Monday, January 26, 2015

My Marketing Person Won't Return My Calls: How to avoid bad marketing relationships while getting the most for your marketing dollars

Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.” 
― Oscar Wilde

Courtesy of Ambro at

Recently I had the opportunity to address a group of providers, to which I posed this question: "Why do we market?" As you might imagine most of the answers were some form of "to get clients."  Well if you are thinking the same thing, you're wrong. Gaining clients is a benefit of marketing but not the reason why we do it. What?

That's right savvy provider; you've been approaching this all wrong. Marketing or the act of marketing has a specific purpose for the health care provider; it helps you identify circumstances which could create opportunities for the provider. Remember opportunities? Opportunities are those emerging ideas you had when you decided to start a health care business. Opportunities are also a part of the SWOT portion of your strategic plan. Have you finished perfecting that plan yet?

Most providers initially attempt to do their own marketing. This may be fine in the beginning as I encourage providers to get familiar with all facets of the business and learn from the experience, but eventually you will need a marketing rep or consultant. With that in mind, you'll need to be very careful when selecting a marketing person and ensuring you get a proper return on your investment. The best place to start when choosing a marketing rep or consultant is the market itself. The health care market is competitive, complex, and due in some part to the ACA, filled with diverse opportunities. As a provider you need to know your market. Don't assume the marketing rep, once hired will be able to understand the market or explain it to you. You need to educate yourself first. According to Brazzell Marketing, "you should know the census of your competitors and the trajectory of your local market"-Brazzell, 2015.  Once you have educated yourself you can make a more informed decision when choosing a marketing rep or consultant.

"Marketing reps are like cafeterias, you take what looks good and you pay for it later"-Shereese Tucker 2014
All marketing relationships are not good ones. Some are predatory. You know that attractive professional you found on line who said they could bring in one hundred clients in one month? They probably cashed your check and disappeared, right? How about that firm who said, "we promise thirty referrals in thirty days for a small annual fee (equal the cost of a small home)?" The referrals didn't really pan out, did they? These are predators. Their goal is not to increase your revenue opportunities, it is to increase theirs. Don't fall for it. Some marketing relationships are one-sided. You find yourself coming up with all the ideas your marketing rep should try.You're initiating phone calls or advertising ideas.The marketing rep is merely putting in time on your dime. Get rid of them.The last type of bad marketing relationship is the one that you've held on to the longest. Perhaps your marketing rep started in the business with you or you hired a friend or family member who has been with you for some time. As you look around your organization, your staffers outnumber your clients. Your marketing rep is complacent in the relationship and is no longer contributing to the mission of your company.You need to have a little talk.

Marketing for opportunities is essential for health care providers and finding the right person or firm to assist you in your mission is just as essential. Here are some key points for finding and cultivating a good relationship with a marketing rep or consultant.

  • Have your consultant conduct the initial interview. Your consultant will know which key questions to ask and what to look for in terms of a personality for the job. If they fit the mold, the consultant can refer the applicant or firm to you for a second interview. This alleviates wasting time and falling for the fluff.
  • Insist on orientation and training. Anyone you bring into an organization should be given a comprehensive orientation into the environment. "They can't sell what they don't know and believe in." If a marketing firm doesn't take time to get to know your organization, they won't be beneficial to you and mistakes will be made. Training should be conducted by a reputable firm. For example, Hurricane Marketing hosts marketing boot-camps and training around the country for emerging or newly hired marketing reps. Invest in the training; it will pay off. You should have an agreement with the rep to reimburse you for the training should they leave the organization in an untimely fashion.
  • Ensure the marketing rep you hire understands the meaning of "content marketing." If they can't explain content marketing as it pertains to the health care environment, they will not be able to increase your opportunities. 
  • Have a measurable plan for performance. Ensure your marketing rep has a ninety day (no fault) initial assessment period, a signed job description, understands what's expected of them, and what time frames are used to assess competency and performance. 
  • Check all references. Ask your consultant to perform the credentialing or prior work history search. S/he will know where to look for buried bones. 
  • Be clear on compensation measures.While you can offer commission-based work, these relationships often fail. It is better to invest in employee buy-in. Make them a part of the team and ensure they know the vital part they play in the mission of the company. Invest in their success and they will have a vested interest in yours.  

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” -H. James Harrington

Courtesy of Naypong via
The job of the marketing rep is one of the few in the organization that can be analyzed with the ROI formula. As a health care provider you have a business plan that includes budgeted expenses and expected yields. The marketing position directly contributes to these factors. To determine if you're getting the most from hiring your marketing rep and the activities of marketing, perform an analysis. It's not enough to look at your census. I can't stress this enough. If other opportunities are not being gained and if the rate of increase in admissions is not on par with the budget and plan, you may be losing money.

Last, regarding marketing reps who don't call you back or for whom you can't account for time, a question posed to me by a client: You need to mind your business! Think about it. Why would you employ someone who has no accountability for the job they're hired to do. Carry on Savvy Provider.

Disclaimer: I receive no compensation for firms mentioned in this article. 

*If you need help getting your agency on the right track, inbox me at: