Posted: January 3, 2018

“Patients — now responsible for an expanded share of medical costs — search online for valuable and relevant information. Amid increased competition for the reader’s attention, today’s content must be fresh, social-sharable, and reliable to earn respect and build trust,” according to 10 Healthcare Marketing Trends to Watch in 2017.

The good thing is, while much of your marketing is budget dependent (How much can we spend on ads? What’s the cost of upgrading our email marketing platform?), creating an engaging content strategy doesn’t have to require more budget. Instead, it requires making smart, intentional decisions about what you create and how you distribute it.

That means hospitals and health organizations of all sizes have a chance to compete and engage with their audience. Whether you’re already creating content or want to maximize your current efforts, keep the following tips in mind. Use these ideas to create an engaging content strategy based on what your patients want and what your competitors are doing.

First: Look at the Data
Very rarely are our “hunches” correct. It’s easy to assume that what we like is what everyone else likes, but there are very few instances in which that’s actually the case. In fact, you may look at the data and be shocked at what you find. That’s why this piece of planning is critical — and should come first. Without data, you’re making decisions based on assumptions, and we all know the outcome of that is rarely good.

There are two main places where you can extract data: your healthcare CRM and your website analytics. Here’s what you need to know as you dig into both.

Start by identifying your target patient; you may already have this dialed in. In which case, this is an opportunity to check that your current information is still accurate. Use this data to capture the essence of your ideal patients (plan to create at least 3 ideal patients, referred to as personas), including age, occupation, education level, family size, and more.

If your CRM is integrated with paid and organic campaigns, you can also use it to look at the campaigns you’ve run so far. Ask yourself: Which ones have been most successful in terms of engagement and click-throughs? What was the theme, format, and target audience of the top 3 pieces? If not, research this with your website analytics tool.

This information will help you match content to the audience that’s most interested in it. Combine this with data from your website analytics (more about this below) to complete the full analysis.

Your website analytics provide insight on what content is already working or not working for your organization. Whether you use Google Analytics, proprietary software, or another third-party platform, start a list of the following information:

  • Total traffic to all content on your site and the sources that drive that traffic
  • Top 10 most visited content pieces, along with the individual traffic total for each
  • Top source of traffic for each piece
  • Top 3 sources of traffic for all content 
  • Total number of blog posts published each month, for the last 3 months
  • Most shared content (Use BuzzSumo or your social sharing software/platform to find this data)

All of this information will help you determine whether total traffic/engagement correlates with number of posts published each month or not, in addition to the platforms that drive the most engagement and traffic to your content. Repeat what’s working, ditch what’s not.

Second: Get Inspiration From Your Competitors
A whopping 73 percent of U.S. hospitals are already engaging in content marketing, and an additional 19 percent were planning to start in 2016, as reported in the State of Healthcare Content Marketing Report 2016. That means big brands and competitors are trying to do the same thing as you: attract patients with engaging online content.

That makes them a great source of inspiration as you craft a strategic plan. With a similar customer base and service offering, what’s working for them may also work for you. To glean insights from their efforts, do a competitor content analysis. This analysis is essentially a content audit. Questions to ask include:

  • What kind of content are they creating? Ebooks? Blog posts? Calculators? Infographics? Case studies? 
  • Which of their content is performing best on social? 
  • What is their publishing frequency? How often do they publish blog posts each week? Does this seem to correlate with type of content or performance on social?
  • What topics are they talking about? How do these match up with performance? Which topics are performing best?

Repeat this with your top 3 to 5 competitors. From this basic analysis you’ll be able to glean a number of insights:

  • Ideal posting frequency
  • Topics your audience is likely most interested in
  • Types of content that are performing best
  • Which social platforms are getting the most engagement for each type of piece

With all of that said, you may not have success doing exactly what your competitors are doing, so use the information as a blueprint. They key is to start tracking all of your efforts — using tracking codes or UTM parameters — so you can slowly create a rinse-and-repeat formula that works for you brand.

Third: Put It All Together
Here are a few examples of how you would use all of this data to create more engaging content.

Example 1: Your ad set about flu shots beat out all other ads that quarter, so you decide to create a flu shot guide that will be emailed to your subscriber list and shared on social. If this is successful, consider what other seasonal content/topics have been successful in the past and plan a guide for each one.

Example 2: Your eBook about end of life care drove more leads than the eBook about caring for a newborn. You repurpose that eBook into an infographic that’s highly shareable and engaging.

Example 3: One of your competitors has created a wide variety of case studies, and they’ve all gotten massive engagement on Facebook. You create one case study and share on Facebook (assuming you have a similar number of followers) to see if you’ll have the same results.

Example 4: An old weight loss calculator continues to get the most traffic, month over month. You decide to create a new, updated calculator based on your most popular blog post, because your audience is clearly interested in both the blog post topic and calculators.

Example 5: Your competitor’s top three pieces of content were an infographics, all of which got more than 3K shares on Pinterest alone. You invest time in one initial infographic, using the data to determine the best topic for your audience, and share on Pinterest.

Finally: Start Testing
Notice how in each example above, it’s suggested to start with just one piece of content. This reduces the chances of wasting time on something that won’t resonate with your audience. If it works well, create more — but wait to see what the analytics dictate first.

Don’t stop there. Testing is a significant piece of an engaging content strategy, and you should regularly check data from your CRM and website, along with a competitive analysis, to keep track of your efforts. It’s recommended to do a monthly report, all of which culminate in a quarterly report four times each year.

Want more insight into content that engages your healthcare consumers and helps drive business goals? Read our post on other types of content, like video, that are trending with consumers.