Podcast #53

Brand Architecture: Which Strategy is Right for Your MSO?

When a new management services organization (MSO) is formed and consolidates healthcare groups or later acquires additional brands, it's crucial that they have a solid multi-brand strategy. The discussion between having a house of brands vs. one brand structure is prevalent throughout the healthcare industry. To choose the best strategy, it’s essential to understand each option.

Episode Highlights:

Rich Briddock

Rich Briddock: “The idea that it’s a binary house of brands or all under one brand, is not correct. Like you said, there is this hybrid model. It’s more of a spectrum.”

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Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite Podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, cardinals, experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Lauren Leone: Hey everyone, welcome back to Ignite Healthcare Marketing Podcast. I’m here again this week with Rich Briddock, our SVP of Analytics and Strategy. Today, we are here to answer a very common question which is, in the MSO world, ASO, DSO, OSO, whatever you want to call it, whatever your vertical calls it, should you be thinking about one brand or a house of brands? We get asked often what our opinion on this question is.

Honestly, there is no perfect answer as I’m sure you know, there’s situations that impact what your business should do, and a hybrid model usually probably ends up being the best option. Rich, when we think about this question, one brand, house of brands from a digital marketing perspective specifically, why is that question so important? What are some of the major considerations as we approach scoping out a new partnership for clients in the MSO space?

Rich Briddock: If you’ve got a multi-location, single brand, that is typically a lot less complex than if you have a house of brands, a multi-location client. Essentially, if we are having to do digital support for up to like 40 or 50 brands that sit within a single house, that’s much more tricky than doing a single brand that has 50 locations, especially if there’s upper funnel considerations.

If we’re running disruptive marketing through Facebook or display, and we have to have assets that are branded by that individual location, from an operational point of view, that’s much more tricky. It’s also much more tricky from a performance point of view because you typically will have more bifurcated and siloed performance because you’ll only have the performance that relates to that brand that you can really rely on because brands will perform differently versus just having a single brand that is broken out into location.

The campaigns may not be segmented by location because you’re running a single brand, and you might just be targeting different locations on social media or on display, and maybe optimizing towards the best-performing locations. I think there’s a whole Lauren of considerations about the approach that is going to impact probably what you’re paying an agency in terms of how that interrelationship will work in terms of billing, but also what the performances that you can expect to get from digital.

Then the other thing too is if you’re running an actual house of brands that are not uniform in any way in terms of your experience, so your website experience is a great one, then you may have wildly different user experiences. Then when you think about things like forecasting, questions that we typically get as an agency is if I give you extra hundred thousand, what would I get for that?

It’s so much harder to do that with a house of brands because the performance is so much more varied across those different brands versus if it was a single brand where the user experience is the same, the conversion rates are typically the same, and all that. I think where possible, unless there is a lot of brand equity, it’s better to operate under a single brand in terms of deploying things rapidly, getting things out to market, managing assets, driving more consistent performance.

If you are consolidating and acquiring shops that have been in these communities for decades, they may have an amazing brand presence, and they may have amazing brand power, and so trying to rebrand them may be a huge issue. Then you could lose the existing patient base, and you can lose the existing patient reputation, so those are the things that you have to balance.

Lauren: You said it well that the argument purely from a digital marketing standpoint when it comes to singular brand is more efficiency, less assets to manage, centralized budget. Your agency is going to be able to do SEO and build links, generate new content, and build the authority of a single domain. Similarly, from an advertising perspective, the messaging is consistent, the services are consistent, so that’s all great.

Now, when you’re growing through acquisitions like you said, that reputation is something that in certain cases where it is really strong, there is no replacement for it. It may be that your acquisition strategy is reliant on a message that the local brand remains. There’s a lot of challenges there, and we don’t claim to prescribe one or the other, we work with clients in both. I think one thing that we’ve seen a good bit of is a bit of a hybrid model.

Maybe there are regional roll-ups and tuck-ins. Maybe there’s a regional brand in the southeast that has a great reputation, so you’re not wiping away its reputation, and then maybe you buy up some smaller groups within that region that you can tuck in because they feel confident in the brand that they’re becoming a part of, or a provider’s retiring when they give the practice away. Gone, the brand equity leaves with him anyways, maybe it’s creating a couple pillar brands and not having the 50, but maybe having 10.

Rich: The idea that it’s a binary house of brands or all under one brand, is not correct. Like you said, there is this hybrid model. It’s more of a spectrum. I think one of the things that we’ve seen is huge DSOs who will co-brand some of their locations and will do it regionally based on– I think initially, the marketing requirements, I think actually the brand-new requirements, but then it was determined that actually, co-branding with the main provider, with the owner was preferable, but then they had a common user experience.

They were subdomains on the same website, so all those benefits that you were talking about consolidating under a brand, and then you’ll have some that they will co-brand every location. It will be such and such orthodontics in conjunction with major DSO. You don’t have to go to one end of the spectrum or the other. I think maybe you don’t even have consistency inside of your own system.

You can have different rules, and you can have different configurations of this. I think, again, and I mentioned this on the previous podcast, communication with your agency and everyone who’s working on the account is so important if you have a nuanced configuration like that because your agency might not understand why are these non-branded and why are these branded?

What’s the benefit? I think, again, if you can educate everybody who’s working on your account as to why you have things set up in such a way, and also educate them if there’s any plans in the future to change those things, that would be massively beneficial to them in giving them that context to then operate from.

Lauren: If you listen to the podcast regularly, you’ve heard Alex and I talk about top things that new marketers can do or new MSOs can focus on. One of the things that we recommend often is, if you’re retaining separate brands to really tackle your website platform and make that uniform, which you mentioned obviously helps significantly with user experience, consistency.

There’s also the whole tech stack that lives behind everything we do, that in the case of house of brands, tends to be disparate and make it even more complicated. What are some of the things that you’ve seen, whether it’s call tracking or EHR form scheduling, online booking, I mean, that’s where things really get to a place where it’s so complex that it’s really hard to think about any economies of scale. Each business just becomes its own true entity that you need to market for.

Rich: When you talk about tracking and multi-brand, it’s somewhat triggering.


Lauren: Bringing you back to a dark place.

Rich: Yes, exactly. Tracking is a huge challenge if you have a ton of disparate brands, and in particular, if they have different websites that are built in different ways. We’ve definitely had situations where we’ll have 50 Google Analytics accounts that we are putting in, and every single analytics goals within those accounts are set up differently. They don’t marry to each other, but then the client will want to see the data aggregated across all of them.

It’s like, how do you add this goal to this goal when they’re not really the same? They’re different. How do you categorize all that? You can create huge complexities by having not just a multi-brand approach, but if you’re just essentially inheriting websites from these brands that you’ve acquired, and you’re keeping them on different platforms, maybe they’ve got different Laurening, the nightmare scenario can come true quite quickly.

If you’re going to go down the multi-brand approach, the chances are if you’re a large company, and you’re inheriting a small practice, the chances are, you probably already have a much more sophisticated website. You probably have a much more proven user experience that is a lot more effective at converting patients than that practice did because that practice is probably built on the reputation of that provider.

It’s probably not something that they’ve put a ton of money into or a ton of effort into. What I would say is have a re-platforming strategy when you’re acquiring brands, even if you plan to stay multi-brand because it’s amazing how you’ll see so many MSOs that may have 50 brands underneath them, and none of them have been re-platformed. The amount of extra work that you’re creating to try and then measure everything correctly, set it up, aggregate it, report out on it is staggering.

Lauren: The re-platforming, we use that often when it comes to the websites, but call tracking solutions, form tracking solutions. Obviously, EHRs are a whole different operational consideration that we don’t tend to get involved in, but the MSOs that are streamlining operational technologies, that’s a huge impact and benefit from a marketing perspective. Even just these front-end platforms, reputation management software, listing management software, all of these things can be unified, so there are definitely ways to make it less painful.

I always say to clients that are starting new MSOs, “You guys are small now. You can do all of this now. Do you know how painful it is when you do have 10, 20, 30 sites to then consider some of these things then?” So do it while you’re small.

Rich: Yes, exactly. Create the user experience you want, and then replicate it out as you acquire those new brands.

Lauren: All right, Rich, like most of our topics, there’s plenty more we could say here, so we’ll put it on for a future podcast. Thank you guys for listening, like, comment, subscribe wherever you’re listening, and tune in next time.


Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.

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