5 Words of Unconventional Wisdom from Rand Fishkin

As a co-founder of Moz and now CEO of SparkToro, Rand Fishkin is a leading voice on digital marketing. He has a clear message for healthcare marketing professionals.

In this excerpt from our pod­cast inter­view, you’ll learn how to gain com­pet­i­tive advan­tage, guide your com­mu­ni­ty to bet­ter health and grow your mar­ket­ing career. (Hint: It’s not by fol­low­ing the crowd.).

There are many paths to career success.

Rand dropped out of col­lege and start­ed design­ing web­sites. He even­tu­al­ly joined his mom’s small mar­ket­ing con­sul­tan­cy and the pair strug­gled finan­cial­ly, going deeply into debt before he “stum­bled onto search engine opti­miza­tion.” His curios­i­ty and pas­sion for shar­ing ideas led Rand to cre­ate one of the first SEO blogs, and in 2004 he went on to launch what has become a mar­ket leader in SEO soft­ware. The rest is his­to­ry, which you can read about in his book Lost and Founder

Marketers should look beyond the duopoly.

While Rand read­i­ly admits that lever­ag­ing the most pop­u­lar dig­i­tal plat­forms works, he sug­gests explor­ing oth­er chan­nels to build and engage your audi­ence “instead of just throw­ing mon­ey at Google and Face­book.” Oth­er­wise, he says mar­keters are just doing the same thing as every­one else and “you are not build­ing a moat through marketing.”

In fact, Rand start­ed Spark­Toro to give mar­keters an alter­na­tive tool for tar­get­ing more effec­tive­ly by under­stand­ing their audi­ence’s behav­iors and char­ac­ter­is­tics. This reflects his desire to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo and delight cus­tomers through hon­esty and transparency.

“My strong advice is not to take a one-size-fits-all approach, or to fol­low any thought leader’s advice,” he says. Instead, Rand sug­gests focus­ing on your unique audi­ence and doing three things to under­stand how their needs inter­sect with your capa­bil­i­ties: Sur­vey your cus­tomers, inter­view them through one-to-one con­ver­sa­tions and use tools to track how they engage with your brand.

Trade the marketing funnel for the flywheel.

Rand beseech­es mar­keters to stop what he calls “boul­der-push­ing mar­ket­ing” where each new cus­tomer that you attract takes approx­i­mate­ly as much time, ener­gy, effort and dol­lars as the last one. Instead, he sug­gests cre­at­ing a sys­tem that gains effi­cien­cy through iner­tia like a fly­wheel

“In this way, every time you pro­duce a new pod­cast, blog post, or newslet­ter, it reach­es a few more peo­ple, you get bet­ter at it, you fig­ure out what your audi­ence wants more, they res­onate with it more, and ulti­mate­ly each brand touch pro­duces a high­er prob­a­bil­i­ty that peo­ple will con­vert in the future,” he says.

While Rand says it’s not easy, the advan­tages of this approach will even apply to the dom­i­nant channels.

“When you run ads on Face­book, Google or YouTube, the num­ber one thing that’s going to pre­dict if you have high click-through rates and low cost per con­ver­sion is brand recog­ni­tion,” he says. “If peo­ple know your brand, like your brand, trust your brand or have pre­vi­ous­ly inter­act­ed pos­i­tive­ly with your brand, you are going to do pret­ty darn well with those audi­ences as well as through dis­play, retar­get­ing and remar­ket­ing. This is an awe­some thing to invest in.”

Stop sending traffic to rental properties.

While it’s com­mon­place to direct users to your local busi­ness page on Google or a social media account like Face­book or Insta­gram, Rand rec­om­mends against mak­ing those the pri­ma­ry destination.

“Those are not prop­er­ties you own,” he says. “You do not get to con­trol the expe­ri­ence and you can’t improve a lot of things in those places.”

Instead, make your web­site the hub for your audi­ence and deliv­er excel­lence at every step of the journey.

“You want to under­stand not only how to get peo­ple to my web­site, you have to know how your audi­ence behaves and how to opti­mize the expe­ri­ence when they get there,” he says. “If it takes 7 min­utes to find a phone num­ber or 10 min­utes to make an appoint­ment, you can lose peo­ple through­out this fun­nel. That’s why dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing has so much growth opportunity.”

As healthcare marketers face unique challenges, the fundamentals are more important than ever.

“I and so many oth­er Amer­i­cans tremen­dous­ly appre­ci­ate the hard­ship and sac­ri­fice that you are going through to make our lives bet­ter, and health­i­er, and hap­pi­er and longer, and you don’t get near­ly enough cred­it for that,” Rand says. To guide hos­pi­tals and health sys­tems in this flu­id envi­ron­ment, he rec­om­mends get­ting back the first prin­ci­ples of marketing.

“As health­care mar­keters, in par­tic­u­lar, it’s our job to find the mes­sages that res­onate and tell them in the places where you know your audi­ence is pay­ing atten­tion — and then you will be able to influ­ence them in pos­i­tive ways,” he says. “That’s exact­ly what health­care mar­keters need to do right now.”


Listen to the full interview with Rand Fishkin on the Healthcare Insight podcast.

Want More Expert Perspective?

Get more insights to inspire your health­care mar­ket­ing plans and and career path. 

How Healthcare Content Can Help Alleviate Common COVID-19 Fears About Seeking Care

Understanding your community’s most common COVID-19 fears is mission critical—here’s how content marketing can alleviate those concerns and instill confidence in seeking care.

Health­care mar­keters are fac­ing dual threats due to COVID-19: con­sumers delay­ing care due to fears or anx­i­ety and shrink­ing patient revenue.

Among the new norms for health­care mar­keters due to the pan­dem­ic, there is an acute focus on accel­er­at­ing rev­enue growth. While patient acqui­si­tion has always been impor­tant, it has vault­ed to the pin­na­cle of COVID-19 plans across all categories—from small, rur­al hos­pi­tals to large, nation­al health systems.

This man­date comes at a time when the abil­i­ty to attract con­sumers is increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult. Hos­pi­tals and oth­er providers are mar­ket­ing to com­mu­ni­ties who are scared that seek­ing care will increase their risk of COVID-19 expo­sure. Many are expe­ri­enc­ing oth­er valid con­cerns keep­ing would-be patients from get­ting the screen­ings and treat­ments they need.

While these fears sur­round­ing COVID-19 are cre­at­ing a sig­nif­i­cant finan­cial impact for health­care providers, more trou­bling is the fact that peo­ple aren’t seek­ing care for poten­tial­ly life-threat­en­ing conditions:

  • The CDC report­ed that in the 10 weeks fol­low­ing dec­la­ra­tion of the COVID-19 nation­al emer­gency, ED vis­its declined 23% for heart attack, 20% for stroke and 10% for hyper­glycemic crisis.
  • Accord­ing to a Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion poll con­duct­ed in June, 52% of adults say they or some­one in their fam­i­ly has skipped or delayed get­ting med­ical care because of coro­n­avirus. More than a quar­ter of those who say they or a fam­i­ly mem­ber skipped or post­poned care because of coro­n­avirus say their con­di­tion or their fam­i­ly member’s con­di­tion wors­ened as a result.

For health­care mar­keters, there is urgency to address these fears and improve the health of both their com­mu­ni­ties and orga­ni­za­tions. This under­tak­ing will be much more marathon than sprint, a real­i­ty that was rein­forced in a recent SHSMD pod­cast fea­tur­ing Jef­fer­son Health Chief Strat­e­gy Offi­cer Mon­i­ca Doyle, who said, “… one of the things we real­ly have to do now is to con­vince our patients that it’s safe to seek health­care, and that it’s poten­tial­ly more detri­men­tal to them in the long term, if they avoid screen­ings, diag­nos­tic pro­ce­dures, and treat­ment. So that that’s real­ly how we see the next six months mov­ing forward.”

To reach their com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing this time of cri­sis, health­care orga­ni­za­tions are turn­ing to the experts in con­sumer engage­ment: the mar­ket­ing depart­ment. Around 70% of health sys­tem exec­u­tives sur­veyed in June said their main con­cern is replac­ing lost patient vol­ume and rev­enue, and a sim­i­lar share report­ed their focus is on mar­ket­ing, edu­ca­tion and patient out­reach to make it happen.

To guide your efforts to alle­vi­ate con­sumer fears about COVID-19 and grow patient vol­ume, your health­care mar­ket­ing strate­gies must piv­ot to address cur­rent con­sumer con­cerns. Here are a few of the most com­mon con­cerns along with ways your con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy can address them.

Fear Factor: If I go to the hospital, I might get COVID-19—or I could be asymptomatic and infect others.

These are the pri­ma­ry caus­es of con­cern, with 70% of con­sumers say­ing they are very or some­what con­cerned about get­ting infect­ed if they go to facil­i­ties to receive care for non-COVID-19 issues. In fact, a recent study of 500+ con­sumers found near­ly 20 per­cent would switch providers if anoth­er provider demon­strat­ed bet­ter safe­ty and clean­ing pro­ce­dures to pro­tect them from coro­n­avirus. These fears are ampli­fied among those who are preg­nant or at risk for spe­cif­ic health con­di­tions, and mar­ket lead­ers are address­ing these fears with mes­sag­ing designed to build trust and bring patients back.

To address this fear, con­sid­er these con­tent mar­ket­ing tips:

  • Tar­get search cam­paigns around key­words like “is it safe to return to the hos­pi­tal” and link to land­ing pages that detail safe­ty pro­ce­dures and answer com­mon questions.
  • Share sto­ries of patients who were expe­ri­enc­ing symp­toms and over­came their fears to get­ting screened that illus­trate the impor­tance of ear­ly detection.
  • Fea­ture your envi­ron­men­tal ser­vices team and clean­ing reg­i­men in your blog and social content.
  • Con­tribute OpEd pieces to local news media with details about safe­ty protocols.
  • Cre­ate a vir­tu­al tour on your web­site that illus­trates how you’re mod­i­fy­ing the envi­ron­ment to iso­late COVID-19 patients and ensure physical/social distancing.
  • Fea­ture your physi­cians in con­tent focused on the val­ue of wear­ing cloth face cov­er­ings in pub­lic and how wear­ing med­ical masks is being imple­ment­ed in your care settings.
  • Fea­ture care­givers from your Birth Cen­ter and oth­er pri­or­i­ty ser­vice areas on your blog and social pages, to reas­sure patients and let them know what to expect.
  • Pro­mote urgent care in calls to action to encour­age eval­u­a­tion in the ER and help patients choose between in-per­son and vir­tu­al care.

Here are examples:

  • Adven­tist Health­Care cre­at­ed a Patient & Vis­i­tor Safe­ty land­ing page fea­tur­ing a video mes­sage from the Pres­i­dent and CEO.
  • Beau­mont Health fea­tures care­givers in their “Safe Care. Avail­able Here.” campaign.
  • Geisinger cre­at­ed a land­ing page high­light­ing safe­ty pro­ce­dures and fea­tur­ing a hot­line for more information.
  • Holy Name Med­ical Cen­ter ensures first-time site vis­i­tors get the mes­sage: We are open. We are clean. We are ready.
  • North­field Hos­pi­tal + Clin­ics high­lights pre­cau­tions they’re tak­ing to keep mom and baby safe.
  • Rock­cas­tle Region­al Rur­al Health Clin­ics post­ed a let­ter from physi­cians and staff on the web­site that details new safe­ty procedures.
  • Tide­lands Health launched a mul­ti-chan­nel “Safe in Our Care” cam­paign high­light­ing extra pre­cau­tions to keep patients safe.

Fear Factor: I need care but can’t afford to pay for it.

Not being able to pay med­ical bills was a major con­cern before the pan­dem­ic, and this anx­i­ety will like­ly con­tin­ue as con­sis­tent employ­ment becomes a chal­lenge for many consumers.

In fact, a recent analy­ses found that almost half of fam­i­lies that lost work due to COVID-19 avoid­ed healthcare.

For health­care mar­keters, it’s crit­i­cal to help con­sumers under­stand they can’t afford NOT to seek care, espe­cial­ly for life-threat­en­ing con­di­tions like heart attack and stroke.

To address this fear, con­sid­er these con­tent mar­ket­ing tips:

  • Research search terms relat­ed to financ­ing spe­cif­ic types of health­care and point local traf­fic to a resources page with tips and FAQs.
  • Guide con­sumers on how to access afford­able care with arti­cles on your blog.
  • Con­tribute patient sto­ries to local groups serv­ing young fam­i­lies, old­er adults and oth­er key demo­graph­ics with­in your ser­vice area that high­light the impor­tance of seek­ing care.

Here are some examples:

  • MD Ander­son out­lines sources of sup­port avail­able to can­cer patients.
  • Methodist Health Sys­tem helps patients esti­mate charges with con­tact infor­ma­tion for finan­cial counselors.
  • Nemours offers tips to find afford­able care, includ­ing steps for enrolling chil­dren in pub­lic programs.

Fear Factor: I don’t know how to use virtual care.

While telemed­i­cine is grow­ing rapid­ly, there are seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion who are less like­ly to embrace vir­tu­al care due to lack of com­fort with tech­nol­o­gy or fear of pri­va­cy issues. This is espe­cial­ly true of peo­ple ages 65 and old­er who have his­tor­i­cal­ly relied on per­son­al, face-to-face vis­its when seek­ing care.

To address this fear, con­sid­er these con­tent mar­ket­ing tips:

  • Cre­ate a user-friend­ly vir­tu­al care page on your web­site fea­tur­ing “how to” videos and FAQs.
  • Ensure arti­cles about the ease and val­ue of telemed­i­cine have “for­ward to a friend” and social shar­ing fea­tures so fam­i­ly mem­bers can pass infor­ma­tion to loved ones.
  • Devel­op scripts for clin­i­cal teams and call cen­ter oper­a­tors to send a clear, con­sis­tent mes­sage about how to access telemedicine.

Here are some examples:

  • Beau­fort Med­ical Cen­ter out­lines costs, com­mon ail­ments cov­ered and oth­er telemed­i­cine details.
  • Novant Health cre­at­ed an ani­mat­ed video to guide con­sumers through the process of access­ing vir­tu­al care.
  • Van­der­bilt Health pro­vides step-by-step instruc­tions for access­ing vir­tu­al care.

Fear Factor: I’m struggling with mental or emotional issues—but don’t want anyone to know that I need help.

Stress lev­els and fears asso­ci­at­ed with COVID-19 are well above pre-pan­dem­ic norms, with wor­ry of infec­tion, ris­ing unem­ploy­ment and social dis­tanc­ing trans­lat­ing into feel­ings of anx­i­ety, iso­la­tion and depres­sion that show no signs of fad­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, those with men­tal health con­di­tions often suf­fer in silence. Stud­ies show it can take from six to eight years for those with mood dis­or­ders to seek treatment.

To address this fear, con­sid­er these con­tent mar­ket­ing tips:

  • Tar­get paid cam­paigns with key­words asso­ci­at­ed with men­tal health and offer con­tent that under­scores the impor­tance of seek­ing help along with oppor­tu­ni­ties to connect.
  • Fea­ture con­tent address­ing men­tal health on your web­site, blog and social chan­nels; con­sid­er eas­i­ly share­able for­mats like info­graph­ics and down­load­able guides.
  • Edu­cate civic and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers on the impor­tance of men­tal health through tar­get­ed cam­paigns and content.

Here are some examples:

We’re Here to Help Alleviate Your Community’s Fears

Our team of health­care con­tent mar­ket­ing experts can engage your con­sumers in a way that inspires con­fi­dence and encour­ages return to care.

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