If you haven’t already, read the previous chapter in this guide, “Pros and Cons of Hiring an Agency“
Hiring a marketing agency for your medical practice is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make as a business owner. Hopefully, you’ll only have to make it once, but in all fairness, this isn’t usually the case.
Hiring a marketing agency is tough; hiring your second one is even tougher. However, you can prevent the pain and frustration of leaving a marketing agency long before you hire one just by asking the right questions from the start.
In this chapter, I’ll cover the 7 most important questions you need to ask while shopping marketing agencies for your medical practice; I’ll explore good answers, bad answers, and everything in between; and when you’re finished, you’ll know exactly what to expect from a top tier marketing agency.
What you can expect from this chapter:
- I’ll explore the 7 most important questions you can ask while shopping agencies for your medical practice
- I’ll examine the good answers, bad answers, and everything in between
- When you’re finished, you’ll know exactly what to expect from a top tier marketing agency.
1. Why do I need a digital marketing agency?
The single most important question you can ask before shopping for an agency is, “Why do I need a digital marketing agency?”
Businesses that have never hired a digital partner in the past often struggle to define what they’re looking for, which can ultimately lead to disappointment and frustration.
Attach specific goals to your online marketing plan and identify what your practice needs. Then make sure the agency you’re interviewing can fulfill those needs efficiently and to your satisfaction.
Are you looking for someone who can handle lead generation and sales tracking? Or are you looking for someone who can manage the brand awareness and search engine optimization for your plastic surgery center? As mentioned in the previous chapter, all agencies specialize in different services, so understand which services you need (and don’t need) before hiring the wrong agency.
PRO TIP: When identifying your needs, think short-term and long-term before hiring an agency. It wouldn’t make sense to hire the agency that only offers SEO when you know that you’ll want to add paid advertising and social media marketing in six months.
2. Do they specialize in my industry?
The web is a big place, and there are countless tools and strategies for marketing different businesses across this massive network. Pick the agency that has adequate experience with your unique industry and, when possible, specializes specifically in medical marketing for private practice doctors, surgeons, and physicians.
Medical practices don’t need the same marketing tactics as B2B parts suppliers, so hiring an agency with experience in the latter wouldn’t make sense for your business. A host of legalities also accompanies medical marketing. Hiring an agency that isn’t well versed on what you can and cannot say (or who you can and cannot show) when marketing your practice online could result in lawsuits and lost patients.
Ask your agency about their experience and assess their understanding of your industry (ask for a case study, too). Get specifics on how they would approach your marketing strategy and how it may be similar or different from your competitors in the space.
An agency that specializes in private practice medical services and healthcare facilities will have a working knowledge of the trends and developments in your field without committing massive resources to new research. They’ll also have case studies showing what works and what doesn’t so that you don’t become their first “Oops, well I guess that failed.”
Niche specialization is important in a field as detailed and nuanced as digital marketing.
PRO TIP: Your medical practice needs an agency that specializes not only in medical, but also in business-to-consumer medical marketing. Make certain they do both.
3. Are they more adept at local or national marketing?
Similar to how different industries require different marketing channels and tactics, local businesses require a vastly different approach to digital marketing compared to national brands. Ask your agency about their local marketing approach and how they tailor their skills and efforts specifically for local.
For example, local search technology relies on geolocation and the existence and optimization of a Google My Business page to attract those in your neighborhood looking for your services. A national campaign doesn’t rely on either. Your agency will need to understand this right out of the gate, as it differs from the larger link-building strategies employed by global brands.
PRO TIP: At the end of the day, your medical practice is always going to be a local business. Your community will be at the heart of your strategy whether it be content, social or search. So make certain you choose an agency that specializes in local marketing.
4. Who will be in charge of my account?
If you have experience signing work contracts with large companies, you know all about the customer service run-around (I’m talking about you, cable guy). You call to ask a question but get passed around to ten different experts, none of whom can answer your question, before winding up back at the help desk where they promise to have someone call you.
Never accept this kind of shoddy service.
A qualified agency will assign a dedicated account manager to serve as your primary contact. A dedicated account manager is your champion and is responsible for your customer service. If there is no one specifically in charge of your account, you’re sure to get the runaround.
Ask up front who your clear point of contact(s) will be, who will accept responsibility for the work the agency performs for you, and who will facilitate any requests you may have.
PRO TIP: It’s not uncommon for an agency to assign one person to manage your account, from strategy to execution. This workflow may have been possible four years ago, but digital marketing is too robust for just one person (at least the kind you’re after). Make sure a team of marketing specialists will be working collectively on your account.
5. How will they measure and report results?
By far the largest criticism of digital marketing agencies is the cloudy or non-existent reporting practices that continually fail to demonstrate any discernable ROI.
You end up paying a monthly bill without ever knowing how (or if) that money is helping your business. In today’s world of big data and granular analytics tools, there’s no excuse for poor results measurement.
Your agency should be able to produce an example of a monthly report based on the measurement standards you’ve both agreed on.
There’s no point in executing a marketing tactic if you can’t tell whether or not it works. Proper traffic analysis and campaign tagging are an important resource for reviewing your return on investment, and your marketing agency should be fully accountable for this sort of transparency.
6. What will i own if we part ways?
Actually, I suggest you ask this question first.
The answer to this question will let you know whether or not an agency is looking to partner with you and build your practice or if they are just out for your money. What this question really asks is, “How will you treat me when I am no longer giving you my money?”
The answers to this question may astound you!
Be extremely cautious of any agency that offers to build you a custom website on a “proprietary” content management system. A content management system is a computer application that works as the central interface for you to publish, edit, and maintain your website (e.g. WordPress). When agencies build your site on a proprietary CMS (a CMS that they own), this usually means they’re preparing to hold you hostage. When you eventually decide to part ways with the agency, the only way they’ll relinquish ownership of the site (the one you already paid for) is if you pay off the CMS lease.
And if you don’t pay, you’ll lose your entire site and all of the work you paid the agency month after month to complete. It’s called “holding you hostage.”
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
7. How will they execute my marketing strategy?
It never hurts to ask the agency how they plan on executing your marketing strategy, no matter what you plan on signing up for, but this question is especially meant for search engine optimization.
For those of you that may not know, there are two schools of thought when it comes to SEO:
1. There are those that seek to cut corners and game the search engines into thinking your site is the most reputable authority on a specific topic.
2. There are those that do what they profess, and establish your website as the trusted authority in your space by producing and publicizing valuable, engaging content that matters.
The former is a shortsighted strategy with short-term results and long-term issues with the search engines while the latter is a more clairvoyant strategy with long-term, accumulative results. If you’re going to pay an agency good money to optimize your site for search, then make sure they abide by Google’s Webmaster guidelines. Otherwise, in twelve months, you’ll find yourself back at square one, only this time your bankroll will be twelve months worth of monthly retainers short.
PRO TIP: Ask the agency how they plan on building backlinks to your site. If they don’t have an answer, run. If they tell you it’s a secret, run. If they tell you they buy them, slap them in the face, then run. A backlink is a link from another site back to yours and remains the most important metric for improving your search rankings (at least it is at the time of writing this). For years, agencies have paid services to build spammy backlinks to your site, only to yield significant gains in the short term, but Google penalties in the long term. Never sign with an agency that pays for links.
You’re the boss
At the end of the day, you’re the client. You hold all the power. When interviewing different agencies, remember that their job is to make you feel comfortable about the work that’s being done and to help you understand advanced digital marketing concepts in a simplified, yet meaningful way. Never be afraid to grill them with questions, as any agency worth their salt will have a good answer (and good standard practice) for any of your concerns.
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