Marketing Strategy is a Big Word

Who is your audience(s)?

Where do they live (social. web. long form. video. in person)?

What do they want to know?

Why should they come to you?

Why should they come to you instead of other sources?

What should they do next?

Marketing Strategy is a big word. (or two words).

In the health space, it’s still a big word – but let’s break it down to something a bit more manageable. Strategy comes in a lot of flavors and scopes for different companies, but considering some basic concepts can help bring direction to the larger mission that many health advocates are working towards.

For the sake of this conversation, let’s consider strategy as the following: Your strategy is simply how people get to you, what they do when they get there, and the actions they take based on that experience.

To illustrate this, think of your collection of platforms as a small city.

This is the collective experience, made up of your content, your voice, all the things you produce and how you put them out to the world. This includes your own website, your social channels, and your in-person influence.

Your audience doesn’t start out knowing how to get to your city.

In fact, they don’t even know it’s on the map. There are roads that lead in, but they’ll need some signs to point people there. But not just signs, people will want to know WHY they should go down that road. What will they get for going there? Will they benefit in some way? These “road signs” can include things like search engine optimization, hashtag strategies, and guest spots on existing platforms.

But people can also hear about your town from their friends. Networking, collaborating, and being proactive in the social space are ways to encourage this. Capitalizing on these techniques (we call them ‘inbound’) is a great way to focus on, and cultivate, your brand identity – each trip, each click and moment spent consuming your content is an effort to your visitors – communicating what they will get and how they will benefit from this effort is important.

“This way to Crohnsville” can fall flatly generic. “2 Miles to the City of Crohn – Voted Funniest Town in Autoimmuneland” tells a lot about your space. Who wouldn’t want to check that out?

Once they arrive, give them what you promised, both in value and experience.

It’s important here to make sure all your messages are aligned, which gets back to getting your foundations strongly in place with brand identity and style. After all, if you followed the sign to a space of comfort from fellow patients, and ended up in a land of educational lectures, you’d probably never return. Your your needs weren’t met, and your trust was broken.

So in your city, provide things that support your brand identity, and help people move closer to their goals. In health, those goals range from advice for managing a disease complication, insight into social and emotional experiences, or the latest research. Specifically in this space though, we also have the goal of simply not feeling alone. You can put out a story of a hard time or a life lesson, simply to let other patients find that feeling of belonging – and still maintain a strong strategy. It’s more of a soft goal, but it’s still very effective and important.

Within your city, you can keep a pulse on what your visitors do through tools like Google Analytics, social platform analytics, and some social listening. On a site or blog, take note of what people search for and your most popular pages, how many pages they visit, and how long they stay. On social, note what creates high engagement – and consider that high quantity might not actually be in line with your goals. Finally, keep an eye on the conversation surrounding your content. Is it positive? Is it helpful? Is it inciting change? Can you evolve the experience you offer, to help advance your audience, as well as yourself, towards whatever your goals might be?

Where do we go from here?

Finally, strategy includes the actions people take at the end of their experience in your city. (I know, we want them to come back and be regulars. For now, let’s look at each visit as a single, whole experience here.)

In more traditional business, a call-to-action (CTA) is an essential consideration, because we’re nudging visitors towards a transaction. They experience the city, get back in their car, and head to the next town where all the salespeople live.

For health advocates, the city experience may be a satisfying end of the journey. But it may be a more specific action – joining a closed community, reaching out for a media or speaking opportunity, or even simply sharing your content to bring more people to a beneficial and valuable city such as yours.

Take a moment to map out what actions fit your own city and brand best, and give your visitors both the means and motivation to take such actions.

There’s a lot to digest here.

Let’s break it down a little bit more. We’ve mapped out a basic journey, but we some actual messages to fill up that journey and provide a rich experience to our visitors. Taking the time to strategize these at a foundational level, rather than as you go, allows you to use your mental and creative energy more efficiently, while cultivating the trust and consistency you need to have a thriving city.

Take the time to set some strong core messages and strategies at a few different levels:

Top Level: Your core brand identity – Define what you stand for and how you benefit your audience. Remember to do this effectively, you can be specific without being one-dimensional. But you should be able to do this concisely – in 1 or 2 sentences. Your brand can and will definitely expand beyond this, and you’ll certainly elaborate in different ways and in different situations – but however you branch out, your messages should always agree with this core statement.

Mid Level: Your benefits – What specifically about you and your core brand allows you to offer something to your audience? Do you make their lives easier? Do you help communicate research? Do you offer support or humor? Take the time to define some of the bigger benefits, and strategize what specific spaces in the community at large you can own, and help fuel the conversation at large.

Lower Level: The supports – Now, get some pieces together that fall under both your core identity and your top level benefits. In many cases, this might involve an audit of your current content and channels. Are there some pieces that are outside the bounds of your strategic brand? Can you update them to be better aligned? Are there gaps that you can fill? What specific messages, resources, or tools will satisfy your audience benefits while reflecting your core brand?

Feet On The Ground: Your tactics – Tactics are all the actual things you do to bring these messages to life – think about what form they take, and where they live. In some cases, these might be one in the same. A tactic can be a single video or video campaign, a hashtag campaign, or some ‘how to’ blog posts.

Evaluating some effective tactics, organizing them by how they fit into your visitor journey, and then ensuring they align with all the levels of your brand gives you a robust toolkit of pieces that create a collective strategy to bring this all together.

Here’s an example:

Our core brand identity is to provide support to IBD patients through sharing personal and vulnerable patient experiences, and letting others know that they aren’t alone in this journey.

We benefit the community by providing an approachable, unintimidating voice, and discussing topics that many patients face. We discuss primarily things from an experience perspective, ie ‘this is what it was like for me’. We provide a full picture of the IBD patient experience, so we don’t avoid any topic related to IBD.

A specific message that we’ve identified for many IBD patients is the colonoscopy experience. We know this can be intimidating, especially for people that are just going through the diagnosis process. So we wrote down some personal stories related to the experience, with the goal to alleviate fears related to this, and remind people that they can definitely get through it. We added some collaboration by drawing from some of our fellow patients that also had good stories, relevant to this topic.

We put this all into a blog post. We made sure to use some SEO best practices to leverage this channel. We took a pull-quote to create for a social graphic connected to the link. We also noticed a conversation happening in a closed group that was turning negative, so we shared our link to inject some support and hope for the person currently facing this.

Now let’s reverse that to walk down our audience member’s path: Their eye catches the pull quote on social, because it’s something that’s important and current to them. They click to our site and take in the full piece. They benefit from some specific advice, but they also feel comforted knowing they aren’t alone. They find support and a sense of belonging, which are fostered by our brand values, and create an emotionally positive association with our brand. Maybe they explore our channels and take in more content, or mentally bookmark us for next time they need to find this balance.

Make sense?

Now, this is just one pathway. A strategy is the big picture of these, and planning this to your desired level of detail, is how you get there.

What now?

Marketing strategies are made up of a lot of pieces that must fit together in the big picture. So really, what now? Go back and read this piece again from the top. Take notes as they relate to your own brand. Invest the time to think all of these aspects through carefully, and start to form your strategy.

You might work best with some thought bubble charts, or in a spreadsheet, or by cutting up your notes so you can rearrange them on the table until you get them together.

You may also want to consider different audiences, in which case, you may have a few different and distinct roads leading into that city of yours. That’s great, but remember they are all heading to the same town – so get in the practice of testing everything against your core brand – what you put out there should support it, not take away from it. These different audiences may nudge you to adjust your tactics for patients, caregivers, or medical professionals. It may be more welcoming for fellow patients, and a nod more professional towards pharma partners. It may even have a few flavors to reach the newly diagnosed versus the long-term patients.

All of that is just fine. Strategy is not always simple, but with some planning, you can break it down and make it manageable, effective, and strong, ultimately giving you a better plan to reach your goals, and carry your audience with you.

What Did You Learn?

A strategy is important to guide audiences in and out of your brand experience.

Strategies consider audiences, channels, messages, and content pieces.

Strategies for health advocates may vary greatly depending on scope and goals.