The average buying cycle in the healthcare industry lasts roughly 12 months. In such a long-term environment, you can't expect instantaneous success on any old key performance indicators (KPIs). To see success in healthcare information and technology, expectations need to fit the marketing capabilities of your organization, and the resulting actions that your buyers can take. Here, we've outlined how to create an effective content marketing strategy by producing content that speaks to your prospects, both throughout an organization and throughout the stages of their buying journeys.
Awareness Stage Content: Filling in the Foundational Gaps
In most marketing endeavors, the ideal outcome of "awareness content" is a kind of flip-of-a-switch illumination. What once was unknown is now known, and the purchase process clicks into gear. In healthcare, awareness content still needs to illuminate, but the process (especially within a 12-month cycle), is like a slow but steady sunrise. Shadows can linger, though, in gaps where certain members of a buyer collective are unenlightened, or in questions that remain unanswered.
Your awareness stage content strategy should aim to fill those gaps. Content in this stage answers the awareness questions that would otherwise get in the way of your audience taking any form of action.
Effective health IT awareness content should address the most common varieties of knowledge gaps your prospects might have, whether those gaps are in knowledge of a solution's existence, other methodologies, underlying principles, change management, or options available for next steps.
Measuring content strategy success at this stage in the buyer's journey doesn't just mean tracking vanity metrics such as number of general impressions, views, or site activity. Instead, quantify and qualify whether the right behaviors are happening based on the key topics your buyers need to know about. Such questions include:
Is awareness growing around a topic, e.g., for a term like "interoperability" are search queries, or conversions around the term measurably increasing ?
Are consumers of one type of content measurably making a desired connection to another topic they need to know about? For example, is a patient experience article driving a significant amount of traffic to a related piece on cost management?
Does awareness of synergy in two topics drive conversions to lower-funnel materials? For instance, after reading a patient experience and cost management article, does a prospect download a related consideration-stage asset?
You'll know you're on track when you see more people interacting with your information. KPIs aligned to what you want your buyers to be aware of are the most suitable way to ensure your awareness stage content is adequately filling knowledge gaps and educating prospects enough that they're comfortable taking the next step.
Consideration Stage Content: Accelerating the Purchase Process with Important Answers
When planning your consideration stage content, reflect on the pains you've identified and conversations you've had with buyers in the past when they've reached this stage.
When in doubt of what should be consideration content and what consideration content success looks like, ask your existing customers. Where were their sticking points? They'll likely have had moments when they shifted from thinking 'this is interesting' to 'this could make a difference.' You'll have assumptions of when this happens, and these will be your earliest MQL output conversions, but over time, the more you produce and analyze, the more you'll lock onto assets that provide that 'a-ha' moment for buyers.
This stage is about speeding the process up through information exchange. Accelerate the process by nurturing with targeted content meant to ease common pain points, explain how they would implement the new change and how they should measure success, and share some benchmarks and success stories from the past.
Use your prior knowledge to educate prospects through your tailored content. Advise them on how their organization can see success in relation to your offerings. Note that this doesn't mean hyping your product or service; it's about telling stories of what can be done via that offering.
Content in this phase can act as a qualifier – identifying potential buyers as marketing qualified leads (MQLs) — or be used by sales as a first touch outreach. Measure the success of your content strategy by outputs generated in this phase. Are you seeing an increased generation of MQLs, or opportunities influenced by content? If you are, then your content is working for you!
This is the opportunity to put your proof points in writing, allowing those powerful points to be shared across your prospect's organization. Creating content that answers your prospects' questions will help augment those conversations, get a deal over the line and increase adoption post-sale.
Decision Stage Content: The Anchor Leg Assets
When it comes to decision stage content, think of it as the adrenaline boost a runner should feel on the final leg of a relay, making it the fastest leg. Throughout the process, the members of your buyer collective have been running this relay, and decision content is what should power them over the finish line.
Decision content gives your prospects the objective facts to drown out any emotional objections. It's those case studies that fit exactly what buyers are going through with clear-cut steps to success. It's those ROI calculators that can win over the numbers people. Ultimately, it's taken nine to 11 months to get the members of your buyer collective to this point. The KPIs for decision stage content are clear: it should help sales teams win deals. However, given the need to deliver comprehensive answers and insights in order to get buyers to be ready to accept a proposal, there's no room for frills here. Prices, benefits, outcomes, assurances — these are what good decision content assets deliver, because this is the time when things do need to move fast. Otherwise, indecision can linger.
Content is for the Buyer
Remember, successful healthcare IT content strategies are not just about filling gaps in your content. You can't create just to create. Instead, successful strategies will include awareness stage content to fill knowledge gaps and to shine a light on the next step possible for prospects. You'll see traction through behavioral metrics such as content downloads and email engagement. At the next stage, consideration content will speed up the process by continuing to provide solutions to your prospect's pains. You'll measure success with KPIs like how many MQLs were generated or how many opportunities were influenced by content. Decision stage content should be used to answer any final questions, empower your prospects within their organizations, and push the deal over the finish line, fast.
With assets for all of these stages in your marketing and sales toolbelt, you'll be well equipped for selling into a buyer collective, no matter what forms your prospects' needs take.
For more research on Healthcare Information and Technology content marketing best practices, download our latest ebook: 7 Research-Backed Best Practices for Healthcare IT Content Marketing.