By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
You might have the impression that “content marketing” buzzed its way into popular use a digital minute ago. In the “buzz-vocabulary” of healthcare marketing it’s a timely (but not-so-new) topic.
Content marketing is a natural fit for many hospitals and healthcare providers. It’s a means to speak to people and provide them with useful and engaging information. Among the benefits, it is a marketing tool for patient engagement, retention, branding and professional reputation building.
The first in a series.
We’ll be discussing Content Marketing in a series of articles. And this overview—the first in our series—offers some of the basics as a starting point.
You’ve seen the concept for years. Business brands—and more recently, medical practices and physicians—have been generating meaningful content marketing materials for many years.
Long before the digital dawn, businesses such as the Auto Club were a dependable source of maps and travel information, and food brands published cookbooks and recipes. That’s an early form of content marketing. The availability of the Internet moved content online. WebMD is a well-established online provider of health and medical information.
Think of content marketing as long-form messaging. Definitions of content marketing vary a bit because it’s one of those umbrella terms that embraces several forms and formats.
In general, content marketing is the timely creation and distribution of pertinent and engaging materials that are of interest to—and influence the purchase decisions of—select current and prospective patients or prospects.
Your long-form marketing message(s) can be communicated via (partial list):
- Blog posts
- Case study/trend analysis
- Data-driven content
- Discussion Forums
- Educational game/quiz
- Instructional articles/guides
- Technical report interpretation
- Print newsletters
- Research reports
- Virtual conferences
- White papers
Thought-Leader. Expert. Go-To Resource. A planned program of originating and disseminating authoritative information, a healthcare provider can achieve various business goals related to near-term and long-term new business development. The marketing effect is, in part, to be regarded as a trusted and respected resource that, above others, is the answer to a medical or healthcare need.
5 Basic Rules of content marketing
- Begin with the audience in mind. Carefully focus your material in a way that is pertinent and relevant to a defined audience or groupÑthose individuals who you seek to influence and engage over time. Remember that it is about what interests them (not you).
- Retain the human element. Content marketing materials should be presented in an authoritative, but easily understood, manner. Utilize people-oriented story-telling or conversational tones to humanize the meaning or consequences of dry data or technical details. Physicians should draw on their people experience over medical science.
- Self-promotion is self-defeating. In contrast to direct response advertising, content marketing engenders a relationship over immediate action. The reader or recipient gains a profoundly greater sense of trust and believability from material that is unbiased. An impartial and informative voice is convincing and reliable.
- Results take time and effort. The benefits of content marketing develop over a period of time that is needed for the audience to grow in size and in acceptance. Depending on the marketing goals, this can be used in addition to traditional (and more immediate) advertising methods.
- Begin only what you can sustain. The value of content marketing comes in part from being a reliable, timely and consistent resource with regular updates and fresh material. Match your efforts to your resources, beginning with a modest effort that you can support (and prospectively grow). A blog, for example, can build credibility, but neglect (infrequent posts) is suspect and no longer trustworthy.
Content marketing delivers something of value to the public in a manner that is likely to inspire confidence in the practitioner, fuel informed word-of-mouth or referrals, and connect and engage the reader. It also plays an important role in being seen (and found) by patients using various Internet search engines.
Google—the dominant player in the world of search—increasingly stresses quality in online articles and sites. In a related article, see: Google’s Penguin Algorithm Change May Be Killing Your Search Engine Ranking. And watch for additional articles in this series.