I frequently encounter the grim consequences private practices face after selecting the wrong digital marketing consultant. The symptoms are usually quite apparent: too much money sunk into a website that’s been left to float rank-less in cyberspace with not a session in sight, neglected advertising campaigns auto-piloted by a bot somewhere in silicon valley, and by the time I enter the picture the complaint is almost always that the private practice is seeing negative returns on their overall digital marketing services.

In an effort to help I’ve developed the checklist below that you can use to screen any digital marketing consultants that may cross your path.

Look for a Specialist with Experience in Medical Marketing

I recommend hiring a collection of carefully screened specialists as opposed to signing up for ‘bundled’ digital marketing services from big agencies. Specialists don’t have the overhead large agencies do and can therefore keep their costs low. They also have a tendency to stay ahead of the curve because they know that’s the only thing that truly sets them apart from the competition. Although there are some bad apples out there specialists tend to be lean, flexible and ahead-of-the-curve and that’s exactly the kind of energy you want to harness to progress your company forward.

Before you begin your search understand what kind of specialist you need to meet your goals. Do you need help with branding? Do you need SEO to bring organic traffic through to your site? Perhaps your advertising campaigns haven’t seen a conversion in what feels like a lifetime and you need the expertise of a PPC specialist? Each of the problems I’ve outlined above should be solved by an individual specialist with a heavily focused skill set. Familiarize yourself with the specific services that comprise ‘Digital Marketing’ and outline where you need to start to most benefit your business. You can always add specialists down the road who can grow subsequent marketing channels.

With regards to medical marketing, not only do I recommend finding a specialist for the specific service your practice needs help with, but it wouldn’t hurt if they had help managing other medical marketing campaigns.

Look for the Necessary Certifications

Once you know what kind of specialist you need, try to get a sense of what certifications they should have. Mostly, you’re looking to see that they’re certified by the platforms they’ll be working on. For example, if you hire a Facebook Advertising specialist, make sure they’ve completed their Facebook BluePrint Certification, if they’ll be managing your Google accounts (adwords, analytics etc.) look to make sure they have their Google Partners Certification. Most platforms have a certification program like this you can look for.

Make sure the individual who is managing your accounts is directly certified! A broad ‘agency-wide certification’ is not enough. The person who will have their hands on your account must be certified.

Experience over Education

Apart from the certifications above which should indicate an expert-level knowledge of the platforms they work with on a daily basis, I actually recommend valuing experience over education, especially when it comes to the medical industry. These days everyone has a BBA/MBA but Digital Marketing is a newer industry and the tools are not only new but they’re also technical and they change rapidly. If you’re hunting for a specialist and you’re stuck between two candidates choose the one that hands you a case study with the positive ROI they were able to achieve for past clients in the medical field over the candidate who hands you their degree.

Ask for Medical Marketing Case Studies

As I’ve hinted at in point #3, this is a no-brainer. Any qualified specialist should be able to hand over case studies outlining how their work has directly delivered positive returns for past clients in the medical field. If they can’t do so, move on.

Beware Social Media ‘Big-Shots’

Social media is unquestionably helpful for medical marketing, however, it should be rolled out in a specific manner by a specialist. Sorry to sound redundant but the reason you’ll need a specialist here is that there are very specific rules surrounding how ‘medical services’ can be presented on social media. It’s easy to get your accounts suspended by breaking the rules. I’ll also add that social media marketing is usually the third or fourth marketing channel I encourage practices to focus on. I have a blog post outlining the order in which marketing channels should be prioritized. In a nutshell, other channels deliver leads faster more affordably which is why I usually recommend focusing on social media once the other channels are churning out leads in the short-term.

I put this one at the bottom of the list because chances are if you’ve followed steps 1-4 you’ll have filtered out all the sales-talkers that plague the digital marketing industry. They usually pump aggressive sales videos out on social media featuring a lot of planes, cars and suits. They’re also notorious for making promises they can’t keep. On the off-chance that one slipped through and you’re about to be charmed by their sweet talk please keep in mind that they talk incessantly because digital marketing isn’t what they do, talking is what they do. If they stop talking, they stop delivering the only skill they have to market. And so they prattle on. Don’t fall for it and don’t underestimate the damage a bad digital marketing consultant or agency can do. I have a separate post on this here if you care to read about the other red flags I encourage everyone to be aware of.

Manage Your Expectations: When Will Your Medical Marketing Accounts Start Performing?

Once you’ve selected a Digital Marketing Consultant to work with, it’s important to know what reasonable expectations are. I can offer up some numbers based on my experience working on the accounts I manage. It varies a little bit depending on the channel. For example, medical advertising campaigns tend to start delivering leads almost immediately. If you’ve had the campaign running for a few days you should feel a corresponding increase in leads.

On the other hand, SEO (organic website traffic growth) in the medical field can take longer. This will depend on the medical specialization (more on that below). In my opinion you should notice subtle increases in traffic at the 2-3 week mark and significant improvement in rankings 2-3 months out. It’s not going to be an over-night job but it’s also not going to take 6 months to a year as many consultants/agencies would have you think (usually while they ask you to sign a nice long-term contract). SEO will feel much slower than advertising, however, if you feel like nothing at all is happening then it’s likely something is wrong.

To clarify the above statement: “this will depend on the medical specialization” I can also provide further insight here. Achieving organic rankings for MD’s and pharmaceutical terms is the most challenging because these keywords tend to have the highest direct ROI’s associated with them – therefore they are quite competitive. It follows that it’s easier to achieve organic rankings for what I will call ‘niche’ medical fields like physiotherapy, chiropractic services, natropaths etc.