OrthoCarolina is laying the strategic blueprint for future Charlotte marketers

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(Note: OrthoCarolina is a sponsor of this site, so you can either think I’m just being nice or you can read the story and decide for yourself)

OrthoCarolina’s venture capital approach to marketing has proven successful and you’ll see more and more Charlotte brands copy their strategy over the next three years.

When I first met Blair Primis, the VP of Marketing at OrthoCarolina, I was skeptical. He had this big yellow watch, semi-spiked hair and a straightforward style that doesn’t fit with Charlotte’s polite culture.

My skepticism is now over.

It feels like everywhere I go, people tell me “OrthoCarolina, those guys are everywhere.” You can’t argue with their marketing/business results.

OrthoCarolina’s marketing department is three years ahead of other marketing departments in Charlotte.

This starts at the top.

You can’t have a great marketing function without a great product – OrthoCarolina is arguably the best orthopedic practice in the United States. And you can’t have a great marketing function without buy-in at the CEO level – Former CEO Dan Murrey trusted this department.

What separates OrthoCarolina’s marketing from other brands?

Is it the breakthrough creative? No. You won’t see them holding a Cannes Lion.

Is it the super clever messaging? No. “You. Improved.” is a solid message, but not splashy.

Is it their agency relationship? No. They broke up with a large agency a few years ago.

Is it that they jumped head first into digital marketing before others? No. Although this certainly helps.

OrthoCarolina is a dominant marketer because of their venture capital approach to marketing.

Mainstream marketing beneficiaries like ad agencies and media companies must want to pull their hair out in frustration with this approach.

Instead of having one big agency relationship, OrthoCarolina has many small agency relationships.

Instead of having a few big media company relationships, OrthoCarolina has over 100 local partners. And as those partnerships play out, OrthoCarolina allocates capital in coordination with results.

Investing in 100 partnerships is hard, especially with a small marketing department.

Just like a venture capital firm, OrthoCarolina doesn’t have the time to manage all of these partnerships which means that they have to evaluate people as a major factor in their marketing – which partner leader will be accountable for our partnership and can I trust that human to perform?

This might seem easy, but anybody in marketing knows that this is about the exact opposite of a corporate marketing function – which perpetuates safety and repeating last year’s plan.

One thing that’s often overlooked in this approach is the grassroots affinity that it creates. When OrthoCarolina invests a few thousand dollars to sponsor a run club – it changes the trajectory of that run club and its leader. Whereas when a company invests hundreds of thousands of dollars in a local TV buy, it doesn’t materially change the lives of the seller. This is difficult to quantify, but it’s been remarkably effective – and unlike venture capital investments, it limits the downside of OrthoCarolina’s partnership investments.

Similar to a venture capital firm, OrthoCarolina is also going to have some home runs. For example, they hired Sportology as a video partner and their ACL Injury Basics from the Expert – Dr. Pat Connor has over 148,000 views and continues to rank well in Google. That’s an incredible amount of down funnel potential customers.

Who are the winners and losers from OrthoCarolina’s proven success in the Charlotte marketing community?

Loser: Ad Agencies. OrthoCarolina has proven that you don’t need big agencies to be successful.

Loser: Mainstream Media. OrthoCarolina has proven that you don’t need to spend big on local TV, local print and local radio to be successful.

Winner: Specialists and community leaders. Non-traditional sponsorship deals and smaller partnerships will continue to grow in Charlotte.

Winner: Consultants. I don’t really like when consultants win, but there is a huge service revenue opportunity in helping companies transition from big agency and big media partnerships to a venture capital approach to local marketing.

Winner: Marketers. Increased complexity means that great marketers will be easier to spot and increasingly differentiated from mediocre marketers – thus CEOs and business owners will end up compensating great marketers more because the function is more leveraged than before.

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Ted Williams
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Publisher, golfer, dad and magician (seriously).