6 Steps To Find The Best Healthcare Advertising Agency

If you market a pharmaceutical product, biotechnology product, medical device, hospital or health plan, or any other brand of medical products and services, you need a talented healthcare advertising agency to help make your branding and communications as effective as possible. To find the right agency partner, follow six steps.

Step 1: Research

Go online. Search for "healthcare advertising agency" or "medical advertising," or use related keywords. Visit the sites of agencies that appear in both the sponsored links and the organic search rankings. Visit numerous sites, and take your time at each. Choosing an agency partner is important and not to be rushed. Look closely at the content of each site. Also look closely at its design and ease of navigation. Designing your website may be one of the areas where you need agency help; if their own site is lacking, beware.

Step 2: Consider core capabilities

What are your needs? Strategic and tactical planning? Creative branding? Web programming? Development of broadcast and print promotions? Social media management? Copywriting, editing, and proofreading? Think about your short-term and long-term needs. Look for an agency partner that delivers the capabilities most essential to your communication plans. Here, too, a word of caution is in order. Most agencies will say that they are "full-service." But are they truly? Do they offer equally strong design as well as promotional and technical copywriting skills? Do they provide print production capabilities (a dying art at many agencies) in addition to digital programming services? Do they have strategic and tactical planning expertise based on knowledge of diverse sectors of the healthcare industry?

Step 3: Review Case Studies

Analyze the case studies your agency candidates feature on their website. Do they show a clear challenge, solution, and outcome? Do they appear strategic as well as creative? Don't over-emphasize whether the case studies exactly match your specific market challenge. The objective is to assess the diversity of challenges the agency helps address, the creativity of their solutions, and the results of their efforts.

Step 4: Schedule a presentation

Once you have found several agency candidates, schedule a presentation with each. Provide them with as much guidance as possible, for example, "We would like to see samples of your work in launching cardiovascular drug therapies" or, even more specifically, "We would like to discuss your experience in promoting respiratory care technology to physicians and allied health professionals." Emphasize that you would like to see the agency's best work in any market, but also want to devote half (or more) of the presentation to your specialty area. At the presentation, look closely at the content: the case studies shared and other selling points the agency features. But also look at the agency representatives' presentation style. Do they appear relaxed, organized, and confident? Are they the kind of people you can entrust your brand and budget to? Are they the kind of people you want to work with on a day-in, day-out basis?

Step 5. Request references

After narrowing down your list of candidates, contact all who made presentations to thank them for their time. From those candidates who remain contenders, request three references from both current and former clients. Contact each promptly and ask about the quality of the agency's work, the value they deliver, their level of service...as well as the strongest and weakest qualities of the agency's work and people.

Step 6: Propose a trial project

Now that you have vetted your agency candidates' credentials, give each a trial project. Spell out the parameters clearly and equally for all agencies. If feasible, offer a modest fee for the effort (this helps the agencies recoup at least some of the often significant expense involved in this type of work). Perhaps you would like to see preliminary concepts for a new advertising campaign. Or a proposal of ideas for advisory board activities. Or a schematic showing potential social media cross-promotions. Invite each candidate to present their work, in person or via WebEx or other means. Once again, closely observe not only the quality of the work but also the quality of the presentation.