As the 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.”
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