At Content Marketing World last month, Joe Pulizzi, author and founder of Content Marketing Institute (aka the “Godfather of Content Marketing”), used the Gartner Hype Cycle to illustrate the evolution and adoption of content marketing as a practice thus far.
The Gartner Hype Cycle is a research methodology used to “discern hype from what’s commercially viable.” In other words, Gartner (one of the most trusted resources for independent marketing research) uses the Hype Cycle to show you how an emerging technology, application, or, in this case, a marketing approach/practice, will evolve over time.
So how mature, according to Gartner’s Hype Cycle, is content marketing as an approach to solving business goals and patient needs? And what does this mean for you as a doctor and a medical practice?
The Trough of Disillusionment
“The Trough of Disillusionment”… Sounds a bit macabre, right?
Yep, content marketing has successfully ascended the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” and now snowballs into the Trough of Disillusionment.
Gartner defines the Trough of Disillusionment as:
“Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.”
Yikes! So we’re all screwed, right?
Not even close.
In fact, Gartner predicts that content marketing will reach the “Plateau of Productivity” (i.e. when content marketing actually pays off mainstream) in 2-5 years.
But for now, it means that you’re not alone… We’re all struggling with content marketing.
And now, more than ever, we need to buckle down on our approach, processes and people if we want to make it through the Trough of Disillusionment unscathed.
One of the reasons why content marketing feels so complex is because of this universal lack of understanding. Einstein said it best, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
A lack of understanding only leads to unnecessary complexities (“A flurry of fluff masking an absence of substance”)
1. Sweeping generalizations
How many of you are sick of hearing, “You need to create valuable content,” or “Your content needs to be engaging”?
I sure as hell am. Like it’s actually that easy.
Ugh. “Intelligent content,” “brand journalist,” “brand storytelling,” “big data,” “influencer content,” “the Law of Propinquity”… What the what? Buzz is not a strategy.
3. Lack of focus
We’re too busy trying to be all things to all people on all channels that we end up being nothing to no one, always. We’re always looking for that magic algorithm that will open the floodgates to consistent ROI, and right now the magic algorithm tells you to be everywhere.
Not. How. It. Works.
The only way we can make it through the Trough of Disillusionment is to realize that content marketing is not a magic wand, and that we need to do the hard work of breaking down the complexities it if we want to be successful.
We need to simplify our approach to content marketing.
In this presentation, I’m providing six different ways to simplify your content marketing so that your implementations don’t fail.
Six Ways to Simplify Your Practice’s Content Marketing
1. Create a “Culture of Content”
Ok, I’ll admit it… this just might be the next big buzzword (ok, it is). But, unlike the others, “content culture” has grounds for keep.
Campaigns and programs die, but culture becomes who we are; culture is an identity.
If you want to succeed with content marketing, your entire staff needs to embrace your vision, from your patient care coordinator to your office assistant.
You need a shared identity that champions content.
Creating a culture of content starts with achieving universal buy-in and participation throughout your entire practice.
Think of it this way: every patient interaction is an opportunity to discover the needs of your patients at every step of their experience with your practice, and to develop content that satisfies those needs.
If one patient needs help, so do all.
Your staff members are your boots-on-the-ground recon team, really. They’re on the frontline, engaging with patients every day, which means they’ll have the most insight on what your patients value and what they need most.
Establish Roles (give ownership)
Utilize your subject-matter experts and assign roles to every staff member on your team.
Esthetician, nurse, office assistant, wellness coordinator… Everyone on your team can contribute to your content in some way. But you need to give them ownership, first.
Only you will know the capabilities of each team member, so assign roles based on each teammates skill set and comfort level.
Get creative. Have Ashley, your patient care coordinator, write a weekly blog on patient FAQs. Have Dr. Smith write down every question a patient asks during a consultation so someone can answer them on your blog. Have Jenna, your esthetician, be your subject-matter expert for all things skin care, and anything that hits the blog about skin health and maintenance needs to go through her first.
Tip: Most importantly, give ownership to one person to oversee your entire content marketing culture. Everyone needs to contribute, but one person needs to have executive power to veto (more on saying “no” more than “yes” later). You need a ruthless editor (just one) that will manage the direction and governance of all your content.
Everyone’s a Creator
Encourage content creation and creativity throughout your practice. And don’t be surprised when you find you have a true Rembrandt amongst you.
Utilize your staff member’s creative strengths and interest to inform your content strategy. All you need to do is ask.
If your office assistant moonlights as an artists, for example, letting her manage all visual content (even letting her create it) will provide something unique to your content that differentiates it from your competitors.
2. Focus Your Strategy
“Real strategy concentrates resources; bad strategy is long on goals and short on action.” – Richard Rumelt
Easily the number one culprit of ineffective content marketing is bad strategy (or a lack of strategy altogether).
Think Big, Start Small
Despite what everyone tells you, being everywhere your patients are is actually the worst decision you can make right out of the gates.
If you had access to the same resources, same talent, and same budget as your content competitors (think WebMD, Wikipedia, Men’s Fitness, Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan), then yes, let’s be in all the places your patients hang out and create content that nurtures your leads from the top of the funnel to the bottom.
But do you have the same access and resources? Didn’t think so.
Instead, be strategic: focus the limited resources that you do have on one objective.
Tip: Incremental change will ruin any chance your content marketing has of success before you even start. So rather than simultaneously improving your social media, your blog, your website, and your email campaigns in increments, choose one channel at one frequency that you can consistently be great at (and completely ignore the rest).
- Choose one procedure you want to drive business for, not all of them.
- Choose one social media channel, whether or not your patients spend time on three.
- Choose one demographic/niche, not five.
Be strategic and focus.
Just Say, “No!”
Good content strategy is as much about what your practice doesn’t do as it is about what it does.
Say it again.
One more time.
If you say “yes” more than you say “no,” then you likely don’t have a content strategy.
Ask Yourself, “Why Are We Doing This?”
More content is perceived as more selling opportunities, more engagement, and more everything.
- “We need to add my new course work to the CV on the site.”
- “We need to write more blog posts next month.”
- “Why aren’t we on YouTube? Let’s be on YouTube.”
- “I need to answer 100 more questions on RealSelf every month.”
- “We need to update the About Us page with our new employees.”
Next time, ask yourself, “Why?”
If your content doesn’t support your business goals or fulfill your patients’ needs, than it doesn’t get priority (and you should seriously rethink why you’re creating it to begin with).
I’m not suggesting that you don’t need to be on YouTube (it might be a great opportunity). What I’m suggesting is that you slow down and think about strategy before you let the pressure of performance (i.e. always feeling like we need to produce something) carry you, unwittingly, into execution.
Recommended Reading: Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt (absolutely amazing reads).
3. Stick to Your Strengths: Location
Do you know what these brands have in common: Wikipedia, WebMD, Men’s Fitness, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health Magazine, Allure, Women’s Fitness, WikiHow.
They’re all your content competitors.
They may not compete directly with your practice by selling the same products or services, but they compete for search engine real estate and social attention for broad topics related to your industry, like weight-loss, looking younger, feeling more confident, skin care, beauty, health, fitness and even cosmetic surgery tips.
The biggest mistake you can make with your content is emulating your national content competitors rather than creating hyper–relevant, local-specific content for your audience.
Why? Because you can’t compete with them. They have an unfair advantage in access, resources and budget, not to mention they had a giant head start.
Your national content competitors already own the search and social audiences for that particular iteration of your story. Instead, if you want to sustain engagement, build an audience, and occupy real estate in search and on social, you need content that will hook a local audience (the only audience that matters to your practice, no matter how much your involved in medical tourism). You need to tell a different story.
To sustain engagement with a local audience, you actually need to go where your national content competitors can’t: target a “niche-within-a-niche” with your content, like people who live in your city, and create content that emphasizes your location.
How? The Local Blog Formula
I won’t go into detail because I’ve already done so here (read before progressing), but I will say this:
The Local Blog Formula is a framework meant to help you focus your content on being uniquely relevant to members of your community so that you can emphasize shared values and provide content that keeps your local audience coming back.
Tip: Take risks with your content and focus on shifting the conversation to your location. You can still provide topically relevant content and make it relevant to a local audience (i.e. by creating Industry-Local content). For example, rather than emulating your competitors with “The Skinny on Body Contouring,” or “10 Ways to Lose Weight,” hit them with “Holy Sh*t, Denver Made Me Burn: 11 Ways to Burn the Fat in The Mile High City.” Which do you think a Denver-native will like more? Embrace your smallness.
4. Generate Demand
I’m sure you’re sick of hearing this one, too: “Create quality content.”
What the hell does that even mean? What is quality content, anyways? Is there a Quality Inspection Officer floating around the Internet that determines whether or not your content passes inspection?
Quality content eliminates steps involved in solving a problem, it educates and informs, it entertains, and it adds value to your patients experience in a different way than your products or services do.
Quality content is a lot of things, but, primarily, quality content generates demand at the earliest stages of the buyer’s journey. It actually increases the size of the market, not the size of your market share, by helping your patients identify a problem and convincing them that it’s a problem worth solving. (Hat tip to Andrew Davis and Ardeth Albee for championing this definition to quality).
Let’s look at an example:
Say, for example, you want to increase sales for CoolSculpting.
1). Help them identify the problem: Show your future patients the difference between weight loss and fat reduction, and help them understand the limitations of diet and exercise on stubborn fat. Help them realize that what they thought would work (e.g. running and eating more protein) actually has little effect on stubborn fat pockets.
2). Set them on the path to solving it: CoolSculpting isn’t the only solution to losing weight or looking thinner, right? It’s your job to set your prospective patients along the path to investigating the problem, which means showing them ALL the possible solutions, not just yours.
And because you helped them identify a problem and set them on a path to solving it, you become the anchor of expertise by which they will evaluate your competitors against.
Tip: At the end of the day, you’re still marketing something with your content. Even though content marketing champions “selling more by selling less,” it still needs to generate demand for your products or services.
5. Maximize Impact Without Maximizing Investment
Every piece of content your medical practice produces needs to maximize its impact without maximizing your investment in time and resources. Unless, of course, you have a team of writers, designers, and marketers on staff???
You can do this three ways:
1). Steal your audience: The quickest way to build your audience is to steal it from someone else.
Co-Create Content with Your Neighbors: amplify your content by strategically selecting local businesses in your community with whom you can co-create, share resources, and leverage each other’s audiences to drive business.
I covered this in an article here (read full article before progressing).
2). Repurpose content: Your content strategy should carefully consider ways you can disassemble and repurpose your content to add value in a different way (keyword: different way), and to maximize your reach without maximizing your production. However, don’t just spam your audience with the same content over and over again and call it something new.
For example, The Jackson Pollock Guide to Reputation Management takes three different blog posts from our blog, along with a new blog about reputation management tools, and laces the entire PDF with lessons from Jackson Pollock’s life and times. I didn’t just repurpose four blog posts and call it something new. I shifted the messaging and added something unique to make the combination of the articles more valuable than the parts themselves.
3). Curate content: Take content from major content brands (e.g. content competitors) that you know people like, and tell your audience how you feel about it.
For example, gather the latest celebrity news in plastic surgery or health, and instead of writing a blog post that says the same thing, highlight important elements of the news and provide your unique opinion of why you think the news is important. Once you gather say, five relevant articles, you can group them into one blog post, provide a snippet from each post, link back to that post, and offer your unique opinion.
Your patients read your blog because they want to know your unique opinion, even if it’s your opinion on someone else’s content.
I do this with our Incredibly Curated News Report here.
Tip: I have a special bookmark tab for curated content that I want to share with our audience; throughout the month, when I find an article I think you will like, I just bookmark it. Then I revisit the bookmark tab and pick five articles for the Incredible Curate News Report.
6. Simplify Measurement
Do you know, conservatively, how long you should expect to wait to see results from your content marketing efforts?
12-15 months before you see an ROI. Seriously.
So before you can measure your progress, you need to measure your patience: Patience (next to consistency) is the most important metric for the first year of your content marketing program.
Content marketing isn’t about measuring the ROI of a blog. Instead, you’re building an asset that will accomplish all sorts of business goals over time.
But what should you measure to determine whether or not your content is satisfying your business goals and fulfilling your patients’ needs in the interim?
At the very least, content consumption metrics.
Content consumption metrics:
• Time on page: the longer they stay the more likely they are reading.
• Bounce rate: expect high bounce rates with your blog posts (this is normal for a blog post), but you can make simple changes to your posts, like adding internal links or related posts, to ensure your audience goes deeper into your site.
• Pages per visit: are visitors going deeper into your site and engaging with more? Again, internal linking from one post to another relevant post wil help ensure your pages per visit go up.
• Click-to-open ratio: that is, how many of the people that opened your email actually clicked on it? Pay attention to all of your email metrics, like opens, bounces, and clicks, but your click-to-open ratio will tell you how appealing and convincing your actual email content was.
• Shares/comments: These are great metrics, but take them with a grain of salt. How many times have you visited a blog and not commented or shared? A lot, right? Like you’re probably going to do with this article? Thought so. I do it all the time. So don’t obsess over this metric. There are certain topics (ahem, cosmetic/plastic surgery, losing weight, etc.) that people don’t want their friends knowing they’re reading, but that doesn’t mean they’re not engaging with it.
• Buzz: are your patients telling you in person or by email that they enjoyed your content? Use your instincts, too.
You don’t need marketing automation or heavy analytical software to discern whether or not your patients are engaging with your content. Instead, focus on analyzing the data in Google Analytics, and avoid “data dumps” (simply reporting numbers rather than offering insight on what the metrics actually mean).
UTM Codes and Goals: A Simpler Way to Measure Success
Using the combination of UTM codes and Google Analytics Goals, you can literaly track everything from what pieces of content perform the best to how effective a single FB post was at converting patients to leads. And it’s super simple!
Primary metrics to measure with UTM codes and Goals:
- Which pieces of content convert the best
- Which social posts performed the best
- What category of content performs the best (so you can produce more of it)
- What channel converts the best (so you can focus resources)
- Where in the funnel do your patients drop out (so you can improve stage)
A UTM link is a custom parameter you can add to URLs to track traffic and user behavior at the campaign level (email, PPC, social posts, etc.)
You can add UTM codes to all links that point to your site, and measure traffic from email campaigns, social media posts, PDFs and even paper collateral or mailers.
Using Google’s UTM Builder, copy and paste the link you want to share, then add the Campaign Source, Campaign Medium and Campaign Name.
Tip: Follow the instructions Google provides with their UTM builder- they’ll walk you through step by step.
There are six fields available when creating a UTM code, but you only need to fill in three:
Campaign Source: Use the source field to enter what site the traffic is coming from. If it’s a Facebook post, than type in “Facebook” as the source. If it’s an email campaign, type in “Newsletter” as the source.
Campaign Medium: The medium is used to identify what type of traffic is coming in. In other words, if you’re using a UTM code on Facebook posts, the medium would be “social media” or just “social.” For your email newsletter, the medium would be “email.”
Campaign Name: The campaign name is just what it sounds like. For example, if you share an article on Facebook and use a UTM code, the campaign name would be the name of the article. For email, the campaign name could be the subject line of your email.
Start placing UTM codes on everything: social media posts, any link on a PDF download, links to patient forms, links in your emails… literally, any link that points to another page on your website with analytics installed.
To monitor traffic from UTM codes in Google analytics, login and navigate to Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns. Here you will see the Campaign Name for each UTM code.
Google Analytics Goals
Goals in Google Analytics can get pretty advanced, so I only want you to focus on destination goals for your content marketing. More specifically, I want you to measure destination goals for contact form submissions, PDF downloads (if you have them) and email newsletter subscriptions. Destination goals allow you to track conversion based on where the visitor ended up on your site.
For example, create a Thank You page for each of the above three goals and navigate to Google Analytics and set up a destination goal for every visitor that reaches the Thank You page (with the destination being that respective Thank You page). Since visitors will only see a Thank You page if they either download a PDF, submit a contact form, or subscribe to your email newsletter, you can use the page to track conversion.
Once you set up your goals and UTM codes, you can easily monitor what traffic converts the most goals. In fact, Google will add columns to your reporting with your goal metrics.
Achieving content marketing success for your medical practice means focusing your strategy on a target, hyper-specific niche; approaching content as an asset that develops value over time, not as a campaign that produces short term ROI; and creating content that generates demand for your services:
- Create buy-in by creating a culture for content at your practice. You’ll need all the support you can get.
- Say no more than you say yes. “Those who try to be all end up being nothing.”
- Embrace your smallness and build where you can compete: your location
- Increase the size of the market, not the size of your market share
- Let your content do the work for you: More impact, less investment
- Patience is the most important metric for content marketing.
- KISS. Keep it simple.