Marketing agencies, consulting firms, subject matter experts are all in the business of providing ideas. In this episode, Susan Tatum talks with Patrick Dodge, CEO at Creative Side Marketing, about how to help clients, partners and prospects through chaotic times with creative, actionable ideas to solve big challenges.
Susan: Welcome back to stop the noise. I’m Susan Tatum and today I’m here with Patrick Dodge, who’s the founder and CEO of Creative Side Marketing, which has a really interesting focus on the types of clients that they help. And I’m excited to have you here, Patrick, welcome.
Patrick: Thank you so much, Susan. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Susan: Before we get into into talking about the specifics of what I want to talk about, can you give us just a quick overview tell us a little bit about yourself and your company; what you guys are doing there at creative side?
Patrick: So what we really try to specialize in is using creativity, honesty, and transparency to help inspire some healthcare companies and help them disrupt for the better. That’s really what our mission is.
Susan: So when you talk about healthcare companies, that’s a really broad spectrum. Where is your focus in that area?
Patrick: Yeah, that’s a good question. So we really focus on functional medicine companies in particular, we just find that our, our purpose, our company “why” if you will, is really well aligned with this industry. Because to be honest with you, I feel like a lot of things in the healthcare industry are really broken. Everything from the way the system lacks transparency. You know, the cost structures that are in place, it just feels like getting quality health care is very, very challenging for a lot of people today.
Functional medicine is really natural medicine. And real contrast between the experience that people get with an ordinary traditional medical practitioner versus functional medicine is – Functional Medicine is much more about finding the root cause of specific health conditions that people experience.
So most often they’re related to hormonal imbalances or inflammation of some kind and functional medicine is really just about getting at the root cause of all these different ailments that we experience and what happens is when these metabolic pathways that are not functioning optimally in our bodies, and all these different areas are interconnected between the gut and the brain and the heart and you know, all these different components of our health. When these pathways get obstructed, has sort of like a domino effect that causes other problems.
And so functional medicine is really about getting at the root cause of that. And making adjustments through lifestyle, through diet, through supplementation to really correct these imbalances and providing a much more sustainable and much more satisfying health journey that doesn’t depend on prescription drugs, which, you know, more often than not just cause other problems. It’s throwing a bandaid on an issue, and it often just keeps you sick, whereas functional medicine is about keeping you healthy.
Susan: So I think you mentioned that so there are these, they call them naturopathic physicians that are MDs that have chosen to specialize in this area.
Patrick: Yep, that’s right. Naturopathic physicians. Some of them are also take like a hybrid approach where they’ll offer traditional medicine. You know, they can write prescription but they prefer a more natural approach. So there are some physicians that that offer that as well. But also, you know, in addition to MDs, a lot of chiropractors practice functional medicine.
Susan: Okay, so your clients, are they the practice groups themselves? Or are they suppliers of what would you call the supplements or whatever?
Patrick: Yeah, dietary supplements. Yeah. So, our clients are, are more comprised of the businesses that support the practitioners. Supplement companies, lab testing companies, those are the ones that are best suited for what we do.
Susan: Okay, so what happened to them when COVID came along?
Patrick: Oh, goodness. Yeah, you know, it’s it’s really remarkable what happened because, for instance, one of our best clients, they’ve got like over 200 different products that are all about optimizing different processes in the body. They have several different supplements that help boost the immune system.
When things sort of changed dramatically in mid March, a couple of things happened. One was, their products just started flying off the shelf, in a manner of speaking, they sold out. They probably had their greatest month ever in March, just from the rush to buy these Immune Support products.
So immediately they’re also faced with a bigger issue and that’s that, you know, they can’t just like run out back and whip up another batch, right? I mean, you know, these products are very strenuously tested for quality. It’s not just something that you can run down to CVS and buy. It takes, more than 30 days, to get a product produced, tested. There’s a lengthy time timeline to all this. So we’re kind of rolling with that.
So our company the main services that we provide centered around inbound marketing, sales enablement and customer experience strategies. We try to provide a holistic business growth model. And our primary focus with them is mainly on the lead generation side. Attracting the right fit practitioners to their website through sharing quality content and good information that helps them on their journey. And then converting them into a lead that their sales team can then help educate and provide the right solution to.
All that stuff went right out the window in mid March. It was just very easy to see that we were faced with a very, very different reality that was going to change day by day, week by week. And so my team and I took a step back and thought, alright, we need to sort of rethink what we’re doing for this client.
And after a little bit of brainstorming, we figured out that, the best way to really support our clients during this time was really to think about where the communication gaps are downstream. Because if we’re looking at the whole picture here, our client, their customers are practitioners. So what’s happening with those practitioners right now? Most of them have no clue how to administer virtual care, over zoom. They’re locked up at home just like the rest of us, they can’t see patients. Products are limited. Some of them aren’t even using virtual dispensaries. So practitioners, you would think would be in a really fantastic position in the middle of a pandemic, but they’re not at all.
And so, what we were trying to think of was, how can we make them heroes to their patients, and make our client heroes to the practitioners and so the best way to do that was to just support them in communication that just wasn’t getting out there. So if you were like, you know, on Facebook and Twitter and stuff when, when things really just like blew up in mid March, you know, what did you see there? It was a bunch of memes about hoarding toilet paper and, yeah, and mass garbage like that.
Patrick: Yeah, yeah. and stuff. But you know, it was, it was astonishing to us that nobody was really talking about how to optimize your immune health. And that’s so critical. I mean, it was critical before, but now it’s like, at the forefront, it should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. And there are ways that you can support your immune system, even if you’re mostly housebound. And so what we did was we, we developed a series of communications that we wanted to share just straight on down the supply chain. And we wrote up a series of white label emails on behalf of our client to share with the practitioners that they could easily take that and copy and paste it and send it to all their patients. And it basically said, Hey, everybody, you know, I hope that you’re safe and that you’re being careful and that you’re you’re staying healthy, washing your hands, all that good stuff. It’s all for real. Keep doing that.
But we also want to share some tips on how to boost your immune system because a lot of people aren’t getting this information. And so we shared, some very actionable tips that people can follow like, what sort of foods should you be looking for in the grocery store? What are some backup items if the shelves are not well stocked? What are some ways that you can help yourself relax and manage your stress and improve the quality of sleep that you’re getting? That’s so important? What are some, some basic exercises that you can take you know, both in your house and outside. Unplugging from electronic devices before you go to bed so that you get better REM sleep, all these things? So we just sort of boiled it down and put those into white label emails, share them and the response was huge. We had some of our highest open and click rates on the emails that we’ve ever had.
As sort of like a next phase of that what we did was we took those same principles for immune health and boiled it all down into an acronym. So we call that SETUP for immune health. And, and what we did was we developed a series of infographics in various sizes so that practitioners could share them on social media or send them out in emails or even print them out, staple them to a phone pole, whatever you want to do. But we just we developed them in a format you know, in PowerPoint, just to make it super easy that they could just slap their own logo on this and own it. Because again, this is what it’s all about is just empowering the practitioners out there and making this information easy for them to share and for them to own it. This is not just about, you know, marketing our client and helping them make money. It was about supporting everybody with their health and just being there for the industry. That was really our focus.
Susan: So I want to emphasize a couple of things here that may have passed the listeners while they were listening to your story. And that is that what you did was so different from the actions that the rest of the market is taking. You sort of mentioned it. I mean, the increase in the number of “we’re here for you” emails is astonishing. HubSpot recently posted numbers for the month of April on the increases in marketing email. And you know, there was just a lot of noise that was being added out there or the increase in the number of sort of tactical webinars that are going on. And what you guys did and in my opinion was you said, No, we’re going to let’s really do something that’s actually helpful. So you spent some time thinking about – you said, rethinking what you’re doing now for your clients. That’s so important because A) it’s you really are helping them. You bothered to think of how you can help them. And B) you’re focusing on your existing clients.
And I see a lot of at least agencies out there and consulting firms that they’re comfortable with the fact that their existing clients are going to be okay. Or that somebody that paused a program will come back just as soon as things get better. And I think that’s a very dangerous place to be and you didn’t do that. I hope the listeners get that if they’re not already proceeding down that avenue that they will.
Patrick: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. And I think in certain aspects, we were really fortunate to be working in the industry that we were before all this happened. I mean, it’s a little bit easier to find some creative ways to support people when you’re relating back to our clients’ services and the products that they provide or about immune support. It wasn’t as challenging, I think, for us to do some greenlight thinking and find some creative approaches here.
But to get back to your other point about the deluge of emails going out there being like, “I’m just here to help”. It’s not helpful at all.
Susan: I totally agree. And I think that the “How can I help?” question is almost a lazy question because if you’re really targeting your market and you know something about what your buyers are going through you should have like you said, Go with ideas. Even if they don’t take your idea at least it’s better than a question. I mean, that reminds me of the old “what’s keeping you awake at night?”
Patrick: It’s the same sort of question you would ask if you knew absolutely nothing about these industries right and you’re supposed to be an expert. We have done some cold outreach once people started to get into the swing of this sort of new reality that we’re facing, we did start to ease back into, you know, some outreach, and, like everyone else, putting the help forward, you know, just being there to try to be a resource. But we never sent a single email or made a single phone call or sent a video that didn’t offer something actionable. And we believe useful that they could actually put to use on their own, and it’s resonated.
In fact, I got a response from somebody yesterday. And, you know, I sent him some of those assets that we created about immune health and, you know, just to share it with him and see if it might stir up some ideas on their end or they could just take it and use it on their own, you know, it’s fine. And he just emailed me back and he’s like, “Yeah, all right. You want to help? What’s the catch?” I was like, “well, there is no catch. You know, I’m just trying to offer something useful to you. Do you have time this afternoon?” And so we got on the phone and had a great conversation. It wasn’t a conversation that’s going to translate into an opportunity for us anytime soon. And I’m totally fine with that. Because I just tried to offer as much value in that phone call as I possibly could. So that maybe somewhere down the line, it might do some good for them. And he might remember me, you know, when an opportunity arises, who knows? Yeah, I mean, helping people is just good business. That’s all there is to it.
Susan: And that’s true anytime, I think right now, the most important thing is building relationships. And that’s what you’re doing.
Patrick: Yep. Absolutely
Susan: Whether clients or their referral partners or strategic partners are just good people, interesting people to know. I think that when the economy does pick up again, in the areas that are struggling, the businesses that are building relationships now will be so much stronger and in such a much better position, once things pick up again, than the ones that just chose to go dark or not do anything or send mass emailings that don’t accomplish anything.
Patrick: Exactly. And I guess if your listeners are grappling with this on their end, the one piece of advice that I could confidently give them is, you know, if you’re really trying to build relationships, don’t focus on building relationships with your client, focus on helping them build relationships with their clients. And I’m assuming that we’re talking about, you know, in a b2b context,
Susan: yes. And that is a very important point. And a very good idea.
Patrick: If you can strengthen the bond between your clients and their customers, and allow them to take all the credit for it, they’ll never forget you for that.
Susan: I think that’s very wise. So I want to ask you about your best ever client relationship, since we’re talking about relationships. Think about your best ever client relationship. And how did it start? When did you have that aha moment when you realize that this is gonna be a good relationship? What happened then? And then how is it different from others that you’ve had?
Patrick: Yeah, wow, great questions here.
So I would say that you know, Ironically enough, the greatest client relationship we’ve had is the very business that we’re talking about now. We started working with them in 2018. And it really just started with, I was just looking over a few different companies that might be a good fit for us.
And I just reached out to the CEO of the company and just offered a few tips about how they could get more traction with their blog. I can’t even remember if I asked for an appointment or anything like that. I just reached out and just said, “Hey, you know, I was checking out this post that you put out there. It’s great information. Here are some things that you can do to get more traction with this to build some more ROI”, and as luck would have it, they were standing at the edge of a big digital transformation in their organization. So they were investing in a CRM for the first time.They were looking at marketing automation. They were looking at a bunch of different platforms. And one of them was HubSpot. We’re a HubSpot partner. And so we just started consulting them on that and they ended up signing up with HubSpot, and we helped them onboard it and initially we provided sort of a hybrid solution for them. In the first year that we’re working with them, we had sort of like a tandem solution. In the second year, we took the lion’s share of the work. And that’s when things really started to take off.
Susan: Okay, so you did it through outreach interesting.
Susan: And it obviously continues to be a good relationship now.
Patrick: Oh, absolutely. And to your question about what makes it an exceptional relationship. When you’re a marketing agency providing service to a client, there needs to be a high level of trust there.
I’ve been in situations before where you’re working with a company and you can see enormous potential, but for whatever reason, it’s just like trench warfare, getting things done right. Their internal team can’t or won’t commit to the regular you know, review and approval of content. Things take weeks, or sometimes even, you know longer than that, just to get a simple blog post up on the website. There is no surer way to kill a strategy than to be subject to an internal process that just does not take this seriously. And, and I’ve seen it happen before it can really destroy relationships.
The other thing too, that I think is really important, is just the freedom to bring ideas to the table and for them to say, “let’s give it a shot”. Right? So, a client that, after you’ve gotten to a point where you understand their industry, you’ve really immersed yourself in their business over the course of the last year or several months or whatever, at a certain point, if you’re worth what the money that they’re paying you, you should be able to bring some creative ideas to them that will be useful, right. And depending on what the internal culture is at the company, you could be running into a lot of naysayers just be like, yeah, that wouldn’t work for us. It might work for somebody else, but not us, you know. And it’s just it’s nice to be working and having a symbiotic relationship with a company that’s just open to new ideas, and for trying something that they haven’t done before, and just seeing how it goes and we have that relationship. Now. I thank my lucky stars for it every day.
Susan: Well, and that comes with the trust and respect that you built with them. You proved yourself right.
Patrick: Yeah, I certainly hope so.
Susan: All right. Well, Patrick, thank you so much for sharing your insights and your stories here today. And if the listeners want to follow up and get more information from you later, what’s the best way to do that?
Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. So they can visit us at creativesidemarketing.com. They could also email me at [email protected] And you can also hunt me down on LinkedIn, I’m not that hard to find.
Susan: Alright, so listeners if you have questions about functional medicine and creative marketing ideas, get in touch with Patrick.
Patrick: I would love to chat with anybody.
Susan: All right, take care. Stay safe.
Patrick: Thank you, Susan. You too.