During his first year at the helm of Relevate Health Group, newly minted CEO Jeff Spanbauer doubled down on the agency’s regional-market philosophy.

There’s a good deal of sense to it. By focusing exclusively on building campaigns that are uniquely tailored to each ZIP code, Spanbauer believes Relevate can deliver a greater impact in an era of shrinking medical marketing budgets.

“When you break down the healthcare market, everything comes down to being local,” he says. Regional differences in culture, reimbursement policies, physician attitudes and other factors combine to create “massive variation in the way brands perform.”

Focusing on local markets has helped Relevate “spend less and get better results,” he adds. The agency is delivering strong ROIs for clients, with some campaigns delivering as much as $20 in return for every $1 invested, Spanbauer claims.

The strategy helped fuel moderate growth in 2018: a 4.9% bump in revenue, from $14.2 million to $14.9 million. Head count nudged upward from 70 to 72.

Most of the new business brought in during the last year came from big pharma, with Relevate adding assignments from Sanofi Genzyme, UCB, Pfizer, Merck, GSK and Janssen. The agency also grew its longstanding relationship with Genentech, working on three of the company’s oncology brands.

Other clients include Alexion, Clovis, Vision Associates and Astellas Field Marketing. Relevate lost one account, an assignment around Novartis’ chemotherapy drug Votrient.

“One exciting project in 2018 was working with local hospital systems and their HCPs, too,” says Relevate’s group VP of client partnership Chris Cushman.

Asked to identify some of Relevate’s most rewarding relationships, Cushman points to Astellas Field Marketing, which he believes has embraced the agency’s regional focus to great effect. He also points to a project from 2018 that saw Relevate work with local hospital systems and healthcare providers to “discover insights into the impact of wearable devices on patient diagnoses, workflow and improved outcomes.”

And while Relevate generally doesn’t tout its awards hardware — “although they are fun and exciting, the most important part is that they help us attract new, talented colleagues,” Spanbauer says — he takes special pride in a 2018 Best Places to Work designation from the Cincinnati Business Courier. Relevate was also a finalist in the University of Cincinnati’s Goering Center Family and Private Business awards, which honor local organizations that have contributed to economic and community growth.

As for what comes next, Spanbauer reports that Relevate is on pace to better its 2018 growth. The agency has set an ambitious goal of reaching 1 million local communities by 2022. If Relevate hits that number, Spanbauer expects to see revenue double within that time frame.