Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Last week, Jay Parkinson, MD, wrote a post on his blog called “How Healthcare Institutions Talk to You.” His post asserts that all the major medical centers use the same language and messages to describe themselves:
1. “We care about you.“ and/or
2. “We’re the best.”
Daphne Swancutt, a noted healthcare marketer, calls this the “sea of sameness”. Same messages, different institution.
I’m a freelance Web writer who specializes in healthcare. Every day I work with hospitals, private physicians and large practices to think about how to differentiate themselves in the cluttered, unorganized space of consumer healthcare marketing. In my humble opinion, healthcare marketers can use these 5 techniques to make their online content fresh and avoid the sea of sameness.
1. Don’t be afraid of personality. So many times, clients balk from showing the personality of their physicians, or clinics or support staff. I have one client, a nuclear medicine specialist, who has an office filled with stuffed ducks. It’s a joke with his staff about quacking instead of complaining, and it caught on with his patients. Now, every time a patient needs a gift for this doctor, they buy him a stuffed duck. I would LOVE to take a picture of this doctor’s office and write a small story about the ducks and put it on his bio page. But it doesn’t fit in with the general culture of the website. This is a classic opportunity lost.
2. Use real world stories. A basic part of the human condition is our love of stories. Every single culture has narrative. So use stories to tell the story about what patients will experience when visiting your healthcare institution. Patient testimonials are often boring and flat. Don’t have them fill out a paragraph about how much they love Dr. So and So. Instead, identify three conditions that are the most searched pages on your website. Find patients with successful outcomes and write stories about their experience with your staff. Find a creative way to engage the user with a memorable takeaway.
3. Create "What to expect" guides. I love these pages because they really do allow you to highlight what makes your healthcare institution different. What to expect when you check in, what to expect when you have a procedure, what to expect at a treatment. I wrote a radiation oncology site about a year ago and I really spent time with the staff: walking through all the different rooms, getting a feel for the process. The entire site was written with that “tour guide” feel in mind so that a potential patient would have a sense of what would happen to them: from their first appointment, to the day they graduate from radiation treatment. Photo essays are helpful for this as well, as long as the captions aren’t too long and contain information relevant to the photo.
4. Don’t ignore the family and friends. Where can I park my car and how much it will cost? Where can I get a cup of coffee? Is there an ATM? For patients, the anxiety is in the visit and the treatment. For the accompanying loved one, the anxiety is in the details. So don’t neglect detailed, logistical information and do not be afraid to give too much. So parking is $10 an hour. I doubt a patient won’t come to the hospital because of the parking fee. But at least they will know to have the cash on them and won’t scramble at the end of the visit to run to the ATM.
5. Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth. (Bonus points to the reader who can tell me where this is from.) At the end of the day, no one is the best at everything and everyone really cares about their patients. Thanks for the information. So if you’re not the best, how do you differentiate yourself? How about telling the truth?
• We’re a community hospital that offers excellent, personalized care in a smaller setting.
• We’re in the inner city, so we see a wide variety of cases with complicating factors and have experience treating patients with those challenges.
• Our rooms are really pretty and we have wireless internet.
• We offer fellowship –trained physicians in a non-academic setting so they are free to really apply themselves to patient care and don’t have to worry about research.
• We really are the best and this is why:
o We pioneered this treatment
o We’re one of the few that are willing to try this
o We use teams to solve problems
o Our technology is superior because we have the most experienced minds to interpret it.
Dive in to the sea of uniqueness.
Monday, October 19, 2009
This summer I wrote a blog post, "Is Google Over?" about a comparison between Google and Bing on my own name. I was surprised to see Bing returning search results way better, in my opinion, than Google's.
In my original blog post (because let's face it, most of you won't jump) I said that Google was ranking my own website way down the page, rather than pushing it to the top. Old listings of my name in jobs I no longer hold, and haven't for 8 years, were being pushed to the top of the results page. To me that information just isn’t relevant anymore (or not enough for the first page). Bing was ranking searches in the order I would have chosen.
Surprise! I recently Googled myself and my website returned in first and second place and much of that other old stuff had been pushed to the SECOND PAGE results! Matt McGee explains that now Google Endorses Reputation Management.
From Matt’s post: “I also suspect, from reading the blog post, that Google is trying to do some pre-emptive customer service here. You can imagine the amount of emails (and perhaps phone calls) Google gets from people who are upset about what they see when they Google themselves. The blog post basically says, Would you stop asking us to clean up the search results mess you don’t like?
From Google's blog: “Rather than immediately contacting Google, it’s important to first remove it from the site where it’s being published. Google doesn’t own the Internet; our search results simply reflect what’s already out there on the web.”
While I did fill out a Google profile, I did nothing to manipulate the tagging or content on my site, except to add a Twitter feed to the home page. Either Google has changed their algorithm to influence personal searches, filling out my Google profile helped or Google reads my blog. Yikes!
So what do you think: Should I use my power for good or for evil?
Friday, October 2, 2009
I recently attended the first GrowSmartBiz conference, sponsored by Network Solutions. There were many great speakers and panels, but one panel, “Marketing and Innovation”, stood out in my mind. One of the panelists, Ramon Ray, is a “Technology Evangelist”, who runs Smallbiztechnology.com, a company that helps small businesses with their technology needs. He gave a list of rules for small businesses to follow and they are applicable to how to create an excellent, user-friendly website as well.
(His rule is first, the one applicable to websites is after the equal sign.)
1. Have a great product= Have a great website. How does a company go about creating or redesigning a website? There are valuable resources for those who want a 101 education, but the best way to create a great website is to notice the ones you like to use, and notice the ones you find difficult to interact with. There may be pieces of certain websites you like. Write them down. Create a master list. And then find consultants who can help you hone your marketing messages and create a user-friendly website that consistently addresses the core principles of your business.
2. Have a relationship with your customers= understand your users and anticipate their questions. I covered this in my last blog post, “5 Rules for understanding and answering your users' questions”. Briefly, it is critical when designing, developing and writing for a site that you think about all your users’ possible questions. Then answer those questions, using all different kinds of content (text, video, photos, podcasting) and interactive possibilities (downloadable PDFs, surveys, online analysis widgets, etc.).
3. Know needs of your customers= LISTEN to your users. There are so many ways to do this, and yet so many great design teams fumble on this one core principle. Analyze your data on a weekly, if not daily basis. Look at visitors, page views, bounce rates, paths travelled throughout the site. Watch your search data and incoming traffic. Post surveys. Do usability testing. Talk to your users, if possible.
4. Take no gracefully= I think Mr. Ray’s comment here was really about not burning bridges. If your user does not want you’re offering, then accept it with grace and move on. Consistently iterate by watching your data so you can know what you're doing wrong. However---
5. Take no with a but= this is a critical Web rule. Find many different doorways to entice your user on your site. There have to be many pathways to the same content found pages. If your user is about to jump off your site, make sure you have a few different ways for them to find the same thing.
6. LISTEN=LISTEN. I think I covered this in 3.
I found his comments valuable, both for running a business and for consistently reminding myself about the putting your user first. No matter the marketing strategy, social media strategy, online strategy, the core part of any business is the buyer, customer, user. Make sure you are always putting them first in your priorities.