Finding the right marketing agency to partner with is challenging, especially for healthcare providers. No two practices are alike, and monumental changes are taking place not only in healthcare reform, but also in the patient journey.
Whether you’re leading a private practice, surgery center, home health service or health system, or you serve in some other healthcare role, how do you go about choosing an agency that understands medical marketing strategies and can apply them to your practice? Here are 10 characteristics you should look for in a healthcare marketing agency:
1. They help practice leaders trust the marketing process.
Doctors can be a persnickety bunch. They are often the smartest people in the room and have strong opinions on how things should be done — including marketing.
A strong medical marketing agency will understand this and will be able to deliver ideas, tactics and data in such a way that brings about a consensus among doctors, other clinical caregivers and administrators.
2. They have a seat at the table for strategic conversations.
No, your marketing agency doesn’t need to be in discussions about strategies for preventing pressure ulcers or PICC line infections.
But they should be at the table when it comes to operational issues.
For instance, are you expanding your practice to more locations? Are you implementing a new patient charting portal? Are you hiring more physician extenders?
A good medical marketing agency can help you prepare for this by making sure new locations are added to your website, online health directories are updated and patient communications are distributed in a timely manner.
3. They are voracious readers of the news and understand how big-picture healthcare issues relate to your practice.
You want news junkies on your marketing team. You want them consuming local and national news so that when something big is happening in healthcare (and when is something big not happening in healthcare?), your agency is prepared to help you respond to it when necessary.
Whether you want to communicate about a particularly bad flu season in your area, or you want to help your patients (or potential patients) understand how the latest changes to the ACA will affect them, your marketing agency should be ready to help you get the word out.
4. They understand referral patterns.
Do your patients schedule appointments directly with you? Or are patients referred from their family doctor or PCP? Marketing agencies understand the differences and can adjust strategy and tactics to boost referrals wherever they’re coming from.
If patients can make appointments directly with you, your agency knows where to reach them and how to get in front of them. Increasingly, that’s through online social platforms like Twitter, YouTube and health directories.
They’re also well aware of professional organizations for physicians (such as American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American College of Cardiology), as well as those for other healthcare providers (American Nurses Association and Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography). If your practice has a need to communicate with clinicians in different subspecialties, your agency should have an open line of communication with them.
5. They understand the complicated (and sometimes sensitive) relationships within the healthcare industry.
Is your practice affiliated with a healthcare system? Is it associated with a medical school? Do you have to co-brand your marketing collateral with other practices or healthcare systems?
A good medical marketing company can help develop marketing pieces that take into account relationships like these.
6. They need to be active on social media.
If you want to position your practice or a particular physician on your team as a subject matter expert or thought leader, they need to be engaged in relevant conversations in social media.
A good medical marketing agency monitors the social media landscape and can drive or respond to conversations on mediums like Google My Business, Facebook or Twitter.
7. They're smart about messaging.
They help their healthcare clients adapt their messaging for different audiences, whether that’s doctors, patients, nurses, payors or some other cohort.
Strong medical marketing agencies are comfortable adapting messaging to be clinical in some instances and laymen-friendly in others.
8. They manage online health directories and citations.
There are dozens upon dozens of online health directories out there, and it can be a wild goose chase to keep your practice’s information (not to mention each provider’s) up to date.
Good agencies have strategies to streamline this process, and monitor directories closely to ensure your information is accurate.
9. They know what differentiates your practice.
Do you have better patient outcomes (backed by evidence) than your competitors? Do you have a rock star surgeon on your team who specializes in one type of surgery, while your competitor has a general surgeon? Are you open after hours or on the weekends, while your competitors are strictly 9-to-5?
Your marketing agency will know this and be able to create strong messaging to help promote your competitive advantages. These differentiators come into play not only when talking to patients or referring physicians, but also when talking about optimizing your online presence in organic and paid searches.
10. They get that a doctor’s primary focus is patient care ...
... not marketing. So, they have a fantastic relationship with the practice’s program manager, scheduler and other key office personnel who can help with the day-to-day aspects of your marketing strategy.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but it should give healthcare providers a good idea of what to consider when choosing a marketing partner. Speaking of which, you do want a partner when it comes to marketing — not just a recent college graduate designing brochures for you in his basement.
You need a team that truly understands your practice at the macro and micro levels. This will help ensure a strong working relationship — and more patients in your waiting room.