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Jeff Spanbauer is the Co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Relevate Health, a leader in omnichannel healthcare engagement, delivering precise, relevant digital marketing solutions and services. He took Healthcare Regional Marketing, now Relevate Health, from a start-up through four acquisitions, reaching $70 million in revenue and 200 employees.

Before Relevate, Jeff was the Marketing Director at Pfizer and also served in the brand management of Procter & Gamble. He excels at leading teams to develop and grow businesses in the pharmaceutical, medical device, and hospital sectors by using locally relevant communications, scaled nationally.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [03:24] Jeff Spanbauer talks about Relevate Health and its vision of “life-changing healthcare engagement”
  • [06:21] The Relevate’s core values
  • [10:06] Lessons Jeff learned growing Relevate
  • [15:31] Tips for building a great company culture
  • [21:56] The evolution of Jeff’s roles at Relevate
  • [31:43] Jeff shares their radio campaign and its impact

In this episode…

Are you struggling to gain traction as a healthcare firm? What can you do to scale and take your business to the next level?

According to Jeff Spanbauer, relevance helps you win in the marketplace. Having healthcare marketing solutions enables you to engage with your hard-to-get audiences. He recommends hiring experts with a deep, data-driven customer understanding and insight in this area to help you achieve results through marketing. He shares his journey of starting and scaling a healthcare marketing firm to help healthcare marketers thrive.

Listen to this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast with Dr. Jeremy Weisz featuring Jeff Spanbauer, Co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Relevate Health. Jeff talks about Relevate and its vision of “life-changing healthcare engagement”, core values, lessons learned while scaling it, and tips for building a great company culture.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:01 

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz  0:22 

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of, where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different. I have Jeff Spanbauer of Relevate Health. And Jeff, before I formally introduce you, I want to point out some other episodes people should check out. This is part of the top agency series. And Jeff has an incredible journey. And so there’s some other ones you can check out on. I had one with Kevin Hourigan, who’s been agency owner since 1995, what the landscape was like then and still doing it today and growing at Spinutech. And Scott Scully founder of Abstrakt Marketing Group, they specializes in a lot of like, auto, they do b2b lead generation, and they grew, he’s done it for the past 28 years, and they’re growing to over 70 million in revenue. And Todd Taskey, he has a Second Bite Podcast, and he helps match agencies with private equity. So sometimes they have more on the second bite than they do on the first. And Jeff knows a little bit about private equity, and we’re gonna talk about that as well. But in more episodes on and this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships. And how do we do that we actually help you run your podcast, we’re an easy button for you to launch and run your podcasts we do strategy, accountability and full execution around a podcast. And Jeff, for me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. And I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way to do that. And then the profile that people and companies I most admire on this planet and share with the world what they’re working on. And guess what I get to learn from them too, and so does my audience. So if you thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions, you can go to We’ve been doing it for over a decade. And I always say it’s the best thing since sliced bread. So check it out. And today we have Jeff Spanbauer co-founded Healthcare Regional Marketing. Now it’s Relevate Health in 2007. He’s led for acquisitions and integrations to really transform from a niche player into the healthcare platform engagement leader in the life sciences industry, with 200 colleagues supporting 185 brands and 15 hospital and health systems. He’s partnered I mentioned before, Jeff, you partner with P investor mountain gate capital to grow revenue to 70 million plus, he scaled his company starting with two people, I think in a basement somewhere and growing to 200 people and his experience, Jeff, what’s fascinating is, your experience comes from a combined 10 years with Pfizer and Procter and Gamble. Jeff helped, he’s a humble guy, but I’ll say this, he helped drive over a billion dollars in sales with these companies while working with some of the top brands in the market. So Jeff, thanks for joining me.

Jeff Spanbauer  3:18 

Hey, it’s a thrill to be here. Thanks, Jeremy.

Jeremy Weisz  3:20 

So talk about Relevate Health and what you do.

Jeff Spanbauer  3:24 

Yeah, so Relevate Health, real simply, we’re experts in engaging healthcare professionals, so doctors, by using data and you know, marketing to create relevant ways to be able to create value for them. And so, we’re working with about 1.4 million doctors across the US day in day out, supporting the 185 brands you mentioned, and it’s really around omnichannel marketing, how do we surround sound the doctors with content that’s helpful for them and their practice, and serving up to them, you know, at the right time, so that they can use that to like, get the best outcomes for their patients.

Jeremy Weisz  3:58 

Everything, it seems like, you have a Northstar in your company, and I love to hear how you came to that. But life-changing health care engagement, really, it seems like it helps drive decisions, maybe people and services. How did you come to that succinct piece?

Jeff Spanbauer  4:19 

Yeah, even though we’re marketers, it took a while to really figure that out. And so, you know, one of the things that helped me was I read a book by Patrick Lencioni called The Advantage and, you know, coming from p&g, and Pfizer where we had these really great visions and purposes, but they’re really long. The whole idea of The Advantage was if you can create a succinct way to kind of explain your vision, your purpose and your values, it creates clarity in your organization and clarity drives a better culture and then a better culture drives this huge advantage for you as an organization. So, kind of giving you the back in when we started HRM, our purpose was, you know, grow the business like we didn’t have a lot of fancy, kind of thinking around that was really this idea of we can help brands, you know, market better through data and analytics to get their message to the market in a relevant way. And we did that and we had a lot of success, we started off, the company grew at about 15 million in the first four years. And we’re like, hey, this is great, we should have started this a long time ago. And then 2012 hit, and we went, we took it from 15, down to six. And doing that was really painful. And was hard. And it was really hard on our culture. And I didn’t realize how important culture was until, after I went through that experience, read the advantage, and it was like, hey, we need to do something different here to really have a very clear vision, purpose and values. And then set ever since 2012, we’ve been working really hard at doing that. And with the different acquisitions, we’ve kind of tweaked it. But our vision envision something new or aspiring to never reach is to, you know, every communications relevant, which really ties back to relevant health. And this purpose of life changing healthcare engagement, that gets me excited to come to work every day, if I’m helping people leverage use my skills in a way to really serve people and help them be able to do something that’s impacting lives in a positive way. And then we have core values, four core values right now, it’s called our PACT, it stands for pioneering, accountable, caring, and transparent. And so those values kind of really give us this clarity in their organization on when we hire people, if we have to fire somebody, when we do reviews, every month in our town halls, we recognize people based on their core values, this peer recognition, actually, where peers recognize each other for these values. And so that’s kind of how that came together. And we’re continuing to tweak it, you know, all the time. But for the most part, I would always start our town halls, when I was CEO is, hey, let’s talk about our vision and purpose. And even though I got tired of talking about it every month, we had people joining every month, I had to keep reading or reinforcing that to make sure that new people heard it. And quite frankly, you know, some people may not remember it. And so that part of being the leader is also being the chief communication officer, or the chief reminding officer and reminding people kind of why we’re here and what we do, but it’s great having a purpose that is so kind of externally focused, and really trying to help people live longer, healthier lives. And that’s one of the benefits of being in the healthcare space.

Jeremy Weisz  7:30 

Well, we’ll talk about some examples. And, Jeff, there’s so much to unpack on what you just said. But can you just repeat the core values for a second, and I love for you to talk about how do you have peers recognize each other in the company?

Jeff Spanbauer  7:44 

Yeah, so the core values we call our PACT, so kind of our promise to each other. And that’s pioneering, accountable, caring and transparent. And so that, and we define each of those with a few words that kind of explain what they are, and there’s different ways to be able to kind of live those values. But one of the things we do internally is we’re transparent, I’m a big believer, and I’ve learned this through my journey, if you and I have similar data, we’re probably gonna make a very similar decision. And if I’m making a decision, and you don’t understand why I’m making it, that means there’s a big gap in data. And so we’ve been really clear about trying to be transparent. So every four to six weeks, we’ll have a town hall. And the town hall invites everybody to the company to come and we record it for people who have client meetings. And prior to the town hall, our leader in HR reaches out to everybody and says, hey, we’d like to get peer nominations for people who are living in the PACT. And so people can submit into HR, different, ways that, you know, Jeremy or other colleagues have lived, a value by somebody who, you know, went the extra mile and caring for a client or somebody who, you know, made a mistake, but then owned it and fixed it, and they were accountable, or someone who tried something new for a client or internal, and we’re pioneering. And so that those are all examples that happened the last 2025 minutes of our town hall. And quite frankly, it’s probably the best part of our town hall. I know our people like it the most, because you’re recognizing each other. And that means a lot when it comes from here versus from a manager or leader in their organization. And so, I did that as well. And I would do that more one on one. But for a lot of people, being able to recognize each other just creates this caring culture, where we’re paying attention. And Sam, thank you. And you never see people’s smiles bigger than when they’re being recognized by a peer for something that they went above and beyond on.

Jeremy Weisz  9:39 

I’d love to hear mistakes, or we’ll call it learnings. Right? And you mentioned I know in your journey, and you just mentioned going from 15 million to 6 million. Yes. And one of those learnings is a customer concentration, saying but talk about some of the learnings that, we could start with that one.

Jeff Spanbauer  10:05 

Yeah, that one was a really hard one, because we had a client, who, they didn’t hire us the first two years when my co-founder, and I started the company, because we both had left the company was Pfizer. But once we got established and added some value, and they had kind of a team, there was a internal restructure, and they went to a very regional structure. And they reached out to us and said, hey, we need your help. And it was like, Okay, great. And it was so great. Well, we grew from, you know, basically very little in revenue with them to about 10 million a year of that 15. And in a lot of ways, you know, we rationalized it internally, like, hey, this is great, when you have a big client, you can really focus on them, you can really go deep their processes, we came from there, we know a lot of people it was, it was really a great partnership on working together to be able to really help them grow their business, and be able to do in a way that we’re basically an extension of them. And so all that was good, it was a good margin business for us. And we felt like, hey, this is great, because it’s, you don’t think about when it’s going to end, you just think about as you’re growing hair on fire, how do you get stuff done, how do you hire people. But in 2012, they had a big restructure, because one of their big drugs, Lipitor was going generic. And that’s one of the challenges in the life science space, is you only get 17 years with a drug before it goes generic, and usually the first 10 years that you’re doing clinical trials.

Jeremy Weisz  11:34 

It was like a seven-year span there.

Jeff Spanbauer  11:36 

Yeah. So they got to aggressively market to try to make all the money, the billion dollars, they invested in a drug and back in that short period of time. So fast forward, kind of rewind back to 2012. For us, what happened is, they restructured and we, you know, went from them, probably from 10, down to two with them. And so that was extremely painful. And if I look in the mirror was, you know, my fault that I didn’t do a better job diversifying back then, to prepare for the day that they were no longer gonna be such a large client. And the hard part was, or the sad part for me was having to tell, you know, 10 different colleagues, hey, sorry, we’re gonna have to let you go, we did all the right things, we had a training package with right management where they can go and get, you know, some career counseling, we gave a severance, you know, we did all the things that kind of fit our carrying culture. But there’s nothing worse than, you know, knowing that I could have prevented this by maybe spending less time on focused on that business and more time focused on how do I get new business. And so after we went through that painful experience, and I remember, like, meeting people in the conference room with HR, each one, one on one, and then going out and getting somebody else and bringing them in, and at some point, everybody was hiding from me, because they didn’t want me to come pull them in to the conference room to have that conversation. So it was really a painful moment, that was really when I kind of came to the conclusion, like we can’t, you know, this is not a great way to run a business. I mean, that was, my MBA school teaching taught me like, Hey, you shouldn’t be concentrated. But when you’re living it, you can rationalize a lot of things. And so that was a really pivotal moment for us to say, hey, let’s rebuild this business, but diversify it. And as we grew up, back, we grew up back to about 18 million in 2020. And we, I think we had last nope, nobody was more than 10% of our business at that point, because we just learned a lesson, it’s fair to say no, then put yourself in a position where you’re going to have to deal with all these challenges later. And that was a lesson that was pretty painful from a culture and from a people perspective.

Jeremy Weisz  13:42 

So one is really diversification, customer revenue, are there any other big ones that stick out for you?