Digital Marketing Held Hostage

Paying cash for key to locked website

In professional web services, as in life, there is no free lunch—but there are trade-offs. When elective healthcare practices decide between various digital marketers, they must consider and find a balance among performance, price, and independence. They must also take care to avoid placing themselves in danger of being held hostage by their provider.

Performance is a simple and vital factor. It’s about doing the right things, in the right sequence, at the right rate to maximize long-term “Return on Investment” (ROI) for the practice while protecting the practice’s reputation and digital assets. Naturally, delivering true performance necessitates some transparent means of monitoring, measuring, and reporting on key metrics. And if there is a question of whether a particular digital marketing group will deliver on performance, that alone should be automatic grounds for elimination from consideration.

Price is a more complex factor, because it’s generally divided among the costs of one-time projects, ongoing promotional tactics, and ad hoc maintenance requests. Some vendors price their services in convenient “all you can eat” buffet packages, while other vendors will offer services “à la carte,” focusing on custom solutions, superior ROI, and superior attention to detail in every single tactic. Some vendors deliver the same plate of tactics every month for the same price. Others customize and refine each month’s approach for delivery of the best financial results. 

Independence is an even less tangible consideration, but it is arguably the most crucial. In part, this factor involves flexibility to adjust tactics in real time, as search algorithms and digital marketing choices are constantly evolving. More so, it includes the presence or absence of long-term promotional contracts with content, design, hosting, or sometimes even URLs held as collateral. Ultimately, practice independence is the freedom to readily switch vendors without hassle or harrowing costs. 

When appreciating the value of independence, consider that two things represent lost time that will never be recovered: lackluster marketing campaigns where practices knowingly underperform, and practices spending months (or longer) questioning their performance or path due to lack of reporting. This is precious time; which competitors can adeptly use to examine their own performance data for leveraging ever-improving tactics. Subsequently, this can allow them to dominate their market for search ranking and superior digital marketing engagement. Then, these competitors can further refine their activities to be ever more productive in driving inquiries from successful conversion tactics.  (Previous Blog: The Value of Time)

As a sober reality check, consider that because of the way patients search for, select and pay cash for elective healthcare services, there is significant ROI available for practices marketing themselves effectively. That superior ROI can fund expansion, new personnel, new equipment, and additional marketing, and other investments. It can provide practices with powerful options for growth and change, and, of course, it supports long-term profitability. 

For all these reasons, practices should carefully consider the balance of performance, price, and independence. While they may quickly recoup the higher investment from a superior marketing campaign, they will never recover the years (typically) lost in subpar performance from inferior marketing efforts. Too often, practices are paralyzed for years for lack of independence while finishing out some marketing plan or while trying to decide on the best new direction.

How are practices held hostage? Some providers hold onto the marketing keys (username and passwords) to social media profiles or websites so that the practice can’t make independent changes to content or switch vendors. Vendors often host websites on servers under their own control. Subsequently, practices will struggle to wrest that website control away. In these instances, they too often end up paying migration costs and other “fees” to safely move their own sites to independent servers or to the servers of a newly chosen vendor.

More often, though, practices are held to long-term contracts where the design or text-based content and other vital assets are withheld if the practice wishes to leave early and to optimize their site with some other vendor. No doubt this approach may seem attractive for practices struggling at the start, without the means to fund superior performance. However, when practices have completed sufficient due diligence to know with confidence that there truly is a significant ROI from proper promotional marketing online, they should do the math and do everything necessary to retain their freedom and maximize the likelihood for performance. Without the prerogative to leave at any time, practices are betting their freedom and their financial health on the hope and promise of a particular web services vendor.

There’s a more esoteric reason to weigh independence more highly. Those vendors that allow practices the freedom to leave at any time are demonstrating with their very business model that they believe strongly in the results of their work and their approach. They’ll generally go to greater lengths to be data driven and to provide performance transparency because their clients’ long-term loyalty must be continuously earned. In other words, they have more incentive to innovate, to deliver results, and to satisfy clients. 

In the end, practices can realistically expect to win two out of three when it comes to performance, price, and independence. We would argue that independence and performance—and the significant long-term ROI they deliver—should outweigh price. If there’s any doubt, ask existing and potential vendors about how much performance can be expected and whether it will be transparently documented. Ask how confident the provider is to allow practices the freedom to leave at any time, while not holding any practice’s digital assets hostage. Then, make the call.

BrentCavender

Brent Cavender

Brent Cavender is a co-founder of MetaMed Marketing. He heads up business development and marketing for MetaMed where he is the organization's chief practice educator and primary point of contact.

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