If you are googling around for the best healthcare digital marketing agency, you’ve probably been struggling to find any promising agencies through other channels.
I’ve always found referrals to be the best way to find a good agency partner but it can be challenging to find specialists in healthcare that also fit the tech startup business model. Not to mention if we communicate well with them and if their pricing is within the range we are looking for.
It can be a little weird to respond to random cold emails since it’s hard and time-consuming to verify if the vendors are legit as case studies are easy to spin with good presentation.
On the other hand, as a healthcare tech startup that has to be mindful of budgets and stakeholders, it’s unlikely that we’ll work with the well-known traditional enterprise healthcare agencies as they are often out of our price range until we go from startup to established enterprise.
I’ve gathered a list of healthcare digital marketing agencies that look exciting and relevant to our industry. After a breakdown of the list, we’ll dive into what to look out for when hiring an agency such as how to think about the KPI we give them and ideas to mitigate the situation if they don’t deliver results.
7 top healthcare digital marketing agencies
Let’s look at seven examples of healthcare digital marketing agencies that might be relevant for your startup.
- Cardinal digital marketing
- Healthcare Success
- Practice Builders
- Evolve Healthcare Marketing
- Stone Arch Creative
- Franklin Street
1. Cardinal digital marketing
Location: Atlanta, USA
Year founded: 2009
Team size: 48
Description: Cardinal Digital Marketing specifically works with healthcare businesses. They focus on increasing the patient volume, patient engagement and physician referrals for clients through paid media and SEO. They work with hospitals, specialty clinics, urgent care facilities, dental clinics and they’ve worked with clients like LifeStance health and Smile Doctors.
Location: Orlando and Atlanta, USA
Year founded: 2014
Team size: 10
Description: Intrepy brands themselves the patient-centric healthcare marketing agency and works on projects related to graphic design, reputation management for doctors, digital advertising, SEO, and a whole lot more. Their clients are in the mental health, urology, and cardiology space among others.
3. Healthcare Success
Location: LA and New York, USA
Year founded: 2006
Team size: 50+
Description: Healthcare Success works with businesses selling medical devices, specialty clinics, pharma/biotech, and hospitals to name a few. Their client roster boasts of companies like Cleveland Clinic, Medscape, Clemson University, and Henry Schein that they’ve helped with branding, content marketing, SEO, digital ads, website creation, and even traditional advertising and media.
4. Practice Builders
Location: Spartanburg, USA
Year founded: 1979
Team size: 7
Description: Practice Builders also work on SEO, website design, reputation management, content, and social media among other projects for their clients. As a healthcare marketing agency, they work with what feels like every type of clinic under the sun, including medspas, dermatology, OBGYN, plastic surgery, and dentists.
5. Evolve Healthcare Marketing
Location: Chicago, USA
Year founded: NA
Team size: NA
Description: Evolve Healthcare Marketing is a data-driven healthcare digital marketing agency that helps clinics with patient acquisition and works with both B2B and B2C clients. They also help with projects around branding, analytics along with other tasks relevant to digital performance marketing.
6. Stone Arch Creative
Location: Minneapolis, USA
Year founded: 1984
Team size: 43
Description: Stone Arch is a full-service healthcare digital marketing agency that focuses on storytelling and helps with projects like content strategy, brand identity, and standards along with different media campaigns like digital and print. They work with clients in the pharmacy, sleep, wellness, fitness, and apparel space along with many others. They are also a part of Fishawack Health – a global health communications agency network.
7. Franklin Street
Location: Richmond, USA
Year founded: NA
Team size: 16
Description: Franklin Street is a brand innovation agency working with health businesses with marketing, brand strategy, and creative projects. They’ve helped companies like Bayhealth, VCUHealth, Geisinger, and Martin Health System and offer a free brand checkup on their website to rebound quickly from Covid.
Notes and things to look out for when hiring a healthcare digital marketing agency
Many of us tend to feel as if preparing an in-depth agency brief is not the best use of our time and unfortunately, there’s a wealth of agencies that also feel as if that isn’t needed before starting a project.
Both are solid ways to ensure that we postpone any potential problems and allow them to lurk in the shadows before showing up when we need them the least. In the name of completing successful projects, I’d like to share a few examples of what I’ve found important to ask ourselves before working with agencies. Often, it’s challenges on the client-side that cause a project to go sideways, either due to internal politics, a change in direction or our collaborative intent that causes trouble.
Backed by venture funding, it’s often necessary for us to set unusually ambitious targets compared to other businesses. Working with external partners on reaching those KPIs can be risky as, in extreme cases, it could mean that we fail to close another funding round and the company closes down.
So the first thing I like to consider is that if the partner fails to reach the targets, for whatever reason (even market conditions out of our control), do we still have other ways to reach the KPIs within the timeframe?
Take an ecommerce store like an online pharmacy, for example. If we get help from a digital agency to grow our traffic as a part of reaching our revenue growth KPI, are there other ways we can still reach it if they fail to drive the traffic we need? What if they only manage to drive half the expected traffic?
Are we running other projects in parallel to increase the website conversion rate? How about order fulfillment?
That leads me to another important point: is it realistic to give the agency your internal KPI? Are we willing to give them enough control to reach their KPI?
If we go back to the revenue growth example, we’ll need to give them control on both driving traffic and optimizing the entire digital funnel, which can be particularly tricky in our industry since regulations tend to be strict and the wrong message can cause a lot of damage.
Even though there are a ton of shitty agencies out there, there are plenty of ones with excellent hard skills. Usually, the real problem is communication. Most of us have never worked with a truly great agency, so we’ve never seen how well the collaboration can work as an extended arm of the company.
A couple of things I’ve found handy to look out for when selecting your agency partner is:
- Do they ask a lot of questions about your business to understand it? (If you feel as if it’s to the point of being annoying, they are probably doing it right!)
- Do they suggest next steps at the end of an email, meeting, etc. where relevant, or do you have to drive the conversation and ask for updates?
- Do they respond when the news aren’t always good instead of the old ad-age of only responding to clients when there is good news?
Agencies tend to love pointing out that if the client succeeds, they’ll succeed. That’s true but if they don’t, they have little risk beyond their reputation as we’ll have learned an expensive lesson with the advertising budget they’ve spent. There’s no such thing as “risk-free” as both parties carry an opportunity cost.
The simplest way to dominate your KPIs is to hire the agency you feel good about, plan for the worst-case scenario (that they will fuck up or market conditions change), and map out other projects internally to mitigate those scenarios.
For example, if your KPI is to 3x a certain growth metric in a quarter, pick the few most promising growth levers and aim for 3x growth on each as you just need one of them to come through in order to hit your targets.
The biggest challenge both the client and agency will face is avoiding looking stupid. If the agency talks about a methodology or approach that you don’t understand, ask them about it! Your colleagues likely won’t understand either and they’ll be relieved that you did. A polite way to do it is to say “I apologize for slowing down the meeting but I don’t fully understand XYZ, would you mind explaining it again?”
Some businesses feel the need to split test agencies to get the best performance. The idea is good on paper but pragmatically it’s difficult to evaluate them as they will be sharing resources and e.g. retargeting audiences, meaning that the performance of both will suffer and we are wasting valuable time.
- Don’t depend on a digital marketing agency to deliver results to reach your internal KPIs. They work with platforms they don’t control (like Google and Facebook). Instead work on internal projects to drive the growth you need even if they don’t come through for you since even micromanaging won’t help
- If you give them a KPI, your are also equally responsible for giving them the control to achieve it (e.g. you can give them a revenue KPI and only allow them to work on traffic without conversion points)
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