For many healthcare practitioners marketing is a sort of guilty secret. They know that in this dog-eat-dog world they ought to do it, and yet it doesn’t seem right when you’re in the business of helping people.
The bigger names, though – the ones you know not because they’re better but because their marketing is better – are living proof that it can and should be done.
So far so obvious.
The next – and equally important – question is should you do it yourself or should you pay a professional to do it?
Like many questions in healthcare itself, there are pros and cons in each individual case and therefore no one simple answer. And before we go any further, let’s look at the case for the prosecution.
I speak as a tech professional who helps others with their online presence, although I am not selling my own skills here.
By the way, my experience of healthcare is on the receiving end, and in a very specific but also very broad area. Before I cleaned up and got my life in order, I was both an alcoholic and a drug addict. My journey back to fully-functioning wellness brought me into contact with medical professionals from addiction experts to psychologists and nutritionists
You may not know much about this, and if you want to find out, you can learn about addiction here. I needed professional help – and I got it. And it probably saved my life. And I will be forever grateful.
As regards doing your social media marketing yourself or using an agency, in my opinion there are six things to consider.
1. Do you have the skills?
You know deep down whether you’re up to it or not: you just need to be honest with yourself. Are you “good with technology” or does it drive you round the bend? When a technological issue arises do you tackle it yourself or do you immediately reach out to the nearest teenager and get them to tell you how?
It’s no use being just “quite good” at this. You can get in a real mess if you don’t know what you’re doing on the technical side. I’m sure you have no time for cowboys (better known as charlatans in your profession). Step out of your own area of expertise and that’s what you can become.
AND IT’S NOT JUST THE TECHNOLOGY
That just picks the lock to the office. Once you’re in there you will need to know what you need to do, as well as how to do it.
So, how’s your understanding of social media? Can you sum it up in a sentence? Can you explain how it has crossed over from teenagers telling each other about their crushes to being a business tool?
What part does this brave new world of social media play in your business plan?
A social media marketing company knows all about it. Because that’s what they do.
2. Do you have the time?
Let’s say you answered yes to question 1. You’re confident you have the aptitude, the technological grasp and the knowledge of the marketing business, which may be home to a certain amount of BS merchants but also contains some very clever and accomplished people.
Have you thought about how long this would take you every week? Or is that the very reason you’re reading this – because it’s taking up too much of your time?
It’s time away from your core business. Even if you’re the senior partner, handling the business side, chances are you’re still involved with patients to a certain extent, because that’s where your heart lies – it’s why you went into healthcare in the first place.
Do you really have the time to spend implementing your social media strategy and all the nuts-and-bolts work that goes with it?
3. Equipment and software
Walk into a marketing agency’s offices and in addition to the very different characters you’ll find lurking there, you will see IT equipment that your office doesn’t have. They’ll be using software that you’ve never even heard of. Sure, you can maybe master it, but you’re not the master of it right now.
So that’s more time, more money, more energy devoted to doing it yourself.
4. Knowledge of your business
This is where the tables are turned. Your sphere of expertise is something you’ve built up over the years and no outside agency is going to get past first base with it.
That means if you put them in charge of your social media marketing you’re going to have to give them an intensive introduction to your area and insist that they bug you constantly for information, because you can’t allow them to make it up as they go along.
A good social media company will have at least one writer, who is adept at writing about anything you throw at them. But he or she will either be rehashing your ideas or finding information on the net and using that. That’s dangerous and you will have to scrutinize every word they write, to make sure they haven’t introduced something that shouldn’t be there.
And then there are the designers. These (often very talented) people will occasionally need a header, a caption or a line or two to make their design look right. They don’t see words, they see shapes, but they will be putting words in your mouth.
However, a proof-reading and general checking session takes far less time than doing the writing and design yourself.
This is closely related to the time and skills sections. Using an outside company to do your social media marketing doesn’t come cheap. So you’ll have to get a quote, or several quotes, and balance their projected charges against what it would cost you to be devoting your time to it. And factor in the effectiveness too. If these guys know what’s going to be productive and profitable for you, they might be generating extra income. Conversely, if you don’t know what works and what doesn’t, you could be pouring money down the drain.
6. Trust and control
The moment you employed someone else rather than being a one-man band, you relinquished a degree of control, and while you can stay at the helm and be involved in as many decisions as you want to, gradually you have to put your trust in people.
If you’re the type who can’t do that within your own four walls, how are you going to feel when this techie crew on the other side of town are doing their stuff on your behalf?
I can’t tell you which is the right way to do it: only you can make that decision.
So, do it yourself? There are those who say you should and those who say you shouldn’t. The six points above should lead you to your decision.