“Dating” Clients (aka How it Feels to Build a New Healthcare Marketing Relationship)
Dear (Potential) Clients:
When I spoke recently with a friend who is single, I couldn’t help but feel relieved that I’m happily married and not having to navigate the dating world. But then it occurred to me: Working with new hospital clients is a lot like dating – with all the excitement and questions that go with it.
After all, it’s a new relationship. And whether it’s for romance or for healthcare marketing, new relationships always seem to start the same. So if you begin receiving calls or emails from a certain healthcare advertising agency, here’s a glimpse of all the tumultuous emotions on our end.
Asking You Out
It all starts with the initial phone call. We feel confident, smart and full of nervous energy. We know we have a lot to offer you, but there’s still a knot in our stomachs as we dial your phone number for the first time…
We quickly think “Do I leave a message or not? No one likes to listen to voicemail any more. Hang up – Quick!”
Now what? How long should we wait to try again? Did you see that we called on your caller ID? We don’t want to look too desperate. Better wait and try again tomorrow.
The next day, the excitement (and knots) are back as we dial your number. Aw, man − missed you again! Now we have to leave a message. As we’re leaving it, our minds are racing with all the “rules” to follow:
“Make sure it’s friendly, and brief, and confident, but not pushy….”
We hang up and immediately critique ourselves. The message was good, right? Or was it too long-winded? We wish we could re-record it. Oh, well…
And now we wait. How long before we should try you again? You definitely got the message, right?
The Call Back
Our phone rings two days later at the worst possible time. We’re about to run into a meeting, but we’re so excited to hear from you we stop to take the call.
As we’re saying, “Hi!” we’re also frantically shuffling around our desk for our carefully prepared notes… where is that cheat sheet of questions? The excited energy stirs up once again, along with a new list of rules:
“Be professional, yet friendly. Speak slowly and show personality… but don’t talk too much about yourself (or the company). Remember to listen! Get you to talk about yourself.”
You agree to a lunch date and we wrap up the call with a fluttering heart.
The First “Date”
Scheduling the lunch brings another round of excitement and nerves. Should we pick the location or ask you to? What type of food do you like? Do we send you a text or an email? In the email do we close with, “Thanks, Regards, or Cheers”? After lots of back and forth, the time, date and place are locked in – but we both end up sending Outlook invites…
The night before the lunch date, we lay out our outfit. Is it too conservative? Or is it screaming, “Let’s jump into a marketing project together”? The next day we leave the office 10 minutes early to be sure to get there on time. Along the drive, we think of topics to discuss – current events, TV shows, weather. No politics or religion!
We really hope you look the same as your LinkedIn or Facebook photo – it would be pretty bad if we walk right by you! What is the appropriate greeting? Do we hug? Air kiss? Shake hands? Wave?
When seated, we remember to turn off our cell phone. Then comes the typical get-to-know you questions (we hope we’ll have something in common to build on): Where did you grow up? How long have you lived here? How long have you worked at (insert hospital name here)? Do you have kids?
Next we’re thinking, “Does it matter who orders first? We hope there is no awkward silence. Keep the questions rolling!” The discussion finally takes the turn to business. Do you have a business problem that we can help you solve?
Here is where we hit our stride. After all, we KNOW we have a lot to offer. We understand your business. We have experience with your pain points. We’re in the zone and really enjoying the conversation – and excited about the potential for more.
Lunch winds down and the wheels start turning again. Like leaving a jacket at an apartment, we’re looking for an excuse to reach out again after the “date.”
“Yes,” we say, “I will be sure to send you that article on Hot Healthcare Marketing Trends.“
As we leave the table and walk out together the same question remains, do we hug? Air kiss? Shake hands? Wave good-bye?
Kara is a Senior Account Executive with a unique combination of strategic thinking and creativity. Her work experience includes Kirshenbaum, Wunderman and The Food Group in New York and Ogilvy in New Zealand. Upon returning stateside, she launched The Liba Group, providing agencies with experiential and guerrilla marketing initiatives that leveraged clients’ campaigns.