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inboundMed Blog

Comparing THIS vs THAT: How to educate & empower patients

Sep 6, 2016 6:30:00 AM / by inboundMed

comparison_blog_posts_are_a_win_win_situationComparing healthcare products, procedures, and services at your medical blog may be one of the purest forms of medical marketing. It takes all the emphasis on your need to acquire new patients and places it, instead, on what your patients (current or prospective) need or want. This creates a natural win-win situation.

The idea is simple: if you can help them master their understanding of a certain medical topic by publishing comparative information in so-called "versus" posts, they will become better informed and empowered to make appropriate healthcare decisions. If you are the medical practice that provides them the information and means to this critical moment of understanding, you earn added brownie points in the form of patient trust.

Trust, as we have discussed many times at this blog, is easily the biggest gain you can make with any kind of marketing effort that is focused on patient education.

How to approach a "Versus" post versus_badge

Be creative with the way you relay information. Infographics, lists, bullet points, images, diagrams, even animations and how-to videos can be very useful in comparing one product to another. 

Make your comparison posts shareable. Social networks are definitely a place to target your educational content. If you can build a chart that's downloaded as a PDF, go for it. Other options include posting dedicated URLs to content that lives elsewhere (i.e. YouTube). Use images for added value, as they also improve your content optimization. 

Don't overlook negatives or oversell positives. Patients want honest information so they can make up their own minds. Present comparisons objectively, and they'll be grateful that you respect their problem solving skills without telling them how to think.

Do your research and present the data they actually seek to use. The more accurate and comprehensive you are in your comparisons, the less work for them. Any helps you offer give them great relief from information overload.

Let them know why you are making comparisons. Your willingness to explain why you are making distinctions is important; it shows you are willing to help manage that burden for your patients, an effort that will win you gold stars.

Think like a consumer. The Federal Trade Commission encourages consumers to be savvy. The following is a short list of advice they offer which you should also take into consideration in your healthcare marketing strategy when you build comparison blog posts: FTC_logo_public_domain

  • Consumers should "Think Before You Shop."
    For your part: Make sure you consider their key goals in shopping online (hint, it's usually to find a solution to a problem).
  • Consumers should "Use Search Engines" to dig deeper.
    For your part: Don't offer shallow information. Help them dig deeper to earn their favor. The healthcare industry is already a confusing and convoluted space for them. 
  • Consumers should "Check Comparison Shopping Sites."
    For your part: This means being one of a few medical practices that addresses these patients' inquiries. Remember, if your medical practice can't be found online, it doesn't exist.
  • Consumers should "Consider Coupons."
    For your part: Sharing pricing information as well as cash options can make your offerings more appealing or at least show that you care about something that's important to the customer: price.
  • Consumers should "Read Reviews and Be Skeptical."
    For your part: This means writing the reviews, even if they're not about products, services, or procedures you offer. Your expertise in the field is valuable, all the same. 
  • Consumers should know what they can do "If There’s a Problem."
    For your part: Addressing a brand's reputation, history of customer service, return policies, delivery of products or services, hidden fees, and warranties are key value-added topics for patients. 

Considerations when making "Versus" posts

In order to succeed with a comparison-styled blog post as part of your inbound marketing strategy, you need to determine a few things first:

What exactly are patients looking for online?medical_subject_forums_are_for_learning_and_reviewing_options_for_patients

Usually it's information about a product, service, or procedure. In your field, you should have a pretty good idea what's on these patients' minds. 

It pays to be specific here. This is what keyword optimization is all about.

Patients use search engines to find what they are looking for, so your best strategy is to identify the actual search terms they use to get a sense of what topics are most popular.

Using a keyword tool that identifies optimized words and phrases and makes other recommendations is one way to go about this. 

Another way is to enter a forum or private discussion group and read the most recent "hot" topics. Find out what those patients' questions, pain points, concerns, and blind spots are.

Avoid text-only comparisons

Especially when it comes to products, you will absolutely need to use actual images of products so that patients reviewing them know what they are comparing. Otherwise, they will have to rely only on product codes or other identifying features, which may be useful to include, but not as useful as an actual embedded image of the product being discussed.

Clarity matters. The less work they have to do to achieve it, the more value you offer them. That empowered patient is also more likely to trust you in the future for this reason. 

Provide them with a solution, even if you can't offer it

help_patients_solve_problems_as_part_of_your_inbound_marketing_strategyIf you do not offer a specific product, procedure, or service outright, that's not a reason to ignore it at your medical blog.

You gain a great deal of currency among patients for pointing out who the best providers are in your region and what the best products and procedures are, even if you don't have "a horse in the race."

Check out the midwives example in this post about "Best of" blog posts here
for a great example of problem-solving even when you are not the "go to" practice for certain kinds of healthcare solutions.

Share your rich understanding of past, present, and future solutions 

Patients need perspectives. Sharing this kind of medical information offers perspective by showing how much better the options are today and how things are only getting better.

For instance: Consider sleep clinics who provide CPAP machines and equipment for sleep apnea patients. The history of improvements with masks, machines, and overall technology modes is very educational.

Learning about the timeline of this therapy, and how product manufacturers have been receptive to ongoing advances toward patient comfort and ease of use will empower new users. They may be encouraged by this context at a time when they feel uncertainty about a new and unknown therapy.

Likewise, patients could be made to feel confident about even more customized solutions in the foreseeable future (and may even become consumers of them).

The doctor still knows best the_doctor_knows_best

Despite all the polls throwing shade on perceptions about the healthcare system, many patients still do believe in their doctors.

If you feel very strongly about a certain kind of protocol or therapeutic approach over another—especially if the other one may be rising up in the ranks of popularityyou can certainly make your case in a comparison post that reviews the pros and cons of each. People do appreciate tactful "devil's advocacy."

Providing this kind of compare-and-contrast model empowers patients to make up their own minds about health information; you will ultimately earn their good will in this way.

Today's consumers are far less attracted to the hard upsell, besides. They want to feel you care about their satisfaction and ability to make informed decision.

Be the expert on innovations in your field

If you can write posts showing your excitement about new healthcare technology or product functionality or design, you will get consumers excited about them as well. The positive emotional energy patients enjoy when they learn about what's exciting new innovations can be a strong motivator when they finally arrive at their own Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) when facing a specific personal healthcare decision.

Pay attention to value

value_dont_overlook_one_of_the_chief_reasons_patients_search_for_healthcare_onlineHow can you illustrate added value in the products, services, and procedures you advocate? How much do they cost? What can patients expect for their healthcare dollar? These are questions that hold major influence over their decision-making process.

In example, a cost analysis of different kinds of wheelchairs for a medical practice with a predominantly senior patient base—an analysis which shows not only retail pricing, but possible discounts through insurers, manufacturer assistance programs, and Medicare/Medicaid contingencieswill be incredibly valuable to them.

Keep in mind, too, that for senior patients, there may also be a third party involved in this decision-making process, such as another family member, a social worker, or a patient advocate. Try to appeal to them as well.

Don't overlook patient testimonials

What do your own patients have to say about a particular product, service, or procedure? Comparing options in a way that includes real-world usersand especially the testimonials of your current patients and their familiesis an additional kind of word of mouth that serve the interests of your patients (new and future) in a way that also puts a feather in your cap. 


As an added bonus

Since you've read all the way to the end of this long post, you'll get to enjoy this additional tip, which could truly give you an edge:

MOBILIZE. As in, find every way possible to work your comparison mobile_marketing_is_the_wave_of_the_future_dont_miss_outposts of healthcare information into a mobile interface.

The website, Think With Google, published a fantastic piece on the rising value of mobile marketing in July 2016, in which they discussed consumer behavior inside "micro-moments" of decision-making about purchases, all done while surfing the web on their phone or tablet. 

From the article:

"Eighty-eight percent of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations... So it's no wonder that the
number of product review videos on
grew 50% year over year."

These are lost opportunities if you do not make comparison reviews shareable and readable (or vieweable) through mobile devices. In some cases, 9 out of 10 consumer efforts to research a product were conducted through entirely mobile means.

Information empowers patients, no matter how they access it. Patients will use this access point to arrive at informed healthcare decisions. Using mobile optimization, you'll want to be able to offer comparative analyses that help them determine "which is best," because in that micro-moment, you can build trust, engage patient prospects, and establish yourself as an expert. 


Federal Trade Commission
Marketing 91
Think With Google


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Topics: blogging, Inbound Marketing


Written by inboundMed

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