How to Achieve Big Web Goals with a Small Web Team

Start with strategy

Smaller healthcare organizations have a big hill to climb. For many, you compete with large healthcare organizations for the same consumers. You need to convince patients not to be swayed by the big names in surrounding metro areas, and that they can still get great care close to home. But when those big brands have both deep benches and deep pocketbooks, how can your small team keep up?

The key is to start with strategy. To find the focus of your web efforts, consider:

  • What are the business goals you need to achieve?
  • Who is the audience you are communicating with?
  • What content do you need to create?

Content Audience Business

This intersection is where you want to focus your team and your web efforts. Keeping these points in mind also helps to control scope creep from projects — if the tasks aren’t aimed at the right audience, meeting a business goal or the type of content to create, you can more easily say no to projects on the web team’s plate that don’t add value.

Pro-tip: One way to help your team focus on the right work is to create a core strategy statement. This helps you to focus your team’s efforts on the right web content, not just more web content. It also helps your small web team better manage competing requests and priorities.

The skills and roles you need to compete

After you have a strategy in place, it’s time to look at the team and see what roles you need to have in place to be successful at digital. Small hospitals don’t have the luxury to just add FTEs, so it’s essential to have the right roles.

On average, organizations have about 1.3 marketing FTEs per one hundred beds. That aligns with the fact that most 200- to 300-bed organizations find themselves running lean with one to four marketing or digital team members.

Considering that most digital teams oversee more than 20 functional areas — including digital strategy, content development, general website management, search engine optimization (SEO), analytics, email marketing and CRM — it’s no surprise small teams find it hard to keep up.

Large teams tend to hire specialists who focus on one skill area such as SEO or digital advertising. Smaller teams tend to rely on generalists who wear a lot of hats. That is both a pro and a con for small teams, as each team member is usually nimble and knows a little about a lot of important digital tactics, but they can miss many opportunities by not having the depth of expertise a specialist tends to have.

Pro-tip: When staffing a small team, consider utilizing the concept of T-shaped employees. A T-shaped employee is one who has deep knowledge in a particular area of specialization along with the ability to deliver value across other related, disciplines. High-performing teams tend to be filled with T-shaped employees who have deep expertise in one principal skill but also have complementary skills that allow them to connect with and understand other team members. If you have gaps in complementary areas, that’s where you focus on cross-training for skill development.

T-shaped employees

Outsourcing to supplement in-house capabilities

For many small teams, outsourcing is key to getting it all done and finding the depth of expertise they need in key areas. Top areas small healthcare marketing teams outsource include:

  • Web design
  • Web hosting
  • Digital advertising (including display, paid social and search ads)
  • Web development
  • Analytics
  • SEO
  • Web accessibility

Pro-tip: Consider how your outside partners and agencies fit within your team’s capabilities using the same T-shaped employee model to ensure partners are filling your gaps and have a shared understanding of your in-house team’s skillset.

T-Shaped employees plus vendors

The right tools for your small web team

When thinking about your website and digital experience space, marketing technology solutions can get overwhelming. It’s important to find the right balance for your hospital. Some organizations have one solution that takes care of everything from content management to CRM while others have more a duct-tape approach with many solutions.

For smaller hospitals, the large, all-encompassing solution is often out of budget. And the duct-tape solutions, even if they are best of breed, can cause more maintenance headaches than small teams have the capacity to deal with.

Understanding your overall strategy and team capabilities will allow you to find your unique technology balance point.

As you evaluate the right platform for your organization, ensure you’re correctly addressing these:

  • User-submitted information – make sure you know which platforms are collecting user-submitted information and how that information needs to be protected to comply with state and national privacy laws
  • Online payments – pay particular attention to payment card industry (PCI) regulations for your eCommerce functionality
  • Third-party components and data sharing – this comes into play with plug-ins, make sure you understand which pieces of functionality are built into the platform and which things are coming from third parties that may have their own support processes and upgrade paths
  • Accessibility of the complete solution – ensure that all the platforms contribute to the user experience and follow accessibility guidelines (especially if part of the experience sends a user to another site)

When looking at what features your website needs to have, be sure to check back to that core strategy statement to confirm your functionality aligns. For more small healthcare organizations, the most important features include:

  • Provider directory
  • Online forms
  • Online bill payment
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Physician ratings and reviews
  • Online class registration

This is where you are ensuring your website functionality is in sync with your business goals — and aligned with the next step your patients want to take in their journey to find care.

If you’re looking for a website solution, or content management system (CMS), think about that software as a fit for your team and whether it’s making the best use of your team’s time by doing some of the heavy lifting. Ask yourself:

  • How easy is it for you to create or change site navigation to ensure an optimal user experience?
  • Does it offer taxonomy and dynamic content to reduce your team’s time and effort toward maintenance?
  • Does it offer file storage and management of your visual assets?
  • How does it handle content strategy and the authoring experience so you can share website updating with other teams, such as those updating online classes and events?
  • Are search and findability baked in, including title and description content and markup?
  • Does it have governance tools that help you quickly find outdated content and control workflows for who can add, review and publish content on your site?
  • Will it keep your team in compliance with HIPAA, PCI and web accessibility guidelines?

There are lots of pieces your CMS should handle for you, helping your lean team do more with less.

Deliver the most value

As you evaluate your website and look to make sure your team is set up for success, start by ensuring your web presence is aligned with your strategy, you have the right mix of skills between in-house team members and outsourced partners and that you have a CMS that is optimizing your team — not taking up precious time and resources to do routine tasks.

If you’re looking for a new CMS, sign up for a demo of our VitalSite content management system, the most popular website builder for small hospitals and medical groups that delivers the top features you’re looking for and helps small teams do more.

Why Healthcare Organizations Choose Sitecore

5 reasons health systems select Sitecore

When it comes to CMS platforms in healthcare there’s a lot to choose from. Each comes with a list of different pros and cons, especially for health systems. To avoid confusion, it’s important to remember why you are embarking upon the process of selecting a new content management system.

For many health systems, digital transformation and digital front door initiatives are the motivation behind rethinking their digital technology. These strategies focus on creating opportunities across channels — including web, mobile, call center, chat, and more – to connect patients with appointments and services. They rely on data-driven decision-making that is centered around a unified view of each consumer in order to make more intelligent decisions that connect both marketing and clinical operations.

With that in mind, here are the top five reasons healthcare organizations are picking Sitecore Experience Platform™ (XP) to help move their digital strategies forward:

#1: Personalization

Marketing is all about creating emotional connections, so it’s no surprise the idea of creating more personalized digital experiences is appealing. In fact, personalization can be a critical part of creating a user experience that truly coveys the personal, local care that patients can expect. It’s become a necessity for the streamlined navigation of complex health systems with hundreds of care locations. All of this is a key part of why Sitecore is a popular option.

Sitecore XP offers multiple approaches to tailoring the user experience on your site. Rules-based personalization can use a wide variety of available data about each visitor to make decisions about how different elements throughout your site should respond — showing, hiding, swapping, or customizing information as desired. Additionally, Sitecore XP can take some of the manual aspects of personalization and automate it, integrating customer data, analytics, AI, and marketing automation capabilities into the CMS.

For most health systems, the idea of personalization is intriguing, but few have the on-team resources to really invest in it. In fact, Geonetric’s recent 2020 Healthcare Digital Marketing Survey results showed just 21% of respondents were using a personalization strategy on the web. Of those who use it, only 25% agree or strongly agree that personalization has improved their digital marketing. It’s important to realize that personalization can quickly create an exponential demand for new content and creative assets. If personalization is important to your strategy, it’s critical to find a partner that can help to create a plan that improves the user experience, aligns with business goals, and is sustainable for your team.

#2: Content flexibility

Creating and maintaining a cohesive online user experience with the help of multiple content authors and editors can be a challenge. Efficiently reusing and repurposing content is critical to making the most of your content development efforts. The solution to both of these challenges is structured content. Rather than open-ended web pages or “blobs” of text, a structured content approach defines reusable content types with discrete “chunks” or fields that create consistency and can allow for some or all of each content item to be reused in multiple ways and across multiple channels.

Sitecore XP supports the creation of custom content types (data templates) that can help ensure consistency, promote reuse, simplify governance, and drive a user-friendly experience. The platform’s approach is forward-thinking in separating content items from the legacy of web pages, supports a robust taxonomy structure, and fits with a variety of search solutions to ensure your content gets found. It’s a fantastic set of building blocks that, combined with content strategy expertise, can be used to enable your team to create and manage content efficiently and effectively.

#3: Digital asset management

When you think about all of your digital assets – photos, graphics, videos, and more — keeping everything organized and up-to-date is a chore. Especially for health systems with numerous care locations and publishing to multiple marketing channels. That’s where Digital Asset Management (DAM) software comes in. DAM software stores all of your assets in one place and allows you to categorize them for easy search and retrieval. You can upload, edit, or delete in batches and share links.

But, that’s just the start. Going a step beyond basic DAM systems, Sitecore Content Hub is an integrated add-on that allows you to plan and execute content marketing efforts, as well as managing a broad range of marketing operations, reviews, approvals, and projects. Altogether, this creates a platform that keeps your marketing team moving quickly, creating and publishing high-quality digital content.

#4: Mature, enterprise-level features

Large, complex organizations tend to have large, complex needs when it comes to managing their web presences. Features like extensive, detailed user rights and flexible management workflows enable organizations to distribute authorship and management of sites to many contributors from across the enterprise. With an increased number of users single sign-on options can help make user management simple and consistent with your other enterprise systems.

On the delivery side, you need a web platform that supports high-performing, rapidly scalable hosting approaches to ensure a snappy, seamless user experience. Sitecore XP supports multiple approaches to scaling your web management architecture – from splitting web application roles across servers to adding load balancing to better handle surges in traffic.

#5: Microsoft .NET ecosystem

Since many healthcare systems already use Microsoft widely, .NET makes sense from an operational and resourcing standpoint. The .NET framework, along with Microsoft Azure, offers enhanced security and safeguards.

Sitecore XP is built and runs on .NET. By selecting a platform that relies on this well-known, stable framework healthcare organizations can build on their current technical capabilities and create consistency across their selected technologies.

Sitecore brings a lot to the table – but it doesn’t come with strategy
When evaluating all web content management systems and DXPs, there are tradeoffs between what the platform can do and what your team can manage.

To make the most of Sitecore XP and the depth of the functionality it offers often requires a strategic digital partner to come alongside the development and implementation. From developing the personas, journey maps/digital relevancy maps and structured content that make personalized experiences run to creating site content that follows the patient journey for top services, finding a partner who gets healthcare makes a big difference.

If you’d like help deciding if Sitecore is right for your organization, or have already decided on Sitecore and are looking for an agency with healthcare experience to ensure you’re making the most out of your platform, contact us.

Individual Doctor Websites and Your Health System Marketing Strategy

The strength of a system-level strategy

Before we examine how to respond to a request for individual doctor websites, it’s helpful to understand the current state of how healthcare organizations are marketing themselves. Over the last decade, there has been a shift to a more system-centric approach for health-system websites. This shift allows systems to leverage their size, reach, and depth and breadth of their services more effectively by making it easier for patients to find this information all in one place, supporting patient-first user experience (UX). It also allows systems to tell a more robust story about their service offerings.

Using multiple websites to communicate this singular story can create search engine optimization (SEO) challenges and lead to issues with the UX for site visitors, resulting in general confusion about what is offered and leading to patient attrition. It also quickly becomes a maintenance nightmare for digital teams.

Those issues, along with a focus on efficiency, are what led to the shift to a system-centric website approach, which has been the approach of choice for most multi-hospital systems for the last five years.

Although the system-centric approach has typically been well-received by site users evidenced by increased site sessions for those organizations who made the switch, internal stakeholders have been harder to convert.

Enter: doctors.

What leads doctors to want individual websites?

No matter how hard you work to ensure a cohesive brand online, you will inevitably have certain doctors or service lines asking to move their business from the main site to a separate microsite. Top reasons for this include:

  • Feeling under-represented or lagging the competition. There may be a legitimate mismatch between their direct competition’s online marketing and how their services are presented within the health system.
  • Idea of personal brand. Often providers are accustomed to having their name as the headline (or face on a billboard!) and they crave that specific attention. Especially if they were part of a group that was recently acquired or merged with another system. Beyond that, providers (along with everyone else these days) are inundated with encouragement to create a “personal brand.”
  • The promise of results. If a doctor’s schedule isn’t full, they may think marketing is to blame.

Once the issue is raised (or you discover a rogue microsite in the wild), the best approach is one focused on bridge-building: Take an honest look at how their individual, practice, and specialty information is presented compared to the alternatives options that health consumers would be considering and see if opportunities arise. It’s still good to be firm about your organization’s website governance policies (you have those, right?), but look at this as an opportunity to create an ally for the long term.

The risks of stand-alone sites

Often, doctors like the idea of having a stand-alone website for their practice. They often see the microsite as a way to build out more content, be more visually interesting than the health system website, or even distance themselves from the overall health system brand. In short, it gives them more control.

And they believe that, with more control, they can get more traffic, tell a more compelling story, and bring in more patients.

Unfortunately, reality rarely works out that way for a number of reasons. Here are the top three:

  1. Fragmentation: Separating different parts of your organization’s story from your offerings makes it harder for consumers to find what they need, and when they do find it, what’s there is often less compelling. Over time the stories across these sites often diverge, creating an even more confusing experience for healthcare consumers.
  2. Optimization: Microsites can have a variety of challenges when it comes to SEO, for one, it splits domain authority. Google uses a wide array of factors to determine domain authority — a metric used to predict the ability of a website to rank in search engines, including inbound links, content depth on a subject, click-through rates, etc. Microsites split off these features, undermining the authority of both the microsite and the health system’s main website. In addition, a new microsite will often force you to “start over” with domain/page authority, which is a very difficult score to build.
  3. Duplicate content: When content is copied verbatim Google can penalize you, assuming that one site or the other is stealing the content or otherwise attempting to game the system to improve rankings. There are ways to avoid these penalties but they harm the SEO of one of the web properties involved, create more work, and can be a real burden for the long-term management of the sites.

How to move forward

Assuming you win the battle to keep the doctor from spinning up a new site or microsite, there are ways to keep your stakeholders, users, and search engines happy, all while protecting the system brand and system-centric approach you’ve worked so hard to build.

  • Reinforce the system strategy of the organization – the reason the physician is there is to make the most of her unique expertise.
  • Give the provider’s profile a different look and incorporate branding by having a designer create templates with unique styling that still complements the main site so as not to confuse site visitors.
  • Encourage the doctor to work with you to develop robust, localized, focused content around a niche topic that may have a positive effect on SEO and drive interest in their specialty. Connect that content to their official profile as well.
  • Understand where your competition is focusing their optimization and paid advertising efforts. Competitive analysis coupled with keyword research and user testing can put a huge spotlight on a doctor/service line while still being part of the main site.

At the end of the day, these conversations are difficult. The request from a provider can come across as de-valuing your marketing expertise or your organization’s overarching strategy. Plus, you’ve likely worked hard to get and keep a centralized marketing budget and requests to siphon some off for side projects doesn’t help your cause.

Geonetric works with growing health systems day in and day out, helping them create system-centric digital strategies – and defend them when needed.  It’s all about putting the users first and being committed to that focus, even when doctors or department heads disagree. The good news is, there are many viable paths forward to keep both users – and doctors – happy. If you need a digital partner with a proven track record, contact us.


Health Consumer Needs During COVID-19: Survey Results and Discussion

Join us as Ben Dillon, Chief Strategy Officer at Geonetric and David Sturtz, Vice President of Business Development at Geonetric, discuss findings from the survey.

In addition, Joy Weller, Manager of Digital Media and Marketing at EvergreenHealth (Kirkland, WA), Christina Peaslee, Executive Director of Marketing Communications and Content Strategy at Cape Cod Healthcare (Hyannis, MA), and Darren Moore, Digital Content and Brand Manager at LMH Health (Lawrence, KS), will be joining us to share how their organizations are tackling COVID-19 communication on the web and what are the next priorities for their teams.

Watch on-demand and learn:

  • What COVID-19 topics consumers want to hear
  • What formats they prefer for engaging with content
  • What information sources health consumers trust
  • How well consumers are navigating changing care options and opportunities around telehealth
  • How this data compares to real-life communication strategies at play at organizations like EvergreenHealth and Cape Cod Healthcare
  • What healthcare marketers are focusing on next

Beyond Traffic: Measuring Healthcare Website Success

But only 40 percent of average healthcare organizations say they’re “somewhat able” to demonstrate a positive ROI on digital investments. It’s time to change that.

Watch this on-demand webinar to learn how to decipher the stories behind your analytics and how to tie them to bigger, strategic initiatives at your organization. You’ll discover what metrics your peers and competitors are tracking, who’s using real-time digital marketing dashboards, and if other organizations really are capturing that elusive ROI.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Build on the statistics you do track today
  • Glean interesting insights from your data
  • Connect your digital goals to larger organizational goals
  • Demonstrate the impact of your initiatives in ways your C-suite understands
  • Better leverage real-time dashboards for short and long-term decision making
  • Identify and overcome barriers to your tracking success

WordPress Survival Skills for the Healthcare Marketer

You probably know that WordPress powers more than a quarter of the entire internet. What you may not know is if it is a good fit for your next healthcare marketing project. In this webinar, you’ll learn veteran tips on how to take full advantage of this ubiquitous platform or how to keep your current site delivering value. Whether you’re considering building your next main site on WordPress, or creating a blog, content marketing hub, or microsite with the platform, it’s important to ensure it supports your overall digital strategy. From choosing plugins and custom themes to building healthcare-specific functionality to meeting security and privacy requirements, we’ll provide guidance on both implementation and ongoing site management. No digging into development technicalities here: This webinar will answer the big picture questions and help marketing strategists know if this is the right platform for your next digital initiative.

Watch now and learn how to:

  • Avoid common WordPress pitfalls that result in hidden costs and risk the security of your site.
  • Approach content strategy when working in WordPress.
  • Make best use of built-in content management and site structure.
  • Enhance your search optimization efforts while using WordPress, specifically if you are thinking of launching a blog or microsite.
  • Understand the future of WordPress and what that means for marketers