Healthcare consumers are not an easy, static audience for marketers. A diverse and dynamic group, they want content that is easy-to-digest, useful, and factual. They need and want information that helps them understand or learn about health topics or that explains exactly how healthcare providers can help them live better, healthier lives.

Providing that content means doing so in a way that is tailored and personalized — today's healthcare consumers don't want to simply be part of a crowd. And as marketers, you have seconds to capture their attention before they move on.

If you want to tap into your healthcare consumer base in a manner that's lasting and effective (and less costly), you need to consider connecting on a deeper level. By using three essential pillars — trust, relevance, and optimization — you can run campaigns that are going to hit the mark, remain on budget, and will help you develop lasting relationships with your consumers.

Manage Messaging to Build Trust
Start by developing concrete messaging that every part of your content adheres to, and build your content plan from there. Your healthcare consumers have a specialized perspective — healthcare consumers want to feel they can trust an organization, and their interaction with healthcare content is personal and can have an enormous impact on their well-being or that of their loved ones. They don't just want the information you have, they need it for their well being.

Building trust for any healthcare organization begins with the very first marketing touch point, whether that's a email newsletter article, a direct mail piece, or results on a search page. A report by Strategy& shows that consumer choice is a driving force in healthcare, so winning that trust from the beginning is crucial to becoming their choice. Focus on connecting your brand messaging to your content strategy, and vice versa. You need a core vocabulary and way of talking about topics, whether that's a blog post on strengthening exercises for post-op knees or a provider bio for your bariatrics department.

Build Content for Relevance at All Stages
Consider that 80 percent of respondents to Strategy&'s survey said they are open to using digital methods to help manage their healthcare, but only 23 percent actually use this method currently. If healthcare consumers are open to using more digital sources of information, you can take this for the opportunity it is and establish a deeper connection through your online presence and across your delivery channels.

Develop strategies to engage your healthcare consumers in ways that are meaningful to them by offering content across the range of the consumer journey. Do you have adequate content to help pre-operative patients prepare, both mentally and physically? What about post-op? Do you have a strategy for ongoing content around chronic disease management or dealing with a new diagnosis? What about New Mover or Welcoming content? Then distribute your content across a variety of channels and formats to reach your audience wherever they're searching.

Optimize Through Testing
Whether you're using digital or print channels, be sure to test your methods, content, images, calls-to-action, etc. You want to continually optimize your content using data — Do certain topics or service lines drive more engagement? Does one headline perform better than another? Sharing a blog post or event description for a particular service line on Facebook or Twitter may gain more traction than sending it out via email, or a post in list format may be read and shared more than a post on a similar topic presented as a longer article. No matter the format or delivery channel of your content, you need an eye on what's working and what needs to be adjusted.

Expect to make continual changes to your strategy as healthcare rapidly evolves. The NEJM Catalyst Insights Council Survey on the New Marketplace reveals just how much of a priority the healthcare industry places on patient outcomes and satisfaction, but finding the right approach takes time and testing. To establish and maintain trusting relationships, you have to continually optimize your content for what your healthcare consumers want.

Use What's in Your Arsenal
Aligning your three pillars doesn't have to cost you. Using the tools already at your disposal will save money and time. Simple audits such as ensuring all widgets, tools, and visuals are being used to their best advantage to create a great consumer experience is worthwhile.

Healthcare marketers have a very targeted consumer base, but within that base is a great need for varied yet and accurate information. Keep those three pillars in mind, and you'll be better able to attract and retain a consumer base, build a solid reputation, and emerge as innovative leaders.

Want insight into specific content strategies that work for individual service lines? Read our white paper.