We’ve recently partnered with the Healthcare Rap podcast, which offers a unique voice, interesting guests, and valuable insights—all wrapped in the most fun 30 minutes of your week. In last week’s episode, hosts Jared Johnson and Peter Balistreiri of Phoenix Children’s Hospital tackled the critical question, “Why Aren’t We More Obsessed with Content?”
In the decade or so since the terms content marketing, inbound marketing,and brand journalism came into the mainstream, Jared and Peter point out that many organizations have made attempts at content marketing, but the reality is that very few are doing it well.
The data demonstrates this dichotomy. While nearly 7 in 10 healthcare organizations feel content marketing is essential or very important to their organizations, only 10% consider themselves successful at tracking the ROI of their content marketing efforts.
So why aren’t we more obsessed with content? There are many answers but according to Jared and Peter, there are common challenges as well as clear opportunities when it comes to content marketing. Check out episode #19 of Healthcare Rap for the full podcast and here are highlights from this lively discussion.
Challenges to Content Marketing Success
Organizations often have the wrong definition of content marketing. Jared defines content marketing as growing an audience by providing them with information that is helpful and useful. He asserts that to be successful, content marketing does not simply involve taking sales materials and turning them into blog posts or creating lists like "18 Reasons Why You Should Choose Our Software." It’s less about regurgitating features and benefits and more about providing your audience with value—without an expectation of immediate return (a game-changing concept inspired by his reading of the book Youtility). Whether you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, the question you should ask is, “Are you building a relationship with your audience?”
The price to entry can be very high. As seasoned healthcare marketing pros, Jared and Peter recognize that organizations often try and pile content marketing onto the myriad marketing initiatives they’re already managing. The result is typically unplanned, unpredictable content that falls short of unrealistic expectations. According to Jared, an effective content marketing strategy takes a commitment from the top down and should be approached as an investment in building long-term relationships. In his words, "You can get a lot more from a relationship than from a quick sale."
It’s difficult to execute well. Peter points out that a lot of people think content marketing is easy to do, but to do it right and with consistency is a challenge, both in terms of strategy and execution. From structuring a team, developing a strategy, creating an editorial calendar, and defining your KPIs, it can be overwhelming—but you’ve got to start somewhere. Peter points out that if you Google, “What does a content marketing team consist of?” the results consistently generate recommendations between five to 10 people. That includes an editor, designer, content strategist, analyst, and social media manager (among others). "There’s a reality check that needs to take place when it comes to content marketing," Jared says. You can’t just say, “We’re going to create a video every week” and think you're going to produce quality assets that will engage your audience—unless you invest in the resources (including people) to do it right. According to a recent presentation he attended, it takes 12 pieces of content on average during a customer’s journey to secure the purchase. If you have the right team or find the right partner, content marketing can build a funnel and lead to sales.
Keys to Content Marketing Success
Along with identifying these challenges, Jared and Peter offered a few suggestions for planning and executing an effective content marketing strategy.
Consistently deliver value to your audience—without an expectation of immediate return. Remember that content marketing is a journey that requires a long-term commitment to delivering value to your audience. This is perfectly illustrated by the Cleveland Clinic and their content strategy as shared by Senior Director of Content and Creative Services and 2016 Content Marketer of the Year Amanda Todorovich: “Engage users in daily conversation using health, wellness, and clinical content that is unique to Cleveland Clinic.” This strategy hasn’t changed in more than five years since Amanda joined Cleveland Clinic. Their results and team have grown dramatically, and they’re even monetizing their Health Essentials blog, which grew from less than 3 million annual visits in 2013 to more than 40 million visits per year.
You have to have a reporter’s mindset. Not only does it take what Peter calls "a massive amount of curiosity" to be successful at content marketing, but it also requires the resourcefulness, innovation, preparedness, and initiative. This curiosity allows you to draw out things while also giving your audience what they want. Content marketing is often rooted in what he described as the “Softer Side of Sears” approach to advertising or promoting your organization. It allows you to tell a story, which is why it’s so great for healthcare as we’re all about stories, conveying emotion, and sharing patient experiences.
Let the data drive decisions. According to Peter, "If you think you’re going to do content marketing to get away from data, you’re mistaken." He submits that marketers should always be looking at what performs well, whether it’s a feature story, infographic, video—all of these things need to be tweaked on an ongoing basis to determine what’s being listened to, read, and watched by your audience. When measuring the success of content marketing, he says that you can’t always go by the traditional metrics like impressions.
The bottom line: When evaluating your content marketing efforts—or any marketing initiatives, ask yourself these questions that Jared asks himself every day, "Did I make healthcare easier, less scary, more accessible, or more human for someone today?" If the answer to any one of those questions is yes, then all the metrics will fall in place and the value will prevent itself.
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