5 questions to ask your agency for better healthcare marketing campaigns

Humans are pretty bad at predicting the future. In fact, as study after study has shown, we’re horrible at it. And yet, we try to do it all the time. We bet on sports, predict elections, and make all kinds of decisions based on weather forecasts. 

Healthcare marketing directors have to make an additional prediction. And it’s a big one, with lots of money, time and effort on the line. As the decision maker, you have to predict whether the creative ideas your agency brings to the table will get results.

Unfortunately, neither you nor the agency have a crystal ball, so you can’t peer into the future. But what you can do is demand that your agency give you appropriate context to make a good decision. Good agencies understand this, and they take just as much pride in the work they do to build context as they do in the creative work they deliver. 

Here are five questions you can ask 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 buyer’s journey 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 they model the buyer’s journey for healthcare, which specific stage(s) their idea is meant to impact, and how they expect their 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 they will use to determine if the experiment worked prior to the investigation.

In this way, great marketing is like a rigorous experiment. Ask your agency what the critical metrics are in the planning phase so you’ll know what you’re measuring.

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

3. Can I see the idea on the back of a napkin, before the design people 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 it’s 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 40’s 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 loads of 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.

Predicting the future is easier when you understand the present

I know I’ll sound like a heretic if I suggest that marketers need to slow down. Believe me, I know how much you have on your plate. But advertising is expensive. Pick the right idea, and it’s an investment, but pick the wrong idea and it’s a waste. Taking the time to understand the context upfront pays off. In the long term, you’ll generate better results. In the short term, you’ll feel more confident in your decision.