How Marketing Technology Supercharges Content

Historically, the process of matching content to the right audience and channel—and most importantly, whether or not anyone did anything as a result—involved myriad manual tasks and a good bit of guesswork. Thanks to marketing technology, content can be targeted, crafted and tracked with greater precision than ever before.

When my career in healthcare marketing began 20 years ago, launching a content marketing campaign involved hours copying, pasting and harassing IT for help using disparate tools cobbled together. The universe of marketing technology (aka MarTech) extended little further than Excel and other database tools.

Fast forward to 2020 and the MarTech landscape has exploded, now encompassing more than 7,000 solutions that enable everything from app development and programmatic advertising to online scheduling and AI-driven chat. Not surprisingly, spending on these tools is typically one of the modern marketer's largest budget items.

Marketing Technology Moves in Health Care

With heightened expectations for performance and increased competition—combined with lean marketing teams and budgets that pale in comparison to other industries, healthcare organizations are investing heavily in MarTech as a force multiplier. The impact of technology on how hospitals and health systems market their brands is manifold—from how data is analyzed and audiences defined to campaign management, measurement and optimization.

Perhaps nowhere is this evolution of healthcare marketing more important than at the intersection of technology and content.

The growing impact and interdependence of MarTech and content can clearly be seen in conference agendas and industry reports. For example, of the 200 healthcare marketing professionals surveyed for the 2019 State of Digital Healthcare Marketing, nearly 8 in 10 consider content marketing essential (a double-digit increase from 2018), while the shift from marketing communications to marketing technology was ranked among the most pressing issues as illustrated below.

And while the components of a MarTech stack are as varied as the hospitals investing in them, they typically encompass CRM systems, automation platforms and other elements considered essential for the modern marketer.

To help you leverage these tools, here are ways that healthcare leaders are effectively connecting the MarTech stack to their content marketing strategies.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

The majority of hospitals and health systems (59%, according to the State of Digital Healthcare Marketing report) have now adopted a CRM platform, which is designed to paint a clearer picture of their patient population and help find ideal prospects. This clarity allows marketers to target and measure their content marketing efforts with unmatched precision.

Examples of content marketing technology in action:

  • Identifying the ideal audience and generating lists for direct mail, email and custom publications based on multiple factors beyond the traditional demographic and psychographic variables, including propensity to need specific health services
  • Targeting the tone, voice, imagery and other content elements based on the ideal patient profile
  • Developing email workflows with content and calls to action personalized to specific patient segments
  • Measuring performance of content marketing campaigns by matching the target group to downstream encounters

Marketing Automation Platform (MAP)

The automation of marketing activities historically performed manually is a key marker of the industry’s evolution. The adoption of marketing automation technology is growing steadily according to the State of Digital Healthcare Marketing report, with 53% currently using a tool or planning to invest within the year.

Building consumer journeys and creating content that plugs into MAP solutions allows healthcare marketers to engage target audiences with content appropriate for where they are in the healthcare journey. Automated trigger and drip campaigns increase conversion rates by nurturing early stage leads effectively through to the goal (attending a seminar, scheduling an appointment, etc.) while cross-promoting other relevant services, events and health content.

Examples of content marketing technology in action:

  • Email campaigns that nurture leads generated through campaign work, including prospects who participate in health risk assessments and seminars as well as existing patients who are due for annual appointments and other trigger events.
  • Content for these campaigns can include reminders to download a patient guide or schedule an appointment as well as relevant lifestyle content based on the user’s health risk profile and other personal factors.

Learn how technology can help you plan, create and deploy content on a consistent basis in our report: Content + Automation: The Modern Marketing Power Couple

Content Management System (CMS)

Every healthcare organization has a website, and while the CMS selected to power the site is important, another critical element is needed that ensures consumers can find your brand online and keep coming back: quality content.

As healthcare organizations invest in sophisticated CMS platforms, merge with other health systems, and continuously add and update web content, they can lose sight of the value of an effective content strategy to support it.

Examples of content marketing technology in action:

  • Optimization of website content to guide the patient journey, from pages highlighting conditions and treatments through to provider information so that the site solves problems, answers questions and makes it easy to access the appropriate care 
  • Historic optimization of high-potential blog and service line content to increase organic traffic and conversions, whether the goal is to download an educational guide or schedule an appointment—and anywhere in between

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Software

The evolution of marketing into equal parts art and science is perhaps best reflected in the the potential for SEO to increase your content’s exposure. And while Google continues moving the goalposts for how SEO works, organic search remains the number one source of traffic to hospital websites. Several tools (many of them free) give marketers ways to access the content their target audiences care about.

Examples of content marketing technology in action:

  • Keyword analysis to define topic categories and high-potential terms that increase traffic
  • Competitor research to identify opportunities and gaps
  • Tracking keyword performance and making adjustments

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A Conversation with Content Strategists Part 3: Marketing Technology and Channel Integration

In this interview series with healthcare content strategy leads, we discuss the goals, channels and other elements of an effective healthcare content strategy, focusing on marketing technology and channel integration strategies.

We spoke with three marketing leaders about everything from keeping up with trends to selecting the right channels. Now, in this third and final article in our series, we ask the content strategists about the marketing technology and channel integration tools they're using to plan, create and deploy content.

We spoke with:

Q: How are you using marketing technology and channel integration?

Amy-Sarah: We use a couple of different paid SEO platforms, such as ForeSee—to help guide our organic search efforts and keep tabs on user feedback. We use a marketing automation platform for class and event registrations and email lists.

Kristen: Marketing technology is a critical part of making our content marketing program more efficient and effective. We’re utilizing a CRM to better understand our audiences and an email platform and marketing automation to deliver content when audiences need it most. We rely heavily on our analytics tools and have used digital user testing to gather the insights we need to make data-driven decisions.

Q: What are your favorite tools for planning, creating or measuring content?

Amy-Sarah: I love, love, love SiteImprove. It hits the sweet spot of being easy/intuitive to use while at the same time providing enough robust data and customization to allow for accurate reporting. We measure readability, accessibility, usability, SEO and content quality for different content segments, and we’re able to use numbers to show improvement—very clear, helpful metrics for demonstrating the outcomes of our efforts with our doctors.

[I also love] the Hemingway Editor, a free website that allows you to paste in text and see right away where and how you need to simplify the content to create more concise, effective writing. This can be really valuable for online editing, especially when you’re forced to edit yourself.

Kristen: I use SEMrush constantly for keyword research, content ideation and optimization. I start every morning by checking Google Trends to stay up to date on relevant topics that are trending. I also log into our Google Analytics account on a daily basis to monitor content performance; we use Tableau to help with data visualization and tell the story of what those numbers mean.

Q: What is your perspective on content marketing in what some are calling the “post-click” era?

Amy-Sarah: What’s interesting is that the actual strategy of developing good content that meets the needs or answers the questions of the consumer patient doesn’t change. Whether a user clicks through to our website or not doesn’t change that. What does need to change is how we understand our digital presence and how we measure success. Instead of thinking of our website like a hospital building, where we serve patients only within the walls of the structure, we have to expand our reach beyond the site, just like we’re doing with population health in extending our ideas of health care beyond the hospital footprint. So we meet our patients on YouTube, we meet them on disease-specific forums. We focus, not on click-through rates and online appointments, but on engagements and interactions. And, we find a way to make it as easy as possible to offer services where they are.

Kristen: We’re trying to take advantage of Google’s growing number of featured snippets, and right now have benefited from providing content that answers users’ questions and queries. Considering voice search as part of that post-click era, we’d consider it a success when and if a user found their answer from us, even if that didn’t end up with a click. While the metrics we track may change as SERPs evolve, the role of content marketing will remain important, because it’s all about presenting the most useful content in the most useful way for the end user.

Q: The head of the Content Marketing Institute believes that “print is making a comeback.” How does print factor into your content strategy?

Rebecca: Print is a key component of our strategy—but again, we believe the lines are blurred. Print is valuable if your consumer reads it. Video is valuable if your consumer watches it. Radio is valuable if your consumer is listening. But none of these work if you don’t have built-in audiences. Our strategy is to dig deep early in the process so we know who is reading, watching or listening. Whatever we produce must match the existing audience—and that’s what is tricky is our world right now. That is what we see constantly evolving.

What works for a woman in her 60s may not work for her daughter or son or granddaughter and grandson. We have to be relevant to all of those audiences.

One segment that has been very successful is a partnership with the Hartford Courant. We have an article that runs on Sunday highlighting a strategic service line. That article then lives in social channels and previews a Facebook LIVE conversation at noon two days later. The article highlights a patient story and the subsequent Q & A allows potential patients access to our experts in real time. This has been tremendously successful, with more than 80K views per segment, leading to hundreds of appointments.

Kristen: Sitting on the digital team, I can’t say that print is a focus for our content marketing program. However, we do not work in a silo, and working with our team members, we have awesome opportunities to utilize our content is a variety of local publications, patient handouts, and even get requests for printouts for schools and physician offices.

Amy-Sarah: This is where I think we have to stop dividing up strategies by platform, i.e., digital vs. print, or internal vs. external, online vs. in-person. We know that people cross platforms, cross personas and cross contexts all the time, and trying to pin people into behaviors won’t always work. The patient experience encompasses all the various touchpoints we impact.

We know that plenty of times our patients need information on paper and in their hands. Our current approach requires partnership between our digital and print teams, as well as alignment with the team creating patient education. We all share a commitment to plain language, and we work to coordinate efforts. We want to give patients the choice to find what they need where and how they want to. Our print documents provide online options, but we don’t measure success only on the URL visit.

If you missed the previous article in the series:

Part 1: Keeping Up With Trends 

Part 2: Primary Goals, Audiences and Channels

Let's Talk Timing (and More)

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