So you want to hire an agency?
If you’re a healthcare marketer looking to hire an agency, you’re going to be unrelenting in your vetting of agency contenders — grilling them on capabilities, relevant case studies, proof of industry expertise, team chemistry, investment requirements, and program definition.
And you should — any agency worth its weight in “billable hours” would agree that you should be diligent in your effort to find the right partner. It’s a high-pressure decision that could affect the future of your organization and even your career as a marketer as well.
What constitutes the “right partner?” When you boil it all down, you’re looking for a specific type of agency. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach or fancy “checklist” that automatically matches your most complex needs with the perfect agency’s bread-and-butter offerings. If you aren't working with an agency search consultant, where do you start?
To spare you the headache of going through three rounds of “exploratory calls” with 15 different agencies presenting their capabilities and their sales sheets and their agency blah blah, we recommend considering two primary questions to frame your agency search, and narrow your options right off the bat:
Am I looking for an agency to help me transform my approach, or to extend my team?
Which do I value more; the nuance of a custom program or the efficiency and price of a pre-baked program?
We unpack the elements of these two questions below.
Transformation vs. Extension
Sometimes, organizations may need a strategic partner to help them transform their marketing and communications efforts in a way they don’t quite know how to. They are looking for transformative strategy or creative or both. They look for an agency that has experience with other organizations in their situation or segment. They look for innovative thinking, but with the expertise necessary to get from zero to sixty on their business quickly.
What’s great about Transformation agencies:
- They can help get you unstuck and position your brand in a new, innovative way.
- They challenge you regularly, calling you and the organization higher, acting as a companion in problem-solving.
On the other side of the spectrum, some clients are just looking for extra personnel to help extend the reach of the team and their ability to execute. Maybe you already have a brand strategy and some collateral in place, but you need help bringing it over the finish line. Maybe you don’t have quite the heavy need in corporate communications that would warrant building out a public relations team, but you do need to drive awareness. Often times, the extension agencies act as a block & tackle extension of your team.
What’s great about Extension agencies:
- They can buy you some time between identifying needs and actually hiring the talent yourself.
- They don’t challenge the strategy or reasons for things, which allows for fast, low-cost work.
Custom Program vs. Pre-Baked Program
Custom Program Agencies
Some clients value custom solutions and recognize that in order to get the level of attention and razor-sharp strategies that they want, they need to engage an agency in an in-depth discovery process. They believe if an agency understands them, they can always work toward the right program and tactics. They embark on a partnership with their agency, prioritizing expertise, experience, strong examples, and culture over a prepackaged program. Ultimately, these marketers buy an agency, not a program.
What’s great about Custom Program agencies:
- They get to know your services and offerings quickly and build a program around the things that will make a difference in your long-term business success.
- They are relentless in support of your business objectives, understanding that the right approach will be different for every client.
Pre-Baked Program Agencies
Some clients don’t want customization as much as ensuring that the key deliverables in their program are both top-notch quality and relatively low cost. Typically, these clients are a bit tighter on budget and don’t have the luxury of focusing on chemistry and flexibility, particularly when it’s more expensive. They come by it honestly; they more often haven’t used an agency before, and they want to know what they’ll get with an already maxed-out budget. Luckily, there are agencies that have boxed programs that they rarely change, which allows them to work in a very efficient manner, albeit sometimes too rigid. Ultimately, these clients buy a program, not an agency.
What’s great about Pre-Baked Program agencies:
- They are a cost-effective resource to get a straightforward marketing program done. Not everything is complicated!
- If your needs match their program, you’ll gain the benefits of the fact that they’ve done it a hundred times.
There are many agencies out there who offer pre-baked programs and pride themselves on how they can extend your team to increase the output of your marketing department. At ReviveHealth, our deep experience in the healthcare landscape means we means we delight our clients by partnering in transformation and building custom programs for complex business needs. Our plots on the two spectrums tend to look like this:
So go forth and find your agency. Cut straight to what matters using this framework. Ask them hard questions. Expertise matters, chemistry matters, and culture matters. These are all critical qualitative factors. And if you need an agency to come alongside you as a strategic partner to build a program around your needs and support your transformation process, let’s talk.