Don’t Fall for Miracle Marketing Cures for Your Physician Practice

By Mike Killeen

Healthcare Marketing

We live in the era of the quick fix. The miracle cure. The hack.

Obsessed with our health — or at least with looking healthy — we try to transform our lives with fad diets, elaborate exercise contraptions, and exotic performance supplements. Infomercials, algorithmic ads, and YouTube stars all offer us health, happiness, and well-toned beauty in a colorful box for just three easy payments.

However, good doctors know that enduring health is not something you order online or complete in 30 days. And it’s not something for which you need an entrepreneurial inventor.

The same is true of marketing healthcare businesses. There are plenty of digital agencies and cloud-based disruptors who promise exponential business growth using nothing but the Silicon Valley solution that just happens to be their specialty or proprietary platform.

But enduring business growth, like health, is not something you achieve with a single, shiny, sexy solution.

—–

Good health is simple: eat well, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Don’t drink too much alcohol and don’t smoke.

Practice these good lifestyle choices over a lifetime, and better health will follow. Indeed, multiple studies have found that lifestyle choices account for more than half of our health and middle age morbidity.

Beyond the basics, modern medicine and advanced interventions can cure what a balanced diet cannot. But heal a patient who continues their poor lifestyle habits, and you can be sure they’ll be back soon with something else wrong.

Good marketing of your practice is simple, too. While digital gurus and self-appointed paradigm shifters can give you a quick hit of attention, those benefits won’t last unless they’re backed up by the basics.

If you want a healthier business with growth that endures, here are the simple but effective marketing habits you need to practice consistently over time.

1. Set clear marketing goals.

Should you advertise your practice on Facebook? Rent a billboard? Send postcards? Start a blog? Sponsor a community event? Redo your website? What about that online reputation management firm that sent you an email ad? Are they worth it?

The answer to each is another question: what’s the goal?

Always begin your marketing plan with a clear articulation of your goals. Make sure your goals are specific and measurable.

Do you want to grow your new patient referrals by 10 percent? Launch your new practice area? Bring in enough business over the first three years to cover the cost of the new imaging equipment you purchased? Merge with another practice and both come out ahead?

Once you know your goals, develop an overall strategy for achieving them. Finally, choose the most effective tactics to implement your strategy.

Follow this process, and it will become clear whether radio ads, pay-per-click banners, a video, sponsored social media, print advertising, email marketing, or all of the above will serve you best. Your strategies will tell you which tactics to choose. Your goals will determine your strategies.

Goals, strategy, tactics, execution: in that order, every time.

2. Know your audience.

Here’s the thing about marketing your practice: most of the people don’t matter, and you shouldn’t waste your time and money on marketing as though they do. Who are your potential patients or clients? These are the only people who matter, and you need to know them well.

With some interesting exceptions, most medicine remains a locally practiced profession, which means you only need to reach people within a reasonable radius of your practice. What is that radius? It probably depends on the nature of your practice. Will people drive 50 miles to get to you? 15 miles? Will they board a plane and fly to you? Or are you providing lab and analysis services that aren’t constrained by geography?

What is the age range of your potential patients? If you specialize in hip replacements, you probably don’t need to market to Millennials yet. If you’re a pediatrician, your primary audience is parents with children. Sports medicine? Your audience’s age range is broad, but you need to target people with active lifestyles. Or are your clients other doctors, and how old are they?

What else can you know about your potential patients or clients? What are their income and education levels? Their preferred means of seeking information and advice? Do they even use social media, and if so, which platforms? What are they looking for from their healthcare providers? What does a good life look like to them?

Ask yourself these questions and many more. Learn all you can about your audience. Write up a persona that describes them with as much detail as possible. Revise it regularly as you learn more, or as demographics change. (Many Millennials are now parents raising children. Generation Xers may start needing hip replacements in a decade or so).

Knowing your audience well brings a laser focus to your marketing decisions. It keeps you from getting distracted trying to reach all those people who don’t benefit from your services. Develop your strategy and choose your tactics based on what will reach your unique audience. If the rest of the world doesn’t care, doesn’t like it, or doesn’t notice… well, that just doesn’t matter.

3. Build and maintain your brand and position.

Who are you, and what do you uniquely offer to your potential patients or clients? And how will people learn this about you?

Branding and positioning are fundamental to all effective marketing. They arise out of your goals: what kind of practice do you want to be? And they should speak to your audience: who are the potential patients of the kind of practice you want to be? If you want to attract those patients, you must have and follow a plan that will establish in their minds your unique identity.

In the marketing world, we have understood this for a very long time—branding creates a preference before there is a need—but many healthcare providers still don’t brand and position themselves well or consistently. Yet no marketing plan can have sustainable success without a well-developed brand and a well-articulated position.

While true in all marketing, this is especially true for healthcare. In a heartbeat, your potential patients may go from complete disinterest in doctors to making a life-altering decision. Which practice will they choose? The one that has already branded and positioned itself most effectively in that practice area… long before the patient ever thought to pay attention or care.

Consider someone who has just received their first cancer diagnosis. Where will they go for cancer treatment? They have probably not paid much attention to information about cancer treatment specialists, but suddenly this is the most important information in the world. They wonder, “Where’s the best place to get treatment for my cancer?” And they probably have an instant answer in the very moment that they learn of the need. It’s the practice that has, long before this moment, most effectively marketed its brand and position as the leader in cancer care.

Whatever your practice area, you want to be the instant favorite when a potential patient first learns they need the care you provide. You do that through marketing your brand and position consistently.

A lot goes into this. You need a quality logo and a visual identity that you use consistently across all communications and in your physical space. You need a story to tell and an articulation of your unique value. You need to tell that story to your audience and show that value regularly. You need to demonstrate why you’re different and better than your competition.

Branding doesn’t come with the same fast feedback loop you may get with a pay-per-click campaign. But over time, just like exercise, healthy diet, and good sleep, the benefits are profound and lasting.

Bonus: Don’t forget about the product.

For all that marketing can do to help you grow your practice, the single most effective way to bring in new patients or clients is word-of-mouth marketing. Good reviews from happy patients and enthusiastic referrals from other healthcare professionals do more than any email marketing campaign ever could.

So, here’s the best thing you can do to build a healthy practice: keep doing what you’ve always done. Be the good doctor you have always been. Treat your patients as well as you always have. Give them good care. Cure them when you can. Help them manage what can’t be cured. Ease their suffering. Keep learning. Try to do a little better every day. Do what you entered this field to do and have done every day of your career: help people live healthier, happier lives.

The best marketing campaigns — in healthcare or anywhere else — have this in common: a genuinely inspiring story to tell. Keep making your life’s work an inspiration, and use these simple marketing principles to share that inspiration with your audience. A healthy practice is sure to follow.

Rachel Cushing Lenz

LENZ views leadership broadly and encourages leadership development among everyone on our team. In this series of interviews, several of our leaders reflect on their principles and practices, and on the lessons in leadership they’ve learned along the way.

Rachel Cushing came to LENZ with a background in nonprofit development and political marketing. As Media Supervisor at LENZ, she oversees the company’s media buying, social media, and public relations efforts. She loves working with the talented and innovative LENZ team and especially respects the organization‘s commitment to both for-profit and philanthropic efforts. Rachel attributes her well-rounded skill set to her liberal arts education from Agnes Scott College and her intrinsic curiosity.

Excluding colleagues at LENZ, who taught you the most important lesson that guides your leadership at LENZ today? What did you learn from them?

My mom. She’s one of the most compassionate and empathetic people I know. Being raised by her (and my dad, of course) with those values showed me the benefits and importance of always approaching others with compassion.

Essentially, the lesson I learned from her example is that people respond better and give more of themselves when they feel heard, and when they feel they’re in a safe space with people who care about them. Applying that thinking to my work as a leader here at Lenz has served me very well.

I also think an often-overlooked part of that lesson is that compassion and empathy are more than just “being nice.” It’s about putting yourself in the position of the people you lead, looking out for them, and wanting the best for them. When you approach people that way, they feel it and respond with wanting to do their best for you, and also with wanting to look out for their peers.

My goal is to create an environment where everyone not only gets along, but also understands the importance of empowering and looking out for each other. I try to lead in a way that sets that tone.

What is an important lesson about leadership that you learned from a client?

Working with the Atlanta Science Festival has taught me a lot about the benefits of “letting go” and trusting others.

I care a lot. I want to make sure everything goes perfectly. So sometimes my instinct is: let me just do it myself to make sure it’s done right. But that mindset is actually very selfish and often smothers development in a lot of ways. People need the space to succeed AND to fail. That’s how they grow.

So with the Atlanta Science Festival, their approach as a client was: We’ve given you our goals and set some ground rules. We’ll give you feedback when you need it. But we trust you. We’re going to let you do your thing and shine. We know it’s going to be great.

And the result of this trust and space has been fantastic. We do some of our best, most creative work for them, and in turn they continue to give us more freedom and responsibilities. It creates a positive cycle of development and mutual benefit. They continue to get our top creative work, and we continue to get more and more opportunities from them.

Watching the success of this account has taught me a lot about how I should approach managing my team. If I trust them enough to have hired them and to have put the work into training them, then I should trust them to do the work without me being involved every step of the way.

I like to think I’ve made a lot of improvements in that area over the years, but it’s something I will probably always have to be mindful of.

Fast forward as many years as necessary. You’re leaving your present role, whether for a promotion or a job change or retirement. What advice would you give to the next person who fills your position?

Make time to ensure your team feels heard.

When I first stepped into a management role, I didn’t think a lot about how different communication styles might impact productivity, workflow, and even employee satisfaction. Thankfully, I learned pretty quickly that a big part of my job is to learn these different communication styles and do what I can (within reason) to accommodate them.

A lot of times, the key is creating a safe space for communication. For example, I decided a few years ago to have monthly one-on-one meetings with each of my team members. This is in addition to department meetings we have all together each week. By creating that individual space, a lot of challenges and concerns that could’ve turned into something really negative instead end up unknotting themselves naturally because we have this touchpoint every month.

Another specific example of this relates to managing women in the workplace. I’ve had the privilege of having many amazing women on my team over the years, which is something I really cherish. For women, I think the practice of making a safe space for dialogue is even more important. We’ve been taught to avoid conflict and not trouble the water, which often leads to not speaking up when an issue or concern develops. But the more you practice the exercise of asking for this type of feedback, the more people learn it’s not only OK, but actually really important to speak up.

So in general, I guess my advice for the next person would be to remember that people communicate differently, and it’s important to keep that in mind when you’re making space for employees to share ideas, thoughts, concerns, or feedback.

If you could send a message back to yourself during your first year working at LENZ, what advice would you give?

Give yourself more credit. Remember you’re not here by luck or chance. Well, maybe a little bit of it. Doors were opened for you. But for the most part, you’re here because you worked really hard and you care a lot.

It’s easier to manage the ups and downs in your career if you believe that in your heart. I’m here because I put in the effort, threw my hat in the ring, stepped up to the challenge.

That’s the advice I’d give myself then and would still give myself now.

One beautiful benefit of being a manager is that you’re forced to take ideas and principles that you believe in and put them into practice for other people. For me, that’s easier than doing it for myself. I practice it so much more through managing my team, so it’s now easier to turn that inward and apply it to my own success.

Managing is hard, but nothing makes you grow faster.

Christine Mahin Lenz

LENZ views leadership broadly and encourages leadership development among everyone on our team. In this series of interviews, several of our leaders reflect on their principles and practices, and on the lessons in leadership they’ve learned along the way.

Christine Mahin is the Accounts and Operations Director at LENZ. She came to LENZ from the fast-paced world of the New York film and television industry, where she worked as a field producer and post-production supervisor. Her clients included broadcast networks such as A&E, Sundance, and Showtime, and web-based corporate clients such as Jay-Z, the Wall Street Journal, and Vanity Fair. Her work in both the creative and operational sides of production well prepared her to guide LENZ clients through their marketing journeys.

Excluding colleagues at LENZ, who taught you the most important lesson that guides your leadership at LENZ today? What did you learn from them?

Two people come to mind.

I worked in New York for 10 years before I came to LENZ. I worked in television production, which is incredibly fast-paced and often emotionally very trying. The best leaders I worked with engendered a very powerful sense of teamwork.

Wendy Roth was my New York mentor, a pioneer in the reality television space. She inspired a sense of immediacy through collaboration, inspired you to get it done right. She wasn’t directive: not giving orders and pointing. She was doing it right there with you. Even if she had created the show—was the executive producer at the top of the chain—she would work shoulder-to-shoulder with you.

Another leader I worked with was a producer on a reality TV show who embodied the “lead from behind” strategy. It taught me that it can be incredibly motivating to want to do something for someone because they care and they’re kind—kind of the opposite of the Machiavellian approach.

Those are the people who I’ve taken into my own philosophy and practice. I try to capture that same feeling of motivating others through collaboration.

What is an important lesson about leadership that you learned from a client?

We do a lot of work with Emory University School of Law. Susan Clark, the Associate Dean for Marketing and Communications, is our main point of contact. She leads in a way that I’m personally very inspired by.

She examines every angle and encourages input from everyone. She really values and listens to every data point, and she understands that everyone has a different perspective that will shape and inform the finished product. She’s incredibly patient with how she receives those inputs and applies them.

Her example has taught me to listen to everyone’s voice, to slow down and be patient with the process.

It’s also inspiring to me, as a woman, to see powerful, thoughtful women who are respected and have made their way. As I advance in my career, I value that more every day.

What impact that you’ve made on the world through your leadership at LENZ feels most meaningful to you?

I’m most proud of being thoughtful about the LENZ culture and curating an already healthy, positive work environment.

My role captures both the functional and emotional parts of LENZ. For the functional: make sure all departments are working together as they should. For the emotional: make sure everyone is happy and satisfied while they’re doing it.

It’s a unique opportunity for me to have one eye on operations and the other on satisfaction. And I think it’s unspeakably important to keep morale and cooperation in the forefront.

The departments that we have at LENZ, and the people within them… to say that they’re experts in their fields would be an understatement. They’re incredibly intelligent and talented people. But through cooperation, the group mind becomes smarter than any individual.

And it’s deeply satisfying to me when people feel good about the work they do. When they feel appreciated and perhaps hear through account services how well the client responded to the work they’ve done.

We have a really robust reporting process where we look back at the results of the work we do. I love the reporting period. It’s a chance for everyone to look back and see, “Oh my gosh, that work we did. Look what it’s garnered.” It’s so important for everyone at LENZ to know the impact of their work on our clients’ success.

Fast forward as many years as necessary. You’re leaving your present role, whether for a promotion or a job change or retirement. What advice would you give to the next person who fills your position?

I think the account services department and the role of operations attracts people who are organized and enjoy structure. And the advice I’d give is to trust in some of the strategic chaos of the process.

Richard [Lenz] has often preached the value of a lack of definition. Without total definition, you allow for growth, for reaching beyond a job description, for thinking outside the box.

For someone who really enjoys structure and stability, that can be scary and appear at first to be disorganized. But it’s not.

LENZ allows people to enhance their strengths and shape their job descriptions based on what they’re best at and love. You can’t do that if you’re always following the bullet points of the job description. Lean into that lack of definition, and leverage it to grow yourself and your role at LENZ.

If you think of some of the other areas of expertise represented by the people at LENZ — the work that you don’t do yourself and maybe don’t know how to do — what is one area that fascinates you? What draws you to that?

That’s the gift of the account services department. We get to see everyone do what they do best. It is so special to be the conductor of an orchestra of virtuosos.

We have a brilliant creative director. [Ben Barnes.] Everything that he does eludes me, but I’m proud to be able to show the clients what he creates for them. I recognize that only he can do it, and only that department can marry the science and the art in the brilliant creative work they do.

Our interactive team is amazing. They can make the most complicated website issue tangible and easy to explain.

The work that comes from our media department is so nuanced and careful and multifaceted. Rachel Cushing, who leads the team, is remarkably thoughtful about every aspect of the work that comes from that department. It’s a privilege to work with them and have the honor of sometimes representing their work.

Your Marketing Questions Answered

In our conversations with current and prospective clients, certain questions about marketing come up again and again, no matter their industry, company size, or business goals.

Five of these questions are:

  • How do we measure success?
  • How much should we spend on marketing?
  • Why should we outsource our marketing, instead of staffing up?
  • Do you have specific experience marketing in my industry?
  • Should I use traditional or digital marketing?

In hopes of helping our clients, and any business leaders with marketing questions, we decided to share the answers we often give.

How do you measure success?

When our clients ask us how we measure marketing success, we understand what they’re really asking: How will I know whether the investment I made in marketing has given me a good return?

In the age of digital marketing, we can analyze abundant data to track the reach and impact of your marketing campaign. Web traffic, search rankings, social engagement, click rates and open rates, impressions, content downloads, qualified leads, conversions, and more.

We use this data where we think it’s relevant. But marketing metrics are only meaningful when they’re connected to business metrics. Marketing success must lead to business success. And ultimately it’s our job to help your business succeed.

Of course, success is something we define anew in conversations with every client.

  1. What are your business goals?
  2. What marketing strategy can support those goals?
  3. What tactics are best suited for that strategy?

In the answers to these questions, together, we discover what success will look like for you.

Your business goals might be to:

  • Increase new patient referrals by 10%.
  • Increase sales revenue through your e-commerce portal by 20%.
  • Streamline your staffing needs by shifting more customers to your website.
  • Make your new location profitable by the end of the year.

With your business goals defined, we can create a marketing strategy to support your success. Then, we select the most effective marketing tactics to deliver on that strategy, tactics whose results we can measure.

  • How many new leads did a white paper or infographic generate in your sales funnel?
  • How many people signed up for and read your newsletter?
  • How many new people registered on your website?
  • How many people left reviews of your practice on reputation sites, and what was the increase in your average rating?

Sometimes the measure of success is more qualitative than quantitative. Reporters reach out to you as an expert in your field. Patients mention how moved they were by your latest inspiring video. A community comes to embrace your organization as part of their local culture.

Whatever the relevant metrics may be, the key is to connect the marketing results to your business results, which provide the true measure of your success. We’ll work with you to analyze that connection and evaluate how well the marketing strategy served your business goals.

Many factors will contribute to the overall success of your business goals, some of them within your control, some of them within ours, and some beyond control. We’ll discuss all of these with you as we work together to plan for and measure your success.

How much should we spend on marketing?

First of all, ignore anyone who gives you a single, simple number without any specific consideration of your business or your goals. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. At least no answer worthy of your ambitions—your business deserves better than that.

Some inadequate answers you might hear include:

“Set your marketing budget based on standard practice in your industry.”

This approach doesn’t consider the unique opportunities, challenges, and goals of your business.

“Spend a certain percentage of your current revenue on marketing.”

Marketing should drive revenue, not the other way around.

“Allocate to marketing whatever’s left after you’ve covered staffing, rent, and other expenses.”

This ignores marketing’s role as a key revenue-generating activity of any business.

Instead, the budget you set should be based on your goals and the unique context of your business.

  1. What are your business goals?
  2. What marketing strategy will best serve your business goals?
  3. What marketing initiatives and tactics will successfully execute that strategy?
  4. What will utilizing all those tactics cost?

When you’ve answered all four, you’ll know what your marketing budget should be.

It’s not a simple formula and it doesn’t lend itself to back-of-the-envelope calculations, but it’s the only way to really plan for success. Anything less is just throwing money at marketing and hoping for the best.

But what do you do if you work the numbers and come up with a marketing budget that you just can’t afford?

Together, we can explore how to get the most out of what you can afford. And we can also revisit your goals. Perhaps you need to take on more modest goals for now, and return to your larger ambitions when your revenue has grown enough to support them. Or perhaps you keep your goals but use a phased approach, spreading out the timeline and your costs.

While you’d always rather do everything possible to achieve your greatest ambitions, good marketing is like good business. In the long run, your business is best served by a careful analysis of costs and benefits, and by an intentional and targeted approach to your spending.

In the final analysis, your marketing budget should always be specific to your organization’s needs and ambitions. No other company’s budget really matters. All that matters is what budget will support your success.

Why should we outsource our marketing? Why not staff up?

For very large companies, staffing up may be the right choice, although even most multinational companies augment their marketing staffs with outsourced agency expertise.

But for most organizations, there can be many benefits to outsourcing to an integrated marketing firm, like LENZ. These include:

  1. Expertise. We’ve been in business more than 25 years, and we have the collected experience and wisdom that comes with a team that has taken on many marketing challenges for a wide variety of clients. We have seasoned experts in brand strategy, advertising, digital marketing, design, content, media, public relations, and more. It’s a level and breadth of expertise that most companies can’t duplicate in-house without busting their budget.
  2. Integration. Marketing works best when all your efforts are well coordinated within a clear strategy toward well-defined goals. You can staff and manage an in-house marketing department, or you can hire and coordinate six different marketing vendors in various specialties. But the best results come from working with a single, strategic partner who can integrate the full range of traditional and digital marketing tactics.
  3. Savings. When you outsource your marketing needs, you save yourself all the overhead that comes with hiring an in-house team, and you have the flexibility to draw on specific areas of our expertise when you need them most. Marketing is all we do, so we’ve found and developed many efficiencies and cost savings that we pass along to you.
  4. Stability. We’ve built our business on long-term relationships, and some of our clients have been with us for more than 20 years. We can save you the time and expense of repeatedly replacing and training new marketing staff. Our executive partners direct your marketing strategy, and our staff members tend to stay with us for a long time. We maintain a shared knowledge of your business throughout our company. For as long as you need us, we’ll be there for you.

We enjoy collaborating with in-house marketing teams when such opportunities arise. But many of our clients find they can get better results and cost savings by fully outsourcing to us instead.

Do you have specific experience in marketing my industry, type of company, etc.?

Maybe.

It’s true that every industry has some unique marketing needs and requires some specific expertise. However, the vast majority of what anyone needs from a marketing company is the same across all fields.

We have particular expertise in healthcare marketing, especially with hospitals, health networks, and large physician practices. And we help many clients who work hard for the greater good, from public health advocates and higher education to community organizations and nonprofits.

But more fundamentally, our expertise is in areas that transcend the industries and organizational structures of our clients. We are curious and capable lifelong learners who love nothing better than to learn something new. We’re experts in finding and telling the compelling stories of our clients. We’re adept at connecting companies to their customers. We’re students of business, designers and content creators, PR and media specialists, branding and advertising experts, analysts and advisors.

These skills are what we offer. They’re valuable when applied to fields we already know well, and to fields we’re getting to know better. After all, even if we have decades of experience in your industry, your organization is unique. To market it well, we’ll have to learn a lot about you, your goals, and your competition—and create a custom strategy that is unlike any other. That’s what we do best.

Should I use traditional or digital marketing?

Yes.

Or, for the unabridged, five-word answer: It depends, but probably both.

Traditional and digital marketing tactics each have their own strengths.

For an emotional appeal delivered to a mass audience, nothing can beat the reach and impact of a well-produced television or radio ad. A billboard or a local newspaper ad establishes your business as part of the neighborhood in ways that website banners rarely can. And well-designed printed flyers or direct mail can resonate for people in ways that ephemeral social media posts less often do.

Digital advertising can be more precisely targeted and measurable. Email marketing is generally less expensive than its paper-based counterpart. Compelling video and social media content can spread organically far beyond your initial reach. And sponsored content marketing can help establish you as a thought leader in your field.

Strategically combined, the strengths of traditional and digital marketing complement one another for the most effective results.

Even within the world of digital marketing, customers often arrive because of something they’ve seen on traditional media. A TV ad might prompt a Google search, and that search in turn will influence future Google Ads results. Presented with the first page of search results or an online ad, customers are more likely to click on a familiar brand, maybe the brand they’ve seen on billboards or heard on the radio.[1]

Because digital marketing is easier to track and measure than traditional marketing, it can appear that the digital spend is getting all the results. It may be tempting then to put all your money into digital. But in most cases, digital and traditional marketing are symbiotic, each helping the other succeed.

As with any other marketing decisions, the balance is found by returning to the goals and the strategy. What are you trying to accomplish? Who is your audience and where can you best reach them? What can your marketing budget support?

Choose the right set of tactics for the job at hand. In most cases, these will include both traditional and digital marketing, all orchestrated and integrated to best serve your overall strategy.

Do you have a question not answered above? Or would you like to further explore working with LENZ for your marketing needs? Contact us to begin the conversation.


[1] “How Likely are Consumers to Click on Personalized Ads?,” Dr. Liva LaMontagne, Marketing Sherpa, May 17, 2016. Retrieved September 26, 2018 from https://www.marketingsherpa.com/article/chart/how-likely-consumers-personalized-ads

Ben Barnes Lenz Marketing

LENZ views leadership broadly and encourages leadership development among everyone on our team. In this series of interviews, several of our leaders reflect on their principles and practices, and on the lessons in leadership they’ve learned along the way.

Ben Barnes is the Creative Director at LENZ, where he manages the creative department and a network of freelancers and production vendors. He has been in the design industry for over 10 years and has developed successful campaigns for Coca-Cola, Allstate, P&G, and many others. Prior to joining LENZ in 2013, Ben worked in several roles in the agency environment. His personal work has been displayed in museums and published worldwide. Ben earned his BFA in graphic design from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2004.

Excluding colleagues at LENZ, who taught you the most important lesson that guides your leadership at LENZ today? What did you learn from them?

The first job I had out of school was at Momentum, where I worked for Ryan Mulqueen, their creative director at the time. He was a “get your hands dirty” kind of guy. He didn’t lead from afar; he was right down there with us.

Ryan put a high value on good ideas and good thinking. And he stressed the importance of pushing the client: selling them on the good ideas and the good thinking instead of giving them what they expected.

He was always passionate about the work. You could tell. And it helped everybody else bring their own passion to the job. He inspired us to give each project our all and do our very best.

His example did a lot to shape my ideas about leadership. I get down there in the trenches with the people I work with, and I try to inspire them with my own passion for the work.

What is an important lesson about leadership that you learned from a client?

I’ve learned from clients the value of relationships. Going back to that idea of pushing the client and selling them on your ideas: If you have a good relationship with the client, if they trust you, if they believe in you, then they’re going to allow you to do what you think is best because they know you have their best interest at heart.

Building that relationship takes time, but then the conversations become easier. It becomes less about selling the client on your work and more about them believing in your abilities and your expertise.

My own role at LENZ is not as client-facing. Here, clients know me more by my work than my face. The people in account services take my work and sell it on my behalf, and they’re very good at building those relationships.

That’s why I make sure to explain my thinking to the people who will explain it to the client: all the ideas that went into it, the best practices we used, why we put a button where we did. It’s a team effort. It’s the beauty again of relationships.

What is a belief or opinion you have in your field that most people in your field don’t share?

Design isn’t going to change the world.

You come out of college with this head full of ideas about how you’re going to design this poster and change the world. It doesn’t work like that.

The ideas behind design do have the potential to change the world. The design itself is just the medium to spread that message.

Early in my career, I designed a poster that was picked up for the Green Patriot Posters series, a climate change initiative of The Canary Project. The project was inspired by World War II posters, and I created a modern take on the victory gardens idea.

The posters went on a tour of all these design museums, far and wide. They were put into a calendar produced in Germany. They were collected in a book that was written up in Wired.com, which included my poster in the article.

But at the end of the day, what impact did it really have? Did the posters influence someone to ride their bike rather than drive their car? I don’t know.

It was aspirational. I like to think, yes, it did make a difference. It was relevant and important. But as a designer, I struggle with that question.

Design is problem-solving: finding ways to communicate a message. Ultimately, it’s the message that really matters.

Fast forward as many years as necessary. You’re leaving your present role, whether for a promotion or a job change or retirement. What advice would you give to the next person who fills your position?

Don’t take yourself or the position too seriously.

At LENZ we do mostly healthcare marketing. It’s a very serious industry, and sometimes people’s lives are at stake.

But at the end of the day, what you’re really trying to promote is the relationship between the doctor and the patient. You’re expressing this very human connection that people have with their doctors. It’s a very special and unique relationship of trust.

And it’s about people getting back to their lives, back to the best quality of life they can have. Back to playing with their kids, or taking their dogs to the park, or riding their bikes. It’s about these everyday moments of life.

If you could send a message back to yourself during your first year working at LENZ, what advice would you give?

BookletI was recently digging through some things in my in-laws’ attic. And I found this booklet , “A Message to Garcia.” Someone had given it to my father-in-law. It’s an essay written in 1899 by Elbert Hubbard.

Hubbard tells an [apocryphal] story from just before the Spanish-American War. President McKinley wanted to get a message to General Garcia, the head of the Cuban liberation movement. He wanted to tell Garcia that we were going to send in American troops and help him. But Garcia was in the middle of a war, deep in the jungle, with no satellites to locate him.

So McKinley gave a letter to an American soldier, Lieutenant Rowan, and told him to get it to Garcia. Rowan didn’t ask him where Garcia was or how he was supposed to find him. He took the letter and got behind enemy lines. He asked around, found Garcia, and delivered the letter.

The story was relevant 100 years ago and still is today.

If somebody asks you to do something, even if you don’t know how, take it upon yourself to figure it out. Take on the responsibility of getting it done.

In my younger days, I questioned everything. That’s not a bad approach to life, but I think I would have found success much more quickly if I had had Rowan’s mindset. I would have learned a lot about what I was working on, but also a lot about myself, about what I’m capable of. Can you figure it out? There’s confidence that comes with learning that you can.