hold em or fold emLet’s face it: There are a lot of doctors, medical practices and hospitals that wish they could go about their professional practice activities without the worry, hassle and distraction of marketing and advertising. But, as it turns out, modern medicine is a profession, but healthcare is a business.

And, like it or not, the Affordable Care Act, the Internet, smartphones and a handful of disturbing dynamics in society have collided in a reinvention of healthcare. The complexity of it all—competition, communications, patient experience and satisfaction—now requires an enterprise to call on the professional services of a healthcare advertising agency.

A healthcare-experienced advertising agency is a major plus to successfully getting the job done. Unfortunately, not all consumer marketing and ad agencies are created equally. If you or your hospital have forged a business alliance with a good ad agency—that’s terrific. But if you have your concerns or doubts—or you haven’t got a clue—here are some of the ways to sort the good from the not-so-good.

An healthcare-experienced advertising agency is a major plus to successfully getting the job done. Click To Tweet

Hold ’em…

There are three rock-solid tests for the positive side of the ledger. You’ve probably got a good-to-great agency if your partnership has:

  • Defined goals and objectives
  • Accurate budget accounting
  • A written plan with timetable, milestones responsibilities and reviews
  • A realistic means to measure performance (ROI)
  • Regular reporting of quantified and tangible results achieved

Fold ’em…

On the other hand, there are some cautionary signals that suggest the deck is cold. Consider it a warning if:

  • Campaigns and programs are stand-alone events and never integrated
  • Communicating ideas (in either direction) is never clear
  • Goals and “results” are defined in vague values or elusive terms
  • One strategy, idea or creative solution fits everyone/everything
  • Previous achievements are represented in ad industry awards and not client results
  • References, case histories and/or references are impossible to validate
  • The agency has no actual healthcare marketing experience
  • The plan is on the back of a napkin, (and there’s always a new napkin)
  • The quoted fees are tantalizing cheap, but the actual bills are astronomical
  • They offer a standard formula or the same generic, “your-name-here” solution
  • You have an uneasy feeling about trust and confidence
  • You hear promises of “guaranteed” or unrealistic expectations
  • You never see the agency principals; you always talk with a junior staffer

If you have a great relationship with an experienced healthcare marketing agency that produces measurable results, please keep up the good work. Relationships can be challenging, but superior performance is hard to find. You should hold ’em.

But if you see yourself in one or more of these red-flag situations, your agency-client relationship might be headed for trouble. You may need to fold ’em and plan for a change.

RELATED READING is available with these additional articles: Getting the Best from Your Healthcare Advertising Agency and Common Mistakes Doctors Make When Searching For A Medical Ad Agency.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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Stewart Gandolf

Stewart Gandolf

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at Healthcare Success Strategies
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is CEO of Healthcare Success, a medical marketing and health care advertising agency. He is also a frequent writer and speaker. Most importantly, he is happily married and a "rock-n-roll daddy" to two wonderful girls.
Stewart Gandolf
Stewart Gandolf


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