Is your hospital website an online destination? It’s important that your website help patients who already know you and just want to check your address or phone number. But if you care about brand awareness, your website needs to be so much more than that: It should be a place where people return again and again because they know they’ll always find something of value.
As a healthcare marketer, you can take a few key actions to build your website into a destination. You can find the full list of them in our recent eBook on developing a healthcare marketing strategy, but one of the most important items to tackle is creating foundational content.
While all of the content you create should be high quality, foundational healthcare content needs to go beyond—be extra valuable, extra informative, extra something. It needs to meet Jay Baer’s youtility principle of content so good people would pay for it. But really, what visitors will be doing is offering their personal information (name, email, location, etc.) for the problem-solving content, converting them into leads for your marketing team to pursue.
Foundational content can take on any number of forms. One of the most common options is to create a long-form piece of content, like Maine Health’s guide to Improving Cardiovascular Health. You can find tons of tips and articles online related to cardiovascular health, but bringing much of that information into one download makes it easier for patients to take in everything they need at once.
You can also create foundational content in more visual formats, which can come in especially handy if you need to provide information of value to an audience that can’t necessarily read yet. Texas Children’s Hospital created an animated video series on different heart problems children encounter so their kids and their patients could get the information in a format that made sense for everyone.
Another option that’s gaining traction in inbound marketing is interactive content. St. David’s offers a few interactive assessments on its website that can provide a personalized report on your heart health, back and neck pain and breast cancer risk. Interactive content like this has serious potential for healthcare, since people’s health needs are specific enough they benefit more from content tailored to their own situation rather than generalized recommendations.
The format of foundational content can vary, but it’s crucial it be something that offers considerable value to your audience. You can use it either as a way to build goodwill and help your patients, like the Texas Children’s Hospital video series, or you can use it as a way to generate leads by making it gated content like St. David’s.
Foundational content takes a serious investment in time, resources and yes, budget. You don’t want to rush it and end up with something that’s not good enough for people to take interest in, or that simply doesn’t land with your audience.
A thorough, well-researched guide to cardiac procedures wouldn’t have hit the mark with the audience Texas Children’s Hospital wanted to reach with their video series. You have to take the time to figure out who your audience is and what they want to know.
That means before you do anything else, you have to put the time in to do thorough research on the types of patients your hospital attracts and those you want to reach. Your physicians should be able to help, talk to them about what questions they get most often and what information patients regularly need that they can’t seem to find answers for elsewhere. If you have an email list, send out a survey to see what topics your patients are most interested in learning more about.
Be careful not to assume you know what your audience is thinking already. Make sure you’re basing your knowledge on real information about their habits, questions and concerns.
After you’ve done the research, you should have some good, solid notes on the types of questions and topics that interest your audience. Get together with the rest of your marketing team and brainstorm ideas for content that will provide your customers the information they most need and want in a way that they’ll find (extra) useful.
Once you’ve got your list of awesome ideas but before you start creating, do a little Googling to make sure you’re not about to invest a lot of time and money into creating something that’s been done 100 times before—unless most of those other examples are low quality and the world could do for a better version. This step may help you identify gaps in the content that’s out there that you didn’t expect and lead you to a new idea for something your patients need.
At this point, it’s time to narrow your ideas down to those you’re ready to move forward with. You can hang on to those other ideas for later, but pick the top three topics that should go on your content calendar now.
If your marketing team has all the knowledge it needs to create the foundational content you’ve chosen, then you need to make sure everyone has enough time to work on their part of the process for a strong, useful and effective piece of healthcare content. Get your doctors involved to ensure you’re providing the most authoritative information possible on the subject.
Do not let this step slide! If you’re going to do the work of creating extra-valuable foundational content (that takes extra time, work and cost), you want to make sure people see it. Don’t just release it and hope for the best, work to get it in front of people.
Creating truly valuable foundational content isn’t easy, but it’s an important step in turning your website into a place patients appreciate and want to come back to—and not just when they need a reminder of your address. When treated as part of a larger healthcare marketing strategy, foundational content can help turn site visitors into leads more likely to become long-term patients of your hospital.