Lauren Leone: “One of the benefits of having an in-house team is that you will have strong brand identity, communications, cohesive creative. These are things that you, as an in-house team, live and breathe every day. It’s going to be really hard for an agency who is not sitting in your office to really understand the brand the way that you’re going to understand it, it’s the only thing you work on.”
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, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.
Alex Membrillo: What’s going on everybody, welcome to Ignite. Wow. Can I be more excited? Welcome to the show, Lauren, our SEB of healthcare marketing. How you doing?
Lauren Leone: Hey Alex, how are you?
Alex: Guys, this is going to be a fun one, and I’ll tell you why. We are going to talk about how to correctly structure an in-house healthcare marketing team for high-performance high-growth groups. I’m excited about this one because a ton of money is flowing into consumer healthcare right now for PE groups, money is cheap. You’re seeing tons of investment, tons of roll-ups, healthcare is antiquated, so it’s perfect. It’s right for the picking and they’re growing like crazy as they should because consumer healthcare, the patients deserve a better experience, and so we’re consolidating and making it better for them.
Today we’re going to talk about how to structure your in-house marketing team and how to augment with a marketing agency. All right, Lauren. Getting into it, what is the typical in-house marketing team look like? Give me two iterations. Of course we have the big guys are spending a million a month with us, they have a lot of different roles. We can talk about that. Tell me about the small guys first, where do you start? What’s the first hire?
Lauren: A marketing lead someone with marketing in their title, someone that is not your receptionist, who’s not your customer service specialist. Most importantly, isn’t actually providing care to the patients because this is, if you really want to grow, you need time to really build a marketing team. First step, I see a lot of practices really just starting to invest in their first marketing specialist. That is a great place to start someone whose only job it is to focus on marketing.
Alex: Would you say that that person not a practice admin either? Lauren’s absolutely right, and not giving care, digital marketing background necessary?
Lauren: I think with where marketing is going, it’s a great plus, but that’s why there are agencies like Cardinal, you can’t, and won’t be a specialist in all things, I’m not either. You need to supplement your skills and your capabilities with outside resources. It’s a plus, I don’t know that it’s necessary at least understand your marketing goals, who your audiences, where you’re trying to go as an organization and then bring people in to help you.
Alex: I see the liaison is often taken on the marketing thing, which is fine, but they need to be paired with a really savvy digital marketing firm that knows what they’re doing and can help. Let’s talk about the bigger firms. What are the important roles you see? Then be honest, tell us the stupid roles, like what other you see, like some of the bigger firms, not our clients. What are the roles that are overlapping and agency were doing better, tell us everything.
Lauren: After you get someone who can see the bigger picture and understand the goal and know how to pull the strings to make those things happen, what we see a lot of organizations doing is pulling in someone responsible for the general category of communications. That’s in and of itself quite a wide category, and maybe eventually have to supplement there too, but making sure that your organization has a point of view, a place in the marketplace and is saying the same things across all of the channels. That may be internal communications, current patient communications, messaging strategies for new patients, PR helping as you grow, make sure those announcements get out there, but just general communications and messaging and making sure that it’s a unified approach is really the next hire that a lot of groups are making.
Alex: With the role that’s making sure the communications and the acquisitions are being folded into the marketing strategy appropriately as good, any silly roles, any silly roles that you say, oh, that was pointless.
Lauren: It’s interesting, at a certain size a group eventually will need an in-house digital specialist, an in-house paid search manager, if you are the right size. It’s interesting when the first hire that a group makes is someone so specialized that you could really bring an agency in to do that function and 10 other functions for something, a similar fee to what you may pay in a salary plus overhead. Think about just wider capabilities when you bring someone in-house because they can at least oversee specialized contractors or agencies.
Alex: A lot of the biggest firms out there, they have a decent in-house team that knows enough to be dangerous and can navigate challenge and push the agency, but they are not doing their own SEO and search and paid social in-house thankfully job security. Talk to us a little bit about how the agency, when and how an agency should come in and augment. I think a lot of groups, they grow, should I take, keep it fully in-house when do I bring in the agency? What’s the tipping point and how do we help or hinder progress?
Lauren: The tipping point is when you realize that whether it’s SEO, paid search, trying to do a branding campaign or a reach campaign, that you’re just out of your depth in knowledge of the platform itself. Not every general marketer can be, which Alex and I are not either. I am not the Google ads execution specialist, I am not on the phone with Google every week to know exactly what betas are coming and how the platform and algorithms are changing. If I were to jump in and be responsible for running the account myself, I would be out of my depth. It’s time, I’m spending over $10,000 a month. It’s a serious investment. New patients are more than 50% of what I need to grow my business. I really need to bring in someone specialized to help me make this thing happen.
Alex: Absolutely. Specialization very important agencies can help there. Is it more cost-effective to do the agency thing or FTEs?
Lauren: When you think about a really strong, solid FTE with all the benefits that you have to pay them, and maybe you pay them $10,000 a month all in, an agency fee for $10,000 may get you SEO and paid search team, and you’ve got a, truly a team of people. You’re not relying on one person who can get sick or go out on vacation or have a honeymoon or have a baby. You’ve just got a much wider breadth of skills when you put those funds into working with an agency than a single human being.
Alex: It’s interesting, I think a lot of high growth groups think, “Hey, once I get to seven figures a month I spend, that’s when I need a specialized search person and run it all,” but one search person can’t run the whole thing and they’re only working in that client all day so you don’t get the innovation there. It’s like you never want the [unintelligible 00:06:22] running the whole thing big or small, but you need people that know what the heck is going on to push the agency in the right direction and keep them honest.
Lauren: If you’re spending seven figures a month, you should have someone in-house that does know the ins and outs of paid search, but there are strategists, it’s a waste of their time to be pacing a budget every morning, but they understand the nuances of the engine and where it’s moving, where it’s going, and are also able to identify when that is or is not meeting goals. Then they’re directing a team of agency specialists how to proceed.
Alex: When is it really great to have the majority of it in-house? Tell us about the benefits to the big in-house teams.
Lauren: Things like creative, and branding, and brand identity and communications. Like I mentioned before, those are things that you, as an in-house team live and breathe every day, it’s going to be really hard for an agency who is not sitting in your office to really understand the brand the way that you’re going to understand it, it’s the only thing you work on. If you’re working on a branding initiative and, or an influencer program, or you’re wanting to revamp the way that you position yourselves in the marketplace, think about having a lead in-house who can really run that. Content is something I see a lot of people bringing in–house again, because if you want a really specialized writer that only knows how to write from your brand point of view, you got to have someone in-house, any other writer that you hire on Upwork, contractor or agency otherwise is going to be writing a hundred things that week, and that’s just the nature of the way it goes. Those are the kinds of things that you can start bringing in-house to be really focused on.
Alex: Brand, communications create a very important. One of the things that makes me nervous is what the big in-house teams, they don’t get to see what other clients are doing. We bring so many– Talk to us about a couple of specific, like what do we see on certain accounts that we end up bringing to others and anything digital marketing analytics related? Is there value to keeping the agency around just for that?
Lauren: We have innovation happening in a couple of ways. We go out and seek it out. We’re always looking to test new betas. We’ll have a multi location group and we’ll test a new way of setting up the campaigns and bidding. If that works really well, we’re going to go to our other clients and say, “This just worked, we were able to increase conversions by X percentage, we’re going to roll this out in your account,” so you get that innovation. We also get the added benefit of sometimes we’re working with a client that has another partner, or they have a technology that gets suggested to them.
It actually brings that to our attention, we get to see how it works, and then we go to other clients and say, ‘Why are we not doing this?” There’s just a lot more opportunity for overlap and conversations to be had that could potentially bring something new to the table. In-house, it’s going to be limited to the people that you look at every day.
Alex: I know you’re tired of looking at me every day. I think Lauren wants an agency for our agency.
Lauren: I love something new. Every time I meet with anyone in our team, I meet with a vendor, I learn about a new opportunity. Unless you have some outside communication outside of your organization, it’s going to be hard to make that happen.
Alex: The most advanced. When I was interviewing CMOs on Ignite, and now we’ve pivoted that more towards the round tables on our webinars, which sign up for all of them, if you’re listening, Lauren hosts them generally, they’re very good. When I was talking to CMOs, the one thing I kept hearing for the majority of the ones that were really successful was they take a lot of inbound sales calls. Someone hits them up on LinkedIn with a new platform idea, whatever, they’ll take it three out of four times just to see what is out there. Sometimes they bring it to their current team and they say, “Guys, check this out”. Sometimes it works. I think the marketers that get stagnant or feel like they’ve been successful, I think that’s the danger zone. Take that call from that platform, that agency, they may have some cool ideas. Just give it back to your in-house team, if you have to, it didn’t cost you anything and they gave you some ideas, maybe you’ll use them in the future. Very good. Any final thoughts Lauren on agency versus in-house, any other pros cons that you’d like to call out?
Lauren: Really, what I try to tell my clients is our intention is to be an extension of your team. What I really think is a great way to approach this conversation potentially with an agency is lay out for them what you have in-house capabilities around already and ask them to supplement it because every agency can bring you their list of capabilities and you may have some of them in-house and just go to them and present to them what you think your gaps are and allow them to come up with creative ways to fill it, rather than putting them in a box and saying, “I only need you for this one thing.” I think that’s how our best collaborative engagements begin.
Alex: Before you ask them for their capabilities, go to their website, check out the top three things under what we do. Those are their top capabilities. No agency under 500 people’s good at more than two or three things and go ahead and find multiple specialist agencies. Don’t try to find the Omnicom or the [unintelligible 00:11:01] There are very few healthcare groups that are big enough for one of the bigger holding agencies that’s good at everything. Very few healthcare is just not there unless you’re one of the big pharmas. Go ahead and find specialized agencies, your organic social, your paid media, your SEO, your traditional, all that kind of stuff.
I think that’s very important, get your specialists in there. They’ll bring the innovation to you and augment with an in-house team that can keep brand and communications. Lauren, thank you for joining us on Ignite. Super helpful learning how to scale up in-house teams. Hope to have you back soon.
Lauren: Thanks, Alex.
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