Choosing a Health and Medical Ad Agency: Part One

Considering an ad agency for your health system, hospital or med-tech company?

Every year, dozens of health and medical organizations look for, hire and fire an ad agency partner. It’s a time-intensive process and one of the most critical decisions you can make to ensure success. As you review your options, here are the crucial questions to ask to avoid issues down the road. 

Do they work across the entire industry?

Today’s health and medical environments are complex and demanding—and increasing on a continual basis. You want an agency partner with on-the-ground experience in all sectors, working with providers, health systems, long-term care providers, med-tech manufacturers, industry associations and professional support consultants (e.g. staffing recruiters). Without direct knowledge of the impact of such issues as Meaningful Use, Accountable Care and more, it will be virtually impossible to provide you with the breadth of experience and solutions you’ll need. Why? Because it is their job to help create an environment for your organization to be successful, and if they don’t understand the dynamics, the perspectives will be limited.

The Questions to Ask. . .

Do you have experience working directly with physicians, mid-levels and nursing staff?

Have you worked in med-tech, long term care and with health and medical industry associations?

What resources do you have in place to continuously educate your team about new and emerging industry issues?

What’s their track record?

Experience matters. Look for a health and medical agency that has a long, proven history and has been accepted into membership by 4As, the industry’s most respected membership organization. An accredited, long-established firm has succeeded for a reason and so have their clients. At the same time, you want a firm that is moving forward and maximizing new opportunities and technologies.

The Questions to Ask…

How long have you been in the business of providing services within the health and medical industry?

Are you an accredited member of 4As?

What percentage of your initiatives do you undertake that utilize the latest trends and tools, versus relying on traditional solutions?

Will you work directly with senior leadership?

Senior leadership will no doubt be available when you’re being courted, but getting a commitment for day-to-day involvement in your work is sometimes another story. It’s not an easy thing for most agencies to do, but having such involvement should be essential for any client within health and medical. Here’s why: you probably have a lot at stake. Critical budget dollars are being invested and goals need to be met. Without agency leadership directly involved in the work, you may run into issues marshaling appropriate resources and having the ability to nimbly do a course—correct along the way. Plus, you want—and deserve—their top talent.

The Questions to Ask…

What role will your leadership team play, specifically, in the day-to-day work we do together?

Will they provide direct service or simply oversee the work of the team?

What’s their digital IQ?

These days, successful initiatives within health and medical will nearly always have some life online—most likely, a great deal. Whatever your need now, you must thoroughly vet their digital capabilities, on-staff talent and the tools they—and you—are investing in.

The Questions to Ask…

What on-staff talent and experience do you have in social media? Website enhancements? SEO? Online advertising?

Is the firm or your digital team Google-certified?

Do you have dedicated digital analysts? What role do they play in a client campaign?

What digital analytics tools do you invest in that are applied to client work?

What’s their internal market research bench strength?

Good creative is always built upon clear strategy. And strategy comes from first-hand insights. Ask how they do their market research. Do they outsource it? Or have they invested in the latest, most sophisticated tools and talent to assess target markets in-house, and monitor them on a continual basis?

The Questions to Ask…

To what degree do you utilize market research in your day-to-day work?

What type of research do you consider essential before starting a campaign?

How do you perform market research for your clients? What do you outsource, if anything? Do you have dedicated market researchers internally?

Are they willing to be accountable for their success?

A great agency partner will have no problem being fully accountable for the results of their work. In fact, they should be proactively suggesting the establishment of measurable goals and detailing how they will monitor progress. A high-quality health and medical agency will have dedicated analysts on staff and be able to provide examples of metrics reports they currently provide their clients.

The Questions to Ask…

What monitoring and reporting capabilities will you utilize to measure the success of our work together?

Are you willing to establish measurable goals and be accountable for achieving them on a monthly basis?

Will they provide references capable of informed, objective observations?

Of course, you’ll request references, but be sure to get a good cross-section and ask the right questions. When doing so, ask to speak with senior leadership on the client-side, if at all possible.

Who You Want to Talk to…

A new client that has been served by the agency for six months or less.

An organization that has been a client of the agency for one to three years.

Be sure to check out Part II of our series on Choosing a Health and Medical Ad Agency.

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