. Maybe you work at a practice that’s put very little into marketing aside from some fliers and online listings. Or, perhaps your organization is like many hospitals and practices realizing their budgets must shift from primarily traditional media to an emphasis on digital advertising.
Eventually, you may need some help in this department from someone who can commit their time to your marketing. With so many medical marketing agencies vying for your attention, it can be a tough decision. You may be hoping to hire in-house instead. Whatever you decide, it’s crucial that you ask yourself these questions first and foremost.
1. Do you know your long-term goals?
What do you hope to accomplish in the next year? What about the next 5 or 10 years? Before you hire an outside agency, you should have a grasp on what you and your team aim to achieve and how you plan to grow or maintain patient volume. Hoping to increase growth by 15%? See 5 more patients a day? Promote an underutilized service line? This plan can be conceived with the help of an in-house marketing team or committee.
Not sure if you can maintain a higher patient volume? If your goal is to keep your patient volume relatively the same, you should still have a marketing plan in place. You don’t want to wait until your waiting room is empty before you do something about it!
Implementing those goals, however, may be better left in the hands of an agency. Getting a solid grasp on your plan can help your prospective marketing company guide you in the right direction of which steps to take first to accomplish it.
2. Do you already have a marketing specialist in-house?
An in-house marketing specialist offers so many benefits. We’re willing to admit this, even as a medical marketing agency. This person is intimately familiar with your branding and the everyday occurrences around the office. Their attention is in no way divided amongst priorities, and they can act quickly on last-minute projects and corrections.
The right marketing professional can truly serve as the cornerstone of your marketing plan as long as you hire wisely. Still, you cannot expect this person to build your brand, increase profits, and drive success all on their own.
A single marketing specialist simply cannot specialize in everything related to marketing. Just as there are specialists in medical fields, medical marketing agencies have specialties in all areas.
- Web designers
- Digital advertising specialists (PPC & Display ads)
- Account managers
- Social media specialists
- Search engine optimization (SEO) specialists
- Web developers
- Media buying specialists
Can one person really take on all of this? If you can afford to hire an in-house marketing specialist, go for it. However, this person should work alongside your healthcare marketing company for the best results—and for the best cost benefit.
3. Are you hoping to cut back on costs?
We hear a lot of people say they would rather save money with an in-house marketing specialist than work with an agency. A single marketing professional will likely result in an incomplete marketing plan and execution since one person simply cannot do it all. Most importantly, in our experience, it costs more to hire an in-house marketing specialist alone.
If you’d like to take advantage of premium tools for marketing—everything from Photoshop to InDesign to an email marketing automation system—you have to pay for it. This is on top of the salary and benefits for your in-house team or person. Medical marketing agencies already pay for these tools, cutting the cost for you.
All in all, you may simply need a change in thinking. No matter what, marketing is an investment. Whether you work with an agency or hire an in-house specialist, you will have to pay in to see that return on investment. Quality marketing can give you a 3:1 to 5:1 return…it all depends on what you’re willing to put in.
4. Do you want to stay involved with your marketing?
Keeping involved with various components of marketing is a priority for many doctors and hospital executives. However, choosing an outside agency does not mean you are left out of decisions about your marketing.
The right agency will keep you involved with your marketing with weekly meetings, emails, and regular calls as needed. An in-house specialist is able to serve as a point of contact with the agency, as well as planning aspects like events that can be coordinated with the marketing team.
5. Have you done your research?
Before committing to any decision—medical marketing agencies and in-house hires included—you have to do your research. Hiring a web designer doesn’t mean your digital marketing is covered. You need to assemble a team of specialists to get the most out of each subset of skills.
When considering different medical marketing agencies, it’s time to look at niche marketing experience and healthcare-specific know-how. Has this team marketed to your specialty before? Are they willing to take the time to learn your brand, rather than applying a one-size-fits-all solution? Can they verify the success of your marketing campaigns with data?
Whatever you choose, make sure you’ve taken time to learn your options and form a strong team that keeps your best interest in mind.