There’s No Free Lunch: Why healthcare startups struggle with effective content marketing

by Sanaz Cordes, MD | Founder & Principal

I had a physics professor in college that would say “there’s no free lunch.”  With physics being the only class in my academic career that I ever received a “C” in, I wasn’t really sure what he meant (and honestly still don’t as it pertains to physics). But it’s always stuck with me, and over the years, I’ve found myself using it regularly. It is such a simple yet profound reminder of what we all know to be true, but often choose to forget because we’re too impatient, busy, or resource-strapped.

When it comes to effective content marketing, there is definitely no free lunch.  There’s not even a free snack. DNA is fascinating… it takes brilliant impatience and restlessness to be an entrepreneur who is willing to gamble the safety of predictability for the exhilaration of risk.  That same DNA, however, is what renders most entrepreneurs incapable of executing an effective content marketing strategy.  

There are hundreds of surveys and studies that show that the #1 factor contributing to website traffic is blogging.  B2B marketers that use blogs get 67% more leads than those who don’t. Yet, over 50% of companies don’t have a blog on their website at all.  Content marketing, in general, doesn’t seem to be at the top of many startups’ priority lists.  That pesky entrepreneurial DNA that craves instant gratification tends to abort something challenging that doesn’t generate instant results.  If generating a handful of disparate blogs and a few infographics doesn’t land a sales meeting with Ascension Health or Kaiser Permanente within a couple months, it’s time to pull the plug and chase a different idea.

But successful health startups, particularly in B2B sales, understand that in today’s market, only 19% of buyers rely on sales people for purchase decisions and 57% of them go through their purchasing decision before ever talking to sales. So, why do healthcare entrepreneurs still think that relying on someone’s rolodex of executive contacts, cold calling, or buying lead lists is a better plan?  It might be a combination of impatient DNA and the undying belief that there has to be a free lunch somewhere.

Startups cite the inability to generate the caliber of healthcare content that decision makers want to read as the reason they abort (or don’t try) content marketing.  Yes, meaningful content takes time, expertise, and consistency.  For healthcare startups selling B2B digital products that impact physicians and other clinicians, creating meaningful content is exceptionally intimidating -  as these buyers do not suffer fools well.  If your content doesn’t claim its seat in the thought leadership VIP section, then your brand will be banished to the general admission pit.

So, successful healthcare startups have figured out that the fastest and most cost-effective way to generate and disseminate educational content is to engage a subject matter expert.  Who better to deliver meaningful content to physicians than another physician?  Who else can effortlessly marry your value proposition with rapidly changing healthcare regulations, payment models, and provider expectations? Who better can generate blogs and pull data for other content vehicles autonomously?  Rather than putting unreasonable and costly expectations on your non-clinical marketing team, why not bring in an expert to do it better and faster? Outsourcing these otherwise insurmountable tasks to a physician content developer also ensures a consistent, cadenced output of content which is crucial to a successful inbound marketing strategy.

The healthcare market has a unique culture of thought leadership and academia.  Selling into this space, startups quickly learn that credibility is essential.  Engaging an SME (who speaks the same “language” and understands the problems that keep your buyers up at night) to create content on your behalf gives you a competitive advantage.   And lunch doesn’t have to be at Spago.  A good physician blogger should be perfectly comfortable eating at Cheesecake Factory.