Ashlee Sierra

Every content marketer wants to believe their work is life-changing. However, only some of us can say it without a doubt. 

I’m not talking about the geniuses who came up with classic campaign slogans that get stuck in your head or transcend to meme status. Nope — I’m putting this spotlight on health care content marketing. After all, it literally helps save lives.

Here’s your guide to building a great health care content strategy — one that might just change someone’s world.

Why Content Marketing Is Essential in Today’s Health Care Landscape

I’ve always wondered why toilet paper needs marketing.

(Stay with me on this one.)

Generally speaking, everyone’s perfectly familiar with it — and most people know how to buy it. What is a content marketing campaign going to tell me about toilet paper that I don’t already know? 

The thing is, marketing isn’t just telling people to buy your stuff or use your services. It’s about increasing brand awareness, building relationships with your audience and making sure you’re top-of-mind when they’re ready to make a decision. Sure, I have questions about why those Charmin bears have their own Spotify playlist — but do I spend time pondering the structure of their world? You bet I do.

Health care is the same deal. Everyone needs it and everyone knows about it, but marketing is an opportunity to tell a potential patient that you can do it better than everyone else. Introduce yourself, make an impact and leave them thinking about you — just like I lie awake at night thinking about why humans apparently don’t exist in the Charmin cinematic universe.

Here are a few more reasons content marketing is essential in health care:

Customers Are Changing 

It should come as no surprise that prospective patients do their research before choosing a health care practice. However, they’re not just relying on their favorite search engine. Today’s consumers, including patients, increasingly use social media and other informal channels to learn about products and services.

For example, in a single three-month span, 46% of Gen X and 24% of Boomers discovered a new brand or item on social media. On top of that, 90% of surveyed patients choose health care providers based on online reviews.

The takeaway: Your website is an important tool, but don’t underestimate the power of a savvy marketing strategy that sells your brand, reputation and experience in less formal ways.

Competitors Are Changing 

Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals aren’t just lifesavers. They’re also influencers — and when done properly, this approach can increase brand awareness and boost patient engagement. In fact, plenty of your peers have already built passionate digital followings by:

  • Sharing medical content.
  • Discussing treatments, diagnoses and symptoms.
  • Answering questions a patient might be embarrassed to ask in person.

The takeaway: Even if you never “go viral,” digital content strategy can help you keep up with your competitors and build stronger patient relationships.

Health Care Is — You Guessed It — Changing

With shifting regulations around health care coverage, preventive care, telehealth rules and more, the truth is that every patient has questions. While it might be tempting to fall back on what you know when navigating these changes, remember that your audience is doing the same — which is why they’ll want you to have a content strategy they can count on.

The takeaway: The whole world is going digital, including health care. You can’t afford to be left behind.

The 4 C’s of a Great Health Care Content Marketing Strategy

Maybe you feel like you’re a medical expert, not a marketing expert — or perhaps you just aren’t sure where to get started. No matter what’s keeping you from putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), the whole process is a lot easier if you break it down. 

Here are the 4 C’s of a digital marketing strategy for health care:

#1: Customers

It might seem a little tricky to think of a patient as a customer, but you’ll need to master this perspective to succeed at content marketing. That’s because you have to understand:

  • Who your audience is: This can start out as demographic information, but at some point you’ll want to know more — for example, how potential patients feel about going to the doctor or how they handle topics like preventive care.
  • What they’re looking for: This, too, should go beyond the obvious. Even if a patient is looking for a pediatrician, they’re not just looking for a pediatrician. What they really want is someone experienced, close to home, highly rated and — of course — capable of building a good relationship with their child.
  • What barriers they face when finding health care: You can’t solve every problem, but you can address common concerns such as cost, scheduling, building trust, overcoming anxieties and more.
  • How they prefer to learn about and communicate with providers: While many patients want digital self-service options — for example, getting answers from a blog post or video — others still need the option to discuss their questions with a real person before committing to an appointment. 
  • What will convince them to choose you over the competition: To turn prospective patients into new patients, you must know what they’re looking for and how to prove that you’ve got it.

Fortunately, you have a leg up on other industries. For example, I don’t have to buy the latest Marvel merch, no matter how good their marketers are at convincing me otherwise — but I do have to go to the doctor. That means I’m almost guaranteed to engage with health care marketing at some point. That means you don’t have to convince me to look in the first place — you just have to convince me to look in the right place.

#2: Content

Once you know who your audience is, it’s time to decide what will resonate with them. You’ll need to ask yourself:

  • What questions do they want answered?
  • What problems do they need to solve?
  • What content types and formats are most engaging to them?
  • What signs of reliability and professionalism are they looking for?
  • What would make them click to a competitor’s page instead?

Content is like the bait at the end of a hook. You need it to be interesting, valuable and easy to spot — which is why you’ll likely want help from a quality content creation team and a few search engine optimization (SEO) experts.

#3: Channels

Remember that patient engagement doesn’t just happen over the phone or on your website. Today’s consumers want you to meet them where they are, and that often means using other channels such as email and social media. Just remember that each platform has its own rules and expectations; what works on Facebook might not work on TikTok (especially since the audiences can be so different).

#4: Compliance

Let’s be honest: Medical content comes with a lot of red tape. That’s because it’s your responsibility to protect patients even when they’re just watching a video or reading a blog post. Sure, compliance isn’t a new topic to anyone in the health care field — but marketing compliance can be a unique kind of beast. Be sure to brush up on all the rules and regulations applicable to your practice before you post anything online.

Best Examples of Health Care Content Marketing

Looking for content creation inspiration? Here are a few great examples of health care marketing that just works:

Sport England: “This Girl Can” 

Your Guide to a Great Health Care Content Strategy 3

This long-running campaign isn’t built for a particular provider or medical practice, but it’s a great example of making medical content accessible, understandable and fun. Here’s what you can learn from this approach:

  • News: You’ll find engaging articles about exercise, health and well-being in this section. It’s a good reminder to make yourself a “hub” for the latest news — not just from your own organization, but from the industry overall.
  • Community: The “This Girl Can” landing page has community content including photographs and inspiring stories. While you generally can’t discuss the details of patient experiences in your practice, you might encourage your patients to share stories about getting active and finding support.
  • Newsletter: A newsletter is a genius little piece of marketing magic. It doesn’t just gather contact information for future interactions; it also gives you an excuse to regularly send content that boosts patient engagement and keeps you top-of-mind.

The Mayo Clinic: Medical Content

Your Guide to a Great Health Care Content Strategy 2

If you’ve researched any medical thing ever, you’ve probably run into a rich library of content courtesy of the Mayo Clinic. Their posts have a variety of valuable information, including symptoms, causes, diagnoses, treatment and — of course — quick ways to make an appointment. 

The genius of this is that it’s perfect for SEO. These informational posts can more easily rank because they align with things a patient would naturally type into their search bar. For example, this article about ankle sprains might come up if you searched:

  • Sprained ankle.
  • Sprained ankle symptoms.
  • Sprained ankle treatment.
  • How long does it take a sprained ankle to heal?
  • What can you do for a sprained ankle?

That’s how you win at digital marketing: You provide value while also reeling your audience a little bit closer with every click.

Sickle Cell Disease Association of America: “Believe It”

Your Guide to a Great Health Care Content Strategy 1

This striking campaign utilizes videos of different lengths to give viewers an inside look at sickle cell disease. It also includes statistics and citations that help establish a few things:

  • The points in the campaign are scientifically proven.
  • The content creation team did extensive research to find and share this evidence.
  • Readers are set up to learn more if they want.

Although your role as a health care expert gives you a certain level of credibility among patients, it doesn’t hurt to bring other voices into the conversation, too. That’s especially true if you’re using statistics or discussing individual perspectives. This is a great way to build reliability and help your audience understand who you are and what role you could play in their health care journey.

There’s another takeaway here: video content. The best marketers branch out and use copywriting, visual design, animation and other media types to tell richer stories. You can even bring different approaches together — for example, having writers outline key points and letting designers illustrate them to create a cohesive infographic your patients will appreciate.

Tips to Enhance Your Health Care Marketing Strategies

From ideation and content creation to distribution and performance tracking, there’s a lot to know about successful marketing. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Research your competitors: What are other health care organizations doing and how are they pulling it off? Do they have lots of interactions on social media posts, or does most of their content go unnoticed?
  • Learn from other industries: Although medical content must play by certain rules, you can always get inspiration from businesses outside of health care. (Hint: You’ve already done this by thinking about how the Charmin bears improve brand awareness!)
  • Use local SEO: Local SEO helps you focus your efforts on your community, which is hugely important for many medical practices. This can involve everything from having a local business page to using keywords related to your area (such as “Boston optometrist” instead of just “optometrist”).
  • Don’t do it alone: Marketing is a team effort. You bring the industry expertise and company specifics, but let content creation teams and SEO experts handle the rest.
  • Remember the goal: When we talk about health care marketing, it’s easy to see health care itself as just another product. But it’s important to remember that you offer something a lot more critical — which means the stakes are higher for your audience.

Sharpen Your Marketing Skills

They call it a “medical practice” because you’re always learning more about your craft, right? Well, marketing is the same. Audiences, platforms, algorithms and even the health care industry are always changing, which means it’s your job to keep up.

But let’s be honest: You shouldn’t have to save lives during the day and stress over content marketing goals at night.

Instead, get insights, inspiration and support straight from the experts. Subscribe to our newsletter to start practicing today.