As I get ready to speak at the Healthcare IT Marketing Conference in a few weeks, I’m reaching out to a handful of top-tier experts on developing high-stakes content marketing and thought leadership in both healthcare and technology. Here’s my interview with content marketer Stephanie Tilton.
How did you get started with content marketing?
I started out working in marcom, product marketing and competitive analysis for various high-tech companies. When I saw how much most of my colleagues hated to write – or just lacked the time – I struck out on my own to help technology marketers develop content. That’s been my focus since 2006, and to date, I’ve worked with over 100 companies, including LinkedIn, Marketo, Microsoft and SAP. In the healthcare space, my clients have included Caristix, HealthcareSource, and Imprivata.
How has content marketing changed over the past year?
The practice itself hasn’t changed dramatically – it’s more that companies embracing the concept of content marketing are taking a more strategic approach to content by:
- Developing true buyer personas to serve as the foundation for content development
- Establishing metrics that tie the results of content marketing back to business objectives
- Creating formal plans that address content creation, distribution, promotion, measurement, and improvement
- Focusing on what matters to prospective buyers instead of being company- and product-centric
What should a marketer do to get their content to stand out?
1. Truly understand your audience.
Let’s assume all you know about your target audience is that they are “data analysts in large healthcare-related organizations.” Here’s a sampling of important details you don’t know about them:
- What information they want at each stage of the research and purchase process
- What keywords they use in their searches
- If they seek purchase advice from colleagues, industry peers, or unbiased third parties
- Their role in the purchase decision process
- What would prevent them from purchasing a solution from your organization
This knowledge is valuable for creating content that truly connects with prospective buyers and triggers them to take action – and that distinguishes you from competitors who are only focused on “data analysts in large healthcare-related organizations.”
You glean these insights by developing buyer personas. The first step is to identify your ideal customer. Then you interview a mix of people who fit that bill, including prospects, customers, and even those from organizations that considered your company/solution but didn’t purchase from any vendor. This step seems straightforward enough but you need to talk to the right people at the right time and ask the right questions.
I highly recommend hiring someone to help or taking a course from Adele Revella.
2. Show some personality.
Does the content you and your competitors produce sound the same? Could you identify the source if you covered the logo? Work with your brand team to develop a distinctive personality and tone and then infuse that in all your content.
3. Get emotional.
Far too many organizations in the B2B space rely on rational arguments to persuade prospects to buy. Or they make an emotional connection with prospects at the start of the buyer’s journey but shift to logic as the buyer gets closer to purchase. While people appreciate facts and stats to support a purchase decision, they also respond to emotional appeals at every stage of the buying process. For more on this, check out the report From Promotion to Emotion: Connecting B2B Customers to Brands based on research conducted by The Corporate Executive Board and Google.
How do thought leadership and content marketing intersect?
I helped Jason Miller of LinkedIn write The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership. It’s a terrific resource, regardless of your industry.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’m going to share what we said in the guide about the intersection of thought leadership and content marketing:
“…thought leadership and content marketing are intertwined. In fact, in numerous surveys, establishing thought leadership is often cited as one of the key reasons that B2B marketers engage in content marketing.”
The guide goes on to say:
“…thought leadership is about sharing insights and ideas – and a unique point of view – that provoke new ways of thinking, spark discussions and debates, and inspire action. A true thought leader knows a topic inside and out, has formed a clear, unique and defensible point of view about it, and freely shares that perspective.”
What content marketing advice would you give healthcare IT marketers – especially startup or early-stage marketers?
- Know your audience inside and out. Conduct research to get into the heads of your prospective buyers – and continually refresh your understanding of that audience.
- Map out the buying journey. Understand information/content needs at each stage for the major roles in the research/purchase process.
- Tie content marketing goals to strategic business objectives. It’s not enough to generate blog comments and downloads – your executives want to see how your efforts contribute to pipeline and revenues.
Any resources to recommend?
- Subscribe to the Content Marketing Institute blog
- Take advantage of all the resources from MarketingProfs
- Read Content Rules by Ann Handley and C. C. Chapman and Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
- Participate in relevant LinkedIn groups like Content Marketing, Content Strategy, and Thought Leadership Marketing Mastermind Group
- Attend conferences like Content Marketing World, B2B Content2Conversion, and MarketingProfs B2B Forum
- Follow me on Twitter