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5 Questions Healthcare Marketers Need to Ask Their Agency

5 Questions Healthcare Marketers Need to Ask Their Agency

Katie Sorce

illustration of man pointing at bar graph on chart

Are your agency’s creative ideas drawing results?

There is no exact science to advertising and marketing—which is dependent on the uncontrolled variable of human emotion—so trying to predict results before a campaign runs is exceptionally difficult. But that doesn’t mean you have to launch a campaign blindly with no sense of risks or how success will be measured.

A good agency should be transparent with its reasoning and give appropriate context so the client can ultimately make the best informed decisions. Here are five important questions to ask your agency to make sure you’re getting the full picture.

1. “What stage of the buyer’s journey is this idea meant to impact?”

When patients make purchasing decisions about healthcare, they work through a series of phases loosely referred to as the buyer’s journey. This is an idea that applies to all industries, but the way patients move through it when buying healthcare has a number of nuances.

Your agency should be able to explain how it models the buyer’s journey for healthcare, which specific stage(s) the idea is meant to impact and how it expects the idea to move someone from one stage into another.


2. “Which metrics will we reference to know if this idea worked?”

When scientists outline an experiment, they know exactly which measurements to use to determine its success prior to the investigation.

In this way, great marketing is like a rigorous experiment. Ask your agency what critical metrics exist in the planning phase to understand what you’re measuring.

I’m not suggesting that your agency should be able to tell you exactly how many consultations or surgeries it can generate (no agency I’m aware of could do that), but it should be able to tell you if the idea will be measured in generic marketing metrics (such as web traffic or phone calls) or real healthcare business metrics like pre-screenings, consultations, new patients or overall patient volume.

3. “Can I see the idea on the back of a napkin, before the designers dress it up?”

Good design is a powerful force. It’s a big part of what turns good ideas into great advertising.

But good design can also make bad ideas look like good ones. Design can lend an attractive sheen to something that might not be able to live on its own merits. That’s why you should be presented with concepts before the design team gets going. It’s one of the best ways to evaluate whether the idea itself makes an impact.

This is especially important in healthcare because, like it or not, most people want to think that they’ll never need advanced healthcare. Your campaign has to be extra powerful to overcome the natural human resistance to the idea of needing care.

4. “Could you help me understand the patient’s buyer button?”

It should go without saying that agencies should base creative ideas on consumer insights gleaned from research. For the purposes of this article, I’ll assume your agency is doing this. What I can’t assume is that your agency’s patient insight (and yes, there should only be one) will help you understand the patients “buyer button.”

How can you tell? It’s more of an art than a science, unfortunately, but you can generally assume that if an insight is based solely on demographics (e.g., “Our customer is a woman in her 40s looking for a new doctor”) it’s not going to push the buyer button. You can also generally assume that if the patient insight doesn’t touch on something that’s emotionally important, it’s not likely to work.

5. “What sources of research did you use?”

In healthcare there are numerous rigorous studies published every year, and knowing what your agency is using as reference material will give you a sense of how likely their ideas are to generate real results. I’m not suggesting that you ask your agency for copies of all their research materials and read through them all (though feel free if you’d like). Just skim their list of sources and gut-check them against your own sense of what is and is not a credible source.

While gearing up for next year’s planning, now is the time to consider the impact of your marketing initiatives. A few smart questions might give you the assurance you need to sign that purchase order and forge ahead.

Illustration courtesy of unDraw.

Katie Sorce is a marketing coordinator for Smith & Jones. She contributes to research and strategy projects, manages social media and digital marketing accounts, and assists with content creation, account management, finance and operations. Smith & Jones is the healthcare marketing agency that specializes in branding and targeted service line marketing for hospitals, health systems and other care providers. Learn more at