Why Does Your Healthcare Practice Need Content Marketing?

Written by on February 28, 2014 in Practice tips - No comments

Healthcare is the largest private sector industry in the US and it accounts for 13% of the nation’s workforce. However, when it comes to content marketing, the industry does not keep pace with others, as research from MedCity Media and MarketingProfs reveals. Content marketing aims to attract and retain customers by creating and publishing relevant and valuable content, and takes a more subtle approach than the traditional push marketing.

On an average, healthcare marketers spend 23% of their budget on content marketing, compared to 31% for all marketers. And while 43% of healthcare marketers plan to increase their content marketing spend over the next year, it is still much less the then the 54% marketers in other industries who plan to increase their outreach. Only 26% of all hospitals participate in social media, and out of that only 12% blog.

Now consider the social media and Internet usage pattern of an average individual. 85% of adults in the US use the Internet and 72% of them look online for health information. 77% of these information seekers begin their session at a search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. 36% of US adults provide care for a loved one, and 8% have a child with a medical condition. These caregivers are heavy technology users and are more likely than others to search for health-related information online.

Do you see the pattern here? There is tremendous potential for organic search results to drive traffic to your practice’s website, if you could only just be there to provide the information that your customers so eagerly seek.

Why are healthcare practices hesitant to embrace online marketing and social media?

If content marketing is so important, why the hesitation? Well, healthcare practices have certain concerns that are unique to their industry:

  • Challenge of producing large amounts of factually accurate content which will enhance the positive image and reputation of the brand.
  • Fear of compromising patient privacy.
  • Difficulty in creating a secure system that prevents abuse of social media and potential malpractice charges.
  • Concerns about violating HIPAA guidelines.
  • Limited budgets and staff, and enormous customer base.

These are all legitimate concerns, but the benefits of content marketing far outweigh the risks and difficulties. Healthcare practices typically rely on patient referrals to attract more customers, and online marketing is an obvious way to facilitate and generate word-of-mouth referrals, especially considering the huge number of patients who rely on the Internet to provide them with healthcare information that they can use. The fear of getting it wrong can weigh you down, but there are several healthcare practices that have got it right, so why can’t you?

Some examples of those who have got it right

Inova Health System, the leading not-for-profit healthcare provider in Northern Virginia, is a good example of great content marketing. Serving more than 1 million people each year, Inova has established an active presence on social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and more. They publish patient recovery videos on YouTube to build trust, and to showcase the care they provide. They focus on understanding patient personas and write content that suits different types of users who might be looking for information in their patient and visitor section.

Also consider Cleveland Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital, and American Heart Association, who are some of the most highly engaged healthcare practices in social media. Take a look at how Boston Children’s Hospital uses Youtube to talk about the health issue of a child and how they reassure parents of other children who are possibly in similar situations. Also check out Dr. Briffa’s blog that offers healthcare and wellness tips. If you are a reader of Dr. Briffa, who would you rather consult for diabetes? The good doctor who cares enough to provide so much reliable information for free, or an unknown entity?

People want to deal with brands that care about them, especially when it comes to something as important as healthcare.

So how would you get on board with content marketing?

Consumers are increasingly distrustful of the traditional push method of marketing. By educating rather than advertising, healthcare service providers can position themselves as a natural and obvious choice when someone needs healthcare.

Your content must answer questions and aim to help rather than just talk about your brand. Of course your marketing efforts can directly link back to your brand or briefly mention how you provide a particular solution, but always keep the content focused around what the customer needs.

Start with your website. This is the first stop that a potential customer makes. Think about it as your online practice. It must exude the same qualities that your actual practice does – competence, friendliness, and ease of using services. Your website is the first opportunity to build trust with the potential patient.

Provide them with plenty of information that they can go through. Patients who are worried about a particular health condition are motivated to research and understand more about what they might be suffering from. You have the unique opportunity to position yourself as a trustworthy and comprehensive resource, and possibly the only one that they need to rely on to get all the information that they need. Along with articles that discuss medical conditions in simple, easy to understand language, you can also provide them with more in-depth content in the form of ebooks, guides, or newsletters. Consider building a resource library on your website.

Direct traffic to your website by optimizing content for search engines. Build authority in your domain by contributing articles to online newspapers or other popular websites. Invest time in understanding your customer personas. Superior knowledge of your target demographic is the key factor that will help you produce successful content. Are you a plastic surgeon? Talk about the popular plastic surgery procedures, what patients can expect, recovery time, and success stories. Are you a practice that caters to the local market? Write about the community and become the go-to source of information on the health and wellness of your locality.

Know what your goals are

For 81% of healthcare marketers, brand awareness is the primary objective in content marketing. Develop a content plan that directly addresses your marketing goals and ties to your strategic goals and objectives. Put in place a mechanism to quantify the ROI of your content marketing efforts. You may want to measure your website traffic, social media followers, number of positive reviews, and a number of new patients.

The future of content marketing in healthcare

As healthcare providers become increasingly attuned to the specific needs of their potential customers, more practices are bound to start using content marketing to connect with their patients. If you choose to bow out, you run the risk of leaving the field open for your competitors. If your brand needs to reach out and connect with more consumers, content marketing is something that you just cannot afford to ignore.

Start serving people with content that provides value for them, and show that you care. After all isn’t that what healthcare service is all about – caring for your patients?

By Nisha Salim

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