Healthcare marketing based on great content versus interruption: a better way to connect with patients.

While healthcare marketing still primarily employs ads that blare from every possible source of paid media, the tendency of today’s consumers to tune out these ads is only accelerating. When people are “targeted” with ads, they take evasive action. Instead, information seekers want to know how to deal with a disease (their own or a loved ones), find a cure, or simply stay healthy. So of course they do a Google search. Based on Captains of Industry’s experience, here are five ways to look differently at content marketing for healthcare in order to raise your brand’s visibility and build a deeper connection with customers.

Focus on quality first. How quickly and easily a healthcare brand can be found via a search has less to do with SEO, and more to do with the actual quality of the content offered – especially since Google has once again changed their search algorithms to favor real quality and depth of knowledge versus the junk often spewed from content farms.

Put yourself in the patients’ shoes. If you were a patient, what would you really want to know? Avoid the hard sell completely and focus on providing a genuinely useful depth of information on the medical condition that relates specifically to your product or service. The Mayo clinic does a nice job with their prostate cancer information center (part of a range of resources for patients dealing with various conditions). Their site provides a comprehensive resource of helpful information on symptoms, causes, risk factors, complications, preparing for your appointment, tests and diagnosis, treatments and drugs, alternative medicine, coping and support, and prevention. It’s a lot to read through, but wouldn’t you want all that and even more if you were diagnosed with prostate cancer? It’s not a coincidence that the Mayo clinic was the only hospital on page one of my Google search for “prostate cancer.

Tell the right story (and sometimes let it find you).  Marketing firms tend to gush about storytelling as if it had just been invented. Of course you need storytelling, but you first have to find the right story – the one that will resonate with the people who you most want to connect with. This process typically starts with a research project that determines the mindset of customers, and how your product or service can solve their problem. I’ve seen countless reports and spreadsheets that deliver tons of details and data on customers; gathering all this is wise, and it never hurts to know more. But often these processes miss something incredibly valuable that can’t be envisioned through a database: magic. Magic happens when you listen very, very carefully and look for unexpected twists and turns as the story develops. For example, when Doris Kearns Goodwin, the Pulitzer-prize winning historian, set out to write a the definitive biography of Abraham Lincoln, her research led her to a whole new and far more fascinating story about the Team of Rivals who made up Lincoln’s cabinet and helped him win the Civil War. Goodwin’s ability to listen, and let the story find her, helped her create a classic. This approach has many applications in healthcare. For example, when Captains sought to create a campaign focused on a product that made it easy for patients to remember to take their medications, we found the story was far more compelling when told from the perspective of a patient’s granddaughter. The story was about her and how much she cared for her grandpa, versus a story about forcing gramps to take his pills. You’ll know when the right story has found you when you can’t stop thinking about it. If the story is that memorable to you, it will be memorable to your customers.

Create a content publishing calendar that maps to your customers’ journey of understanding. The key is to provide your customers with access to the right pieces of content at the right times, based on where they are in their level of understanding. You have to meet customesr where they are, and gradually over time provide them with knowledge-building tools that will help them reach the conclusion that your product or service is of value to them. For example, let’s say your company makes a drug for pediatric asthma patients. You already have a sales force that’s providing doctors with brochures and other sales tools, but you know that parents are actively searching for better solutions as well. So, first, you have to know what level of knowledge most parents have when they first learn their child suffers from asthma. They’re likely at a very early stage on their journey, and lack the basic knowledge about the various treatment options. For this audience, at this stage of learning, you might create an e-book or video primer for parents that offers basic education on asthma, its causes, and typical treatments. Other parents will already have this base level of knowledge, and they should have their own place on the content roadmap, and unique content tailored to their level of understanding. A good content roadmap will be very comprehensive, and cover the full spectrum of phases each parent will go through as they learn to provide their child with the best care possible. This roadmap should then be put in a calendar – month by month, quarter by quarter – with content launched in a way that’s coordinated and integrated with your other marketing activities.

To sum up, it’s time for healthcare marketing to move past short, catchy headlines and ads that interrupt, and instead rely on great content that today’s information seekers are hungry for.