Building and Growing a Successful Healthcare Marketing Agency with George Kocher

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In this episode, Joe sits down with George Kocher, the founder and owner of Brand North, an exceptional digital marketing agency with a niche focus on healthcare, particularly in the realm of behavioral healthcare. With an industry that demands not only expertise but also empathy, George provides a glimpse into the intricacies of working within such a specialized niche. He candidly discusses the challenges of navigating the competitive landscape of behavioral healthcare marketing.

Through his insights, George shares invaluable golden nuggets that have not only propelled his clients toward success but have also secured his agency’s continued growth and prominence in the field.

Show Notes

  • George’s background and journey into digital marketing {1:34}
  • How to stand out in a crowded market? {8:18}
  • Building a demand generation strategy for healthcare. {12:34}
  • Seizing opportunities in behavioral healthcare space {17:15}
  • Hiring and scaling the team. {22:09}
  • From good to great to great. {26:42}

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Joe Troyer 0:53
Hey everybody, it's Joe Troyer and welcome to another episode of show me the nuggets today we got on George Coker, who I guess we used to basically be neighbors right from South Florida. He runs a digital marketing agency called Brand north. And I'm super excited to for all of us to peek inside of his business and see what we can learn today. George, welcome to the show, man.

George Kocher 1:13
Appreciate you, man. Thanks for having me.

Joe Troyer 1:15
So I'm really curious. You know, you're you're obviously from Boca before we started the show, you're talking about how you know you're from the north as well. Curious, like, how did you end up in this crazy world of digital marketing and helping local and national businesses? What was what was George's 1.0 story?

George Kocher 1:34
It was a pretty wild ride, man. I'll try to I'll try to condense it. But I went to Cornell, I was actually an economics major. Okay, I grew up right outside of New York and kind of saw my rich friends, parents that were, you know, doing the whole wall street thing and all that. So that was kind of that somehow ended up being my goal from a pretty young age, which is what I did. So got the got the business degree and background when worked, worked on Wall Street, I was a fixed income trader for Barclays Capital, and few other pre pre major shops. And then I just kind of like it was great. It was the, it was the best like for a kid right out of college, it was the best thing I ever could have done, it gave me that fast paced kind of like half to execute no excuses mentality, which was really an awesome learning experience. But after a couple of years, it was just like, I was becoming a better trader, I wasn't necessarily continuing to develop skills that I wanted, because my Yeah, I just kind of decided somewhere along that path, I wanted to run a company, went into private equity, got a job at a private equity shop. And it just kind of happened by chance that they bought a behavioral health care company, I was helping them to grow the company and with the goal of of selling it. And just through that process, I had to go and sign a bunch of RFPs. With agencies, you know, this is a pretty large company where we're scaling fast. So we're spending $500,000 a month on on digital marketing. And I just like I'm just the type of person where I got curious about it, I didn't want to just be throwing money away. So I actually like started working very closely with the agency that we chose, I took a couple online courses, did the whole thing, built a couple local websites. While I was in that position, still took a few more years that company actually sold and did very well I got recruited by another private equity company where I was essentially acting as the Chief Marketing Officer, I would go into these different companies after they would acquire them usually middle market companies anywhere from 100 million to 250 million they'd buy him for I'd go in, help them you know, scale a sales and marketing process and then sell the company. So did that for a little bit. Get the best job I think I could have ever had but got sick of being out playing four days a week and wanting to be my own boss. So I started started brand North about three years ago.

Joe Troyer 4:20
Awesome, man. So at Brown brand North today, who's like your who's your ICP is your ideal customer.

George Kocher 4:27
A fast growing behavioral health care company. So I define that as anything that's kind of within mental health. It could be childhood autism, it could be substance abuse, it could be teen mental health treatment, telehealth therapy. There's a whole kind of slew of different sub niches that are within that. So we kind of tackle all of those.

Joe Troyer 4:54
Yeah, it seems like quite a broad array. And it seems like you know, marketing would be slow. slightly different and kind of each of those I think, you know, one of the things I wanted to talk to you about is like what what are kind of the key things that you guys focus on in brand north? Like, what are the key levers that you pull in terms of marketing for these businesses in this this healthcare marketing space?

George Kocher 5:15
Yeah, I think it's a, it's a complex industry to do well in for multiple reasons. There's, I think of it as kind of the foundation and mousetrap their, their webs, and then how you actually drive traffic to that. So from a website, perspective and conversions, we get very into tracking data, you know, a lot of different stuff with call tracking, integrating that with the CRM or building a CRM. But everything has to be HIPAA compliant, everything has to be encrypted, everything has to be secure. So that's always a, you know, big thing that we're that we're thinking about is how can we track this data, but do it in a way where it's compliant and secure. So we've kind of developed a lot of tools around that which has been successful, I think our clients appreciate, and just kind of understanding how that conversion happens. It's a, it's a much more kind of fragmented process. It's nobody's made it seamless yet. So that's something that we're working on. But it's different than ecommerce, it's different than a service business, you're not just swiping a credit card, you have to verify insurance benefits, you have to see it, the insurance is going to actually cover treatment. All of there's usually an assessment that needs to happen to see if the person is even appropriate. So there's kind of several steps that are added to the process. And we've really tried to make the websites in a way where it coaxes the visitor along that process and just makes it a lot easier. So that's a key differentiator for us. And then beyond that, we just drive a lot of traffic from SEO ads, different social media channels and brand PR opportunities.

Joe Troyer 7:09
Nice. Cool. Yeah, I mean, when I think about it, I think like healthcare is a lot more red tape and a lot more complex. And probably, I would say, 95% of the markets out there. I don't know, like, maybe financial could be as complex, but that's about it. I would think like, definitely a difficult industry.

George Kocher 7:30
Yeah, I would, I think that's a really good comparison, I relate it almost to somebody that's gonna go sign up with a financial advisor, and you need to sign a bunch of different disclosures, you need to give all your history and background, your credit score's all that different information. Yeah, especially thinking about the clients that we work with a lot of the customers are very high acuity, like, you know, they're actually potentially dealing with the police or in a hospital or, you know, everything just needs to be like, so it needs to really be simple. If somebody's in a state of crisis, when they're visiting a website, it's different messaging, then you're going to have if you're trying to sell a course on how to make money online,

Joe Troyer 8:18
on a persona, and even like, it's like, well, who is the person is it? You know, we did, for quite a few years, maybe about a decade ago, we were we were doing a lot in the drug rehab space, because we're in South Florida, we were in the mecca of trick of the drug rehab space. And, you know, we found that there, you know, we were speaking to family members, right, not the person with the addiction. And it took us probably two years just to figure that out, right. Like the, that that's our target market. And, you know, typically not the person with the addiction, and we need to speak to them. So yeah, that's, that's really interesting. Yeah, yeah, we

George Kocher 8:53
do a lot of the same stuff. And it's, especially in that industry, it just gets, it's so competitive. I think a lot of people don't realize it, but I'd be I, in terms of competition, it's maybe what I'm on track with, like, you know, tort law or something like that. It's very, it's very

Joe Troyer 9:13
honored preset. So I mean, in that space, I mean, I think not only do you have to be a good media buyer, you know, you got to get traffic for the right cost. So you got to convert well, though, to an healthcare I had assumed like, it's hard to convert, because, like, how do you create an offer in that space? Right, like, how do you actually stand out? Any thoughts there on things that have worked well, or, you know, your guys's approach to that?

George Kocher 9:41
Yeah, I think that, you know, sadly, a lot of places and centers kind of have the same suite of services that they're offering. So it is a tough job for a marketing company because it's like, if you're if you're walking down the street and everybody you know, there's 15 Different We're in. You know, Chipotle is they're all right next to each other, which one do you walk into? So that's a, that's a difficult thing to do. I do believe that demand still outweighs the supply. So, you know, sadly, there's a lot more mental health issues in the United States, and there are good providers for it. So there is still a lot of demand. However, yeah, it's, it is definitely difficult stand out. One thing that we push really hard on is video and working with our clients to really produce good video, I just a believer that. I tried to be logical about everything. I tried to really just like, what specifically are the services and who is providing the services, and somebody is going to want to see that if they're actually going to spend 30 days in a residential facility, or they're a parent that's looking at it, like who are the people that are behind the scenes that are actually doing it? So we work very closely with our clients to make sure that beyond just the copy that we're writing, there's actual visual examples of what they're doing, and really push them to kind of be creative with that, otherwise, they're not going to get the same results.

Joe Troyer 11:17
Yeah, that's awesome. I think that's amazing. I think like, at the end of the day, that relationship building for most marketers, I feel like is really overlooked. You know, in in econ, there's like a lot of UGC. Right. But for like local businesses, it's almost not a thing, like, you know, we speak with a lot of digital marketing agencies, and, you know, the ones that are actually creating relationships with the with the doctors, or, you know, the the business owner are very slim to none. So, yeah, I think that's, that's really cool, that you're able to execute that inside of inside of your guyses. Industry.

George Kocher 11:55
Yeah, I think it's helped a lot over the years, we've just learned enough. And I've been doing it long enough, where I think there's a transition that a lot of different agencies go through where it's like, alright, the client has what they want, and the agency has what they know, that works, right. But for the agency to actually make that case and get it done. You just have to have sufficient data and expertise to know that this is going to work. And we are able at this point to just set those expectations up front to the point where kind of like, this is what you guys are going to do or we're not a fit

Joe Troyer 12:31
to work together on an episode. Yeah, it makes perfect sense. So we were looking on your website before the podcast, you know, started our shows, producer, Eduardo and I, and you talk a lot about demand generation. Can you talk a little bit maybe about an example of a demand generation strategy for a health care client, and then we can talk about what you think is like important in building out a demand generation plan? Yeah,

George Kocher 12:59
I mean, particularly for a lot of the clients that we're working with, it's very eat expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. So we really try to lean into that I think it's even more important when you're in the medical field. So it's kind of going with the videos as an example. We have to create all of those we do the SEO, we do all these things. But we try to do it in a way where it's actually unique. And it really kind of is a difference maker. A lot of things that we see on a day to day basis, when we're kind of taking over from another SEO agency or media buyer is just they're going after all these words that are just kind of superfluous, they don't actually move the needle, they're doing it for a ranking perspective. So they can show a nice graph, we really don't focus on that a whole lot. We have websites that, yeah, if you look at them on a trips, they just don't look amazing, because they're not built for that reason. They're built to convert and they're built to drive real commercial business. So that's really what we focus on is a tight pack of commercial keywords that we know we're actually going to convert, and then we're authentic about it, and do it in a way where education is a really big piece of it. And it's also just simplified. And so the steps that we spoke about early in the process, like there's one 100 different steps for somebody to get that sort of medical care. And we just tried to lay it out in a way where it's so simple, and we guide them through the entire process. And that's attractive and it just continues to build that flywheel.

Joe Troyer 14:40
That's a good thing you talked about like those those 100 steps and marketing that and educated people. I'm curious, like as an agency, like how, how involved have you and your team had to get in the business processes and the running of their business, right because you talked about you know, at the beginning everything from culture backing to making sure it's integrated with the CRM, you know, I find a lot of digital marketing agencies stopped when, you know, the the phone conversation happens or the lead form gets submitted. And I find, you know that I think there's a lot more opportunity for us to have impact as as agencies than than just that.

George Kocher 15:19
Yeah. I just don't think it works, especially in the industries that that we're in, if you're not going that extra step, it's too competitive, where if you just kind of stopped at the form fill or the phone call, there's so many ways for somebody to be disqualified, you can generate 1000s of phone calls and not actually get a new client. So we go the entire we go the entire way, we integrate everything with the CRM system, if their CRM isn't set up the right way, so we can track or understand conversions, we make them change CRMs, or we actually just build it the right way for them. It's a nonstarter for us because we can't get that information we can optimize around it. So we are very specific about that. We've even built out charts where we have after the fact how long did the like what services were provided? How long was the stay? What's the an estimation of the revenue, and we do that by channel and we even do it, since we've already built it. We do it for channels outside of what we're even producing. So we'll track their business development efforts and their alumni and you know, the all these different things, so we can kind of get a full understanding of their marketing mix. And we give that to the business. So they can make more educated decisions on how to allocate marketing spend.

Joe Troyer 16:41
I love that. Yeah, that's awesome. You know, you guys are adding value where you wouldn't necessarily have to, and I think long term that creates a huge impact and a great relationship. It just

George Kocher 16:52
makes it sticky. Right? We don't have to onboard that many clients like our we've had this beam clients, we have almost zero churn. I mean, for a long time, we've had very, very low churn just because of that reason we try to over deliver, and it makes it a much easier business process. For us, I just think it's easier to retain a client than it is to find a new client

Joe Troyer 17:15
on a preset, I'd love to jump into kind of more the agency side of the business, George, but before we do, I want to make sure that we took care of kind of behavioral health care, and we kind of rounded out that conversation. Is there anything maybe you think that we missed in terms of the digital marketing side of that business?

George Kocher 17:35
I don't. I mean, yeah, it's just to summarize, I think that it's a very competitive, very difficult business to get involved in, we decided that we just want to focus on that, because it took us kind of like you said, at the beginning, it can take two years just to figure something out. So at this point, we do feel like we've figured it out. And it just makes more sense to double down on that. But yeah, it's definitely a very steep learning curve that's taken a lot of years to figure out so big, that's good and bad. It's it's a higher barrier to entry, but it's probably more sticky. Once you figure it out.

Joe Troyer 18:12
On our persona, yeah, makes perfect sense. And your your clients that you have today, you said, you know, at the beginning, you help companies kind of scale and exit in this space. That's how you got your start, right. And then you went out and started the agency and started working with, you know, people directly. I noticed when we were getting out of kind of the drug rehab space, and it was just because like, our we didn't do it on purpose, our leads kind of dried up and our opportunities dried up, right. And we were just taking, you know, whatever came to us, but what I noticed was that there was a lot of like PE starting to come into the space. Is that has that continued? Or what do you see in the market? And what are you seeing in the market when you're talking with these businesses?

George Kocher 18:57
Yeah, it's definitely it's definitely continued. I think in any industry like that you're so with healthcare, specifically behavioral health, like a PE firm from a macro perspective, the way you know, they're kind of like an agency. Like if you're an agency and you're being very deliberate about the types of clients that you choose, you're going to look at overall market trends, and a lot of different factors. I think that private equity companies do the exact Well, I know that they do the same thing because I worked in it and they're going to have a macro thesis and for a lot of them the macro thesis is mental healthcare is a continuing and increasing concern in the United States. It is recession proof in to an extent because people are not usually paying out of pocket their insurance provider is paying for it. Since the Affordable Health Care Act went through, people can actually get decent health insurance through an exchange so there's just more and more people that qualified to receive good mental health. treatment services. And that's something that they want to get involved in. And there's an opportunity to consolidate and have decent market share within that industry. So I think the consolidation is still happening. We do work with several private equity owned companies, we don't seek them out on purpose, once we actually try to work with clients before that happens. Once equity comes in, there's a lot more. It's just a more of a bureaucratic process at that point, which is fine, but I, you know, just, I don't really enjoy doing that anymore.

Joe Troyer 20:39
Yeah, it makes sense. I mean, less, less red tape to go through, probably can move a lot faster. I would assume. You know, if you can get them before that stage. But yeah, it makes perfect sense. You know, the reasons why makes sense. So yeah, let's talk a little bit about your agency. So are you the sole owner, George, fam. Okay, and how many team members do you guys have?

George Kocher 21:02
Oh, let me think I should know this right off the top of my head. But yeah, we're probably right around, right around 10 full time. And then we scale up with a bunch of different contractors and different partners.

Joe Troyer 21:16
Perfect. And then like, as an agency and as a business are you guys mostly remote you guys like all in Boca, how's your organization setup?

George Kocher 21:24
Fully remote. When I first started the company, I went and bought a big, you know, got a big office signed a lease two story and two story building in, in East Boca, which was probably the dumbest thing that could have done because right after that the pandemic started. And I just realized pretty quickly that for a digital marketing agency, you can just get better talent if you're looking throughout the entire world rather than in a 15 mile radius of where you're located. So that was a pretty dummy mistake that cost me over $100,000. But you gotta gotta live and learn. So yeah, we're we're fully remote. We actually did a meet up two weeks ago in Chicago, just team, we're located around there. So we did a off site, which was fun. And yeah, just continuing to grow and scale. But definitely being deliberate about it. I think that the model we've employed, which is worked very well, so far, is just having some rockstars really smart people that are critical thinkers and can kind of handle their own house in their own domain and build teams around them. So we've kind of got those very core very important team members in different departments. And then we scale with contractors that kind of fall underneath them.

Joe Troyer 22:46
Gotcha. Yeah, that was going to be kind of my next question is like, if you imagined an org chart, kind of where's everybody sit? Right? Or what's kind of the layout of the business look like? You talked about that a little bit?

George Kocher 22:57
Yeah, sure. So we've got it in several different areas. But SEO manager, well, we have an awesome chief operations officer who kind of oversees the entire thing, I've started to get less and less, just out of the nitty gritty and operations and I actually really enjoy doing SEO personally, I do enjoy it. But it's, it's just not the best route for me to be in the day to day like that. So yeah, we have an awesome Chief Operating Officer. And we have a lead web developer who is in charge of all web development and all design. So he handles our entire process and kind of almost acts like a CTO of the of the stack and stuff like that. Several junior developers underneath him. Same thing for SEO, we have an awesome SEO manager, and then a bunch of different people that do link building tasks and do different tasks like that same thing, Content Manager oversees all of the writers, creative direction, and a lot of the different graphic and video content that we're producing. And then paid media and media buying. So those are kind of the core positions and then outside of that, you know, accounting team and that that

Joe Troyer 24:21
Oh, man. So I think like a lot, a lot of people that listen to the show, or watch the the videos of the show on YouTube, you know, I think like are in that position where maybe they're trying to get out of the day to day a little bit, and they're in the weeds, right? And they haven't found that coo any thoughts or takeaways, maybe how'd you find your coo you know, what has it done for you? And what are you kind of focused on now that you have that role filled and it's it's going well? Yeah,

George Kocher 24:57
it's it's difficult. I mean, I there's no way to sugarcoat it, it's difficult to find that person that it really is. I think particularly for, for me, it's been difficult because I'm an entrepreneur, I'm add, I'm doing this thing and that thing, and you know, I can be very difficult to, to keep up with, I think. So it had to be something, somebody that was a special type of person, I have turned over that position several times over the last three years. So didn't necessarily work out the first time. But yeah, for me, it was just, I initially hired and this is kind of how I look at hiring in general, I usually try to hire for the attributes and the cultural fit. And right, if this is, if this person is smart, they're tenacious, they're accountable, they're going to, we're going to vibe, and we're going to we're going to get along and education, and the specifics can be figured out afterwards. So that's how I've always hired the our chief operating officer now, I think, had all of those attributes, but also just had as much experience in digital marketing as I did. I didn't do that. In the past, I feel like I had just hired kind of for the the attributes and not the specific skill set, but it's just helped so much. I mean, we've, we've just started doing a lot more business since he came on, because he has the relationships, if there's something where we don't have that expertise in house, we can find expertise, and it's pretty seamless. So it's been the biggest thing is really our hiring process has just increased a lot.

Joe Troyer 26:42
Yeah, that's well said, I think for most positions, you know, we over the years, and my different organizations have always hired based on attributes, like you said, good people competent, get the job done, you know, strict adhesion to SOPs and policies and you know, show up every day with a smile on your face, right, like, and you can go far with that. But definitely, I've definitely had egg on my face, trying to hire for a CIO or CEO role. And not having somebody with the skill sets, you know, it's hard to manage people, when you don't understand what they're doing, or how it works, it's a little bit different, I think you need, you need some of those core core skill set course skill sets, it's not just about the attributes,

George Kocher 27:27
I think it's true. And the last, the last person I that we had as a Chief Operating Officer, I say I feel bad. Because I felt like it was a failure a little bit on on my part. But that was really what happened. It was like, person was awesome, like, most accountable person in the room always and really want to do the right thing. But it would constantly, like team members could get frustrated, because there just wasn't an existing perfect skill set that had done that 10 times and knew the different terminology and all the different things. So when you are going for that top role, when I think about my kind of trajectory, before I started brand north, and I was already looking into SEO for five years, and you know, kind of studying it through my other business practices and stuff. And I still had a major learning curve when I started the company. So it didn't happen overnight. SEO and media buying has gotten just more and more complex, especially if you're doing it in the most competitive industries that exists. So yeah.

Joe Troyer 28:32
Yeah, that's awesome. All right. I want to wrap this thing up. This has been a great interview. George, I appreciate you come in. So I always ask my my my guests one question. You know, I feel like most of the most podcasts at the end, they asked for like three book recommendations, I like to do something a little bit different. Over the last 12 or 18 months, I've really given myself permission for the first time ever, if I'm reading a book to like, set it down if I don't like it, right? Because instead, you know, I've had times where I struggled with a book for a month, two months, and I just don't pick something up because I need to finish that one first. So I'm giving myself permission to stop reading books that I don't enjoy, which means I'm getting through a lot of books a lot faster. So I always like asking my guests and people I admire people I respect just like us George like, you know what, what do you think is the one book that's made the biggest impact on the way you do business the way you live your life? And while

George Kocher 29:27
the good question, so I definitely like it's called from good to great to read. Have you read it? Yes. I like I like from good to great. I really enjoy the hedgehog theory and analogies that they give in that. It's just very pertinent to business. I wish that I followed that book a lot more. I think about it a lot when I'm making decisions. But yeah, the to me the most important thing was if, when it talks about it talks about three The core principles in the book just run through a real real quick, but it talks about, you got to get the right people on the bus. That's the first thing the first year to the business is just get the right people on the bus. That's all that matters is, are you bringing the right people that are actually going to be down for the ride? So forming your team get the right people on the bus, when it talks about what to do. It's just kind of like what is the thing that you're best in the world that that you're better than anybody else and kind of be a hedgehog and just put your head down and just focus on that. And that's, I think it's taken us a heck of a long time to get there. But that's what we're trying to do now. And the last thing is when it talks about management, it has this analogy that gives a pilot which I really like. It's like, the air traffic control is kind of the boss of the pilot. And they set the guidelines where they basically say when you can take off and where you have to land and when you have to land. Other than that the pilots in control, the pilot can do whatever they want, and they make the decisions when they're up in the air. And I like that as a form of management. I just kind of set the guardrails, and then I let smart people be smart people.

Joe Troyer 31:13
I love it, man. Thank you for that. Yeah, definitely a great book. We'll put it in the show notes highly recommend, I think I'll put it on my list. It's worth a read. Listen, it's been probably I don't know, a decade. It's been a long time since I've read that book. But George, I appreciate you jumping on and next time I'm down in South Florida. I'll definitely hit you up, grab a little coffee or something. And I'll put links to brand North inside the show notes as well as your your LinkedIn. It seems like that's where you're most accurate. Yeah. Yeah. All right. Thanks so much, George. Appreciate it, man. See everybody. Thanks for tuning in to show me the nuggets. If you've been enjoying the podcast and find our content helpful, please visit our apple podcast page, hit the subscribe button and leave us a review. Joe and the whole team have been working hard to bring more value to the show. More feedback will go a long way in helping us make the show better and reach a wider audience.

 

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