Brad Dodge reflects on how integrated healthcare campaigns have changed in the past 10 years
In the latest installment of our 10th anniversary blog series, Dodge Communications’ president and CEO is interviewed to discuss Dodge’s history over the past 10 years. To view earlier installments please click here.
Brad Dodge is president and CEO at Dodge Communications. To listen to the interview, click on his picture or view the transcript below.
Question 1: When you started the company 10 years ago, where did you think Dodge would be on its 10th anniversary?
Brad Dodge: It’s an interesting question because we didn’t really think about that back then. We were tied up in the day-to-day activities because we were starting a new business. There were so many variables, unknowns and challenges in getting started that we didn’t really think about what the future would hold. Instead, we had to think about what each day would hold. We were doing our own client management and writing our own brochures and things, so we didn’t really think that far ahead. Frankly, we didn’t know if it would be possible to grow the company strictly in the healthcare vertical, and it wasn’t until several years later that we said, “Wow, I guess this thing really can be all healthcare.” We started to get some successes and some long-term clients under our belt, and it became clear there was a real need for these services in the B2B healthcare space; it became obvious we’d be able to grow the business that way.
Question 2: How do you think Dodge has helped shape the healthcare industry over the past 10 years?
Brad Dodge: I think we’ve helped B2B vendors really understand how important it is to have clear messages. If you have clear messages and an integrated campaign that moves those messages forward, then that helps you drive awareness and grow your company. Because a lot of our clients have new technologies, they are way ahead of the markets they serve, and it’s not so easy just to say you’re out there in the market. If you’re selling cell phones, you can say you have the coolest new cell phone because it’s got better coverage. People understand that because they already know what a cell phone is and they’re already using one. They’ve probably tried different cell phones, and they understand the value of good coverage. They know whether or not they need that because those things are easy, but when you’re selling technology like our clients are, they are selling things that people don’t know. They can’t say cell phone because their market doesn’t know what a cell phone is.
A lot of times I use a car example: it’s easy for Volvo to sell a car that is safe because people already know what a car is. If they didn’t, then it would be a different kind of challenge of how to communicate that. Helping our technology clients say, “Back up and try to understand that the marketplace doesn’t even know your product exists or that they have a need for your product, never mind why yours is the best.” You have to approach it from a different messaging perspective, and I think that’s one thing we’ve helped the vendors do.
One other thing is that we’ve really helped and stressed the importance of reinforcing messages through thought leadership. Through blogs, social media and the types of articles and white papers we develop for our clients, we really help them understand that when a prospect goes to a website and sees all kinds of content—relevant content—that’s approached from different angles but always advances the same message, that goes a really long way. I think vendors are finally starting to understand the work we do and that having a strong thought leadership position is a real strong requisite for what they are trying to do.
Question 3: What’s the best piece of advice you could give to a client who is trying to implement and integrated communications campaign?
Brad Dodge: I think the key to that question is the word integrated, and we help our clients understand what communications is in today’s world order—the speed and diversity through which we receive information—is not consumed the same way it was when we started the business 10 years ago. There was barely an Internet, there definitely wasn’t social media and magazines were all the rage. Today, there are so many venues to get information from, and we help people understand that they need to be engaged in all types of communication venues to get your message out. So, just pick one thing like doing a webinar—there are dozens of ways you can make your market and your followers and your audience and clients aware that’s coming up. The more types of communications vehicles you use to promote an event, the better results you’re going to get from your investment in PR and marketing.
Question 4: What are your goals for the next 10 years for Dodge?
strong>Brad Dodge: I think we know now that the business is well-established—we have 30 employees now—and we understand what the opportunity is. We understand where we can get better, where our strengths are and how we can distinguish ourselves from competition. We have a plan that says there is going to be a great need for our types of services in the B2B healthcare industry for a long time. That’s because of all the visibility that healthcare has at the federal and global level. There will be a lot of need for what we’re doing.
The business model has been proven and now our challenge is to execute it. We have a 10 year business plan in place that has us growing to a certain size, and we just want to continue to build on the success we have and continue to grow the way we’re growing now. We realize we are going to have to go into some adjunct markets such as a bigger expansion into medical devices or medical providers or general technology. We know there’s an opportunity for a lot of growth, and we need to approach it systematically with the best practices we have developed so far.
Question 5: What are some of the most memorable moments of Dodge’s history?
Brad Dodge: You know, I think it’s every time we have some sort of a milestone. Just having moved into this office space that we’re in now was a pretty momentous occasion. It caused us to reflect for the past years we were in the other office location and what it was like when we moved in there. It also helps us look forward as to what it will be once we settle into this space. That’s kind of one of the times that you look at it—every time you move your office.
It’s also interesting to look at the employee list from awhile ago. I’m so fortunate to have a really awesome group of people who work in the company because it’s not an easy business to be in. Healthcare and technology are pretty heady business, and for someone to thrive in an environment where they have to have an understanding in healthcare and technology and a domain expertise in integrated communications as well as the fortitude to manage multiple brands at the same time—which is the definition of an agency—really requires a different breed and a stellar person. That’s what we’ve built over the years—employees who have those skill sets. It’s really awesome to work with people who are so competent and capable, and I look back and say, “Wow, the days before we had this employee or the days before we had that employee,” are the momentous times. I think about having first started a relationship with those employees and now they are really part of the fabric of the organization.
There’s also been a lot of trips—the standard conferences like HIMSS, MGMA and AMGA—where we connect with hundreds of people we’ve worked with as clients, vendors, editors or ad reps. It’s so much fun to do an event like that and connect with all types of people. It’s one of the things I look forward to all of the time—going to events and seeing people I haven’t seen in over a year and seeing them face-to-face to have some good social time together and really reconnect.
I think there are a lot of momentous times that I remember at the agency, but they are usually celebrating the people or the milestones, and that’s what make it a momentous event.