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Strategies for Building Trust and Awareness in Healthcare Marketing

In Conversation with Preston Powell

For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Preston Powell, CEO of WebServ, a Marketing Agency located in Irvine, CA. Preston shares strategic insights and seasoned expertise on achieving success in healthcare marketing. From prioritizing quality leads to navigating the complexities of Google Ads, Preston offers invaluable advice for aspiring marketers. Discover the principles and practices that have propelled WebServ to the forefront of the industry, and gain valuable insights for charting your course in the digital domain. Don’t miss this opportunity to glean wisdom from a leader who is reshaping the landscape of healthcare marketing.

In the ever-evolving landscape of Google Ads, we leverage offline conversion tracking to ensure our campaigns target the right audience and drive real-world results.

Preston Powell
CEO of WebServ

Hey, hi everyone. Welcome to your show, E-coffee with Experts. This is your host, Ranmay. Today we have Preston Powell, who is the CEO at WebServ with us. Hey, Preston.

Hey, Ranmay. Thanks so much for having me. I’m super grateful to be here.

Before we move forward and pick your brains, why don’t you let our audiences know more about your journey? Let’s get to know the human behind the mic and talk us through how you landed up in the digital marketing space and more about WebServ as well, what you guys do, and what you guys specialize in, and we’ll take it from there.

Yeah, certainly. My name is Preston Powell. I’m the CEO of WebServ. WebServ was started about seven years ago by a partner of mine. My partner had a revenue cycle management company, which is essentially a medical billing company, and he had a bunch of clients that could use some help. And that’s how we got started. Proceeding that, I worked in-house just as lead gen for these companies that did business loans. And yeah, I never thought I’d get involved in that healthcare space. But I have a unique personal journey with recovery, and it just worked out that way. Yeah, we started in 2017, and that was just me. I would go around to these different recovery centers and get meetings with them. I got our first client back when we started, who was a client of my partner’s billing company, and then just built it from there.

Lovely. Quite a journey, Preston. Preston, moving on, like we were talking about earlier, AI is transforming our space, marketing automation at large, right? What will you foresee AI and machine learning playing in the space that you are in, in the treatment center marketing? How it’s going to change strategies in the coming year?

In the marketing field at large, it’s a big disrupter. We recently hired a new technical SEO strategist who We call our AI Innovation Manager. His name is Darwin Santos. He came from a big agency in New York, and he’s a really smart guy. He’s helped a lot of companies to operationalize the use of AI. I typically defer to him, but what we see in treatment center marketing is most of his journeys start on a search engine, and we see search engines are slowly changing. We’ve got Bard, we’ve got all kinds of different AI tools. But to date, we haven’t them used very much in our prospective patient’s journey to a treatment center. They just use regular old search, but that could change as the search changes. Internally, for us, we don’t write a lot of content and utilize AI, but it’s still a pretty in-depth process. Darwin teaches us a lot of prompting skills. We make custom GPTs. We’ve used different tools to help us cite sources and do research, and I expect it to just continue to grow.

Lovely. For Treatment Center campaigns, Preston, you have been in the space for seven-odd years now. What are the key metrics you prioritize when you’re looking for if a campaign has worked or not? And how do you end up translating them into Actionable Insights for your clients?

Absolutely. In the treatment center space, our client is typically somebody who is insured, and it gets pretty complex from there. They could have in-network or out-of-network insurance, and they might only be able to go to a select number of facilities. But the process starts once a lead is qualified, they do something called the verification of benefits, where they send their insurance information in, and then somebody at a treatment center would call the insurance company. And so what we typically do is we track verifications of benefits. We call them VOBs. Once they come back, they can be marked as either viable or not. So we track the viable VOBs and then ultimately admissions into the treatment centers. Before that, all the metrics are the same, click-through rate, and conversion rate. And so we’ve got it down to a science on the paid side, where we know certain ratios. We know if one in five become a VOB we’re getting a pretty good quality of the lead. And we know if three out of 10 are viable, then we’re going to be able to run a campaign that’s profitable for the client. And so that just gives us insights into what levers we might pull. On the SEO side, those ratios can vary greatly.

Absolutely. I would imagine content in the space plays a very critical role because of the environment that you all are in, although you and the audience which is consuming that content, and it should foster trust and awareness. How do you integrate it seamlessly within your overall marketing strategy?

It’s all about trust. I feel like everybody is self-diagnosing themselves on the Internet these days. You’ll notice if you do any health-related search, you’re going to see the WebMDs of the world up there. They tend to have a general structure to their content. So these are going to be long-form pages. They cite any relevant research studies. They talk in-depth about any given health topic. And so we try to do the same thing for our clients. We write long-form posts. We have clinicians or doctors at their organizations review them. We cite that on the page. We use schema markup to validate that. And people first, not search engine first, long-form, factually accurate content is the focus. Anytime that we’re producing a piece of content on a specific disorder, we aim to make the best piece of content on this given subject on the internet. If you try that every time, sometimes you’ll miss the mark, but it normally works out pretty well for you.

Absolutely. Then SEO is quite important. It is vital for organic visibility. What are some of the specific SEO tactics that have proven effective for WebServ while working with all the treatment center campaigns that you have been for this long?

Yeah, treatment centers in the SEO sense aren’t too different than any other website other than we’re scrutinized a little bit more. And so a couple of things I already covered, which are clinical reviewers, proper schema markup, and long-form content. We see a lot of engagement on content that has It’s like an interactive piece. So maybe a depression test, like a PHQ-9 test or some clinical test. People tend to engage with those well, and they perform pretty well and get the searcher who’s just trying to self-diagnose them. And then in terms of link building and off-page SEO, we do a lot of digital PR. We utilize Connectively, formerly Harro, and Turcle to find people reporters who are writing about relevant health topics. And we get a clinician at a company that we’re working with to respond to that. And ultimately, yeah, that’s a big piece. And then finally, technical SEO is just as important as It’s always been, and we could get nitty-gritty with that, but we probably bought it.

Moving on to Google Ads, especially for the healthcare industry. There are so many challenges while running Google Ad campaigns. So how do you advise our listeners today to navigate through those challenges that come from running Google Ads for the healthcare industry in particular?

Yeah, that’s a great question. We tend to utilize several different strategies to improve the quality of our leads. We have very expensive clicks in all the industries that we work in, definitely over $20 a click on average. And so I can start raking up charges pretty quickly. If you can’t get the right audience, and can’t get the right traffic to the website, you can generate a bunch of leads, but it’ll be really hard to make money. A big part of our strategies is offline conversion tracking. So we feed Google data on those different offline conversions that we already talked about, which were the VOBs, and admissions to feed Google’s predictive algorithm so that they can more people like our best-fit customers rather than just maximizing conversions, get as many calls as you can. The United States health care situation is a tricky one with all the private pairs and figuring out who works and who doesn’t. And it’s a nightmare for the patient as well. So to deliver value to our clients, we have to get the right traffic. And that’s probably been the biggest driver. And it used to be pretty easy because the exact match was an exact match.

And then they took match types away from us. They’re trying to get our campaigns broader and broader. I think it’s going to work, and it has been working, but we just have to feed Google a lot more data.

Lovely. Preston, coming to your agency side of things. Running an agency, keeping the lights on, especially in the initial days, it is a difficult task, as we all know. How has been your journey in terms of starting this agency? It has been seven years. You guys are going strong. It’s close to the 30-member team now. What advice would you want to give to our listeners today for trying to make a mark in the space or trying to start their show?

Absolutely. I’d always encourage anybody you’re working for somebody else and thinks that they can do it better and want to get started, to get started immediately. And for me, it was a challenge. But when I started, I didn’t have a ton of responsibilities. I wasn’t a dad yet. I wasn’t married, and I didn’t need that much to get by. So I didn’t have too much to lose. I could get an in-house marketing job for 80K a year or something, or I could give it a shot. And I’m humbled by the fact that it all has worked out for me, but it’s a lot of work. I spent a lot of time driving around to different local businesses, pitching them on just me. It was just on my services, what I could do for them. And I worked my butt off. I was on the sales team. I was the accounts operations and service teams. I was all of it. And I just hit the ground running. I worked long, long hours. I took a coding boot camp at the local college continuing my education. And it worked out for me. I would suggest starting now rather than later. If you fail, I’d suggest starting again.

Get started. You never know till the time you do. Lovely. Initial phases or even today, Preston, we all go through that or we all encounter that situation where we have to say no to a client because we feel that even if they have the budget, even if they have the necessary funds, they’re not ready for, let’s say, Google Ad campaign or PPC campaign or whatever. How do you say no to a client? Do you sleep well that night?

Yeah, I think it’s fine. I don’t want to get involved in an arrangement that’s not going to work out long-term. Good-paid media specialists are hard to come by. They’re the bad ones, look a lot like the good ones going into it. If a client is not ready to run an ads campaign, they don’t have a well-developed sales department, don’t track certain things, we know it’s going to be a problem for them to update records in their CRM, then telling them no and explaining why is rather easy for me. It just makes sense to do it because somebody that comes, spends a bunch of money, doesn’t get the result through no fault of ours, is still going to blame us. In our industry, it’s pretty tight-knit, and reputation is everything. My phone rings several times a day with referrals from current clients and past clients. Clients that have left us in the past often come back to us. If I can’t leave the client better off from an engagement, it will cause me problems in the future. Yeah.

No, very well said. I completely agree with that. It’s crucial at times that you feel that what they need and what you offer are not aligned. If they feel what they need is probably you knowing that is something that they don’t need at that particular moment because you are the expert there. They are not digital marketers like we are. We know that they’re ready for it or not. Giving that education to the client at that moment is also a part of our job. We have our experiences where in these times when we have said no, we only have come prepared six months, one year down the line. Then the experiences have been like, wow, because the back-end operations were more robust, more solid, more integrated to handle those leads coming in. If they push the button for Google Ads or SEO or getting the job done by a marketing agency. They are, and it’s good to say no, it’s good to educate because we are the experts there, and they are not. The ownership lies with us, wherein you have to understand if they’re ready for it or not, irrespective of the fact that saying no to Mula is a difficult task.

Yeah, it’s What comes back as more, though. That’s been a lesson for me. We made it five years into business with essentially no sales department. The reason why is just because we were able to provide a good system and people trusted us and got good results.

Lovely. Good, I’ve seen it was a lovely conversation, but before I let you go, I would like to play a quick rapid-fire with you. I hope you’re good at it.

I’m game.

All right. Your last Google search.

My last Google search, was around a depression test just to see how my client was doing for the keyword.

All right. Worst client pitch.

Worst client pitch? What do you mean?

A pitch, probably, which did not work out the way you would have wanted it to Okay. But it would have been at the beginning of a career or whatever. We all have that one bad day.

Yeah, I’ve had several clients that didn’t work out. I’ve even tried to upsell a client on a more in-depth digital PR campaign. I guess it’s as bad as it gets if they cancel all their services because you tried to sell them something that would help them. I’ve had that happen before, and it’s probably about as bad as it All right.

Now, give us your favorite client story.

Okay. Yeah, my favorite client story is a recent one. There’s a large enterprise medical device company that I can’t share just because of NDA Yeah, that’s fine. They’re located right near me, and I wanted to find a way to meet the marketing department and pitch them on our services. I didn’t know what to do, but my One of my employees, he’s, Hey, my wife cuts one of the executive’s hair. And I was like, Okay, we’re going to put together this whole pitch, and then she’s going to tell him they’re wearing a haircut. And anyway, he approached her and She’s like, No, that’s not going to work out. I’m not doing that. And so whatever. Then one of our clients started using their device. And six months later, I somehow ended up on an email thread with this company. And I was like, Hey, I have some great ideas. I want to talk to the marketing department. It was like a low-level sales guy. He introduced me to somebody at this company who is on the same street as me. But I was in Austin, Texas at the time. And he said, Oh, I’m in Austin, Texas, tonight.

We should meet up for dinner. So it was the weirdest thing. We met up for dinner. It didn’t work out then, but it was a big enterprise. So it took about a year to get the deal, but it just all unfolded in front of me. And I buy this big office every day. Man, I wish I could work with them. Through several things outside my control, it just worked out. That was my favorite client acquisition story today.

Lovely. I didn’t see anything goes waste. You just be honest in terms of what you’re doing, and it’s going to pay off sooner or later, but it’s going to pay off, right? Lovely. All right, moving on. Your celebrity crush.

Celebrity crush. I’m not big on celebrities, but let’s think. Celebrity crush.

Seo paid media was easy for you.

Yeah, I don’t watch any TV. I’m just a nerd. I’m not up on it.

Give us a name.

But there was the Hunger Games. There was Whoever played Katniss Everdeen, I thought she was pretty great.

Okay. I haven’t watched it, but yeah, I will Google it. I’ll Google it. All right. That’s the last one that will not kill you any further. Where do we find Preston on Friday evenings after all for the week of an agency life, of the sea of an agency life?

Every single weekend, no matter what, I get out to the desert and I ride my dirt bike. I normally go to the dirt bike track, and I bring my son and my wife, and it’s always a good time. I sometimes get hurt, but that’s okay.

That’s worth it. Lovely. Lovely, Preston. Thank you so much for taking your time and doing this with us. I’m sure our audiences would have loved this episode and would have gained a lot in terms of the insights that you shared. I appreciate it, man.

Absolutely. It’s humbling to me that you chose me for this interview and just super grateful.

Thank you, Preston.

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