Five Ways to Humanize Your Content and Create Stronger Relationships
By Stephanie Beck
Content marketing is about building relationships. Whether through updates on social media, offers on your website, blog posts, email campaigns or even printed material, a business needs to make a human connection. Many health care practitioners are reluctant to fully dive into content marketing for fear of being too personal and overstepping the doctor-patient boundary.
However, if you stop to consider it, most of your patients are in your treatment room because they trust you understand their needs and know how to help make them feel better. They haven't chosen you based on a license or sign outside your office; they've chosen you because you've made a connection with them.
So, how do you humanize your marketing and create these relationships without crossing boundaries? Let's discuss five ways to present your content that allows you to humanize your message.
The goal: to avoid spewing cold facts and data or being too promotional! Remember, to get people talking about you and the services you offer, they first have to feel they are interacting with a real person.
Step #1: Teach
Consider yourself a teacher in the sense that you want to educate your patients, but not lecture them. No one really wants to be talked at or told what to do, right? You can teach your ideal audience using how-to's, answering frequently asked customer questions and providing enough product information so they can make an informed decision.
The worst thing that can happen is for a patient or prospective patient to say, "I've sent Dr. Smith five emails, but never received a response" or "All I ever get is a voicemail or answering machine." And I know we've all seen this on the Web and social media: those pages that haven't changed in days, weeks or even a year! Talk about making my skin crawl!
If someone posts a question or comment on one of your sites and you leave it unanswered for days or weeks, customers, potential patients – and all 300 of their friends – see your lack of response. It is a direct reflection on your practice.
Now, I know you are about to pelt me with a slew of excuses and explain how busy you are with patients and back-to-back appointments, but keep in mind that you are both a business owner and practitioner! You have a responsibility to respond. Guide your readers to the conclusions you want them to make about your practice by providing content that answers their questions and addresses their concerns.
Step #2: Be Human
Beyond information, the Internet is a vast source of human conversations, especially when it comes to emails and social media. That means whenever you create content, the human element needs to be integrated into every aspect of it. Skip the technical, corporate, doctor talk and speak to them as you would speak to your grandmother or best friend. If you hire a company or join a service that creates content / postings for you, make sure they have a human touch. Do they have real people creating content for real people?
If you are going to have someone else managing your email, blog or social media content and responses, make sure they "speak human" or provide them with examples of how you want your responses to sound. (One way to show your humanity is to include photographs and videos of you / your employees.)
Step #3: Keep It Flowing
Expand your content creation efforts across your organization or professional community. The most common complaint I hear from practitioners is the lack of time, energy or resources to generate content. One way to fix this is to use others within your professional community to support your content efforts. You don't have to create every piece of content, nor do you have to pay someone to create it for you.
Continuing-education providers, manufacturers, distributors and professional organizations know what your patients and potential patients want to read / see. It only makes sense to utilize the content they provide you.
Having worked for three of the top companies providing massage, spa and chiropractic supplies, I know this firsthand. When creating product information, education, teaching and training materials, my job was to understand my customers' needs and fill that need. Of course, that meant not only understanding the health care practitioners' needs, but also the needs of their patients and potential patients. As a result, our product development and marketing teams worked not only to provide education and marketing materials for our immediate customers (practitioners), but also marketing materials that spoke to the end user.
Talk to your circle of reps who work for the companies and organizations with which you affiliate. Follow their social media pages and blogs. Most CE providers I've worked for all provide some kind of marketing content for their customers to use. I know the majority of the professional organizations provide consumer magazines, research, articles and blog posts for the consumer mindset. Take advantage of the resources you have freely available to you!
Step #4: Go Beyond Text
Consider how your patients like to communicate. Think beyond text on a page. There is an old saying about how to be successful in marketing; it makes reference to the fact that to be successful, a business has to be "reaching the right people at the right time with the right message." In today's world, to be successful a business needs to reach the right people, at the right time, with the right message, on the right device.
Some patients enjoy visuals, some like to listen to podcasts, others want to participate in webinars, and still others relate more to video. Consider your clientele's preferences – not necessarily how you like to learn and interact. Which methods of communication / interaction work best for them? Is it text messaging, a prerecorded teleseminar or a video?
If your patients are always on the go, you have to relate to them in the way they want to be reached. That may mean creating a weekly podcast or upgrading your blog posts to vlogs (no, that's not a typo) – blog posts in video format.
Continuing-education and chiropractic seminar providers are learning this lesson. Increasingly, their customers want to watch content online rather than in DVD format. I learned the same lesson in my business: When I speak at conferences and then offer my book, there are still people who want the physical book, but more and more, the preference is for the digital versions.
We have to adapt our delivery to be effective where the people are, when they are there and yes, that may mean traveling into new online and digital territory. The worst mistake you can make is to think that because you may not have any interest in something, it means your customers don't have any interest, either. I'm sure fans of the 8-track, cassette tape and beta-max shared your same thoughts! (If you aren't familiar with those devices, go ask your parents or grandparents; they will enlighten you.)
My point is we have to expand our minds, broaden our horizons and dare I say, break out of our comfort zones.
Step #5: Recruit a Virtual Business Buddy
These days, it's vital to recruit a virtual business content buddy with whom you can discuss ideas. If you are a "solopreneur" or perhaps the only one in the practice in charge of marketing, this is especially important for you. You need to get plugged in to a group, either online or in person, that can support and inspire you to produce great content.
With today's technology, this is easily accomplished via the Internet without having to leave your office or home. (Although, take it from a social fanatic who is always plugged in: It is good to have live interaction sometimes.) Having a content buddy to share ideas, ask questions and get feedback is incredibly helpful.
You can find like-minded people, even those who aren't in the chiropractic industry. Marketers and business owners in all fields can help inspire ideas that you can modify for your practice. Join a state organization and attend their monthly meetings, and/or find a good group on LinkedIn or Facebook and connect with a member.
I know this is a lot of information, so here's the bottom line: The more you incorporate the human element into your content marketing, the better it will connect and resonate with your ideal target audience. The better the connection, the more growth you should experience. Remember, you can't fail or succeed if you never take action.
Stephanie Beck is the owner of SRB Solutions, an online and social media marketing business. Contact her with questions, comments, and for more information at