Marketing During COVID-19: Activate Your Content Marketing Program

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As the economy reckons with COVID-19, tactful and strategic marketing should be a priority for digital health startups: Right now, it’s all about the pandemic and if your solution directly helps fight it, you have to market it now to give it the attention it deserves. If your solution doesn’t link to the coronavirus, but is still vital for improving care delivery, you have to market it now to get it the attention it deserves once things are under control. 

Either way, digital marketing—and specifically content marketing—is key. As the sales cycle inevitably slows while hospitals contend with the rippling effects of COVID-19, putting out good content makes the best use of your time now, and positions you for better growth and uptake once things do pick back up. 

And let’s say it: Things will pick back up. But we have to accept and prepare for the fact that they won’t for a while. But in healthcare, this crisis is shining a spotlight on all manual processes that should have been done digitally all along. That’s why staying productive by refining core messaging and activating a content marketing strategy focused on growing your audience now, can make all the difference.

Adapting in Complete Chaos

Health systems feel herculean pressure. Practices have closed, elective procedures and check-ups have been postponed, and healthcare as a whole is learning how to adapt amid complete chaos. 

It’s a hard and tragic time, so let’s get this out there: Digital health companies will likely miss revenue goals this quarter, and maybe even this year. Acknowledge that and scale your marketing to make up for the loss in Q3 and beyond. Reallocate travel and trade show budgets to where you can make an impact NOW; digital marketing.

Over time, some things will regain some semblance of normalcy, but they’ll forever be different. All stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem will need to embrace change and recalibrate expectations before moving forward. 

Everyone has a role to play in that change narrative, including emerging entrepreneurs. But you have to offer engaging, useful digital content that adds something of value during these volatile times. After working with clients and partners, here’s the content marketing ethos that has stood the test of recessions, austerity measures, acquisitions, mergers, and other forces of change:

Content is Your Best Friend

It sounds cliché, but it’s true, and especially now. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, the always-on salesforce that keeps on generating revenue—even months after you’ve already created it and forgotten about it. 

And yet, like a friendship, you have to nurture content marketing for it to work. Content isn’t just a box you can check off: It’s important to get it right by approaching your content plan with a sound strategy and actionable insights. 

A big part of that rides on providing helpful, appropriate content that recognizes the unprecedented times we live in without verging into tone-deaf territory. Align your messaging with the buyer’s journey so that you give your audience exactly what they need today, while also anticipating the questions they’ll have tomorrow. 

The Basics of a Lasting Content Machine

If you want to establish thought leadership, you need a blog as your content’s foundation. Build it directly into your website, rather than using Medium or third-party blog sites; that way, you get all the benefits of search traffic and the audience doesn’t need to veer off your site to read what you have to say.

Of course, your blog may be the foundation of your content marketing program, but it’s not the only content channel. You should build your LinkedIn presence—both as an individual and a company—and repurpose content for that channel. Not only does having content in two places make it more accessible, but it also boosts your reputation currency and nurtures your community.

A marketing automation tool makes content creation and distribution easier through data visibility and cross-channel integrations. HubSpot is our top recommendation because it tracks insights from email, social media, website, and your blog into one dashboard. Plus, they’re running some pretty supportive deals right now

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of data to influence and inform your content marketing. The numbers tell you what content performs and what doesn’t, what gets clicks and what goes unseen, and what people want to read and when. 

3 Types of Content to Create Right Now

If things are slowing down in your pipeline, use the time to create a library of usable content that can feed into your content program and deliver mileage for months to come.

But as you do, remember that strong content is targeted, not templated. Given all the stakeholders involved in digital health, your content marketing program should align with your audience, as well as your mission. You’ll no doubt need to review the data to find what specifically works for you, but in general, these three types of content tend to perform well for many brands:

  1. Survival Guides: Interview your current customers to find out who is thriving in the current climate, and why. Pair that anecdotal evidence with some analysis and churn out a blog post about what to adapt and how in this quickly evolving industry.
  2. Abstracts & Manuscripts: Review customer insights and run calculations to find statistically significant changes that you can prove up as an ROI data point. Write an abstract or storyboard proposal and ask the lead clinician if you can joint-publish the results. If they’re onboard, submit the abstract to future conferences or write an academic paper for a peer-reviewed journal. If the paper gets accepted, repurpose it into a visually rich infographic to post on your blog and social channels.
  3. “We’re Still Here”: The priority of COVID-19 may be for critical care right now, but that doesn’t mean preventive care and chronic disease management no longer matter. Those patients, and all patients, still need help. And you’re still there to help them. Gather your customers and connections for a virtual roundtable on Zoom or Twitter Live to discuss what’s still going on in your specific niche. (Pro Tip: Call it a roundtable, but mute all participants except the speakers. Instead, take questions via the chat.)

Carving Out a Content Path

Once you create content, what do you do with it? We recommend that clients develop “content paths” that go along with every piece of content you produce. This adds intention and purpose to your content marketing efforts. A few paths might include:

  • Email Campaign: Send a cold email blast to all prospects and customers, and then use the data you glean from its performance as a map for outreach. For example, reach out to someone who opened and engaged with the email for ideas on the next round of content, or even suggest a content collaboration, like interviewing them for a Q&A in your next newsletter.
  • Virtual Event: Organize a virtual event just as you would for an in-person conference, with all the marketing gusto to make it work: Pick a topic, plan an agenda, send invitations, and prepare marketing materials, social posts, paid ads, and email communications to promote it. Afterward, repurpose and juice it for content by posting the recording to a landing page along with supplemental content, like a white paper. Put some marketing dollars and resources to promote that landing page and add an email gateway to collect leads before giving out the free downloadable resource.
  • Social Media Campaign: Optimize written and visual content for targeted social outreach on LinkedIn, or if the audience aligns, on Twitter or Facebook. Establish an upfront budget and use real-time engagement data to direct its spending throughout the campaign.

The benefits of doing a targeted campaign right now, even if your solution doesn’t directly relate to COVID-19, is to get a pulse on who is engaging and use segmentation to target them further. That engagement rate might be lower than normal, when there’s not such a dominating topic like the novel coronavirus, but the results will still be helpful to carve a content path through the fog.

Ultimately, your content is only as good as your distribution, which is only as good as your content. Make your content marketing count all around with a bolstered strategy that delivers return for many months post-creation. But most of all, don’t wait. Do it now, and a year from now, as you have a library of content produced to pull from when needed, you’ll be glad you did.

If you need help with your content marketing strategy or are interested in hiring for your marketing team, click here. We offer full-stack marketing services focused on helping digital health companies grow.   

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