Most medical practice owners usually think of hiring a marketing agency when their practice hits a fork in the road, and they need to make a decision. They could be facing one of the following scenarios:
1. They are either growing at an astonishing rate and no longer have the time or resources to manage their practice and keep up with the ever-increasing demands of the online market.
2. They are stagnating, and are finding it hard to keep a consistent flow of patients coming through the door.
3. They are losing business to competitors.
4. They are just starting a new practice and do not know how and where to direct their marketing efforts.
… They need help. It is time to make a decision.
Hiring a healthcare marketing agency for your medical practice is one of the most important decisions you have to make as a business owner. If all goes well, you will only have to make this decision once, but usually, this is not the case.
Hiring your first healthcare marketing agency is a stressful task, and hiring the second one is even more terrible. However, you can eliminate the pain and frustration of hiring the wrong marketing agency just by asking the correct questions during your initial meetings.
Here are the seven most important questions you should ask while looking for marketing agencies for your medical practice. The aim of this article is to explore the right and the wrong answers, and by the time you are done reading this blog post, you will know what to expect from the most accomplished and talented healthcare marketing agency.
Question #1. Why do I need to hire a healthcare marketing agency?
This is the most critical question you should ask before initiating any discussion with an agency. Businesses that have never worked with a marketing agency in the past often struggle to express what they are looking for, which can lead to disappointment and frustration for both sides. You must attach specific goals to your healthcare marketing plan and identify your practice’s objectives. This is because only after you have identified and outlined your goals will you be able to ensure the agency you are interviewing can fulfill them.
Are you looking for an agency that can improve lead generation and sales activities? Or are you looking for an agency to manage the online reputation and search engine optimization functions for your dermatology practice? Most agencies specialize in providing different services, so it is critical to understand which services you need before hiring the agency.
Question #2. Does your team specialize in my industry?
The Internet is a vast place, and there are many tools and techniques for marketing different specialties across the healthcare industry. You must pick the agency that has excellent experience with your specialty and specializes in medical marketing for private practices, individual surgeons and general physicians.
Medical facilities do not require the same marketing techniques as other suppliers. Hiring an agency with experience in, for instance, retail or automotive, will not make sense for your practice. A lot of legal issues accompany medical marketing. An agency that is not well-versed on what you can and cannot advertise when marketing your practice may get you involved in lawsuits and loss of reputation.
You should ask your agency about its experience and a case study, too, if possible. Based on the agency’s understanding of your industry, you can get an idea of how it would approach your marketing needs and how its approach will be different from your competitors’.
An agency that specializes in marketing individual healthcare practices will have hands-on knowledge of the latest trends and developments in your market without investing in expensive resources for extensive research. It will also have case studies showing what works and what does not so that you do not become their guinea pig.
Question #3. Is your team more skilled at local- or national-level marketing campaigns?
Exactly the way different industries require different marketing tactics, local brands require an entirely different approach to online marketing compared to national brands.
You should ask your agency about its approach, resources and expertise specifically for local marketing. For instance, local search tactics depend on geolocation and the optimization of Google My Business pages to attract local patients. A national campaign does not depend on either. Your agency should be experienced enough to understand this right out of the gate, as it is different from the link-building strategies employed by global businesses.
Question #4. Will you assign a dedicated account manager for my medical practice?
If you have handled work contracts with large businesses, you are not new to the customer service runaround. Most often, you would call customer service to ask a question but get passed around to 15 experts, none of whom can resolve your problem, before landing at the front desk where they promise to have an expert call you back. You must never accept this kind of slapdash service.
A reputed agency will assign a dedicated account manager to serve as your primary point of contact. This dedicated manager will be responsible for your customer service and answer all of your questions. If there is no one specifically assigned to your account, you will end up running around.
In order to avoid this nuisance from happening, you must ask directly who your single point of contact will be, who will take responsibility for the tasks and who will take care of any requests you may have.
Question #5. What practices and strategies do you have for measuring and reporting results?
By far, the biggest criticism of healthcare marketing agencies is the shoddy or nonexistent reporting practices that usually fail to demonstrate any measurable ROI.
You end up paying hefty fees without ever knowing how and if that money is helping your practice grow. In today’s world of big data and advanced analytics tools, there cannot be any excuse for bad results measurement. You should ask your agency to produce a few examples of a monthly report based on the standards, and both parties can agree on a format.
Question #6. What if I decide to part ways?
You can even consider asking this question first. The answer to this question may surprise you.
The answer will tell you if this agency is looking to build your practice or if it is just out for your money.
Be very careful of any agency that offers to build you a website on a “proprietary” content management system (CMS). When agencies build your practice website on their proprietary CMS, it usually means they may hold you hostage if things do not turn as expected and if you decide to part ways. As and when you decide to part ways with the agency, it will hand over the ownership of the website to you after you pay off the CMS lease. Moreover, if you do not pay, you will lose your website and all of the work you for which paid the agency so far.
Question #7. How do you plan to execute my marketing strategy?
It never hurts to ask the agency how it plans to implement your marketing strategy. This question is especially relevant for SEO-related services. In case you are not aware, there are two schools of thought around SEO:
1. Some agencies cut corners and trick the search engines into thinking your website is the most reputable authority.
2. Some agencies do what they commit to and establish your website as the most trusted authority by posting valuable and engaging content.
The former is a short-range strategy with short-term results and continuing issues, while the latter is a more intuitive strategy with long-term results. If you are going to pay a healthcare marketing agency plenty of money to optimize your website for search engines, make sure it abides by Google’s guidelines. Fail to do so, and you will find yourself back at square one; only this time, you will be poorer by a few thousand marketing dollars.
In the end, you are the boss!
At the end of the day, you are the one who will be paying. You hold the power. When interviewing healthcare marketing agencies, remember that their job is to make you feel confident about their performance, deliver desired results and help you understand marketing concepts in a simplified manner. Never be afraid to ask questions, as any agency worth its salt will not only have good answers but also proven practices for all of your concerns.