Build a Winning Marketing Content Calendar for Your HealthTech Company
HealthTech companies that create content generate leads. In general, if you produce and publish more content, your search rankings will improve, you will build customer trust, and generate more revenue.
Creating content, however, doesn’t happen in a vacuum or as an afterthought. You need a process, a plan, and the right people to make it happen.
In this article, we will answer five questions:
- Why do you need a content development process?
- What is the philosophy behind great content?
- How do you build safeguards for your content and your team?
- How should you deploy content?
- How do you create a useful calendar?
1. Why do you need a content development process?
“Creativity doesn’t flourish in a process.”
I believed that lie for many years. I was producing a daily, pre-recorded radio talk show. Industry veterans urged me to put 20 episodes “in the can” and get ahead. At 23, I kicked at the goads while still striving to be a team player. Boy, am I glad.
I learned my lesson in nine grueling and sometimes painful months, and emerged with a new mantra:
“Process gives room for creativity to grow.”
Have you ever stood next to a machine and felt static electricity or felt the wind generated by moving parts? These machines work as they are designed to operate, but give off excess energy. The same thing happens with any solid process.
When it comes to the content goals for your HealthTech company, your content calendar produces the most energy which can be spent in extra time to go deeper on a topic, extra bandwidth to create more graphics or supporting content, or the ability to take a deep breath and recover before moving forward.
This newfound margin is where creativity truly flourishes. With the time and sanity created by a process, you can come up with new ideas, spend more time on complicated tasks, experiment with things you once thought too time-consuming, risk failure, or find other ways to augment and improve.
The statistics bear this out.
- More than half (53%) of businesses spend time and money on content marketing. Nearly 50 percent of businesses expect increased spending on their content marketing and content creation initiatives in 2020.
- Content marketing performed better in the last 12 months than the previous 12. For example, brand awareness was five percent more effective, audience education was six percent more effective, and building trust was seven percent more effective.
- Marketers who prioritize blogging efforts are 13x more likely to see positive ROI.
- 32% of marketers say visual images are the most important form of content for their businesses.
- Monthly podcast listeners grew from 24% of Americans to 26% year over year.
2. What is the philosophy behind great content?
Before you put actual ideas with actual dates on an actual calendar, pull back and look at the big picture. Establish your content calendar philosophy. It’s different from strategy; strategy is how you deploy what you create and for what purpose. Philosophy is how you create in the first place.
Your philosophy flows out of your corporate values and attributes. Grapple with these five aspects of philosophy to determine or refine yours.
Your content must start with your audience. Who are they? What do they need? How do they consume content? What business problems do they face? Where do they spend time online?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, spend time understanding your audience before moving forward.
Our proprietary process, The Buyer Matrix, can help you fully explore your audience and its needs.
As you define your philosophy, consider your company voice.
Voice is constant. It is the personality of your brand in text form (and translates to spoken word in videos, podcasts, webinars, Alexa skills, and public speaking opportunities).
Here are four examples:
You must first accept that while there are things that have happened in your life that you had no say in, you are 100 percent responsible for what you do with your life in the aftermath of those events. Always, every time, no excuses. (Gary John Bishop, Unfu*k Yourself)
Bishop’s voice is motivational but doesn’t “sound” like a spin instructor or a drill sergeant.
In most nurturing procedures, there’s a point when a lead has shown enough engagement to be sent directly to a sales rep. With this option, all automated and mass marketing emails are stopped after a lead is handed off. This is the most strict of the three options, but it guarantees that no marketing emails will be sent while a sales rep is communicating with a lead. (Emily Morgan)
Education fills this voice.
There’s only one way to justify work that’s better than it needs to be: Because you cared enough. (Seth Godin)
Do you want to sound inspirational like Seth?
<alt=”3-5 words defining the image” title=”good title, description of the image” longdes=”description of the image here”>
Alt text is, first and foremost, designed to provide text explanations of images for users who are unable to see them. if an image truly doesn’t convey any meaning/value and is just there for design purposes, it should live within the CSS, not HTML. Keep it (relatively) short. The most popular screen readers cut off alt text at around 125 characters, so it’s advisable to keep it to that character count or less. (Moz)
You may need a technical voice.
While voice is fixed, tone changes depending on the mood and purpose of each piece. The tone of a piece on how your product helps efficiently deploy COVID boosters against the latest variant will sound urgent compared to an aspirational article on how to install the latest module of your software. Both have their place in your overall content plan, but they differ in tone.
While tone changes, it shouldn’t swing from the sound of a three-ring circus to the sound of someone giving all of the side effects and risks of a new pharmaceutical. Set your range of tone or create a list of adjectives to describe the different tones as you write.
There are thousands of topics you can write about related to your product and to your industry. Within the course of an hour, you and your marketing team could fill notebooks with ideas. How do you know what to write about? You must define the scope of what you will communicate about in the same way that you’ve limited your voice and tone.
When I joined Golden Spiral, I was directed to determine a core list of topics that we would discuss. I assembled a list of past topics, and with the help of a great team, began to hone them. We went from 30 to 18, and eventually to nine. In the last year we have narrowed it further to only four. We have limited our scope and grown our readership, in part, because we’re meeting needs. We outline how we overhauled our blog strategy as part of our content strategy in this article. Note that the latest figures show we’ve grown our daily blog readership by 110%.
When your readers finish a piece of content, what are they left with? Inspiration? Technical know-how? A new download? A scheduled meeting with you? Don’t let your audience walk away with nothing. Don’t let them leave your article or podcast unchanged. Ask yourself, “What gift can I give my audience with this piece of content?”
No need to get bogged down. Invest time into building actual content than laboring over the finer details of philosophy. A broad brushstroke gets the job done now and you will spend the next few years refining it.
3. How do you build safeguards for your content and your team?
Imagine your content is like water flowing through a water hose. You want as much of that water to get to your readers as possible. Grammar and punctuation mistakes, a bad user experience, poor keyword choice and usage put kinks in the hose. By running your content through editorial and quality assurance (QA) practices, you straighten the hose and increase both the amount and the pressure of water that flows.
You need to standardize editing, style, and SEO.
Here is the paradox of content creation.
You must have multiple eyes (and brains) review every piece you publish.
It is inevitable: there will be mistakes in what you publish.
In a perfect environment, five individuals would review every item you publish.
- Writer – Assembles research, outlines, and executes against the outline with audience, goals, voice, and tone in mind.
- Substantive Editor – Takes a 30,000-foot look at the writing. Does it accomplish the goals, make sense, and prompt the desired response? Structure and intent are the major foci.
- Copy Editor – Ensures clarity. Does the piece say what it needs to say in the way it needs to be said? Do the points get through?
- Proof Editor – This is the microscopic pass. Do subjects and verbs agree? Is punctuation in the right spot? Does the formatting flow?
- Quality Assurance – In a digital application, does every link work and work appropriately? Are all keywords and blog formatting (H1, H2, etc.) correct and intact? Is all metadata accurate?
For most companies, having five individuals working on a piece of content would be a luxury. It’s not practical. Don’t think of these five editorial passes as five people, just different tasks in your process.
Many companies skip the substantive edit and allow copy editors to point out any major gaps. Often the proof edit and the QA are accomplished by the same person. What works for your company and your content team?
Not every editor or writer is cut out for every step of the editorial process. I’ve known many excellent substantive editors who would miss spelling and punctuation. They are different skill sets. Don’t be afraid to hire to fill any gaps on your team. Editing can be some of the least expensive but most profitable freelance dollars you spend.
Most companies like yours use the Associated Press style guide as the overarching document to describe how to use every jot, tittle, punctuation mark, and number. However, you will need to determine your style for your company. Create a style document for your company that covers two sections:
- Where you deviate from AP
- How to handle your products and services
For example, we deviate from AP in how we deploy the em dash. Since 95% of our content is on screen, using an em dash as you would in print—like this—doesn’t look as good on a screen. So, we use em dashes — like this — in our articles with space separating the text from the dashes).
Related to our products and services, we have a service mark for our proprietary process called The Buyer MatrixSM. Our style guide outlines how, when, and when we don’t use SM on our site.
Remember, the goal is not for perfection but to make sure as much of your message gets through without distraction.
You want your content to be discovered online. You will need to make sure you are optimizing your articles and other forms of content for the search engines. We go into great detail on how content and SEO work together in our Complete SEO Guide for B2B Tech Marketing, but here are two highlights:
- Length – Research continues to show that until you are well established and ranking highly for a certain topic, your articles need to be 1,200 to 1,500 words or more. Don’t just pad your word count to get there. A well-written article, even if shorter, is still preferable.
- Keywords – Keywords and phrases matter. Leave time in your schedule for the writer to research how keywords rank for this topic, and for your SEO team to suggest or make changes needed to maximize placement in the article and effectiveness for search.
4. How should you deploy content?
Now that you know your philosophy and have assembled a team, it’s time to build content. So you just start writing, recording, and shooting, right?
I believe the “just do it” attitude keeps content from being produced because it makes the task of producing content almost impossible. You must have many grip rocks and footholds on the mountain you’re climbing.
For example, you’ve determined that there are six big topic categories you want to address. Under each category, you’ve identified five good topics to address or questions to answer.
Now, put those thirty potential pieces of content through these filters.
Media Fit and Message Length
Which messages best fit which media? Some messages will work across text, video, audio, and infographic. Some are best for one or another. I worked for years as an acquisitions editor at a publisher. I had to cull through the slush pile and determine the few ideas which needed to move forward into books and say no to the rest.
One of my mentors in the business gave me a great measuring stick to use as I evaluated ideas. “Is the idea you’re reviewing worthy of an entire book or just a magazine article?”
You might have something to say. Does it take you 1,500 words to develop the idea or can you deliver it in 280 characters in a tweet? Is the idea an entire hour-long webinar or is it a three-minute video nugget.
Producing quality content takes effort. How much can you produce in a given week? Month? If you don’t know, you can set yourself up for failure. Yes, you’ll get faster the more content you produce, but for now, determine how long you need to create a blog post, infographic, or short video. Include your editing time and quality checks.
Based on the time investment you can make for creating content, spread your content out accordingly. For example, it is better to have one excellent and well-written blog post every other week than four mediocre ones a month.
You want to support your content through social media and your email newsletter. Build time into your cadence to write or produce the promotional pieces that will direct your audience to the content.
5. How do we create a useful calendar?
You’ve laid your foundation. You’ve determined how much time and effort you can invest to make it happen. Now comes the hard part. Delivering. Here are the five Ls of regular calendar maintenance.
Don’t feel pressured to publish today. Begin work now but set a launch date of at least two weeks in the future. Now is the time to get content created and in the pipeline, not rush to make it live.
2. Low-Tech First
Gather those who will be working on content together and build your calendar together as a team. Remind everyone of the cadence of your messages and the volume possible, then use Post-It notes to build a calendar on a blank wall. Move the ideas around as you need to. By putting ideas on the wall, you’ll quickly get a feel for what is too much or too frequent. You’ll also see the holes where you need content.
3. Log It
Once you’ve nailed the first four to six weeks on the wall, put it in an actual calendar. The formats listed below are viable and in use by a variety of companies and content creators. The key: commit to one tool for at least six months. Don’t make your calendar management a full-blown task. Allow it to support your work in actually creating content. If you need more bells and whistles, add those down the line.
Create a Calendar Profile
The simplest way to keep track is a simple calendar — it can even be on paper if you want it to be. Or step up a bit. Your content could have its own calendar in iCal, Google, or Outlook. Each item is an event. Color code them by type (blog, video, social, etc.) and “invite” those working on the pieces to their “appointments.” You can break the content into separate appointments “First Draft,” “Substantive Edit,” “Copy Edit,” “Proof Edit,” “Formatting Online,” “QA.”
Use a Program Like CoSchedule
CoSchedule’s software package is powerful and can do many things. It started as a way to schedule social media posts and associated deadlines and assign them to multiple people to accomplish the work. CoSchedule allows you to see many different views from lists, to weekly, to monthly, etc. You can isolate single topics to see how frequently those messages are hitting. Their integrated analytics can be helpful to track how content is performing.
Fly with Airtable
Airtable is like no spreadsheet program you’ve met before. Topics, categories, and calendars are easy to create and sort. We manage all our clients’ content calendars through Airtable. Our blog calendar is integrated with AirTable. If you want to push content and pull reports, AirTable integrates with many automation tools. It can be as simple as a collaborative spreadsheet or as powerful as a content engine.
Investigate Your CRM
If you’re using a program like HubSpot to manage contacts and content, look into the schedule tools it makes available to you.
4. Leave Room for Schedule Changes
Murphy’s Law applies to content creation, too. Leave room for things to go wrong. Three not-so-hypotheticals.
- You want to have at least three experts comment on a topic. The writer reached out to several, but results are slow coming in despite pleasant persistence. Should you delay the article or move forward with what you have? If you’ve prepared with contingencies in place, you can rearrange if necessary.
- You return from a trade show with overwhelming success. Should you announce the success now or put the stories and social posts in queue according to plan? Sometimes it’s okay to crash your own system with breaking news.
- The flu is sweeping through your city. The next article in line is being written by a team member who is down for the count. If you’ve got lead time and multiple content pieces in queue, you can substitute a later article on the calendar for one that is delayed.
Listen to the Results
Track your efforts every week. What KPIs are you monitoring? Which forms of content are working best? Keep your content team plugged in to the feedback.
Listen to Your Audience
What resonates most? What receives comments? What is getting shared? What content do you actually hear about in the wild? Make sure to also be aware of the opposite. What produces crickets?
Listen to Your Team
Is your cadence too aggressive? Do team members have more capacity? Increase or decrease your content offerings accordingly.
The First Thing to Do After Reading this Article
Create an efficiency and effectiveness report. Look at all content developed in the last three months. What worked? What didn’t? Were you consistent or haphazard in your release schedule? This snapshot will help you decide how to lead your content team to a more rigorous and effective calendar.
Updated from February 6, 2020