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Getting the Best from Your Healthcare Advertising Agency

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Success check markThese days, marketing performance expectations are sometimes found under the “squeeze every nickel” heading. Maybe giant corporations once had fat and slushy budgets, although we doubt the successful ones used that approach. 

Then as now, a common denominator among most medical practices, hospitals and healthcare providers is an ongoing concern for “scarce resources.” Like every other line in the budget demands are tough.

Almost by definition, agencies that provide advertising and marketing services for doctors, practices and organizations share in those same financial and performance responsibilities. If you are currently working with (or planning to hire) an advertising agency, here are a few tips about growing and sustaining a positive client-agency working relationship.

In our experience (that’s quite a few years now), these ideas are likely to help you get the best from this vital--and two-way--street. Past the RFP paper shuffle, and after the razzamatazz of presentation show-and-tell, the client and the agency principals need to get personally acquainted. And we mean really well acquainted, face-to-face acquainted…almost like trusted family.

Beyond honesty, be candid. Working with an agency requires an open and honest exchange of ideas and information. But beyond basic honesty, the two-way interaction will usually do better with a good measure of candor. Both sides of the table can be blunt and direct when necessary. Nobody should have to “read between the lines.”

Quantify goals in both dollars and in time. Expect deliverables, and provide approvals when they are due. Have mutually defined and agreed objectives that are clear, specific and quantified. Commit to schedules; include a timeline for regular progress reviews, and don’t let them slip.

Expect (and require) reasonable risks and new ideas. Doing the same thing all over again has some value in marketing as long as (whatever it is) is producing desired results in sufficient quantity. But getting out of your comfort zone is appropriate to go beyond “the usual.” Exchange and discuss new ideas and that will produce measurable gains.

Respect the voice of experience. Give your agency license to do their job as experts. Take the time to thoroughly understand the strategy, tactic, objectives and other details of a particular plan, and then support them in doing the work.

Voice your concerns and your praise early. In addition to producing measurable results, agencies want direct and honest feedback…good or bad. The relationship will benefit from recognizing and discussing “rough spots” sooner rather than later, before small issues become big trouble.

Getting the best from your healthcare advertising agency relationship begins with mutual respect, clear expectations and open communications. What’s more, an agency does not have the ability to produce results that are unrealistically beyond the available resources. As the saying goes, “what is good is not cheap, and what is cheap is not good.” However, a good agency knows how to deliver results and excellent value.

For more on this topic, read: What a Medical Advertising Agency Wants in an Ideal Client. And let us know what you would add to this list.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA


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