The Cleveland Clinic is consistently ranked as one of the top hospitals in the U.S. And when patients’ lives are on the line there every day, high standards are mission-critical. To help share that mission, the Clinic also has a top-ranked content marketing program. Their health essentials site is the most popular hospital blog in the country with about 7 million visitors per month and climbing.
Still, Amanda Todorovich, the Clinic’s content marketing director, says that when your goal is to build the best pages on the Internet for health information, there’s always room to grow and improve. In her session at Cleveland’s Content Marketing World, Todorovich said of their content program, “Just because we set the standard in the industry doesn’t mean the standard is high enough just yet.”
That desire to keep improving is relatable beyond the healthcare industry. Content marketers across disciplines are constantly looking for ways to reach their audiences in better ways. So how can they keep raising their own standards?
A good start is to perform regular check-ups on your own content marketing campaign. Think of it like the annual physical you get from your doctor, as part of a good preventative care program.
Here are five ways content marketers can ensure healthy marketing practices:
1. Specialize in Your Brand’s Story
Doctors specialize in an area of practice because it’s not possible for one person to be an expert in everything related to medicine and disease. In the same way, your company specializes in their business and their story. If you veer too far outside of your lane, you risk coming off inauthentic.
Doug Kessler, co-founder of Velocity Partners, spoke to this need to construct and maintain focus on your organization’s story.
A truly galvanizing story, or one that shocks your audience into action, includes common elements like a change in the world, a new potential, and an obstacle to progress.
Critically, it also includes your organization’s breakthrough and the resulting payoff. Kessler emphasized that credibility is key to making people believe you: it has to be backed up by data and evidence, and it should never overhype.
“Once you know your story, you should keep telling versions of it over and over in different pieces,” said Kessler. When done right, your audience will notice that you’re telling a consistent story – with an integrated approach – and they’ll be more likely to trust you as a result.
2. Keep Your Appointments
Your target audiences are your number one priority, and they should feel like it. Just as patients don’t like to be kept languishing in waiting rooms, your audience won’t tolerate having their time and attention disrupted with irrelevant content.
Todorovich advised Content Marketing World attendees to “make your audience your universe.” That means you have to know them; in other words, personify who they are. Then, help them solve the problems they’re facing in their daily lives — whether they end up buying from you, or not. This will require you to really listen to them and determine their pain points and needs. Watch what they’re clicking and searching for, and consider how you can reach them with your product or service as an answer.
3. Check Your Bedside Manner
We’ve established that your audience is everything, but are you making them feel like it? Patients typically feel most comfortable with doctors who communicate well and understand their needs. In a similar way, your content marketing program will only succeed if your audience feels like you care about them.
Capital One content strategist Christopher White advocates “wooing” your audience. First, content marketers need to determine their ideal target audience by using data. Then, they need to focus on relevant content that serves the specific needs of that audience. And don’t be like that pushy doctor who doesn’t give patients a chance to ask questions — nurture your prospective customers with personalized communications and content until it’s the right time to get them to make a purchase. Is it after two engagements, three? After they visit a product page? Find out what action leads to the most success, and replicate it.
4. Leverage Technology to Diagnose Symptoms
Doctors use high-tech equipment to make diagnoses. Similarly, content marketers need to leverage the right tools to diagnose the gaps they may have in their content strategy.
Christine Schrader of Conductor shared how changes on Google’s search engine results page (SERP) should, in turn, be changing how marketers measure their efforts. Rather than relying on clicks as a success metric, content marketers should think about how real people use Google. Users are increasingly finding what they need without ever leaving the SERP. Marketers should capitalize on that by writing for Google’s newer tools like snippets, the answer box, and by focusing on building credibility through providing answers — not just counting clicks.
Similarly, Dan Shure of Evolving SEO counseled marketers to identify content opportunities based on the right data. There’s no shortage of SEO tools to help with discovering your next target topics. But how do you know you’re choosing the topics with the most opportunity for your brand? Shure recommended using a tool that reports on potential traffic rather than focusing on monthly search volume as that’s a more determinative metric to evaluate keywords that will actually produce results.
5. Collaborate on Rounds
Hospital physicians often begin their days with rounds, involving multi-disciplinary teams collaborating to evaluate and plan for patient care. In the same way, it’s imperative for content marketers to collaborate with their team to talk through data, discuss learnings, and adapt their strategy as a result.
Todorovich cites this as one of the keys to the Cleveland Clinic’s success. She and her team have regular syncs in order to enable constant change and iteration.
But not all marketing teams have the luxury of in-person rounds. To create an effective environment for collaboration remotely, ensure you’ve established a process that’s step-wise and repeatable, and one that invites stakeholder feedback at regular intervals.
Determine an effective cadence (monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly, for example) for team-wide data analysis and measurement check-ins — on both a campaign and program level. Stick to it by calendaring out all virtual sessions in advance for the year ahead. Ensure every team member involved understands their contribution expectations from the get go, so they can come to the table ready to deliver their insights and strategy recommendations.
In the end, content marketers aren’t doctors – we’re not diagnosing life-threatening ailments or saving lives in the ER. But when done right, content marketing can have a substantial impact on people by keeping them informed and enabling them to make the right purchasing decision. Keep your brand in peak physical condition by constantly optimizing for success.