When it comes to content marketing for your healthcare organization, one of the biggest challenges you face is where to put your marketing dollars.
You already know that operating as a publisher and creating content on a consistent basis is necessary for lead generation, engagement and driving sales.
But if you’re having trouble selling your c-suite on the value of content marketing, it can be tough to decide what types of content you should create now.
In fact, 28 percent of healthcare marketers are in the same boat as you. According to True North Custom’s State of Healthcare Content Marketing report, although they don’t have a content marketing strategy in place, they plan to create one this year.
As you work on your own content marketing strategy, here are 5 types of content you should include.
1. Blog posts
If you do nothing else, your company’s blog should be where you put your effort. Posting new content at least two to three times a week helps SEO, keeps your leads engaged and builds your credibility.
However, you should never post just for the sake of posting. Every blog post you create should inform, engage and tell a story.
Always write blog posts with your buyer personas in mind, and make sure they’re relevant and timely and include new research and data.
Every piece of content you write should be valuable: answer your prospects’ most burning questions and give them solutions to the things that keep them up on night.
According to a recent report by the Content Marketing Institute, 79 percent of B2B marketers use video marketing as part of their overall strategy and this year, more marketers will jump on the bandwagon.
In fact, consumer internet video traffic will account for 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2019, a report by Cisco found.
When producing videos, make sure they draw your leads in and hold their attention to the very last second.
Some ideas you might try are stories about patients who have healed from a chronic, often misdiagnosed condition, interactive personalized videos for various demographics, or how-to guides you can use for member onboarding.
When they’re done well, infographics not only make complicated data more accessible and appealing to your leads, but they give your customers insight into relevant, timely information they crave.
Create infographics to explain new research, surveys you’ve conducted or problems your customers face. Like all types of content, infographics must tell a story, be visually appealing and shareable.
4. Case studies
You should always have testimonials on your site from happy customers, but case studies are what close the deal.
You can waste your breathe talking about features and benefits all day long but case studies validate the extraordinary results your customers have achieved in a compelling, interesting way.
Case studies are also a versatile tool and can be used for sales meetings, email marketing campaigns, repurposed as a blog or a series of blogs, pitched to the media and so much more.
5. White papers
A white paper is one of the most effective lead generation tools for B2B companies.
A strong white paper tells a compelling story, gives your potential clients information and problem-solving solutions and persuades them to take action.
A white paper is also a versatile marketing tool that can be used for email campaigns, direct mail, trade shows and social media.
It’s no surprise that if you want to generate more leads, convert more prospects and keep your customers engaged, content marketing must be your focus. In fact, according to a recent report by the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers say that creating engaging content will be their top priority this year.
When you live and breathe your business day in and day out however, it can be challenging to think of new content ideas that will get results. Yet with a few simple strategies, you can generate a ton of content in just a few minutes. Here’s how.
If you’re a type-A perfectionist, creative and passionate about your business like I am, your mind is probably already flooded with ideas at any given moment. Some of your best ideas probably pop into your head while you’re driving, in the shower or doing something other than sitting at your computer to update your editorial calendar.
Instead of waiting for the next big idea to come along when you really need it, step away from your computer, pull out a legal pad and start writing every single idea that comes to mind. Don’t edit or cross anything out.
Although not every story idea will make the cut, you’ll be surprised at how many amazing ideas you’ll come up with in just a few minutes.
When I conduct interviews, take client calls or meet with colleagues, my mind races a mile a minute with new ideas for story pitches and ideas for their businesses as well as mine. Coffee has a lot to do with it, but talking just gets the ideas flowing.
The next time you need to generate new ideas or you’re feeling stuck, meet a colleague for coffee, take your team out for lunch or post on a LinkedIn group to generate ideas fast.
Read, read, read
One of the best ways to brainstorm new content ideas is to read what your competitors are publishing and sharing on social media. Search Amazon for upcoming book releases and read industry trades. Other types of content that are unrelated to your industry or those you read for pleasure count too and may even give you the fresh perspective your content needs.
Repurpose and refresh
Just because you wrote a blog post on a story three months ago doesn’t mean it can’t make a comeback. Look at your content inventory and identify stories that can be refreshed with new data or made timely with new industry reports.
Spin 1 idea into 3
After your have a list of 20 or more ideas, read each one over to see if you can find a different angle. If it’s a how-to story, you might be able to turn it into “10 ways to…” or “10 mistakes…” You might even find that you have enough content to write a 3-part blog series.
In order to consistently generate content that’s targeted for your customers, you must understand their goals, pain points and objections to what you offer. When you publish a new piece of content, read and respond to comments and track your site and social media analytics to find out what they really need from you.
Find the missing link
When you read content that your competitors create, think about what they might have missed or look for ideas that weren’t fully fleshed out.
The healthcare industry as a whole has been slow to adopt the value of content marketing.
Until recently, that is. Healthcare marketers now recognize the need for a clear content marketing strategy that includes various types of content including blogs, white papers, infographics and of course, case studies.
In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s report B2B Content Marketing: 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends-North America, 82 percent of organizations use case studies in their arsenal of marketing tactics.
When they’re effective, case studies:
- Establish your credibility
- Educate in a compelling way
- Drive home what makes you different than your competitors
- Create brand awareness
- Demonstrate and validate results
- Build trusted relationships with clients
- Boost consumer confidence
- Increase sales
- Shorten the sales cycle
- Sell more to current customers—upsell and cross-sell.
- Answer questions
- Foster engagement
- Get media placement
Yet without a few key elements, your case studies will not only fail to convert your prospects, but they can also cost your organization a significant amount of time and money.
Here, read on for 5 of the most important pieces you should make sure all of your case studies include.
1. The story
Sounds pretty obvious, right? Yet so many healthcare organizations fail to think about their case studies as stories, despite the fact that they’re one of the most interesting ways to close deals with your potential clients.
When brainstorming and planning your case studies, think like a journalist and know what the story will be even if it’s not fully fleshed out yet.
- What were my client’s pain points?
- Why did they choose us and not our competitors?
- How exactly did we help them lower costs, attract more members, fill in the blank.
Before you even conduct the interview, get super-clear on what the story will be. Then when you write, make sure the story flows seamlessly with a clear beginning, middle and end. Be sure to add a headline, descriptive subheads and pull quotes too.
Features and benefits are important but backing up your case studies with data will make them even stronger and compelling to your prospect.
If you’re a health insurance plan for example, you’ll want to add specific data on how much you were able to lower costs or improve HEDIS scores. You might also add charts, graphs or infographics to demonstrate how you achieved those results.
Remember that all of your case studies should be written as though they were stories for a magazine or a news outlet.
Every case study must include quotes from your clients but statements like, “their service was so valuable,” or “the experience was great,” tell your prospects absolutely nothing.
Instead, dig deep on interviews and your quotes will read like sound bites: concise and powerful.
4. Social share buttons
Although you’ll probably use your case studies for direct mail campaigns, sales meetings and events, they should also live on your website, be published on LinkedIN Pulse and re-purposed as blog posts. You can also include them in your e-books, email marketing campaigns, online programs, press releases and pitches.
Although you’ll be sharing your case studies, make sure you make it easy for prospects to share it as well by adding social media buttons and tweeatable quotes.
Tell your prospects what to do next with one or more clear call to actions. Include complete contact information including the name of your sales representative, and make it even easier with a form or landing page.
As a health journalist and a healthcare content marketing writer, I’ve interviewed countless physicians for stories on everything from having a healthy pregnancy to how to prevent a heart attack.
Regardless of what the story is about, one thing I’ve realized is that the doctors I interview are either seasoned pros or have no idea how to conduct interviews.
Whether you’re creating content for a blog, thought leadership article or an annual report, ensuring that your physicians are prepared will help you create content that generates leads, engages patients and gives you credibility.
Likewise, if you’ve landed an interview at a top media outlet, your physicians will give better interviews and be called on again and again for future stories.
Here are 4 ways you can help your physicians give great interviews.
1. Be a pro.
When scheduling interviews make sure your physicians will be available. Sure, appointments run late and emergencies happen, but don’t schedule interviews at times you know they could get delayed, like when they’re wrapping up surgery or in a board meeting.
Many times physicians are too busy to remember they have an interview, so always send them calendar invites and confirm the night before.
2. Prepare them.
It happens to me practically every week. I take a call with a doctor and he says, what’s this for again? Clearly, his PR and marketing team didn’t communicate the details with him.
When asking doctors to do interviews, it’s important that you give them everything they need to know: the name of the outlet, the type of media, the audience, the story idea, the name of the journalist or producer and anything else that’s important for them to know.
If you’re working with a physician on a content marketing project, be sure to send them questions ahead of time if they want to prepare.
Most physicians can talk off the cuff, but if they have been asked to speak about something in particular that needs to be researched ahead of time, be sure to let them know and offer to help. If the physician comes prepared with his own talking points and can cite relevant studies, it will help the interview go even more smoothly.
3. Make sure they talk in sound bites.
I find that physicians fall into 3 camps:
- They give brief answers with little to no detail, i.e. yes, diabetes is dangerous.
- They ramble on and on about one idea that isn’t relevant or important or they go off on a tangent.
- They give brief, but informative straightforward answers and speak in sound bites whether they’re being interviewed for a blog post or a TV show.
Experienced writers understand how to conduct interviews, ask the right questions and how to get the physician talking. Yet if your physicians talk in sound bites, they will have credibility and your content will be a lead generation tool.
4. Help them focus on strategy, not their own agenda.
As a healthcare marketer, you have buyer personas, a content marketing strategy and an editorial calendar in place. Although your physicians are on board to help you create content, some may not like your story ideas, the voice, tone and style of your writing or the final version.
Remember that doctors are not content strategists and should not write content. Although they are vital to content creation, they need to understand your organization’s goals and objectives for generating new leads, keeping patients engaged and reducing attrition.
Physicians are a healthcare organization’s greatest asset, as both expert sources and content creation partners. And when you take the time to guide and support them, your organization can do amazing things.
You might have world-class doctors, state of the art technology and exceptional wellness programs, but when it comes to healthcare marketing, you could be making crucial mistakes that are preventing you from attracting and retaining patients.
Here are 5 of the most common mistakes healthcare organizations make and what you can do to solve them.
1. Your website is weak.
If your content isn’t clear, concise and written specifically for the patients you want to attract, you might as well not have a website. Not to mention that poor navigation, broken links and a dated design are surefire ways to send prospective patients running.
When people visit your website, they need to see themselves at your practice and feel like valued patients before they ever walk in the door. Remember: it’s about them, not you.
Your website should always include a strong call-to-action such as a free report or your newsletter sign-up, a list of services, an about page, contact information including email that’s easy to find and a blog with valuable content that is updated 2 to 3 times a week.
2. You don’t have a list.
Email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to generate new leads and keep your patients engaged. Yet so many medical practices and healthcare organizations either miss this opportunity or send out a newsletter when the motivation strikes.
One of the best ways to grow your list is to have a clear call-to-action on your website. Offer a freebie such as a guide, a gym membership discount or a collection of healthy recipes in exchange for email addresses. Continue to create new content and send your newsletter out on a regular basis.
3. You miss the mark on member engagement.
When you bring on new patients, keeping them engaged is the best way to lower attrition and costs and generate referrals. In fact, according to a Commonwealth Fund-supported study, patients with the lowest “activation scores,” or those who were able to make informed health care choices and manage their medical conditions, had predicted average health care costs that were 8 percent higher than those patients with the highest activation scores.
Although you may not be a concierge medicine practice, thinking like one can help keep your patients engaged. Welcome new patients with an information packet, have a staff member call to thank them for joining the practice and follow up after visits to answer questions that may have come up. You might also consider hosting informal meet and greet session and special events.
4. Targeting patients with one-size-fits-all content.
It’s certainly easier to send the same newsletter to all of your patients, but if you don’t customize the content for individual patients, you’re missing an opportunity to help them stay engaged in their care.
By using personal health data and demographics, it’s easy to target your patients with content customized for them. For example, you can send a collection of plant-based recipes for those patients with high-blood pressure or FAQ’s about vaccines to parents of your pediatric patients.
5. Using the wrong channels.
If you only use one type of channel, chances are you’re missing opportunities to generate leads and keep your patients engaged. For example, sending emails and text messages to your 25-year-old patients will be much more effective than your 80-year-old patients who prefer direct mail.
Look at demographics, historical data and opt-in preferences to determine the most effective channels to communicate with your patients and keep in mind that they must be channels your patients understand and use regularly.
Although healthcare marketers can talk all day about their businesses, why they’re unique and better than the competition, when it comes down to writing content, they freeze.
That’s why most hire freelance healthcare writers to write their content. Handing it off to a writer who understands their business, speaks their language and knows how to research and write compelling content is a no-brainer.
Yet for some marketers, hiring help isn’t in their budget. Or they simply haven’t sold their CMO on inbound marketing yet.
And if you’re one of them, the good news is that you can still write amazing content on your own, even if you don’t consider yourself a writer.
Here’s how to make it happen.
Write for your customer
Your leads might be suit-wearing, serious executives, but they still want to read a good story. The key however, is to always have them in mind when you write any piece of content.
The best way to make sure you write for your customer is to create buyer personas. Buyer personas explain demographics like age, sex and annual income, identifiers such as their time limits or their demeanor, as well as their goals, challenges and objections to what you offer.
Find the game changer
If you can’t identify the turning point in the story, then you either don’t have a story or you’re not ready to write it.
You might have to review the story or even conduct another interview. Some stories are “stories within stories” and have so many twists and turns it can be hard to decide what to focus on. So go back to your buyer personas and then home in on the one that will resonate with your leads and write it.
Have a plan
Do you remember writing outlines for reports in high school? It might seem tedious or even unnecessary, but it’s one of the best ways to write a well-crafted story and get it done in no time.
So write a rough draft of how you think the story will shape up. Then just starting writing. Don’t worry about the quality, just get your thoughts down. Then come back to it later, fill in what you’re missing and edit it until you’re happy.
Show, don’t tell
It’s one of the most important rules reporters learn in journalism school: show, don’t tell. And it holds true whether you’re writing a blog post or a white paper.
So when you’re writing content, write as though you’re talking to your best friend over coffee. Be sure to answer your readers’ questions, include relevant quotes and as much detail as possible to support your ideas. Bring the reader on your journey and make him feel as though he’s right there with you.
Whether you’re writing about a complex medical device, a new technology or a wellness program for your patients, follow the “Keep It Simple Stupid” principle when writing your content.
Instead of wordy, complex or filled with medical jargon, make your content easy to understand. Once you write the first draft, re-read it and cut out extra words, phrases and sentences that aren’t unnecessary.
Leave them with a lasting impression
When writing your stories, the ending should always leave your reader with an idea or a feeling that you want to stick with them.
Always tie the conclusion back into the introduction and then think about what you want them to remember.
Whether it’s a quote or an epic thought, your goal should make them take a deep breath and leave them thinking, “Wow, that’s amazing!”
Let’s face it: no one dislikes a good story. And one thing is clear: your potential patients crave stories just like the rest of us. They want stories about patients just like them who had the same symptoms, the same frustrations and the same needs.
Patient case studies are one of the most effective tools smart healthcare marketers use to nurture and convert leads. So if you’re not including them in your content marketing strategy, you’re missing out.
They get you attention
Journalists don’t need more doctors or experts. They need stories.
As a freelance magazine writer, I often reach out M.D.’s, naturopaths, functional medicine doctors and other practitioners to help me find patients with serious, but often overlooked medical conditions.
What’s more, my editors at Fox News are much more likely to approve a story idea if I also have a patient story. So if you’re trying to get the media’s attention, you’ll need to do more than just send out a press release.
Create content around patient stories, include case studies with your press releases and offer interviews for journalists looking to write a great story.
They put a name to a face
Patients already know you exist, but what they really want to know is how what you offer is different. How will you change their lives? Patient stories help your leads see that you’re a real company with real doctors, who care for real people.
They validate results
When it comes to finding a doctor, the rules have changed. Patients are smarter than ever before and they’re choosing their doctors only after doing their research, reading online reviews and asking their friends for recommendations.
Using patient stories is a great way to nurture leads and make an effective case for why they too should choose your organization.
They answer questions
Testimonials are great, but case studies help fill in the gaps and answer your leads’ most burning questions. Because let’s face it, your customers aren’t reading every last word on your website.
They want to know things like: did the doctor take the time to listen? Does he offer flexible appointments? What tests does he offer?
So make it easy for them and give them the answers while also keeping them engaged.
Here are a few ways to use patient stories.
Add a navigation tab on your homepage and create landing pages for your stories.
Create a series of blog posts for patient stories and link to them in other types of content. Or repurpose your existing case studies into blog posts to maximize your ROI.
Share on social media
When you create new content, always share it on social media and include relevant keywords and hashtags.
Hospital annual reports tend to be dry but if you include your most compelling patient stories, they can be interesting and make you stand out from your competitors.
Newsletters and emails
Include a patient story in your newsletter that’s relevant to your other content or link to your landing pages in emails.
Webinars and in-person events
When included in webinars or presentations at in-person events, patient stories can convert leads and help upsell current patients on additional services.
Between large patient panels, electronic medical records and other administrative tasks, doctors are short on time. Even if you’ve convinced them of the need for inbound marketing, it can be tough to nail them down and create content for your healthcare organization.
Yet with some simple strategies, it’s possible to write amazing content that converts, gets you more patients and saves you time.
Create stories, not topics.
Instead of sending your physicians a list of topics and asking them which ones they want to claim, assign them story ideas like you’re the editor and they’re the reporter.
Before you can do that however, you need to make sure you have a content marketing strategy and an editorial calendar in place. Without it, it’s like throwing your ideas at the wall and hoping they’ll stick.
Do an interview.
For most doctors email is preferable, but an email is not an interview. Email will never capture the entire story or your physician’s voice.
I’ve found that a brief phone interview is the best—and fastest—way to get everything you need and ensure your content is great. Although your physician may only have 15 minutes to spare, a 50-minute interview, when possible, can generate enough information to write up to 6 blog posts.
Work ahead of time.
Content marketing isn’t breaking news. And asking a physician to be available within 24 hours because you haven’t planned ahead is a recipe for disaster. Send your physicians a few options for interview times and let them know your deadline, which should always be days before your actual deadline. This way, if your physician gets called into emergency surgery, you’ll still have enough time to make the deadline.
To maximize your interview, send your questions ahead of time so the physician can prepare if she wants to. Also, do most of your research ahead of time so you won’t waste time asking questions about things you can find on your own. If you ask things like why omega-3’s are essential or how common breast cancer is, your physician will wonder why you’re wasting his time. The interview is meant to fill-in, clarify or add information that only he can provide.
Your hours in the office might be 9 to 5 but when it comes to doctors, they’re usually available in the early morning or in the evening. Plus, even if you schedule a call, the physician may get held up with a patient or get called into surgery.
So be flexible, or hire a freelance healthcare writer to help you out. And always remember that when it comes to your content, your physicians are your best creative partners.
There’s one word that I’ve noticed comes up over and over again when I speak to prospective clients: trust.
Trust that the freelance healthcare writer they hire will understand their business, write amazing copy and make their deadlines. Trust that they won’t drop the ball or screw up the project. A potential client recently told me that she was hesitant about working with a freelance writer. It turns out that the public relations agency she had hired to write their healthcare content wasn’t writing in the company’s voice.
She needed to make sure that if she hired me (she did), that I not only spoke her language, but I could write the content as though their CEO wrote it. Perhaps you’ve been burned in the past too. Sure, it stinks. But the problem still remains: you need content. Compelling content that’s created on a consistent basis to help potential customers find you.
The good news is that you can hire an amazing freelance writer who understands your business if you do your homework and know the right questions to ask.
Here, read on for 5 questions to ask potential candidates.
1. What do you need?
True, you’re the one with the problem or challenge, but if you work together with the writer from the get-go, it’s a win-win for both sides.
Instead of looking to that person as just a consultant, think of him or her as your creative partner and a member of your team. You’ll want to provide a creative brief which outlines things like the objectives of the project, who your competitors are, what has worked for you in the past and how success will be measured. You’ll also need to have buyer personas and your content marketing strategy handy.
2. What industry (or industries) do you specialize in?
It’s important that the writer you choose specializes in the healthcare industry. It’s OK if they specialize in more than one industry, but take a look at their portfolio to get an idea of what they write. Hiring a writer who speaks your language and knows the difference between probiotics and prebiotics for example, will cut down on several rounds of edits and a ton of frustration.
3. Can I see your work?
One of the first writing samples you’ll ever see is the writer’s website and it’s one of the best ways to weed out potential candidates.
Typos? Grammatical errors? Dead links? Move on.
Most writers have their portfolios on their websites but feel free to ask about other clips they may have. You’re not only looking for the quality of their work, but also the range of their work.
Keep in mind that although you might be looking for someone just to write your case studies now, later on you might also need blogs, website copy and white papers. So you’ll want to make sure the writer you hire is versatile.
4. What’s your availability?
The key to a successful partnership is being clear about what you need from the get-go. So if you already know that you’ll need someone to turn around your press releases in 2 days for example, make sure the writer can write quickly, is accustomed to quick deadlines and has the time to get it done.
You may also want to consider working on a retainer basis, which will allow the writer to block out a certain amount of time each week just for you.
5. Do you require a contract?
A proposal which outlines exactly what services are included for the project is important, but a signed agreement is necessary too. Without it, either side can make assumptions and it can turn into a he-said-she-said situation.
The agreement can be a simple letter or a more formal document, but it should explain the services the writer will provide, how many revisions are included, who owns the rights, as well as the fees and deadlines.
Make no mistake. If you’re a hospital, a private practice, concierge medicine network or a digital health brand, your healthcare organization needs consistent content creation.
There’s no better way to build trust, create brand awareness and close more deals. And if you have physicians, they too should be a part of the process.
Yet doctors should never write content. Here’s why, and what you should be doing instead.
1. Doctors don’t know content.
Even if your doctors have published New York Times best sellers, are contributors for the Huffington Post and have been published in medical journals, they’re probably not experts in content marketing.
It’s unlikely that’ll know how to write stories, attention-grabbing headlines or how to optimize content.
2. They may have an agenda.
Despite having an editorial calendar, your physicians may have their own ideas about what makes for a great blog post or which client should be featured in a case study.
They may disagree with the story that’s been approved and suggest what the real story should be. Although their story might be just as amazing, you see the bigger picture—your content marketing strategy.
3. They won’t like it.
I once conducted an interview with a physician that lasted for nearly an hour and gave me enough information to write about 6 blog posts. Yet after he read them, he said they weren’t something he wanted his name on despite essentially being the author.
So although your team may allow physicians to make edits or even require that they approve content, the less time they have their hands on it, the better.
4. They’re too busy.
Doctors are short on time so expecting them to write content isn’t reasonable. Do your own research, set up interviews with them and then write the content yourself. Or hire a freelance healthcare writer to save you time and a lot of headache.
5. Your project won’t get done.
Even if you handle the content, once you share it with your physicians it’s bound to get delayed, regardless of where you are in the process.
You may need them to review it for accuracy, but they may go overboard with input and revisions and may even take the project in a completely different direction. And when there are too many cooks in the kitchen, the project can drag on for months. And your customers? They’ve already moved on to your competitors.