Content that Helps, Not Sells: A Formula for Creating Great Content

Illustration showing two fingers touching and creating a spark

You know that feeling you get when you experience marketing that really hits the mark? You probably don’t even notice that feeling right away. You don’t think, “Man, this advertising approach isn’t pushy.” “It isn’t misaligned.” Rather, it just feels right and all of your skepticism about the brand melts away. You get the information you need, when you need it. It’s at your pace. Your fingertips. Your comfort level.

Now imagine the last time you tried to just browse a car lot. Or were interrupted for a “quick” beauty product demo while walking through the mall, or waited in line to renew your driver’s license only to find out you had the wrong paperwork. Much different than your last trip to Disney World, isn’t it? Or your stay at the Ritz (ok, just imagine!), or your last purchase on

Ann Handley, author and digital marketing pioneer, explained this feeling during her keynote at last week’s Healthcare Marketing and Physician Strategies Summit. She said – over and over – “the best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.” And when you think about it – she’s right! It doesn’t. So how do we accomplish this with our Web content? How do we create a healthcare customer experience that feels natural, and relevant?

Well, for starters, Ann has a formula for truly great content: useful x empathy x inspired.

And she says the key is multiplication. Because if any part is zero, they’ve all failed. We must:

  • Deliver useful information – Understand our audiences and give them what they’re searching for
  • Empathize with our audiences – Show we’ve considered their frustrations, struggles and desires
  • Truly inspire our users – Entice them with our brand’s benefits, not just features, and explain how we’ll give customers a unique experience

Ann gave us a few more tips for accomplishing great content.

I think the most important one is, “We don’t need more content. We need better content.” With the billions of pieces of content – from social media to the press to journals to clinical trials – the goal is not to overwhelm. It’s to give users high-quality content without noise. And we can do this by crafting messages that:

  • Stay audience-centric, not institution-focused
  • Are not advertising
  • Help, not sell

Ask yourself:

  • Are we doing this as an organization?
  • Do our goals and priorities help support audience-focused content?
  • Do we craft careful and thoughtful messages that deliver the content that our audiences need and want?

It’s easier said than done. And we get that. That’s why we’re planning to dive deep into this topic in our upcoming Webinar Web Writing for Healthcare Marketers. Join us to learn how to create Web copy for prospective patients that gets to the point quickly, answers their questions and highlights the benefits of working with your hospital

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Maggie Blaisdell

About Maggie Blaisdell

Maggie’s more than just a great content strategist. She brings a strong background in marketing communications and graphic design to her role as both a product owner and content strategist – allowing her to see content as a piece of the bigger picture and how it can support both organization and user goals. Maggie holds a bachelor’s degree from Mount Mercy University in marketing and communications with a minor in art and a focus in graphic design. This ceramic artist and photographer is an active member of the Cedar Rapids Jaycees, an organization that donates its proceeds back into the local community. Maggie’s known for her drastic hair changes, but it’s not a fashion statement. It’s for a cause. Over the last few years she has donated her hair to Beautiful Lengths helping to provide real-hair wigs to women living with cancer.

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