A dentist recently emailed to me complaining that marketing companies he interviewed for hire offered him bundled services with no options to pick and choose which services he wanted. He wrote, “For the marketing companies I talked to, they all want to build a website from scratch and then do the SEO. I don’t feel very good about it since our patients like our current website. A lot of companies want to bundle a lot of services including SEO, review collection, website maintenance. But I feel that we have already managed many things well by ourselves (and we are using better technologies, such as direct online scheduling, integration of online paperwork with Open Dental). I just need help with SEO itself.”
The issue with bundled services is very common in healthcare marketing. Many doctors and dentists are misled by marketing companies into thinking that they should buy the full bundle of services – such as a website, hosting, SEO, review management, online scheduling, etc. – from the same company or else it’s a no-deal.
Why Marketing Companies Sell Bundled Services
Marketing companies sell bundled services because they want to keep you as a client and charge you more money. For example, many web design companies host their client websites on their own servers. Typically, they simply resell hosting that they buy from a third-party hosting vendor. As a result, the client pays much more for hosting with a marketing company than for hosting directly with the hosting vendor for the same, or better, quality service. In addition, it will be much more difficult for the client to fire the marketing company if his website is hosted on the company’s servers.
Another reason is perceived convenience. A marketing company may claim that bundling all your services on their platform allows them to provide you with better support and maintenance. However, that is not always the case. I get many emails from disgruntled doctors complaining about lack of support from their marketing companies. In addition, if you hire multiple vendors – such as a hosting vendor, website developer, review collection company – they will provide maintenance and support with their products just as well.
Selling bundled services is convenient and profitable for marketing companies. But as a result, doctors get into several issues such as overdependence on one provider, wasting money on services they don’t need, overspending on services they could get cheaper elsewhere, and lack of portability. All this is unnecessary and preventable if you follow two simple rules: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and Never hire someone you can’t fire.
Diversify Your Marketing
It’s not a good idea to depend on one single company to provide all or most of your marketing services. There’s too much at stake. What if the company goes out of business? You will lose all your services. What if you decide to fire the company? You will likewise lose all your services. What if you want to get a second opinion? It’s always good to have a second or third set of eyes on your marketing strategy, but the company may not allow that and may not follow any outside advice. What if you like some of the company’s services but not the others? What if you only want some services but can do the rest yourself, like the dentist whose email I mentioned in the beginning of this article? With bundled services, you can’t pick and choose. The bottom line is that overdependence on one single company may not be the best idea for your marketing in the long term.
Besides, if your website is built by a marketing company on their own proprietary platform and then you decide to work with another marketing company, you will probably have to build a new website because websites built on proprietary platforms cannot be migrated or exported.
As an alternative, consider hiring multiple vendors for multiple aspects of your marketing – a website designer for designing your website, an SEO firm for your ongoing SEO, a review collection agency for your reviews. Diversification can’t eliminate all problems, but when structured well, it can be a better solution for you than putting all eggs in one basket. Diversification will produce a more stable, predictable and flexible marketing model. Borrowing the term from the IT world, I call such diversification an open-architecture model – a system that can be integrated with the components manufactured by many outside vendors.
How Open Architecture Works
Your open architecture model can be set up as follows. First, you hire a web designer to build your website using an open-source platform. Unlike proprietary websites I have mentioned above, websites that are built on open source platforms can be hosted anywhere and can be built and maintained by a great majority of developers, so you will have many options to choose from. The most popular open-source platform is WordPress, so all the information below will apply to the WordPress platform.
Then, get your own hosting account with a good third-party hosting company and have your web designer set up your website on that hosting account that you own. Your hosting company will provide all the support and maintenance for your website. Keep your web designer on a retainer so they can help in case you have issues or need updates to your website.
Hire a marketing company to provide SEO or any other marketing services you choose. Find a company that offers a la carte services, that agrees to work with your current website, and that can collaborate with your current web designer, your staff and whoever else is on your marketing team. If you already have a website that you like and if you just need SEO services, why would you want a company that will push you to get a new website? Rather, find a company that will work with your web designer to do any updates they deem necessary to the existing website, which will be more cost-effective for you.
The bottom line is that you will find a better success with a company that respects your needs and your way of doing things. You want a company that is willing to customize their services for you rather than sell you cookie-cutter bundled packages.
I sometimes recommend an SEO/marketing company Loganix because they have monthly and one-time SEO options. For example, at the time of writing they are offering one-time packages for citation building which may be more cost-effective than monthly SEO. Also, you might have better luck with a small firm or a consultant rather than a large agency. A small firm is more likely to offer a la carte services and tailored, personalized solutions. We sometimes refer our clients to small SEO/marketing specialists in our network. Note: we are not affiliated with any vendor and all our recommendations are unbiased.
The Benefits of Open Architecture
Here are some of the benefits of the open architecture model:
Portability. If you fire a vendor, you don’t lose the product that they created for you. For example, if you fire your web design company, you will still keep your website because it will be hosted with a third-party vendor. At the time of writing, some review companies don’t let you keep your reviews if you move. So when you choose a review management company, always be sure to ask if you get to keep your reviews when you fire the company.
Modularity. The components of your marketing strategy may be separated and recombined, with the advantage of flexibility and variety in use. Marketing often involves trial and error, so you will benefit from the ability to adjust and reconfigure your marketing strategy on the fly.
Cost savings. If you buy a bundle from a single company, you will pay whatever price they charge. When you hire your own vendors, you can choose those who charge the best price for the services they provide. A bundle may include services that you don’t need but will still have to pay for. On the other hand, when you buy separate services from separate vendors, you will pay only for the services you need. Lastly, when you buy directly from a vendor rather than a reseller, you will pay a lower price for the same or better service. As mentioned in the hosting example above, your website hosting will be much cheaper when bought directly from the hosting vendor rather than a marketing company.
Better quality. If you hire a single company to handle all your marketing needs, you will have no say in choosing who works on your account. Their low-tier staffers will do the work which may not be the best quality. When you hire your own vendors, you can select the best providers based on reviews and quality of their work and pick the ones who best fit your needs. As a result, you will get more tailored solutions and a more precise control over your marketing strategy. Besides, you will get better quality from specialists in each area than from a full-service agency that is a “jack of all trades.”
Checks and balances. When one single company works on your marketing, no one will be there to give you a second opinion. For example, the company may be doing something wrong on your website and you wouldn’t know. But if you have different vendors on your team, they may see and correct each other’s mistakes. For example, your web developer may notify you if the company messed up something on your website – just like we sometimes notice another vendor’s errors and alert our clients.
Efficiency. When you compartmentalize your marketing strategy and delegate smaller tasks to different vendors, the work may be done faster and more efficiently than if you had all the work performed at one place. Multiple vendors working on different solutions at the same time may produce faster results.
The components of your open architecture marketing strategy can be easily integrated, added, removed and replaced. For example, if you are looking for particular features on your website, you don’t need to sign up for an integrated proprietary website platform. For a medical or dental practice website, WordPress is a much better solution where all the features a practice website typically needs can be easily integrated. Most features can be purchased a la carte and very cost-effectively from third-party vendors and then implemented easily on WordPress.
For example, if you want to add online payment options to your website, you can sign up with PayPal or Clearent or other payment processing vendors. These vendors usually offer online payment widgets so you can have your web developer add such a widget to your website. Likewise, we often integrate online scheduling widgets, online chats, website texting and other features.
This solution is a lot more efficient than an integrated platform because you can replace and remove individual features without having to replace the entire website. On an integrated platform, you might be unable, for example, to replace the company’s online scheduling widget with a cheaper and better third-party alternative. On WordPress, you can do that easily.
Similarly, third-party SEO and marketing services can be integrated easily into a WordPress website. As I explained to the dentist whose email I mentioned above, you don’t need to get a new website if you only need SEO. All you need is to find an SEO firm that will work with your existing website. Many SEO and marketing firms know how to work with WordPress websites since WordPress is a very popular platform. For example, many of our clients hire SEO and marketing companies that work just fine with the websites that we build.