It goes without saying that most physicians and medical professionals didn’t take courses on search engine optimization or content marketing strategy at the University. Likewise, you shouldn’t be expected to handle these necessary online marketing tactics for your own practice.
You’ve got patients to see, after all.
Outsourcing your marketing efforts to an agency is a big step for any small business, but most practices eventually find it to be the best decision they ever made toward growing their business. It can be difficult to determine the value of a pricey marketing contract over hiring an in-house team, so let’s take a deeper look at both sides of the coin: the pros and cons.
COLLECTIVE KNOWLEDGE (CUMULATIVE EXPERIENCE)
Hiring an in-house Marketing Director for your medical practice may seem like a good idea (and in some cases it is), but one person can only do so much, no matter their skillset or experience. So beware. Hiring an agency to manage your practice’s digital marketing means you’re paying for an entire team of specialized marketers that all work together for your business interests, often for the same cost or less as a single full time salary (hiring an agency typically costs between $1,000-$5,000 per month).
You’ll have access to a larger, more diversified body of knowledge and experience by partnering with a team that can operate independently to serve your best interests; not to mention the structured processes and scalability the agency team will offer.
Your digital marketing agency should offer multiple specialties in-house, and shouldn’t outsource to other companies. When shopping, make sure an agency has the following professionals (collective knowledge) on hand:
- Content marketers
- SEO specialists
- Social Media specialists
- Web developers
- IT consultants
- Designers (website and collateral)
- Reputation managers
- Project managers
- Email marketers
- Brand managers
PRO TIP: Managing your practice’s marketing is one thing; managing your website is another entirely (uploading files and photos, adding pages, fixing hacks, managing email and resolving hosting issues, etc.). When hiring a marketing agency, make sure that the agency you select also has the staff (or expertise) on hand to manage your website, too. Otherwise, set aside an addition portion of your budget for website maintenance personnel.
ACCESS TO MORE RESOURCES
Hiring a digital marketing agency for your medical practice means access to resources you otherwise wouldn’t have, such as specialized monitoring software and data analysis tools. Hiring an agency is more than just choosing which marketers to put in charge of your campaign; in addition, it comes with a whole office full of data, technology, experience and networking.
Monthly subscriptions for analytics software, social media and SEO tools, and creative design tools can range anywhere from $50 to $200 (and up) each. At Incredible Marketing, we spend well over $1,000 per month on just tools and software.
If you decide to build a team in-house, not only will you incur the cost of salaries to build your team, but you’ll also find yourself faced with the overhead costs of the necessary software, subscriptions, and tools that make digital marketing work. Agencies invest in these tools for themselves and the cost is already built into their fees (at least they should be) so that you don’t have to worry about additional resource expenses.
Strategizing, developing, and executing digital marketing campaigns and programs take time. This is obvious. What’s not so obvious is the time it will take you or a staff member to manage and measure the progress of your efforts. Measuring, analyzing, and refining are at the heart of any successful marketing strategy. If you don’t have time to measure the impact of your marketing efforts, then you’ll never improve. A good marketing agency will dig through the data, refine when needed and report progress for you.
Another ‘not so obvious’ way an agency will save you time (and money) is by staying current so you don’t need to. Digital marketing changes with the wind, and staying up to date with the latest marketing best practices, search engine algorithm changes, and new social opportunities is a full-time job in and of itself. A good marketing agency will dedicate time and resources to educating their team and staying relevant so that you don’t need to waste your time figuring things out on your own and experimenting with new ideas that may or may not work.
PRO TIP: Don’t cheat yourself when contemplating whether or not to hire a marketing agency. Consider all of the ways in which an agency can save you time, and in saving time, make you more money. You may have someone in your practice that has time to keep up with the ever-evolving digital landscape. You may not. Just make sure you account for it either way
This seems like an obvious one, too, but it isn’t always the case. A good marketing agency will focus on increasing profitable traffic and revenue, not just rankings, “likes”, “follows”, or shares. In other words, traffic that converts and fills the seats in your waiting room, not just imaginary communities.
After all, that is what you hired them for. A good marketing agency will make measuring your profitable return on investment easier by including the number of leads generated by their marketing efforts, too.
PRO TIP: Steer clear of any agency that will guarantee results, but won’t supply a monthly report. Like I mentioned before, if you’re not measuring your results, then what’s the point? Results will vary with every individual case, but those that make guarantees only guarantee that they can’t deliver.
When you hire your own marketing manager or in-house team, it’s easy to determine how much of their time is spent on just marketing, especially if you put them right down the hall.
This isn’t always the case with an agency.
Agencies serve dozens (even hundreds) of clients at once, and it’s possible that your account will get lost in the mix without receiving the kind of special attention you deserve (and pay for). Furthermore, a crowded playing field means the marketing team may lack a meaningful connection to your specific brand and goals.
It’s important to make sure that the agency you choose assigns a dedicated project manager (or two) to your account to facilitate a solid professional relationship where your goals are understood and your needs are met on a consistent basis.
PRO TIP: When shopping agencies, always ask how many people will be working on your account at once, and how many clients each account representative manages. At Incredible Marketing, each of our content marketing clients gets three marketing specialists and a team of designers and writers, all working on the same account together. Most agencies aren’t this generous.
FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND YOUR BUSINESS
When you hire a marketing agency that may not be an expert in your niche, it takes time for their team to familiarize themselves with your industry and to identify profitable opportunities specific to your niche.
This lack of understanding will cost you time and money, and a great deal of frustrations.
Depending on the level of dedicated service, remember that none of the marketers from the agency will be in your office on a daily business. This lack of proximity could lead to a lack of communication, or worse, a lack of overall understanding of your business goals and aspirations.
A good marketing agency will make substantial efforts to learn your business, brand, and marketing goals throughout the relationship. They’ll also maintain consistent communication with you and your staff to ensure that your evolving business goals get met.
PRO TIP: There definitely exist great marketing agencies that work with dozens of different niches and are successful in each one, however, these are few and far between. Instead, find an agency that works exclusively in your niche or industry. These are the agencies that can hit the ground running and offer you a quicker return on your investment.
THE STARTERS PITCH, BUT THE BENCHWARMERS CLOSE
All too often a marketing agency hires a sales team staffed with subject matter experts to throw the fastballs, only to hand off newly signed contracts to junior marketers, fresh out of college. Not that all “green”, inexperienced employees lack the skills to make an impact, but you get the point.
PRO TIP: Do your homework and make sure you know who will be managing your account before signing the dotted line. At the very least, your account manager(s) should have a director or “lead” that oversees and helps implement the strategy.
WHAT MAKES THE MOST SENSE FOR YOUR MEDICAL PRACTICE?
While there are good arguments for both the pros and cons, for most small businesses like your medical practice, it makes more sense to hire an agency for your online marketing needs rather than gamble on an in-house team that you’ll not only need to assemble, but manage on a daily basis, too.
I hope this article made one thing clear: do your homework, first. Hiring the wrong agency can leave you with “post-traumatic marketing agency disorder.”
A great full-service agency will operate as a partner: with you, not for you. It will be able to achieve greater results for the cost, and can keep you, the practice’s manager or doctor, up to speed along the way with a dedicated project consultant.
Never do something that doesn’t make sense for your own organization.
• When you’re interviewing your next agency, take out a legal pag and list the pros and cons. Yup, just like in gradeschool!
• Download the other five chapters of “Hiring A Marketing Agency For Your Medical Practice” and share it with your peers!