How to Choose the Right Marketing Consultant to Grow Your Practice

Here’s a funny joke about consulting: An efficiency expert concluded his lecture with a note of caution. “Don’t try these techniques at home.”

“Why not?” asked somebody from the audience.

“I watched my wife’s routine at breakfast for years,” the expert explained. “She made lots of trips between the fridge, stove, table and cabinets, often carrying a single item at a time. One day I told her, ‘You’re wasting too much time. Why don’t you try carrying several things at once?’”

“Did it save time?” the guy in the audience asked.

“Actually, yes,” replied the expert. “It used to take her 20 minutes to make breakfast. Now I do it in ten!”

All jokes aside, having a good consultant in your corner to help grow your practice can be one of the smartest investments you ever make. I say can be, because a lot of it depends on the actual implementation of their suggestions. Great advice not implemented is completely unhelpful to you.

Now don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that it’s you who needs to do the implementing. You have more than enough on your plate. In my opinion, a good consultant isn’t one who merely dispenses helpful advice about your business, but one who can put their money where their mouth is and get it implemented for you as well.

But forgive me, I’m leaping ahead. We’ll get there in just a minute.

Let’s examine the attributes of a good consultant, so you can use this as a checklist next time you’re looking :

  1. They possess excellent business acumen. This doesn’t just mean they just understand business and textbook theory about the right and wrong way to run your practice, but that preferably, they’ve actually been there. They’ve owned their own business (or many of them), they understand first-hand the stresses of being an entrepreneur, the headaches of managing staff, the excessive demands on your time…the best consultants aren’t those who just advise, but who’ve been there. Where you are. That kind of experience is priceless and essential when it comes to the practical application of their advice. Otherwise, you might well wind up with pages and pages of recommendations that, while they sound good, aren’t of any practical use whatsoever. As an example, one of the first things I always find out is: what are the sacred cows in a practice? By that I mean those things that, no matter how much they don’t make sense, simply can’t be touched. Things like a brand logo that the physician’s wife designed, or the social media campaign being run by the doctor’s second wife’s best friend. If I didn’t know these ahead of time, I might waste time and ink listing all the reasons why you needed a “brand make-over”, with pages of stellar creative recommendations. What a waste of our time and your money that would be.
  2. What is the consultant’s expertise? It’s important you understand this from the get-go, and I’m not necessarily talking medical practice expertise. Some consultants are operationally focused. If you’re looking to grow your practice and attract more patients, then getting a consultant who’s going to be focused on your internal systems isn’t going to cut it for you. You need someone with “serious marketing chops”, but they have to have the business strategy and acumen to go alongside it. The last thing you need is a “marketing laundry list” of all the different marketing tools you should be using, without a proper analysis of whether these actually make sense. I always say “don’t throw out the baby with the bath water”. Whenever we consult with a successful practice, there are always things that they’re doing that are working well, or else they would never have got to where they are. Part of our job is to identify these and strengthen them as an easy way to get immediate improvements for the clients — as opposed to just recommending a litany of new ideas.
  3. The consultant should have some kind of proprietary process they take you through. The worst kind of consults, in my opinion, are those that are unplanned or hopelessly ambiguous. Someone in a suit and tie shows up to your office with a pad of paper in hand and asks to be “shown around.” Red flag. The most productive consults are the ones where you “know” what you’ll be getting ahead of time. For example, our 1-Day Practice Transformation Consult™ takes clients through our 7-step “Premier Physician Market Domination Formula™.” That might sound like flowery-marketing speak, but there’s nothing flowery about it. First, we examine all the possible target markets in your location (there are a minimum of 5). Then we go on to examine your messaging — what are the unique aspects, followed by an in-depth dive into your branding, your products and packaging and pricing. Then we jump into marketing tools, how to get you positioned in your market as a celebrity. Next up is an assessment of your team (after all, what help would we be to our clients if we didn’t help them build the phenomenal team they need to be the #1 practice). Then to wrap it all up, we look at the patient experience and what’s “rave worthy” — a fantastic marketing tool in its own right. When speaking with prospective consultants, ask them what their process is and what kinds of outcomes you can expect from the day. Also, ask them what you “receive” after the consult. Having an intensive in-person consult can be all well and good, but do you have to take notes? Will they provide you with a summary? What about next steps? For our clients, we provide them with an in-depth summary document (usually 30+ pages), as well as a 12-month marketing Plan. Get a clear understanding, up front, of what you’ll be receiving — it will help you make the best possible decision.
  4. Understand who you are consulting with, and if you’re looking for ongoing help, knowwhoyou’llbeworkingwith. It’s pretty common in our industry to dispatch an entirely different consultant than the one you first spoke to about getting the consult in the first place. Then, once the consult is concluded, if you decide to move forward with this company — who will be your point of contact? Who will be managing your account? We’ve heard many unhappy physicians report horror stories from working with marketing and consulting companies — from being farmed out “to interns” once the account is signed, to having a revolving door of account managers with no familiarity of their practice. Get this explained up front and you’ll save a lot of headaches and stress for yourself in the future. The way we structure our company at Premier Physician Marketing is admittedly somewhat different — but maybe it would be helpful if I explained it so you have knowledge of another model. First, all our prospective new client relationships begin with a 45-minute Needs Assessment and interview on the phone with me personally. At the end of this assessment, if we both feel there’s a fit, the client moves to the next step, which is to schedule a 1-Day Practice Transformation Consult™ with me — at our office or yours. Following the conclusion of the consult, if the client becomes a member of our Marketing Concierge Program™, they have the benefit of my overseeing their marketing strategy and marketing campaigns personally. I sit on monthly calls with them, in addition to their Client Care Manager, who supervises the day-to-day creation and implementation of their marketing and strategy. Ours is a simple model, but our clients appreciate the personal attention it affords them.

Other questions you may want to ask a prospective consultant:

  1. What books have you written? Articles? TV appearances? How are you an expert on this matter?
  2. Do you just consult, or do you also help implement your suggestions? (This is the measure of true value for a consultancy firm.)
  3. How much do you charge? Are airfares, hotel accommodation and incidentals included or excluded?
  4. If we do decide to work together beyond the consultation, does a percentage of the consult fee go toward this? (I’m sure we’re not the only marketing and consulting agency to offer this — there are others. It pays to ask.)

In closing, remember that the worst kind of advice you can receive is bad advice: someone with good intentions giving you advice that, if implemented, will actually harm your practice, not help it. For just the same reasons that you advise your patients not to chose a cosmetic physician based on price, don’t make the same mistake in hiring professionals to help grow your practice.

“The best servants of the people, like the best valets, must whisper unpleasant truths in the master’s ear. It is the court fool, not the foolish courtier, whom the king can least afford to lose.”

Walter Lippmann

Got questions? I’d be happy to answer them! Contact me at