Healthcare organizations increasingly turn to content to power marketing initiatives across websites, blogs, social media, video, and beyond. However, healthcare marketing is a unique niche, with patient privacy and regulatory considerations influencing marketing efforts, most companies struggle to keep pace with the latest healthcare marketing trends. What’s more, healthcare marketers are daunted with having to work harder than ever before to establish trust among its patients and consumers.
The healthcare sector has always had the cloud of the regulatory police hovering over it, and with the ambiguity surrounding many of the governmentally-sanctioned healthcare marketing guidelines, the industry has been slower to adopt current marketing best practice and technologies. Regardless, there are some easy things healthcare marketers can do to improve their content strategy and execution. To gain some insight into how to avoid the most common healthcare content marketing mistakes, we gathered recommendations from some of the most disruptive healthcare marketing pros out there.
“What’s the biggest mistake companies are still making when it comes to their healthcare marketing content strategy and execution (and how can they avoid it)?”
Michael Roub, Founder of Inflection 360
“Whether with small practices or large healthcare companies…”
The images of patients and providers routinely fail to align with the business customer base. For example, in California where many practices service a predominantly Latino population, website and ad placement consistently fail to use images of Latino patients and providers. This is a lost opportunity to engage both existing and new clients for the businesses. Marketing teams need to assess their client base and ensure that their content is reflective of their clientele. Updating images to better reflect the business’ customer base can have immediate and significant impact on both financial performance and customer perspective.
Greg Bullock, Marketing Manager at TheraSpecs
“One of the biggest mistakes I see across healthcare blogs has to do with…”
The quality and originality of the content. Too often, health-related articles recycle the same old information from WebMD, Mayo Clinic, and similar sites. Although these are great starter resources, marketers run the risk of their content becoming generic or overly simplified when they heavily rely on them for their own entries without any auxiliary information. As a result, this often minimizes the complexities of certain topics and creates content “blind spots.” In addition, healthcare content is rarely updated with new research and insights on that issue, furthering the likelihood that articles may become stale and outdated very quickly.
So how can marketers avoid this mistake? First, make sure you devour several articles on the topic for which you are writing, and then verify those claims with statistics and research from PubMed or other scholarly journals. You may also be able to use these statistics in your blogs when it comes time to write. Another tip would be to develop an original voice and perspective in your authorship. You do not have to toe the same line as everybody else if you have a different stance on a particular health issue. In addition, originality can show in other ways too, such as the inclusion of more visuals or alternative content formats. Lastly, after you hit publish, make sure you occasionally revisit your most popular posts and update if appropriate. I personally seek out recent perspectives and clinical data (sourced via Twitter, Google Alerts, and other means) to refresh our evergreen content related to migraine, light sensitivity, and other conditions.
Rachel Soper Sanders, CEO & Co-Founder of Patch
“Patch works directly with a number of smaller or independent physical therapy clinics, and the number one mistake that we see in their marketing content strategy is…”
Not focusing content specifically on the types of questions their target market is searching for online. Often times, providers will simply produce content focused on education they would like to share versus thinking specifically about information their target market wants to know and how that content can boost SEO.
In order to avoid this mistake, the first step is to identify a specific target audience that the physical therapist (or business owner) wants to serve. For instance, targeting runners aged 30 to 55. Step two is to identify types of questions or concerns this specific audience has and keywords they are searching for online. This can be done through Google keyword search and seeing what questions are being asked on Quora, Reddit, and even Facebook. Step three is to develop content directly related to those questions. For example, an article could be “three simple steps to avoid running injuries this summer.” Then the final bonus step would be finding ways to syndicate the content beyond their own website / blog / social media accounts to help with awareness and SEO.
Lee Pepper, Chief Marketing Officer for SpecialtyCare
“The word healthcare is a compound word or blended word…”
Healthcare companies are forgetting the second part of their blended word: care. This lack of attention on their part manifests itself in many different ways in their marketing.
Many companies spend hard dollars and large amounts of time to create a brand that is representative of their service and people. Within months, though, their brand is simply stored in a branding guidelines document that only gets forwarded to the next agency they hire to try to solve their marketing problem. The brand represents their service and their people; it has to be tended to like a living organism. It needs light, food, watering, and maybe even talked to.
Logos generally are developed with a specific meaning or story but many times it becomes forgotten and one of the most identifiable marks for a business loses out because the business quit caring about it. Mission statements and tag lines can follow a similar fate. Soon important tenets of the company that are used to hire and promote are overgrown with weeds.
Healthcare companies generally have a distinct advantage in hiring mission- and passion-oriented staff. When company leadership can maintain the brand work that was initially conceived, it gets leveraged through the sales team, employees, alumni, and customers. Why not leverage these mission- and passion-oriented people to help communicate your services through digital and social efforts? Not paying attention to these trends is more than deciding not to add specific channels to your marketing plans; it is also signaling to the most important marketing asset you have that you do not care.
This lack of caring can appear faster, now more than ever, through social media. Employees, customers, and even the media can exacerbate your marketing problem through incorrect messaging, inaccurate services or pricing, lack of response on reputation management, or review opportunities.
Reuben Kats, COO of GrabResults, LLC
“Don’t overpromise when marketing a facility, product, or service…”
Learning from overpromising can help save you a lawsuit as well as money. False advertisement can result in issues in the future. One for sure can’t promise a measurable result. No one can say you will have 40 new residents coming through your doors this month. The industry has revolutionized in the last 10 years. The practices are no longer the same. People can’t say they are knowledgeable in all practices if they haven’t seen the practice before or the doctor doesn’t have a license for that particular practice. Insufficient budget can be another reason why a marketing campaign might not do well. In order to see results, one needs to pay for the results. One needs to be aware of how to quote the health center.
Kevin Tash, CEO of Tack Media
“The biggest mistake healthcare companies make is…”
Not creating a well thought out content schedule that addresses various points of their practice. In a content strategy, there should be a unified content plan that goes on your website, social media, your email marketing strategies, and they all should correspond to the topic at hand. What healthcare companies also do is plan for a small burst of content that doesn’t really communicate to their audience. So, the best way to avoid that is to create a content schedule for the next 30 days, and keep messaging consistently across all channels. That way you have a cohesive presence across all channels and are connecting/engaging with your audience.
Jonathan Rosenfeld, Digital Marketing Executive for ion interactive
“Healthcare marketers have been heavy users of gated content like white papers and ebooks to generate leads…”
Over the last few years, the public has become wary of the fill-out-a-form-to-get-an-asset style of lead generation. More often than not, prospects are skeptical of taking the bait and giving up their information only to receive an asset that does not contain information that is truly relevant to them.
There are two viable solutions to the gated content conundrum. One is to completely ungate the content and include a form at the end of the piece to serve the prospect with an additional piece of content or to be contacted by a rep. The second option would be to repurpose the static PDF of the white paper or ebook into a web-based, interactive content experience. With interactive content, companies have the ability to place a form-gate at any place within the piece. Forward-thinking marketers have used interactive as a way for prospects to engage with the content prior to the ask of their personal information to get access to all of the material.
Alexandra Cote, Writer and Content Marketer at Paymo
“One of the biggest mistakes companies are making with their content strategy and execution plans is…”
Focusing too much on their services’ price. The reality is that people, regardless of their industry or interest, want to get real value from a service.
So, before you present your prices, try to showcase your facilities and your doctors. This will help people differentiate from you and your competitor. And storytelling is valid in the healthcare system too. People want to see how you’ve helped others, what you can do for them, and if you offer any medical treatment that no other facility does. But, compared to typical storytelling, for healthcare providers the stories must be real. And, importantly, the stories must never lie. If you can’t treat a condition, just state it. Building trust is for healthcare providers more important than for any other type of company.
Nate Masterson, Marketing Manager for Maple Holistics
“The biggest mistake you can make is being generic…”
The key to getting your marketing to stick is resonating with the customer, which is already difficult as the ad space is already untrusted by most everyone. There are some innovative ways to gain the customer’s trust; these are the key to having a relationship with your customers. You have to stick to the things that are still considered novelties in marketing today. Things like endorsements by personalities and personalized messages all still work. It’s also important to have an active social media presence, as social media, being a social space, is where people let their guard down. Another sure-fire way to garner customer loyalty is by having giveaways and deals.
Dayne Shuda, Owner of Ghost Blog Writers
“The biggest mistake I see is focusing too much on selling yourself with marketing content…”
Sales content is for the small portion of the time when your customer is interested in buying what you’re selling. You already have that content with your product and service web pages, brochures, discussions with salespeople, etc.
Marketing content should focus on the rest of the customer’s life. The information they’re searching for when they’re not in buying mode. Healthcare is a great industry for marketing content because people are looking for all kinds of information. They’re asking all kinds of questions relating to their health, their kids’ health, and much more. All those questions are opportunities to provide answers, earn their attention, earn their trust, and then earn their business.
Amy Bishop, Performance Marketer at Amy Bishop Marketing
“The most common mistake that I see is that…”
The audience isn’t clearly defined, so the content misses the mark.
If the audience isn’t clearly defined, then the content isn’t effective for a few reasons. First and foremost, there is a tendency to use jargon that doesn’t resonate with the reader. There’s a huge difference between the language that would be used when writing for a doctor vs. the person working the front desk vs. a patient.
Secondly, audiences need to be defined and understood in order to identify who the decision makers are and who the key influencers are. As indicated previously, the language should reflect the audience but the content should also reflect what their specific concerns and problems are. A physician-owner cares about things that an employed physician doesn’t have to worry about. The coding staff worries about different things than the nurses worry about. Without clearly defining your audience, it’s nearly impossible to write effective content.
Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa, Behavioral and Management Psychologist
“As a behavioral and marketing psychologist, one of my vertical markets is healthcare…”
I have increased the revenues of a two-person cosmetic surgical practice from $3 million per year to $9 million as well as increase the revenues of a solo practitioner dental office 40% in three months.
Although I would prefer to focus on the positive (the Rx of what healthcare companies need to be doing) rather than on the negative, their “mistakes,” I first ask: Does your company have a step-by-step strategy in writing for each of your marketing efforts whether it is via direct mail, email, online, website, brochures, telemarketing, etc.? One size does not fit all. Do your marketing materials/content talk “at” the potential customer or attempt to show you care by developing a relationship?
Few healthcare companies understand the business concept of Omnichannelization. Few companies (healthcare is not alone) have a behavioral psychologist on staff or retainer to look at how a potential consumer might respond. The potential customer has to first like the person or initial message before he/she shows an interest in the company itself. We as consumers tend to do business with people and companies we like.
For example, most companies clutter its website landing page. The “powers-that-be” lack the understanding that the web page developer/content writer does. For example, I often recommend some kind of health quiz that the reader will fail thus initiating contact by that potential consumer.
A sample: Dental Health Quiz
- Do your teeth bleed when you brush?
- Are your teeth sensitive to hot and cold?
A few more questions to which the reader answers, “yes.”
Lauren Fairbanks, CEO of S&G
“I think the biggest mistake that most healthcare companies are still making when it comes to content strategy and execution is that…”
They’re having their content written by scientists and engineers, instead of leveraging them for their thought leadership and having their content written by professional writers and former journalists. This makes an enormous difference when you’re writing for an audience that may not be as technical as someone who’s researching and developing a product. It can also be the difference between content that falls flat and content that actually moves the needle and drives engagement and lead education.
Mallory Cates, Digital Marketing Associate at Blue Compass
“One of the biggest mistakes we’ve seen healthcare organizations make in their marketing strategy is…”
Keeping their blogs and promotional materials focused on very medical-specific content and not utilizing keyword research. Performing keyword research before creating quality content marketing campaigns is always essential, but we’ve found it can make a tremendous difference in the healthcare field.
Often times, healthcare professionals have a difficult time understanding that the average consumer doesn’t search for medical problems by using a specific disease or terminology, but by searching for a simple problem that’s affecting their health. If hospitals and clinics insist on writing content around specific disease topics, not only will the technical jargon scare readers away, but it will rarely be found in search results. For example, a new parent that’s concerned about the color of their baby’s poop isn’t going to search for “bowel irritation” or some other medical term that a doctor would use; their search would probably be as simple as “why is my baby’s poop green?” or “does baby formula cause green poop?” We created a blog about this topic and saw tremendous success just by simply answering a question that many new mothers have.
Another example where keyword research is important for healthcare marketers is when promoting well-known trends. If you want to jump on the bandwagon, it’s essential for you to add an interesting spin on the topic, which can also be done through keyword research. For example, most health organizations will advertise facts or warning signs about breast cancer during the month of February. If you want someone to read your article instead of the hundreds or thousands of others out there, stand out by talking about how other organizations support breast cancer awareness. Many sports teams wear pink shoes or jerseys in the month of February, which could be something you acknowledge in your article. Knowing what your audience is asking and being able to provide the answers they’re looking for is key for healthcare marketing strategies.
Alexandra Bohigian, Marketing Director at Enola Labs Software
“The number one mistake I see when companies are executing a healthcare marketing content strategy is that…”
They are creating content that healthcare professionals want to read – not the average audience. While some healthcare companies may be trying to target healthcare executives, it can be assumed that many are looking to target the general adult population. Creating marketing content that is stuffed with medical lingo, rather than telling stories that real audiences can relate to, will largely dampen the success of a healthcare marketing campaign. Keep your content true to your brand, but don’t be afraid to tell stories your audience will connect to.
Chris Oquist, Director of User Experience at Dialogue Theory
“Neglecting to tell a story is a mistake that many organizations continue to make…”
Even when they insist they focus on human-centric design.
People managing a condition, recovering from an injury – or even looking to improve their health day-to-day – often deal with a dramatic trajectory of questions, anxieties, and emotions.
An overwhelming focus on features, benefits, or statistics can fail to connect, especially when a user may already feel dehumanized by insurance companies, labs, and other healthcare providers.
Focusing on story, crafting a direct, unpatronizing – and real – narrative that people can relate to is nearly always the most powerful way to show potential patients or users you can be an ally, a coach, and a partner on their road back to wellness.
Paula Conway, President of Astonish Media Group
“Tactical messaging is often very challenging for healthcare companies and this is a critical component to a marketing strategy…”
A company’s messaging is the one thing that sets them apart from their competitors. Many healthcare companies often use obtuse industry-specific language to identify themselves on their websites and throughout their marketing copy. For example, “a proactive, personalized solution that gives easy access to expert care.” This language conveys nothing about the actual benefits or service to the customer. Words like “solution” and “scalable” are lumped with opaque industry terms that provide no actual meaning or context. What healthcare companies should do is invest in outside services, such as branding, public relations, or with messaging experts to identify actual benefits their product or company brings to the end user and develop sharp, meaningful language around this.
Ajay Prasad, Entrepreneur at GMR Web Team, RepuGen, and GMR Transcription
“With users increasingly searching online for health information and services…”
It is a perfect opportunity for companies to utilize content marketing to reach their audiences. However, there are some mistakes they might be making that prohibits them from effectively executing these strategies and seeing the desired results.
Content marketing is not just about blog posts. Many healthcare practices focus solely on blog posts to deliver information. Instead, companies can create a variety of online content including videos, podcasts, webinars, and much more. Not only will putting the information on more creative channels attract more audiences, but it also increases the engagement between you and the users, making it much more personal.
Another mistake healthcare marketers often make is lacking is in the tracking and measuring of their efforts. After executing any content marketing strategy, it is important to monitor the results and adjust accordingly. There isn’t a single formula to successful healthcare marketing strategy, so you must constantly and consistently test what is effective. Find the data most relevant to your goal and see what kinds of trends are shown over time. By keeping track of what works and what does not, a company can save tons of money and time in reaching their marketing goals.
Autumn Sullivan, Digital Marketing Strategist at Big Sea
“The biggest content marketing mistake healthcare practices and companies make is that…”
They don’t lean heavily enough into their content tilt. Or worse, they don’t have a content tilt at all. Old-school (a.k.a. ineffective) content strategy dictates you talk about yourself and what you do. A content tilt finds the intersection of what you do and what you audience is interested in. This type of content can increase your search result ranking and, more importantly, build your brand a reputation as a trusted authority.
For example, a pediatric surgery center may write extensively about their doctors and procedures, but more effective content will be geared more toward a parent’s questions before their child needs surgery. Write about baby ear wax (how much is okay, what to do when it’s not), why kids eat their boogers, child bowel movement questions, and so on. This kind of content is invaluable for the parent Googling frantically at 3:00 a.m. This helps readers connect to your brand and form a relationship built on trust and value.
Emily Fritz, Writer for dio
“Healthcare is one of the most personal industries…”
Yet, healthcare content marketing often misses the mark when it comes to personalization. If your content is not chiming the bell on the humanization scale, then it’s time to reconsider how content plays into your overall marketing plan. Just like someone wants to feel that special connection with their physician, they’re looking for a deeper connection with your marketing materials.
Bottom line: you’re not giving your content consumers the experience they crave.
Direct mail isn’t the only way to share your healthcare brand’s big news. And TV and radio spots are expensive, especially when you consider the air time and the mandatory legalese uses.
Spray-and-pray among zip codes or counties earns low quality impressions. Boost your healthcare brand through live events or experiences instead. These are opportunities to deliver curated content based on specific audiences. You can also use event platforms for market research and better understanding constituents.
Brand experiences offer longer engagement times, which can be helpful when conveying a lot of information. Experiential marketing’s hallmark is its two-way communication, which leads to a better understanding of what you’re trying to convey. A brand experience is more memorable than receiving a postcard in the mailbox. And it’s a great way to disseminate marketing content in a fun, interactive way.
To start, look to your existing partnerships and community events to see if they’ll provide the right place or the right time to meet people face-to-face. Use your established content channels to promote the live event. Devise an interactive experience. And follow-up more personally with the people you meet.
If live events aren’t right for you, think about ways you can evoke multiple senses with your print or digital communications. Can you create a reader experience through augmented reality or 3D textures?
Healthcare is very serious. But every brand – including healthcare brands – needs to discover their authentic personalities (and then let that personality shine through in every piece of content). Your marketing content doesn’t always have to take a serious tone. Show off your brand’s fun side while remaining professional.
One way healthcare brands can identify who they are is through the stories of their physicians or patients. Get personal. Cry. Laugh. Rejoice.
Brand experiences allow you to show off your brand personality through human-to-human interaction. Experience evokes emotion, and research shows 74% of event attendees say they have a more positive opinion of the company, brand, product or service being promoted after the event.
That same personality should be found in your headlines, ad copy, online channels, and brochure ware.
Personality shouldn’t overshadow your key messaging. But it should be reflected consistently across all channels and communications pieces.
Experiential marketing delivers on more content. It generates shareable content that doesn’t give clinical advice but that does show off your authentic brand self. A well-planned brand experience can fuel your healthcare content factory with a year’s worth of content needs.
Micro-content can feed social media channels (and amplify your reach). On-site interviews of medical professionals or attendees can become audio clips for radio or a podcast. Surveys can populate a marketing report, blog or infographic. Video content can be used in future TV spots or digital pre-roll ads.
By using your marketing experience to fuel your other content needs, you’re becoming more integrated. Not to mention, efficient. The content is of course more personal, because it’s being generated by real interactions among real people (not paid actors). When you outline your goals in advance, the experience actually can become a cost-savings to your content team.
Bonus, brand experiences are earned media magnets and can amplify your content like none other! So, go ahead, tell your media contacts about your live event.
Debra Carpenter, Director of Marketing at Flashmarks
“Ignoring the visual component…”
Because the industry logos (Doctor Multimedia found that more than half of healthcare brands’ logos are blue), branding, and imagery can be quite similar, healthcare companies run the risk of blending in and being ignored online when they don’t take steps to stand out aesthetically.
A quick look at the content efforts produced by successful big players in the space (BCBS, UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, etc.) shows the missing aspect most healthcare companies skip: on-brand visuals that accompany, support, and drive connections with the content they produce.
Here’s a great example of visually-driven content from BCBS: bold, simple, and colorful, these types of images are share-worthy, succinct, and visually pleasing. They are the missing piece of the content marketing puzzle for healthcare brands. Making visual branding a priority will serve any healthcare company well – and give their audience something tangible to amplify online.
Kim Smith, Content Marketer with GoodFirms
“For healthcare marketing content, the biggest mistake is missing out what a customer wants…”
Content marketing strategy needs to utilize surveys and polls to find out what topics the consumers need to get help with or info on, which is a factor in conversions. The second big mistake is to lack the human factor. This human factor comes in the form of content which is simple to understand and explained with examples and infographics, or better, through videos. Additionally, the presence of human doctors as content creators or supervisors not only on the back-end but also the front-end instills trust and confidence among consumers. To do so, one should include video marketing, webinars, live video, etc. into one’s content marketing strategy to engage more and more with your audience.
Dan Martin, Senior Vice President at PAN Communications
“The answer to this question is twofold: channel and engagement…”
Healthcare marketers must consider several different stakeholders – HCPs, Payers/ Insurers, Hospital Systems, Legislators, Patients, etc. – with their content marketing efforts, and it can be a challenge to ID the best channel for reaching a given audience and influencing them towards an intended engagement. The value chain of care is so complex, knowing where to start can be difficult because the influence is cyclical.
The second challenge is in how healthcare marketers are bringing in and attracting these stakeholders with enough credibility and valuable content to learn something and be influenced enough to engage. Once you’re able to ID the channel, it comes down to content that is marketed authentically (e.g., peer-to-peer) and educationally.
I’d recommend utilizing your buyer personas to navigate these waters. Capitalize on martech tools, surveys, and online research reports to keep these up to date. Map each to their own buyer’s journey and amplify the content where these stakeholders are spending the majority of their time. Appeal to emotions by keeping content authentic and use media, analysts and influencers as validation points. Have a ‘Voice of Customer’ strategy and utilize case studies, quotes, and Q&As as company performance indicators.
Natasha Gayle, Managing Editor & Copywriter at 1Dental
“The greatest mistake healthcare companies make when it comes to their content marketing strategy is…”
Not listening and responding to their readers’ questions.
When companies create a content marketing strategy based on their own agenda and what they think would make a good content piece, they’re missing out on truly engaging their readers and meeting their needs.
When people search healthcare or find articles to read on the subject, they are coming with questions. They want solutions to their healthcare problems. A company can answer those questions, and when they do, they establish trust and credibility with that reader who will keep coming back to them for more.
For instance, take WebMD. They have done a great job at producing content that answers readers’ immediate questions and concerns. Think of all of their symptom pages and how helpful those are to readers looking for immediate answers.
How can companies improve?
Create surveys to share on your website or via email that asks your current readers/visitors to your site what kind of information they’re looking for. Are they looking for specific symptom and treatment information? Are they looking for affordable care options? Find out what topics they’re interested in and start developing your content marketing strategy around that.
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