In today’s competitive marketplace, it is nearly impossible to ignore the marketing of your vein practice. Websites, TV, radio, social media, SEO, PPC, billboards, microsites, direct mail and, yes, let us not forget the phone book. For both the veteran phlebologist with years of competitive marketing experience, or the bright-eyed young new doctor about to endeavor out on his or her own, today’s marketing can be overwhelming and complex. Marketing over the years has evolved, and today requires more time, attention, and true strategic forethought. Not just the decision to compete must be made, but you must also ask yourself “how do I compete?”—and do so effectively.
Knowing that marketing is imperative, we are going to evaluate, analyze, and understand what needs to be done to hold your agency accountable. Accountability at its core is critical to making sure you are striving to attain your practice goals. Without holding your agency accountable, you will never be able to analyze and assess.
Do I even need a marketing agency?
This is an interesting question to ask, as most of you, without pause, would answer ”yes.” The simple answer, however, is “maybe.” As with skills, experience, and specialties, no two physicians are alike. Alas, your marketing needs will be just as potentially different. Understanding if you even need a marketing group is your first step.
“There are just as many reasons why hiring an agency may be a bad idea for you - many you have never really given much thought to. You have always just assumed it was the best course of action.”
Yes, sign me up today!
There are a multitude of reasons why you may end up choosing an agency, but most rationale really comes down to just two things: time and expertise. Let me explain. First off, agencies have a broad skill set that can many times be a one-stop shop for so many of the marketing needs it takes to be successful in the marketplace. By maximizing fractional shares of time and knowledge, you get an expertise you either do not understand or do not have time to implement yourself.
No, I will pass!
There are just as many reasons why hiring an agency may be a bad idea for you - many you have never really given much thought to. You have always just assumed it was the best course of action. The first reason has more to do with the personality it takes to be successful with an agency. Some physicians cannot let go, and do not allow for the marketing agency to do their job. Seeing this characteristic takes a great deal of personal reflection, and is not easy to conclude. Additionally, you may be at a point where marketing is not a priority. Some just elect not to market because they are at capacity without it, or do not need the brand consistency. These are great problems to have.
I have decided to hire an agency - what do I need to know before I sign?
You have decided to make the leap, and you have found an agency with relevant experience. You have made it through the vetting process, and you believe they have your best interests at heart. But before you sign your marketing life away, ask these questions to set up your framework for accountability:
- What is owned, and by whom? Many times the fine print will list out “proprietary software,” or that you are “leasing” content or assets being produced. It is critical that anything you have contracted to have done on your behalf, you own. This includes design work, branding, website creation, domain names, and video.
- What am I paying for exactly? This almost goes without saying, but you need to know exactly what you are paying for and where time will be allocated when you are dealing with large retainers. Understanding your agency fee structure should be resolved before you sign anything.
- What do you expect to achieve in the next 3, 6, 12 months? Setting specific expectations is the toughest conversation to have before anything is signed. Agencies do not want to be held to something they cannot predict, since there are so many variables. But regardless of results, identify what will be worked on, and by what timeline.
- Can I cancel at any time? Although you should never plan to fail, you should know your options and what is required of you in case things do not work out. In most agreements, the term for service is negotiable, and your flexibility and freedom should be negotiated to the lowest term possible.
Results, results, results. Measure everything to get the most out of your agency
It is imperative that you measure everything. You will have no idea where you are going, the effectiveness of your campaign, and, most importantly, how to improve if you do not measure the work that is being done. Most marketing agencies will want to meet on a monthly basis to go over a standardized report or discuss KPIs. You should welcome this opportunity to track results that matter! This is your time to hold them accountable for the work they have done. Although not an exhaustive list, this would include contact inquiries on your website, tracked phone calls to your website, visitors to the website (by channel/medium), SEO performance, and key social metrics such as fan engagement and direct leads.
If you do not keep focused, it is easy to get sidetracked. A common agency misdirection that is failing to perform is to highlight metrics that are not useful or do not lead to success. For example, a marketing agency may talk about a “spike” in traffic, but not mention that 30% of the traffic came from overseas, which ultimately would do you no good.
“A great agency will want you to take marketing seriously, and it is what will ultimately make the relationship so much more special. Be special, and be engaged, but mostly, have fun—this is marketing.”
During these same meetings, you should be working collaboratively to set expectations for what you are looking to achieve over the next month until the next meeting is held. This way, both parties understand what they are striving for, and what will be specifically discussed. Creating the plan in advance means that ambiguity cannot creep into the framework, and everyone stays on task. This will maximize the relationship and get the most out of your time.
Here come the red flags
Before any relationship sours, there are always signs. These red flags are usually very apparent, if you know what to look for. Your relationship with your marketing company is no different. Here are some of the most common:
- The phone stops ringing. New patient inquiries are declining, and your ultimate metric is decreasing. A prolonged decrease in quality traffic is a sign that something needs to be adjusted.
- Monthly reports and strategic advice is coming sporadically or is missed altogether. Unfortunately, this is a sign that you have been missed or forgotten.
- All communication starts to dry up. Response emails go from hours to days to weeks to respond. Simple requests take an exceptionally long amount of time to be completed, if even at all.
- You are being asked for ideas. The strategy has flattened out, and there is no direction. Innovation is not happening and ideas, when presented, feel stale and not based on your unique position and value to the market.
If you have a good relationship with your agency, and the signs of trouble present themselves, you need to proactively reach out and deal with it head-on. The relationship can still be potentially salvaged. Deal with things upfront, and try to realign expectations.
The writing is on the wall - what do I do to prepare?
It may be inevitable that the relationship must come to a close, or it has become clear that they are not able to deliver on what was promised during the sales process.
Your mind is made up, and it is time to transition away from the agency. What do I need to do? How do I protect my assets? Do I have to go through the daunting process of finding another agency again? Many of these questions will run through your mind.
Here is your guided checklist:
- Get all login and access credentials. You need access to your website, social media channels, and have the direct relationships in place with TV, radio, and traditional media. If something is missing, get it!
- Understand your cancellation provision. Can you cancel immediately or must you give notice? You need to know this before you create a transition plan.
- Decide if you will move to another agency. And, if so, hire them before terminating your existing agency. This will allow for the smoothest transition.