If you have spent any time on the internet looking into content marketing, you have probably come across people saying you need to have a content strategy before you get rolling. Coming up with a content strategy can seem like a monster of a task, especially when you read seven different articles all with different definitions and approaches.
I agree that you need some sort of strategy before you get started, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, though. I like to think of a content strategy as a skeleton to hang your efforts on. You can build a fully articulated skeleton to scale with all the carpals, tarsals and even the sesamoid bones, but you might just need a very basic model like one of those T-Rex kits you’d find at a toy story or a natural history museum.
If you are creating content for a small or medium sized medical practice, this bare bones approach is probably all you need to get started. Answer the five questions I present below, and you will be well on your way:
1. Who do you want to attract with your content?
This is the very first question because the answer is key to being able to answer all the rest. For a medical practice, the basic answer is easy–patients. But patients come in all shapes and sizes so you need to narrow it down a bit. At the risk of being unPC, I’ll just say it–you have to kind-of stereotype here.
While every patient is unique, it is likely that some generalities can be made based on the type medicine offered and the location of the practice. Creating these stereotypes for marketing purposes is called developing buyer personas, and it is common practice with most companies today.
A buyer persona is a made-up person who represents a larger group of people who might buy a particular product or service. For a gynecology practice for instance, one buyer persona might be a 21 year-old female, married, having her first child, who lives in the suburbs. You can have as many or few as you like, and they can be more or less “fleshed-out.” Some companies give each one a name and use a stock photo to represent them.
Learn more about creating a buyer persona here.
2. What do you want them to do?
Once you have thought about who you want to attract, you have to ask yourself what do you want them to do. That is, what are your goals for marketing in the first place. Most of the time people say their goal is to get more patients. But, the more specific you are, the more you can target your content to inspire action. Here are some example questions to help narrow down your goals:
- Do you want to get more people to make appointments?
- Do you want existing patients to refer their friends?
- Do you want to keep existing patients from leaving?
This relates to a purchase pathway (often called a marketing or sales funnel) that marketers talk about a lot. Awareness of the four-step pathway presented below will help you narrow your goals and more effectively grow your business.
- Attract customers to build an audience.
- Keep your audience coming back for more.
- Get members of that audience to take action (make an appointment).
- Make your customers so happy that they help accelerate your business by referring others.
3. Where do you want to put your content?
We know that patients and potential patients are online (read more about that here), but you have to figure out what outlets online to use for your content. The first place to think about, of course, is your practice website and for that you need to decide on a content management system (CMS).
CMS is web software that helps you organize and produce content (like a blog) on your website. My favorite, and one of the most common is WordPress, but there are others. If this is getting confusing, check out this post on the basics of online marketing to get yourself up to speed.
In addition to producing website content, you probably want to also consider social media outlets. This is where your buyer persona comes in again; are your patients more likely to be on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter? Choose one to start with, you can always try it for a while and switch.
4. What will your writing style be?
Again this depends on who you’re trying to attract and the outlet you use. A blog, for example, is very casual and and uses words like “you” and “we.” Condition and treatment pages, though, might be better using a more formal tone.
I am a big fan of using a style guide to help keep your writing consistent and professional. There are tons of them out there to choose from. Here are a couple:
- The AMA Manual of Style is a guide for journals published by the American Medical Association.
- The AP Style Book, written by the Associated Press, is for journalists, news outlets and marketers.
I recommend picking a guide to start with, and then coming up with the exceptions that will make it your own. I talk a lot more about that in this post here.
5. What will you write about?
Next, you want to think about what content would be most valuable to your particular customers/patients. What would they (or their parents) like to read about. The needs of patients who would use an urban methadone clinic are quite different than those who are looking for a good rural pediatric practice.
Over the years I have come up with seven types of content that work really well for most practices. Read about them in my post The Seven Best Blog Topics for Your Medical Practice, or check out the infographic below:
It’s true, there are a lot more pieces (or bones–to keep the theme going) than these five that you use to build out a content strategy. But by starting here, at least you’ll have a little toy dinosaur to play with and a better idea of where to go next. As this series continues, I promise to give you many more bones to play with.
Basics of Content Marketing for Medical Practices Part 1: What is Content Marketing?
Basics of Content Marketing for Medical Practices Part 2: Why Use Content Marketing for Medical Practices?
Photo Credit: © nikhg / Dollar Photo Club
Image Credit: adapted from PaperShapes template/ Amy Stafford of Blixa 6 Studios