Attracting Digital Consumers to Healthcare

Relevance! It is the end-all-be-all for today’s digital consumer.

When making a purchasing decision digital consumers are looking for content that is highly relevant to their current situations and needs.

A report from Bazaarvoice found that more than half of digital consumers consider online content created by other users before recommendations from family, friends or colleagues. Fifty-one percent said the presence of reviews and other user-generated content on a website helps them get a better understanding of a product or service’s true value.

Aside from reviews, their shopping decisions are influenced by endorsements and user feedback posted by friends, followers and other contacts on social networks. According to Bazaarvoice, 42 percent of respondents reported that content shared on Facebook, Twitter or another social network is frequently the reason they decide for or against a purchase or service provider.

Generating more UCG for healthcare

The term “User-Generated Content” (UGC) refers to any content created and uploaded by users to  an organization’s platform. UGC ranges from Flickr photos, YouTube videos, blog comments, Twitter posts and reviews on Yelp or Amazon.

As consumer reviews become more and more important in informing and influencing other customers’ decisions, they are also becoming a prominent marketing tactic. In healthcare, UGC would take the form of patient reviews, client surveys, medical blogs,community boards, question and answer forums and so on.

Tips to encourage and improve healthcare UGC

  1. Facilitate quick and easy responses. Users want to contribute content in a convenient and frictionless fashion. If the process of contributing content is difficult, it’s likely your visitors will not participate. For example patients should be able to complete a survey rating their hospital experience with a few clicks.
  2. To encourage participation remove any barriers in your site design. This could be anything from hard-to-find comment box, a multi-step sign-up process, or a lack of clear and visible instructions. Any of these points will give your visitor good enough reason to leave your site and find one that is more user-friendly.
  3. Give away incentives (once in a while). Contests with rewards, freebies and giveaways, sometimes work very well to encourage engagement. Be creative but don’t rely too much on such tactics as users could get too used to them. A good idea is to customize your rewards to holidays and special occasions.
  4. Make your content “share-able” on social media sites. Content that is shareable and share-worthy is interesting to users and is quickly passed along from one to many consumers. The more eyeballs that fall on your content the more likely that reviews related to your services will be shared as well.
  5. Moderate your content. Thank patients and contributors for their feedback. Reply promptly to questions on your discussion board, and encourage other users to answer questions whenever they’re able to. This creates a sense of community amongst users and gives them a feeling of ownership in the content.
  6. Keep conversations relevant and interesting. People like to talk about interesting stories. Be sure to initiate discussions that are relevant to your users so that they in turn can contribute their own experiences on that particular subject.

Over to you: What’s your take? What other ideas could you add to this list?

6 Steps for Creating High Conversion Healthcare Content

Your job as a business owner or healthcare marketing professional is to get more customers to buy from you.

But you can’t get today’s customers to buy from you using yesterday’s methods. Today customers have access to vast amounts of information (both online and offline) that informs their buying decisions. They want information from you as well. Not just product information or mere marketing messages, but rather information that provides tangible solutions to the real-world healthcare problems they are facing.

Creating this kind of content enables companies like yours to build trust in their communities, thus making it easier for customers to buy.

Here are 6 steps to creating high conversion healthcare content:

#1.Tie content to measurable marketing goals

For any content campaign to be successful you must tie your content marketing program to measurable business goals. It’s a bad idea to invest in any content activity just because ‘it’s the latest new thing’ or because your company has a lot of great information to share with your industry.

Your goals for creating content must be specific and measureable. After all, how does sharing great information with your industry help your bottom line anyway?

So before you even start to brainstorm your content marketing plan, jot down one or two goals that you want to accomplish with content. A simple example might be to increase next quarter’s online revenue by 10%.

#2. Understand customers’ information needs

The next step is to identify the information needs of your buyers. Don’t move into the content creation process until you have a crystal-clear understanding of potential buyers.

This is done through extensive research e.g. interviewing exiting customers, sending out surveys to your email list, meetings with your sales and customer-service staff to find out what kind of questions or concerns customers have.

Without this level of understanding you run the risk of publishing irrelevant content that may or may not produce the results you want. That sort of ‘hit-or-miss’ strategy will not help you accomplish your goals.

#3. Select Your Content Mix

There are many types of content you can create to connect with buyers, and close more leads. Some examples are websites, podcasts, print brochures, print newsletters, email newsletters, white papers, magazines, and more.

The type(s) of content you choose will largely depend on your budget and your customers’ needs (see number 2). You may rely on one core content product e.g. your website, to take the primary marketing role. But remember that other types of content provide multiple touch-points for prospective buyers, and also demonstrate a well-integrated content strategy especially when they enhance each other.

#4. Determine What Buyers Should Do

Many healthcare organizations create direct mail, newsletters, blog content and even custom magazines without knowing what kind of response they hope to get from customers.

You might be sending out newsletters every month, but have you told your readers what they should do after they read it? If you assume that they’ll pick up the phone and call your company, you’ll be waiting a long time.

Identify the specific action you want prospective customers to take and clearly tell them what to do. It could be trying a free demo of your product, or signing up for a webinar that provides more specific information about your offerings. Whatever it is, make sure it is clear and measurable as well.

#5. Get Help

The fact of the matter is most companies are so busy focusing on marketing their products, that they have a tough time thinking about content the way publishers do. Moreover creating content for marketing purposes is a skill by itself, and requires specialized talent to achieve profitable results.

If your company has in-house content marketing experts, then by all means use them. If not you should consider outsourcing your content activities to content marketing experts.

According to Gartner research, 50% of U.S. based companies outsource all or part of their digital content activities to an outside expert. Content marketing experts are trained to not just to produce engaging content, but also to help the organization meet its business goals. (See number 1).

#6. Measure Your Return

Finally, if you’re going to go through all this trouble to set up a content program, you should be able to know if it’s working or not. Don’t dare start your content activities if you don’t have a plan for measuring success.

Return on investment is directly linked to your business goals (see number 1). If you set out to increase your online revenue by 10% each quarter, you should evaluate your revenue at the end of that period to check if your projected sales numbers were achieved. Frequent measurement helps you to understand what’s working and what’s not working, so that you can adjust your plan accordingly.

In conclusion, well-crafted and creative content attracts prospects and closes deals. It’s not just content for content’s sake. It is a purposeful content plan that generates real customers. So whether your plan is to produce print or digital content, these six steps will help you stay focused on a strategy that produces tangible results.

Your Turn

Creating content that attracts customers can be challenging. What steps have you taken to close that gap?

5 Content Marketing Tips to Reach Dis-Engaged Patients

Here’s something you don’t hear everyday – ‘Patient engagement is actually declining’.

According to a study by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions:

  • One in three healthcare consumers are currently disengaged reporting less need for care, preventative action, interest in patient education resources, and financial preparation;
  • One in two follow a ‘passive patient’ approach relying on doctors for decisions, preferring standard care, and adhering to treatment;
  • Even those who are ‘online and onboard’ with innovative health technologies have increased only slightly from 15% in 2008 to 17% in 2012.

Not Interested

The biggest challenge providers face might be trying to engage patients who aren’t necessarily interested in engagement. Think about the online content consumption habits of a ‘typical patient’:

  • They don’t tend to seek healthcare information unless they or someone they love is sick.
  • They’re not the only decision-makers in the game. Often times family or other care-givers are in charge particularly in the case of minors, senior citizens and those who aren’t capable of making serious medical decisions.
  • Even if they can make decisions for themselves, sometimes patients don’t have the ‘mind-set’ to engage with online healthcare content due to stress brought about by their illness or condition.

So what can providers do to tackle this challenge? Here are five content marketing tips to reach disengaged patients:

#1. Abandon the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach

Providers need to realize there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to engaging patients with online content. They should take into account different pain-points, preferences and lifestyles and then create content that is targeted to those different segments. Which means they have to…

#2. Build Patient Personas

Building patient personas is a laborious exercise but the rewards are unbeatable. The insights and level of understanding that comes with developing personas not only helps you create relevant content, but also develops trust as patients come to rely on you for helpful information. By then they’re ready for…

#3.  More not less content

Providing more content can actually help to ‘reach’ those who are disengaged particularly when content is focused on lifestyle issues. People tend to have a high regard for their personal lifestyles and so this is often a good place to start engagement particularly with those who are disinterested or passive.

Encourage patients to improve their habits and change behaviors that could lead to a better quality of life. But remember that real engagement might require some innovation such as…

#4. Different content formats

A blog is not the only way to engage patients. In fact the ‘online and onboard’ segment of consumers in the Deloitte study said they want websites that provide reliable information (think of research and data-driven narratives); price and quality information; video conferencing with doctors; self-monitoring devices that could send information electronically to their doctor; and health-improving tracking apps. All this means that providers must…

#5 Understand patient information needs

Not only should they understand what kind of information patients need, providers should also attempt to understand how patients act upon it. This way they can leverage online content and social media to educate, inform, and advise patients about additional resources to help them on their wellness journey.

Your Turn:

What did I miss? What do you think is the best way to reach disengaged patients?

6 Ways to Revive Healthcare Content & Engage More Readers

Healthcare brands have typically arrived late to the content marketing bash. That’s why they’re not always sure how to participate in social media conversations.  The first stumble happens when they attempt to engage before identifying their audience’s content needs and thus end up with a conversation that is irrelevant right from the start.

Here are six elements of engagement (defined in theRazorfish Liminal Report**) to help healthcare brands understand their audiences’ content needs:

1. Value

Consumers say that feeling valued or appreciated is the most effective way for organizations to engage with them. The problem for healthcare brands is their one-sided approach to both offline and online interactions, which are designed to promote the brand rather than show a sincere desire to help.

Healthcare brands can change this perception by:

  • Showing empathy by creating content that solves patient-consumer problems.
  • Listening to consumer complaints and frustrations about healthcare and providing answers even when questions are not specifically about your brand. Here’s a great example – Healthcare Napkins by Dan Roam
  • Adding a personal touch to conversations. e.g. telling stories that patient-consumers can identify with, inviting customers to share their own experiences etc.
  • Making your website welcoming to first-time visitors. e.g. add a section that asks New Here? and then link it to a page that answers questions about your brand, team, and services.

2. Efficiency

Most patients experience long wait times at doctor’s offices and hospital lobbies. The message sent is that healthcare brands do not respect their customers’ time, and unfortunately this reputation permeates to online interactions as well.

Medical offices that offer online registration or other forms so that patients (and their families) spend less time in the waiting room reflect efficiency and respect and in turn earn their patients’ support. e.g. CHADIS is a web-based screening and diagnostic system, which my kids’ pediatric office uses and saves me a ton of time at every appointment.

Brands can display brand efficiency in their content by:

  • Responding promptly to customer comments, inquiries, and questions both off and online.
  • Having a website that expedites the registration process for office visits.
  • Creating mobile-friendly content so that patients can check directions or register on-the-go.
  • Eliminating cumbersome steps, duplicate information requirements, and any information that might cause user friction e.g. social security number.

3. Trust

Patients want to know that their information will be kept private, that their doctor will deliver accurate advice, and that their engagements will be handled discreetly, and honestly.  Additionally they don’t want to be ‘sold to’ but rather to be helped with their pressing problems.

Healthcare brands can reflect trustworthiness in their content by:

  • Reducing the number of ads on their websites.
  • Showcasing customer success stories of recovery and restoration.
  • Giving away plenty of free, useful content such as health-tips, nutrition advice, information about contradicting drugs, and fitness routines.
  • When something goes wrong take the opportunity to apologize publicly (if appropriate) through social networks or blog.

4. Consistency

Patients trust their doctors when the same experiences that they’ve come to know and trust are repeated and reinforced. These experiences include everything from attitude to policy and behavior.

With healthcare brands trust is the most significant element of engagement so that when consistency is broken then trust is jeopardized as well. e.g. An OB/GYN practice that brands itself as ‘women taking care of women’ should never introduce male personnel into its ranks or risk violating the trusted relationship it enjoys with its clients.

The important thing to remember with consistent messaging is to ensure that whatever you communicate in word, print, or digital does not clash with the actual customer experience.

5. Relevance

Patient-consumers live in their own little ‘egosystem’ where the only thing that matters is their problem and how you can solve it. Any kind of content that deviates from that point is irrelevant. Hence ‘mass marketing’ or any generic attempts to spark engagement will likely fall flat.

Healthcare brands can inject relevance into their content by:

Providing content that is highly targeted to patient-consumers, and designed to make an emotional connection and subsequent click to action. e.g. This billboard by the US government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality targeted men who ignore doctor visits for preventative conditions – the ad ran through Men’s Health Week (June 13 – 19) and on Father’s Day (June 20).

6. Control

While control is not a major element with healthcare audiences, the idea is that patients (and healthcare consumers) want to retain control of the conversation by agreeing to receive your content (e.g. opting-in to newsletters), deciding the frequency of content, and knowing that they can opt-out whenever they want. However, if they trust your brand then control ceases to be an issue.

(**It is worth mentioning that while the Liminal report is industry-agnostic, it is just as relevant to healthcare although some elements of engagement are more pertinent than others. e.g. trust)

Key Takeaway

The purpose of any brand message is to touch people personally so as to induce an action. When healthcare brands focus too much on their mission and not as much on the patient-consumer they risk creating a message that falls on deaf ears. It is important that healthcare brands understand the consumption needs of their audience before any attempts at engagement are made.

Over to you: Which of these 6 elements have you (knowingly or unknowingly) used to increase engagement with your readers?

Email: Favorite Tool for Physicians to Learn About Social Media

A recent survey conducted by Medical Marketing Services Inc. (MMS) the industry leader in providing email marketing services to healthcare professionals, found that 94% of physicians prefer to learn about social media and new apps via email.

The survey was conducted in February 2012 and the results presented at the ePharma Summit in New York on February 6th.

Here’s a summary of the key findings of the survey:

#1. Huge interest in email

94% of physicians still look to the email inbox as their favorite place to learn about social media and new mobile apps.

#2. Overwhelming use of PC’s/Laptops

Almost 71% (three-quarters) of physicians surveyed read their email on PC’s and laptops compared to only 29% who read email on their mobile devices. Even though email content should be mobile optimized it appears that physicians do not depend on their smart phones for email consumption.

#3. Afternoons, best time to read email

Most physicians read their email in the afternoon. About 37% read their email after 6pm and only 33% read their email before 9am. The trend in email reading times should give healthcare marketers are clue regarding send time optimization.

#4.  50-50 preference for HTML vs plain text

Half the doctors surveyed prefer HTML emails and half of them prefer plain text emails. Again, healthcare marketers should use both versions when communicating with physicians.

#5. More doctors on Facebook than Twitter

When it comes to social media, 36% of physicians use Facebook professionally, while only 5% use Twitter professionally.

#6. Rx Guides most sought after smart-phone service

32% of physicians prefer Rx Guides as the smartphone service of choice, while 21% prefer drug samples.  Only 9% of physicians want eDetails on their smart phones.

#7. Apple devices most popular with physicians

While most doctors download medical apps on their smart phones, Apple devices (iPhones and iPads) are the most popular platforms amongst physicians.

Key Takeaway

Physicians have a very high interest in email communication, so much so that they don’t want to be rushed through it. Their inclination towards afternoon consumption of email via PC’s or laptops, is a good indicator that they are setting aside precious time to focus on email communication and are doing so in a more leisurely fashion. Healthcare marketers have a great opportunity to get physicians to focus on their email content if it:

  • is sent at the right time
  • includes both HTML and plain text versions
  • includes information about Apple-compatible apps
  • includes social media and particularly Facebook information

What are your thoughts? How do you see email impacting communication between physicians and healthcare marketers? Please leave your comment in the box below.

Website Content: What Healthcare Marketers can learn from WebMDc

WebMD suffered a serious blow this week. But whether it will cripple the company or not remains to be seen.

It turns out that highly commercialized content is one of the charges leveled against the health-information website. Critics and users alike have complained that the company is a ‘drug pusher’, putting out content that steers consumers towards drugs manufactured by advertisers such as Eli Lilly.

But social media also hurt WebMD:

Although they receive over 107 million unique visitors each month, and total traffic of 2.24 billion page views in the third quarter of 2011, WebMD revenues fell about 10% to  $20million. Experts and trend strategists suggest that consumers are turning to other sources for medical information i.e. social media. In fact a recent survey from health-care research firm National Research found that:

“96% of the nearly 23,000 consumers it surveyed use Facebook to gather information about health care, with 28% using YouTube and 22% using Twitter. Hospitals, health-care providers and private insurers also are seeing social media as a tool to engage consumers.”

WebMD’s content malfunction

Despite having some great resources such as symptom checker, a medical dictionary and Pill Identification Tool there are some content issues that make it less user-friendly:

  •  The site has become tougher to navigate. Numerous ads and banners make for a more noisy and distracting environment.
  • Too much content makes it confusing for users to quickly find what they’re looking for. E.g. Searching for a migraine solution is like searching for a needle in a haystack – should one start with symptom checker, Health A-Z or Health Conditions?
  • The site desperately needs to be re-designed so that it is more focused on consumers rather than advertisers.
  • Outdated content is an issue. Case in point – on the Expert blog ‘Recent Posts’ are dated October 2011 (as of this writing).
  • Given that more people are using the Internet to gather information about their healthcare needs, I think not having a live doctor online to answer questions and give general advice is a missed opportunity.

Healthcare marketers take note

Given the high expectations that consumers have for relevant and engaging content, healthcare organizations have to think long and hard about the way they communicate on their websites.

Providing relevant and easily accessible content is no longer an option. Healthcare marketers will need to review and analyse their website content to figure out if their sites are meeting visitor’s needs and offering applications and features they add value to users.

What are your thoughts? Do you think WebMD’s content is showing signs of poor health? Speak your mind 🙂

9 Tips to Make Healthcare Content More Compelling

Online readers don’t have time for this. In fact studies show that readers will leave your website within 10 seconds unless your web content communicates a clear value proposition to the user.

Websites have 10 seconds to show consumers what they want to see

Compare and contrast

Take a look at United Healthcare which provides a clear value proposition. Users get that UHC provides healthcare plans that are simple and easy to understand. In addition consumers can quickly navigate the site for specific links to:

  • various insurance plans
  • employer plans
  • doctors in the network
  • and other healthcare resources

UHC’s clean and clear site is visually appealing and inviting to visitors.United healthcare site 1024x640 9 Tips to Make Healthcare Content More Compelling

United healthcare shows a clear value proposition on their site

In contrast look at Assurant health which is poorly designed, cluttered, uses a very small font size, and shows no clear value proposition to consumers.

Assurant health site 1024x640 9 Tips to Make Healthcare Content More Compelling

Assurant health website is cluttered and shows no clear value proposition

The point is that healthcare consumers are browsers. They visit numerous web sites looking for answers to their problems – and they want those answers fast. Every healthcare organization should be able to capture consumer attention by providing content that is valuable, engaging and easy to read.

Here are 9 ways that healthcare organizations can make their content more compelling and enhance consumer experience on their websites:

Important content above the fold

Healthcare consumers are looking for quick information to help them solve their problems. They will not read your content word for word. Make sure that the most important information is ‘above the fold’ i.e. the point at which users have to scroll down to read more. The more they have to scroll down, the less they will read.

Create appeal

Because healthcare content tends to be intense and difficult to read, create more appeal by adding colorful images, call outs, bulleted text and interesting illustrations.

 Speak their language

Healthcare content is notorious for big scary words. Don’t use jargon, abbreviations or difficult words. Keep your content at a middle-school reading level. If you must use scary words, explain them in clear, simple language.

 Highlight key words

This is not news. But in addition be sure to link relevant anchor text to other content on your site so that users are encouraged to explore more of your website. E.g Link the phrase, ‘low-sodium diet’ to a previous article on your site titled, ‘How to live a low-sodium lifestyle’. Avoid attaching links to non-specific words or phrases.

 Find interesting stories

If you don’t have them, get them from someone else. By licensing content from third-parties you can engage consumers with interesting stories from patient communities (e.g. Cincinatti Childrens Hospital does this well); from other healthcare experts and researchers (e.g. Mayo Cllinic does this well).

 Don’t explain everything

Sometimes you should let users experience it instead. Providence St. Vincent Medical Centre in Portland, Ore.,  helped create this compelling video for breast cancer awareness. Notice that it received over 13 million hits!

Invite conversation

Add discussion questions at the end your content to invite users to comment on your blog articles. But make sure that users understand what is expected of them. By displaying your blog commenting policy they will understand the rules of engagement.

 Make your content social

Create sharable content such as blog posts, podcasts, YouTube videos, infographics and so on. Again, be sure to create social media guidelines for your brand’s online conversation. If you’re not sure how to do this please hire someone who can help you.

Focus on users

Brand your content from your users’ perspective not from your own marketing perspective. Ask yourself, ‘Does this content provide a clear value proposition to website users?’  If you give visitors what they want, they will see you as a valued resource not just another service provider.

 Key take away

As a healthcare organization, your number one priority is to establish your brand as an authority in your category. Authority leads to recognition, opportunities and more sales. However consumers will be attracted to your website if it is educational, engaging and adds value to their lives. If you haven’t already, be sure to review your website and perform a content analysis to ensure that your brand is giving users a valuable experience.

Over to you: Have you noticed any healthcare organizations that are providing consumers with compelling and engaging content?