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| 01/21/2021

Choosing a Healthcare Marketing Agency for Your Next Project

Written by Ed Bennett

Anyone working in healthcare marketing knows the unique challenges of this industry. You work with extremely sensitive information and you have to tread carefully between viewing your target audience as consumers or patients. You also recognize that when it comes to healthcare, people really don’t think about your services until they need care and it’s time to make a choice. 

So, how do you walk that tightrope of getting enough name recognition and visibility for your services, so that when healthcare services are needed, they will choose you?

That is where working with a marketing agency with healthcare industry experience can help. They will have expertise in facing these very challenges and they will understand how to apply the best healthcare marketing techniques and trends. 

While industry experience is essential, there are still a lot of decisions to make when choosing the right agency for your healthcare marketing projects. 

Here we’ll explore the PROS and CONS of your options and provide tips that will help you identify the right choice.


How much of a healthcare focus should a marketing agency have?

Given the unique nature of healthcare marketing, experience in the industry is essential. But the question is, how much of a focus should you be looking for? 

Traditionally, the higher the healthcare focus the better. But with the emergence of digital marketing in healthcare, it is no longer so black and white. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option.

100% Healthcare Focus

With a higher healthcare focus, industry knowledge gets baked into everything a healthcare marketing agency does. That means they understand the terminology and metaphors that work, the limitations and risks of certain approaches, and how to work with the unique challenges within healthcare marketing. As a potential client, you’ll also be able to see the results of the healthcare marketing strategies they have produced for other similar clients, so you can get a clear idea of what you can expect.  

Mixed Industry Focus

As digital marketing took off, other industries like travel, retail, and entertainment were quick to experiment with different marketing techniques in the digital realm. Meanwhile, the conservative approach to healthcare marketing meant that the industry was slow to adopt these methods. So, full healthcare-focused agencies were less experienced in these techniques, which led hospitals looking for a stronger digital marketing strategy or more innovative healthcare marketing ideas to look to agencies with experience in other industries as well. 


What’s the difference: general vs. specialized agencies and everything in between

Beyond just identifying the right healthcare focus for your hospital’s healthcare marketing needs, you’ll also need to select the type of agency that is the right fit for your project. Again, each type has clear positives and negatives, so it is essential to understand the differences and how certain benefits may better align with your healthcare marketing goals.

Traditional general agency

A general marketing agency may also be referred to as the “agency of record” for a large organization, like a hospital. This is the primary agency determining big picture things like branding, logos, general messaging, website, and email marketing. These agencies will offer a wide range of services from print and TV to the web.

There are many advantages to working with a general agency. You’ll likely have one point of contact and one party responsible for all the things you’re doing. This translates into better integration between all your projects and can help ensure the messaging and themes of your communication are consistent. 

Digital-focused agency

Similar to traditional marketing agencies, there are also slightly more focused options still offering a wide range of marketing services, like a digital marketing agency. They will be more focused in the sense that they will stick to services online, but they would not be considered specialized since they can offer everything from creating websites, SEO, and email campaigns, and more. 

Specialized agency

A specialized agency is an agency that offers one specific service with a 100% focus on a particular niche. This ensures that they have explored the service extensively, allowing them to develop sophisticated tools to take full advantage of a project in their realm. Given their focus and experience, they also tend to be quicker with getting projects launched. 

A specialized agency may focus on marketing automation or another example could be a content marketing agency.

They will understand the nuances of their particular niche. Meaning they will have a more profound insight into what is working, and what is not working and will be able to react faster to emerging healthcare marketing trends.

The question becomes: when do you go to a general agency versus a specialized agency?


How do I choose the right agency type for my needs?

You may be very happy with your agency of record, the tone they’ve set for your messaging and branding, and their work overseeing all of your healthcare marketing projects. 

Now, imagine you identify that your website traffic numbers are low. With a little research, you realize that enhancing your content and improving your healthcare SEO is the best approach to ranking higher in search results and driving traffic to your site. 

When you find yourself with a specific area that needs some work, it is necessary to consider what type of marketing agency will be best for the job. If you already have agency support, you may want to consider if it’s time for a new content marketing service. Check out this article for guidance on if it’s time to make a switch.

Let’s take a look at your options and the questions you can ask to determine who is most qualified for your project. 

General

Your agency of record is a great starting point as you narrow down who is the best fit for your healthcare marketing goals. 

Given you’ve worked extensively with this agency, consider your experience with them and if you have confidence in their ability. While a larger agency may be a little slower to launch the new project, you can trust that the messaging will align with your current tone. If your project will play a major role in defining your brand, there are major advantages to working with your agency of record.

If you think they may be a contender for the job, ask for a brief on the services they offer in that area, explain your needs, and then analyze what they come back with. 

You can learn a lot about the level of service based on the questions they ask. Are they deep diving and asking focused questions, or sticking to superficial questions around your budget? 

Let their brief and questions guide you while you also look at other options.

Specialized

Regardless of your interactions with your agency of record, you should weigh your options. Reach out to a specialized marketing agency that focuses on the niche service you’re looking for. This will give you a point of reference as you consider your agency of record’s response. 

Take a look at the services a specialized agency can provide. You may find they are much more robust than your agency of record. Assess their brief to help you determine how their expertise compares. 

Consider your timeline for the project. If you are looking to get the project launched ASAP or looking for more innovative marketing ideas, a specialized agency may be your best option, if your budget allows it. 

Partnerships

Another avenue is to look at your agency of record’s partnerships. Traditional marketing agencies tend to build partnerships with specialized agencies in areas that they are less equipped to handle. 

Working with one of your agency of record’s partners has the potential to give you the benefits of a specialized agency, offering insight into healthcare marketing trends and techniques, while also providing a smooth process. They will likely work closely with your agency of record so you can be less involved but still trust that the messaging will align with your defined tone and brand. 

Keep in mind that this can have an added cost since your agency of record will be compensated for overseeing the project. However, if you get a strong brief from the partner agency and your budget allows it, a partnership can be a wonderful middle ground. 

While these questions and considerations are essential to help you make the right decision, you’ll also want to look for guidance specific to the services you need. Click here for a deeper look at finding the right agency for some of the most popular healthcare marketing services


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