5 Things to Know Before Selling PPC Agency Services to Healthcare Clients

August 12, 2016

"We don't diagnose over the phone."

You may have heard this if you’ve ever called a clinic. And with those words, your marketing agency has your newest challenge – marketing for healthcare providers. What makes it so hard?

Healthcare clients for PPC agencies surgery

In the bluntest of terms, this is a sales cycle that might end with your client slicing open their client. Clearly, the lifetime value for even one acquisition can be huge. But for you to profit from clients in the "caring business," you need to segment your verticals properly and approach these businesses in a very different way than you would for a client in another vertical.

Here are some observations, recommendations and challenges about marketing PPC agency services to healthcare clients, and tips on positioning your agency to clients in various healthcare verticals.

1. Accept That Most Healthcare Companies Don’t Understand PPC

One day, I was chatting with one of our agency clients, and he casually mentioned that he started his PPC business as a side gig... in medical school. Even after starting his own practice, he made a little extra money by managing PPC. After a while, he dumped his medical practice and became a full-time PPC manager.

Most likely, this guy will not be your client.

Healthcare clients for PPC agencies doctor with microscope

Doctors – good at medicine, not so good at PPC.

More than likely, you'll be dealing with a really smart person who spent many years in school. Unfortunately, most marketing and business knowledge is gained by experience, which they lack. Be ready to educate them on the benefits of PPC. As we’ll cover shortly, however, this requires more knowledge about the unique challenges faced by healthcare businesses, so be ready to do your homework.

2. Negatives and Long-Tail Keywords Are Really, Really Important

Be prepared to seek clarification on keywords and negatives from healthcare clients. From a search marketing point of view, negatives and long-tails will be even more critical for healthcare clients than they are in other sectors.

Think about all the online traffic that involves medical terminology. People are self-diagnosing from their iPhones, writing school papers, and googling scientific parlance that can easily overlap into your client's budget. Imagine all the college seniors doing research for their med-school applications? Yeah, those kids can inadvertently drain your client’s AdWords account.


Healthcare clients for PPC agencies plastic surgery ads

You do NOT want this to happen to your clients.

If you don't think that negatives matter, wait till you get your first plastic surgery client. I'm being intentionally vague, but they can show up for some... well... unusual queries.

3. Use Marketing Terminology Sparingly When Pitching

Something else to consider is the fact that your client is in the "caring business." For those of us in sales and marketing, we tend to assign values to clients. Cost-per-acquisition, return on investment, lifetime value, average sales price, and conversion rate are all terms that we throw around loosely. And that's fine when talking about most prospects and clients.

However, medical clients are held to really high ethical standards and bear tremendous responsibility for their clients’ health and well-being. Some of them have had their clients literally die. The level of involvement they have with their clients far supersedes ours.

In other words, it’s really easy to put someone off by equating money to human life, and that’s bad everyone’s business. Yes, they’ll want to run a cost-effective campaign, but saving lives is far more important than saving money, and it’s important to frame conversations with healthcare clients with this in mind.

4. Understand How Doctors Find Their Clients

This is critical to understanding this vertical, and the whole reason that this blog post was written.

My parents ran an independent medical practice. I didn’t know it at the time, but they would have been excellent candidates for a PPC campaign. We fell on hard times at various points and our family income was sort of boom-bust.

Healthcare clients for PPC agencies health insurance paperwork

This has to do with the lead generation process for most doctors. Many practices fall inside of various networks. Some doctors work in hospitals and get their clients in a very retail-oriented fashion (i.e. walk-ins). Other doctors are part of insurance networks and get patients sent to them through their membership. This is somewhat controversial because your choice of physician is now being dictated by your insurance company. Nevertheless, it ensures a steady pipeline.

However, none of the above applied to my mom and dad and their independent practice in rural New Hampshire. They fell outside the box.

This is where you can make your PPC offering more enticing. Before you pitch a healthcare client – especially an independent medical practice – you need to take the time to understand how they find their clients. This will require more preparatory legwork, but it could really pay off. Imagine how often healthcare clinics and small doctors’ practices are pitched by companies with no idea of how their business operates. Even doing slightly more research than everyone else will put you ahead of the curve, and even if you can’t figure out precisely how they source new business, understanding the various ways they might do this can strengthen the connection between your agency and a prospective client.

5. Know Who You Should Be Targeting with Your PPC Services

I had no idea what audiologists did until I spoke with an agency. They were focused heavily on the audiology market and running their PPC/SEO campaigns. It was an untapped resource, if you will. Untapped because so few agencies that we come across focus on medical professions. The assumption that all doctors rely on networks and partnerships for their referrals seems to permeate. And this assumption leads to a vertical that could really use search marketing.

However, this assumption is largely true. Most doctors do generate leads through their referral processes. An agency that wants to offer PPC services should target the verticals that fall outside the grid, like my parents’ practice (FYI: they ran a sports medicine practice).

You Should Be Targeting These Clients with PPC Services

You could add to this list because there’s no way that it’s all-inclusive. It’s based on conversations I’ve had with clients and on Facebook:

  • Chiropractors
  • Dentists
  • Oral Surgeons
  • Medical Spas
  • Veterinarians
  • Audiologists
  • Mental Health Counselors
  • Physical Therapists

And the crown jewel of them all – plastic surgeons

Please note that the above specialties can be found in insurance networks and therefore might not need your PPC services. However, there’s a greater likelihood than most that they’re operating as sole proprietors/independent practices and will need your help. In a field as expansive as medicine, it’s tough to make generalizations. But “personas” are a key part of marketing and these verticals are a good starting point.

Some of these specialties focus on recurring revenue (dentists, mental health, physical therapists). Others focus on major procedures (plastic surgeons, oral surgeons, medical spas). But most are hybrids and as such, you need to allocate your client’s AdWords spend accordingly.

The medical field, if properly segmented, can provide a robust pipeline to your marketing agency.  Oh…and why are plastic surgeons the crown jewel? Much like attorneys, one client conversion can generate a lot of money. As their agency, that means a larger marketing budget.

Whatever you do, just remember to apply those negatives when it comes to plastic surgeons. Your clients will thank you for it.


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