Digital marketing and healthcare: 5 Golden Rules

In the healthcare field, content marketing can build user loyalty and improve your company’s positioning over the competition. In this post, we’ll share five tips that marketers can follow to boost their content marketing strategy.

In a previous post, we talked about how the combination of marketing and healthcare in Italy can be a very delicate topic for marketers. On the one hand, health is a personal issue that relies on sensitive and private individual needs that directly affect a person’s dignity and quality of life. On the other hand, industry regulations, although very strict, are not as clear in outlining what can and cannot be discussed without being subject to sanctions.

Over a series of regulations (first the Bersani Decree and then the Budget Law number 145 of 2018), current Italian law has generated confusion among professionals because it distinguishes between “health communication” and “health advertising” without explaining the difference and authorizes healthcare marketing without defining its limits in a way that is easily understood. 

Despite this, healthcare marketing remains an interesting market segment to watch and companies in the sector, public or private, are investing heavily here. While marketing, in general, is important for all industries, it is particularly important for healthcare, especially in terms of how individual habits and the doctor-patient relationship have changed with digital transformation. 

 

Excuse me Dr. Google…

As techniques and knowledge have evolved over the years, so have patients, who are increasingly inclined to use digital technologies to manage their health.

Research by Tech4Life from Confindustria Medical Devices shows that, thanks to the spread of digital solutions, internet users have consulted the web for health reasons at least once. This is mainly young people: four out of five young people between the ages of 18 and 34 have searched the web for opinions or in-depth studies on health. This habit seems to decrease with age, where only 38% of over-55-year-olds use the internet to learn more about their health. The majority of users, 57% of respondents to be exact, use the internet for self-diagnosis, 54% use it to deepen their knowledge about specific treatments or therapies (54%) and, about 45% use it to learn about new health technologies and devices.

Here is another interesting statistic: 7% of all the searches made daily on Google concern health in some way, where around 70,000 health-related web searches are carried out every minute.

 

Who’s searching, what are they looking for? 

These numbers are impressive and something that professionals in the field cannot ignore. When dealing with today’s patients, doctors must anticipate that they have already done their own research on the topic, albeit superficial. Therefore, patients will have specific questions and expect equally specific answers.

At the same time, health marketing professionals must be able to see this as an opportunity to intercept these habits and use it effectively. To do so, marketers should cross-reference this data: the large number of searches and the type of searches carried out. From this cross-reference a trend emerges: those who search the internet for “health” do so with the goal of learning more about a topic that is relevant to them, but which they know little about.

Therefore, people are searching for detailed information with the goal of obtaining clear and reliable results. 

However, Google is not always the perfect place to get the right answers. Often, users aren’t able to find what they’re looking for, or worse, they could “find” fake news that provides misleading or wrong information that could lead patients to adopt behaviors that are harmful, even dangerous to their health. 

It is in this context and space that companies, whether public or private, must intervene and implement a marketing strategy that provides individuals with the relevant content they’re looking for.

 

Healthcare Content Marketing: not the only way, but the best way 

That is why content marketing can be especially effective. A content marketing approach aims at creating and distributing relevant, consistent and valuable distributed content to attract, and entice a certain type of target to take a certain action.  In other words, content marketing is a form of indirect marketing since it does not directly aim to sell a product or service but to inform the customer through relevant content in a way that also enhances the customer’s positive perception of the brand.

In the context of healthcare marketing, this approach is particularly effective as it combines the need for authoritative information with the need for companies to position themselves to build a relationship of trust with users. Of course, this is not the only advantage for companies in implementing a content marketing strategy.

 

The advantages of content 

A content marketing strategy helps a company create a much more stable and continuous relationship with customers. In a way, you activate the same mechanism that you have when you go to a doctor: patients will return to a doctor who is able to respond to their needs and resolve their issues. The same goes for a healthcare company: the more clear, reliable, and relevant the content it provides, the more often users will return for relevant information.

In other words, healthcare content marketing supports user retention.

Incidentally, and here comes the second benefit, it does so by activating an advantageous circle. Every company is better off retaining its customers-users, since, according to research by Bain & Company, a 5% increase in the retention rate corresponds to a 25% to 95% increase in profits. This is because a loyal customer (but also a patient) tends to return and make more purchases. 

The third advantage of a content marketing strategy for the healthcare sector is precisely this: in the long term, the content produced allows you to generate leads and eventually convert user traffic through CTAs, which can even serve to collect data to do retargeting later.

Another benefit that we cannot underestimate is that health content marketing not only builds user loyalty, it also creates engagement. A content relevant to user-patients, focusing on their needs, involves them much more than a classic functional communication. Feeling directly interested, users will respond, share content, interact with each other, add value to what has been produced, and make it relevant for others.

This contributes to increasing the awareness of the company or brand, which automatically becomes an authoritative reference point for others who have specific needs or requirements. As a direct consequence, the perceived distance between company and user is reduced and a relationship of mutual trust is created, from which both parties can benefit. The patient feels treated as a person and not as a simple communication “target,” and the company is certain to have distinguished itself from other competitors and to have found not just a customer, but a real ambassador.

 

5 Golden Rules for Digital marketing in the healthcare sector

To achieve the benefits of a healthcare content marketing strategy, there are a series of best practices that marketers can employ to ensure that the approach you adopt provides the expected results. Here, the first golden rule is to get to know and listen to your audience to intercept insights and issues. It does not make sense to publish content that isn’t relevant to your target audience or that is only self-referential because it will certainly and systematically ignored. Instead, provide content tailored to users.

In addition to this, remember to actively listen to your audience.

The issue of health, after all, is sensitive and can trigger reactions and comments that are not always positive, especially on social channels. The worst thing, in these cases, is to pretend not to hear the problem. On the contrary, every complaint can and should be turned into an opportunity to respond quickly in order to resolve the situation.

Listening and properly stimulating your audience is obviously not enough.

Upstream, there must be a much more complex and articulated strategy: here is another best practice to follow. Start by identifying your target audience and get clear on the type of content that best meets their needs. Secondly, set precise macro-objectives for smaller targets and use this as a basis for producing content. In this way, each piece produced and disseminated will have a specific function, consistent with your strategy both in terms of the topics dealt with and the channels activated. In this way, we will move from an ad hoc editorial creation to a cascading content strategy where each element is born as a logical and coherent consequence of a broader set of content.

The third rule to follow when building a healthcare content marketing strategy is to subsequently monitor the results. Without data, it’s impossible to know if your approach is correct or if it needs to be modified. Start from the outset by understanding what you want to measure and identify objectives (for example, conversions, scroll depth, etc.). 

These steps will help you define the type of content you need to produce, and you’ll also want to make sure that all content is SEO optimized. 

While it’s true that users frequently seek healthcare content, it is also true that it is not easy to stand out from the flood of results available online. For this reason, it is necessary to make your content “readable” not only for your users but also and above all for search engines, by carefully selecting a few relevant keywords. The choice is not trivial: it is not enough to use keywords related to the scope of treatment. On the contrary, it is necessary to be able to anticipate patients’ needs and predict what they might search for. Perfect SEO optimization also requires that your web content is continuously updated and fresh. In this way, your pages are more likely to be “noticed” by the search engine; visitors will also notice this and will be more willing to return when they find content of value. 

Finally, make sure you keep an active presence on social networks, participating in those that are most suitable for the audience and the content. 

Being on such platforms doesn’t just mean repurposing your website content on Facebook. In our next post, we’ll go deeper into what it means to be active on social networks.