healthcare marketing trends

Why content is central to 2016 healthcare marketing trends

Healthcare professionals: You’re not in the business you think you are. Here’s how I found out. Last year, about halfway through a comprehensive website redesign project for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we had a revelation. Digitally speaking, we had to stop thinking of ourselves as a hospital and clinic business, and start thinking of ourselves as content publishers who follow healthcare marketing trends and best practices to put patients and consumers first.

Coming to terms with our healthcare data

We were knee-deep in the content audit and the information architecture design that we were doing with our digital partners at Ciceron. Though we were still three months out from writing a single piece of code on the new site, it was probably the most important decision we made. Our old website was big, unwieldy and essentially a reflection of our organizational chart. We added pages according to which department “owned” the content and paid little attention to how a consumer (a patient, their family, a donor or a health care professional) would want to access the information. This resulted in some troubling usage data: high bounce rates, a declining returning user base and an unhealthy reliance on paid search to drive traffic to deep pages.

Armed with data about all of our consumer/user groups and how each used technology to navigate health care and parenting related moments in their lives, we started bucketing content to match mindset and life cycle stages. We designed the foundational architecture of the site to ensure that the right information was in the right place at the right time, even if it meant breaking the way our internal teams were organized to manage the site.

Integrated content management first

This change was a major cultural shift. It has forced us to work much differently than we had before. We broke up digital fiefdoms in favor of a more integrated content management approach, moving the locus of control to new teams across the enterprise, including within Marketing. We’ve deconstructed silos and developed new processes to ensure our content is following healthcare marketing trends and working as hard as possible for our users across all channels.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

1. Eliminate black boxes.

We were forced to take a very critical look at the analytics on our web and social channels. There were more dark corners than we wanted to admit were there, so we invested the time to shine a light on them to understand how users experienced our content and what they did after consuming it.

2. Align priorities.

We’re fortunate at Children’s Minnesota that we have a surplus of great stories from our patients, families, donors and clinicians. But all content is not created equal. We’re now ruthless about ensuring the content we’re creating is at the nexus of our strategic priorities, our brand position and the needs of our consumers.

3. Get your experts to think like authors.

As I mentioned above, we’ve had to shift how we think about content governance across the enterprise, but the biggest change is the expectations we have of content authors. We have a lean marketing team, so we depend on business and clinical teams to manage some content for us. This means we have to train non-marketing staff to really understand what it means to write for the consumer in a digital space. We occasionally get push back when we ask them to translate clinical language to plain-speak, but once we help them understand the power of SEO, healthcare marketing trends and how it will help them attract new audiences, they get on board pretty quickly.

4. Plan.

For the life of me I can’t understand why this one snuck up on me, but it did and it’s been a little painful. Our old approach allowed us to manage content with a loose plan and the occasional drive-by meeting at someone’s desk. In just 2 months on our new platform, we’ve quickly evolved to a comprehensive planning calendar that looks at all of our SEO, paid search optimization, PR, social, event and clinical marketing activities each month and aligning them to timelines for asset development, audience assessment and deployment schedules. For now, this lives in an excel spreadsheet, but we’re quickly realizing that a coordinated approach like this requires more sophisticated tools.

The shift to thinking about ourselves as content publishers — in addition to being healthcare marketers — has been an important one at Children’s. It forces us to think of our digital platforms through the lens of our consumers and the payoff is beginning to take shape. We’re seeing the hard work of planning and deploying our content thoughtfully means that every piece works harder — attracting and keeping the attention of our users.

Meet Jen Swanson

Jen is the Director of Digital Marketing at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and blogs at imbina.com on issues related to women and leadership, closing the gender gap and work/life integration. She will be speaking at MobCon Digital Health on April 26 in Minneapolis. Follow her on Twitter at @jgswanson.

Hear Jen speak at MobCon Digital Health April 26.