After months discussion, you’ve gotten the green light to hire a marketing agency and get a little extra support. Great news!
Your first inclination might be to start googling or asking your professional network for recommendations.
But first, it’s a good idea to prep yourself for the evaluation process. Here are a few clarifying questions that will help your search and increase the chances of finding the right partner.
Before you go through the trouble of finding an agency, ask yourself why you really need one.
What exactly is missing, and what are the consequences of doing nothing about it?
It’s important to be specific and honest with your answer. If you are shopping for a new website, what impact will it have on your brand’s bottom line? Are you investing in lead generation functionality and analytics that will help you attract the right opportunities for your sales team?
If there isn’t a plan for increasing revenue or another measurable goal, what will happen if you decide not to move forward? If there's no real downside to abandoning the status quo, you may not have a problem that's worth investing in a solution for.
Having an ironclad goal from the start will not only justify the investment, but will also help you find the right fit in the agency community.
Like businesses in other service industries, some marketing agencies will exaggerate their successes to win your business.
No one wants to admit it, but it happens.
Any agency that’s been around for five or more years should have some good case studies to show you, but that doesn’t mean they have experience helping healthcare companies grow.
They may not know your compliance standards or the pains that attract providers to your services, so, make sure you ask:
What healthcare clients has your agency worked with, and what were the results?
If you are interested in a growth strategy, you might also ask how many sales qualified leads the campaign delivered and how many the sales team closed.
Keep in mind, the closing rate is beyond the agency’s control unless they had a direct sales role throughout the engagement. Not every company out there has a seasoned, well-trained sales team, and that does impact results. Even still, the agency should explain whether they and their client reached the agreed upon objective and how they got there.
As you continue your exploration, ask what services they excel at. Their answer should be specific to certain marketing functions, not a generalized “we can do anything you need!”
Gathering, managing, and visualizing data is a critical part of optimizing marketing campaigns today.
Your agency will come to the table with their own preferred set of tools, some of which can be used without you buying a subscription. But if you are planning any sustained growth strategy (as opposed to a one-off design and rebranding project), you should prepare to make an investment in a serious marketing automation and analytics platform.
We use HubSpot for all of our ongoing campaigns for three reasons:
HubSpot isn’t the only platform out there of course – it just happens to be the one we use. Whatever tool your agency uses, make sure you get a look at the dashboard where campaign performance will be measured. It’s important that you have a transparent and effortless view into how your investment is paying off.
The earliest stages of your research will probably involve visiting several websites and hitting up industry peers for referrals. At some point you are going to narrow the list to a few contenders, and want to speak with them.
What happens next will be very telling.
Marketing agencies that know what they are doing do not take every client that walks through the door. On the contrary, they are just as concerned as you about finding a good fit.
Taking on bad-fit clients is expensive, time consuming, and rarely ends well. In order to prevent that, the exploratory process should feel like a friendly and open conversation that touches on several aspects of your business:
What is your goal and when do you need to reach it?
What will happen if you don’t do anything about it and just maintain the status quo?
What strategies and tactics have you tried in the past? What worked well and what didn’t?
Throughout the exploratory call, your agency rep should ask thoughtful questions and demonstrate active listening. Putting together a winning strategy requires a good understanding of different aspects of your services, sales process, and market position.
If they do most of the talking in the first conversation, yammering on about how amazing they are – that’s a red flag. They should spend most of the time listening, and offering you a few helpful tips here and there.
If you feel a sense of rapport with the other person at the end of the initial call and you both agree there is potential for a good partnership, then it’s safe to schedule a goal setting and planning call where they will sketch out a strategy and give you a sense of cost.
This last question is easily overlooked, but it’s good to find out what experience the agency has with healthcare compliance related matters.
One of our clients is a dietary supplement provider for naturopathic physicians, which means we are hyper-vigilant about any structured claims about nutrients in the content we create (per FDA regulations).
Companies that supply medical devices, EHR platforms, or clinical trial solutions have their own compliance concerns as well.
If the agency is going to create any creative assets for you -- including website and blog copy, social media posts, emails, videos, and advertising -- they should know your compliance playbook already or have a defined process for educating their team before getting started.
This will save your compliance personnel hours of headaches during the review and approval process.
We recently completed a research project to better understand buyers who hire agencies. Do you know what they all said? Choosing an agency was tough because they all interview really well.
It can be hard to figure out who to go with when they all sound and look the same. When you go into the process with a clear sense of why you need help and what questions to ask, you will find it much easier to find the partner that will bring you results and deliver an outstanding experience in the process.
Functional medicine is growing fast, and businesses that serve practitioners are looking for smarter ways to grow.
It's that time when healthcare companies are hatching their growth plans for the coming year.