The Secrets of Content Marketing, ft. Ahava Leibtag


For today’s healthcare consumer, there is no shortage of online medical content for education and self-diagnosis. With the amount of content that consumers can access, but perhaps not properly interpret, how are health systems helping their patients and community better utilize and understand content to help them and guide them to the care they need?.

Listen to Ahava Leibtag, President of Aha Media Group, and podcast Host Alan Tam as they discuss what healthcare content marketers need to think about and measure in their content marketing strategy.

This conversation is brought to you by Actium Health in partnership with the Forum for Healthcare Strategists.

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ahava leibtag aha media secrets healthcare content marketing podcast

Ahava Leibtag

Aha Media

aha media secrets healthcare content marketing podcast

Alan Tam

Chief Marketing Officer
Actium Health


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Ahava Leibtag (00:00):
The first thing that I would say is that marketers need to make it very clear to doctors that they practice evidence-based marketing. If you don’t have data to support your first conversation with a doctor, they are going to lose interest in you and lose respect in you very quickly.

Alan Tam (00:26):
Hello, Healthcare. As a healthcare consumer, I find there is no shortage of content to help me go down the rabbit hole of either self-diagnosing or diagnosing a loved one with one of the most severe and rare conditions even if I just have a small sniffle. The inter-webs can be fascinating place to say the least. Given the plethora of medical content that I as a consumer can access, but perhaps not properly interpret, how are health systems today helping their patients and community better utilize and understand content to help them and guide them to the care they need? Joining me today to explore this is Ahava Leibtag, President of Aha Media. Aha Media is a leading content strategy and content marketing consultancy with deep healthcare experience. Ahava, welcome to the podcast.

Ahava Leibtag (01:19):
Thank you so much for having me, Alan. It’s great to be here.

Alan Tam (01:22):
Tell me a little bit about Aha Media and what you guys do.

Ahava Leibtag (01:25):
Sure. So I founded Aha Media Group about 17 years ago. I had a life-threatening illness at the same time that I was a writer for the federal government. So I had all this experience writing web copy and content for people trying to explain complex topics to them. I worked for a federal energy regulatory commission. So you had to explain to people why the concept of eminent domain, for example, and why the US government was allowed to take land in order to build a pipeline.

So I had this experience where I had this really bad thing happen to me, and I did a lot of searching online for information, and it really terrified me. It wasn’t written with empathy, it wasn’t written in a way that I could understand it, and here I’m a highly literate person, I have a master’s degree, big reader, writer, chose to spend my life with words as my tools, and it made me really passionate about wanting to create healthcare information that would help guide people to make a decision that they felt empowered, they understood enough about what they needed to do and understand in order to decide where to go to get their care.

So just started with some hospital clients and then built it into a really lovely business. We have about 57 people now, and we work with some of the top healthcare systems in the country. We also do pharma and med tech and all kinds of stuff. So healthcare is really where we hang out. It’s our sweet spot, and we do content marketing, blogs, social media, website content, and then we also do strategy thinking about how to really define your audience and how to reach them and that kind of thing. Then I do workshops on teaching writers how to write for healthcare and how to think about that modern day healthcare consumer in a little bit of a different way than we might’ve in the past.

Alan Tam (03:07):
What an amazing story, and I love your background and why you entered healthcare. I think coming from the government space, there’s definitely a lot of similarities, rules, regulations, compliance and so forth. So I think it’s applying a very natural and easy transition for someone like yourself coming into healthcare versus others who may be coming from less regulated industries.

Ahava Leibtag (03:31):
Yeah. I think for me, the most important thing was that whatever crisis a person is in, that’s the most important thing happening to them at that time. So obviously, I think health, money, but then if you’re having a pipeline on your land being built and the federal government is saying that they have to do it, it doesn’t matter about the regulations, it doesn’t matter about the laws around it, it’s happening to you and you’re feeling really bad about it because you don’t understand it and you don’t think it’s right.

So I think that one of the things that I found very helpful when dealing with compliance and regulatory issues is to actually really try to put that person in the affected person’s shoes and say, “What if this was happening to you? How would you react? What would you do?” Sometimes getting people into that state of mind allows those people who are responsible to make sure that a company does follow compliance and regulation because nobody wants to get in trouble with that, those people, to really try to find a way to communicate through the content in a way that stays in line with the regulation but still allows us to give people the information that they need to negotiate what’s happening to them.

Alan Tam (04:40):
Content marketing 101, really understanding who your audience and personas are.

Ahava Leibtag (04:45):
Exactly. Exactly.

Alan Tam (04:46):
So as we take a look at that, and it’s amazing that you cover a broad swath of healthcare industries that include pharma and life sciences and so forth, from your perspective, what is the state of content marketing and healthcare?

Ahava Leibtag (05:01):
I think it’s incredibly healthy. Well, I think that there’s some good definitions that should happen maybe as we continue this conversation. I’m a big believer in clear agreements like, “What are we really talking about?” So to me, the goal of content marketing is to publish information that makes your audience feel like you’re a trusted resource. So some people might say, “Well, content marketing is the evergreen pages on our website,” for example, talking about neurology or GI or how to pay a bill and that kind of thing, and to me, that’s not really what content marketing is because that’s just content writing. That’s product pages. That explains to people what it is that you do.

Content marketing is when you provide your own point of view on a particular subject. So that’s why we ghost write for physicians. That’s why we take their research papers and we explain to the public what they mean. That’s why when there’s a political issue, you might see the CEO of a hospital or the chief medical officer writing an op-ed, that kind of thing. So from my perspective, what’s really exciting, what’s happening in healthcare right now is that we’re really trying, in the places where content marketing has done well, we’re really trying to supply the person with enough information to make the right decision.

So particularly in the B2B space in healthcare but also in the B2C space, it’s giving people the information that they need. So looking at nuanced topics, trying to find what will stand out in the sea of sameness. Why do you approach an acoustic neuroma using an otolaryngologist and a neurosurgeon? Why is this piece of technology that we have in our hospital a sign that you want to trust our brand? The difference between brand marketing and product marketing, how do those two things combine?

I think that when we dig into those nuances and when we try to help people understand what’s really happening within our institutions and telling those powerful stories, what ends up happening is that people say, “Oh, you know what? This is where I want to go for my healthcare.”

So that’s why to me, what’s happening in content marketing healthcare in the whole field, whether it’s in pharma, in med tech, is that more and more we’re saying, “How are we really going to illustrate the nuances of our business so that people understand the difference between us and let’s say another brand?” That’s why I think it’s a really healthy, no pun intended, place to be right now.

Alan Tam (07:21):
Absolutely, and that makes a lot of sense. What are some of the challenges that you see here for these organizations as they try to not only create but promote and share and distribute this time?

Ahava Leibtag (07:36):
So first of all, there’s a tremendous amount of financial pressure right now in the institutions that we’re talking about. I think there’s financial pressure from the fact that cash is so expensive and hospitals really depend on cashflow. I think that there’s a lot of financial pressures because of COVID. Then I think the elephant in the room that I really haven’t heard yet at this particular conference that we’re at right now is, what are we going to do about all the disruptors coming in Amazon, CVS, maybe Walmart? It’s hard to tell at this point who’s really going to emerge the victor here.

So I think that hospitals, health systems, healthcare in general, they need to be looking at these challenges and thinking about not cutting their budget in the most important way possible, which is giving their audiences the information that they need to become their customers. So that’s a major challenge is that … and marketing is cut into a million different pieces of a pizza pie. Everybody says this is a priority. We have to do commercials, we have to do billboards, we have to have the most amazing website, we have to … Sometimes we come in and we look at a client’s content and we’re like, “Your content is not your problem, it’s your user experience that’s your problem,” or, “It’s operational issues within your institution that are really important,” and that kind of thing.

So I think that people need to be very strategic about how they use their resources, but if you slash your first line of defense, which is people are always doing searches, they’re always watching videos, they’re always reading articles about what it is that they need when it comes to their healthcare, if that first line of defense gets slashed, I’m not really sure what happens after that. How do you get people through the door? So I think balancing the financial challenges of what’s happening right now in the industry is critical, but also remembering that we don’t want to fire our sales team because that’s basically what happens when you don’t publish the way that you should.

Alan Tam (09:33):
So as you take a look at some of these challenges, I do want to take it back one step when we talked a little about audiences and personas and making sure that the content that you’re creating is what the audience needs. So how do you figure that piece out? What would be your guidance to health systems in terms of understanding what does the audience need?

Ahava Leibtag (09:59):
Sure. Well, the number one thing that you do is you go and ask the people who deal with the audience on an everyday basis. In a hospital situation, it might be the doctors, the nurses, the administrators of the service line. I always tell this story about how when I first started writing, I would hang out in waiting rooms and I would ask patients, “What do you want to know about this? If you were coming to the website, what would you be reading about?” This was 17 years ago, so websites certainly were not the same as they are now, although a lot of people had access and a lot of people were going.

I had this one interesting experience where I was in a radiation oncology waiting room, and very often, these are very long first appointments because they have to set the machine up and pinpoint the tumor, and you have nuclear medicine doctors figuring out how to target the tumor so that they don’t damage any healthy tissue, and it can take four or five hours. I was sitting in the waiting room and talking to people, and I noticed that people got hungry. There was only a vending machine there, and it was very far away from the cafeteria. So if you walked to the cafeteria, you might miss an important part of your appointment and then you’d be pushed to the back of the line.

So I wrote in the content, “Make sure you bring a snack.” A few months later, I was there to write a different article, and they said to me, “That was the best thing that you ever could have put in the content,” because it was so critical for people to just give them that simple thing. So I always … We like to hire former journalists or current journalists, and one of the reasons that I like to hire those people as writers is because they’re trained to follow the scent of information. So when you ask somebody a question, you have to dig down like you’re doing right now with me. You just have to keep digging further and further, and through that conversation, you’re going to find out a really important part about your audience that’s going to help give them the content that they need.

Another piece of advice I give people is think about the questions that people have. There’s so much data available to us, just going out to Google, watching videos, going to TikTok, looking at Instagram, going into patient forums, looking at what are patients asking about over and over and over again, what are the things that families want to know, what are the things that caregivers want to know. Those are really critically important conversations.

I remember one time I was writing about the acoustic neuroma approach that a particular academic medical center used, and the doctor said to me, “I don’t want to get into that. I think it’s too bloody for people. I think that if we talk about it’s going to be too precise and too scary and people aren’t going to like it and it’s going to freak them out.” Then I was talking to a friend of mine whose wife had recently been diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, and he said to me, “I actually didn’t go to that hospital because there was not enough information on the website about the approach that they took, but when I looked at this other hospital in California, I felt like they really spent the time to explain the approach.”

So I went back to the doctor, and we hadn’t published the content yet, so whatever was up there was supposed to be rewritten anyway and I said, “N equals one is not an answer, but here we have a case study of somebody who did want more information. So let’s go ahead and create another page with a link to learn more about our approach to this, and then people can choose if they want to really get into that precision to get into it or it can just be the basic page is enough to answer their questions.”

So I just think really immersing yourself. I talk about falling in love with your customer. When you fall in love with somebody, you want to know everything about them. When we’re writing for somebody, we really have to think about everything that they’re thinking about because that’s going to create content that’s going to stand out, that’s going to make sense to the consumer, and that’s going to make them feel like, “These people have anticipated what my questions are, and therefore they’re going to be able to help me get the care that I need.”

Alan Tam (13:50):
I love that, and I think marketing is about falling in love with your audience and your customers. So how many healthcare systems are doing that today?

Ahava Leibtag (14:02):
Are falling in love with their customers?

Alan Tam (14:04):
Yeah, and creating the right content and actually doing all these amazing things that you’ve just shared with us?

Ahava Leibtag (14:10):
So I think all of them, every single one of them. I think what we have to remember is that when an idea is created inside the creative or strategic part of a marketing program or department, it goes through 17 different rinse cycles before it comes out and it never looks like the original idea. So when you talk to your clients and you say to them … They come to us and say, “Do something different. Make our content different. Find a way for us to stand out,” and we give them ideas, and then they go back to the executives that they have or the doctors and the doctors are like, “No, we don’t want to do do that because it doesn’t sound like the New England Journal of Medicine,” or, “How can we be so out there?” or, “We don’t want to cover that topic.”

We once had a doctor be unhappy that we were going to use the word vagina in an article about women’s health. We were like, “What do you want us to call it exactly? You’re a doctor.” So those things are just sometimes shocking when you come up against them and you realize that as much as the marketing people are the experts in the room, and quite frankly sometimes the adults in the room saying, “These are the things we need to do to stand out,” the people around them don’t allow those ideas to happen.

So I want to be very clear that I think everybody we work with has the best of intentions and great ideas, and sometimes it really gets rung out of them. So when we look at the final product we think, “You could put 50 health systems up against each other, and every single ad is blue with a smiling doctor, and the medical equipment behind him faded out,” and it’s like that’s not what the intention was to begin with. The intention was to be in love with their customers, but that’s not what ended up happening at the end. I think that that’s really the dirty secret that we should be talking about more and more, which is how do we talk to stakeholders in a way that really makes them understand why they’re getting in our way of doing our best work.

Alan Tam (16:11):
Right, yeah. So that is interesting, and I’d like to dive a little bit deeper on that. Why is there a lack of trust in marketing and marketing professionals, especially in healthcare, like marketers don’t question a clinician when they say, “Yup, you have A, B, C,” we just got to take their word like, “Okay. I have A, B, C.”

Ahava Leibtag (16:33):
So I don’t take their word. If you go into a stakeholder interview really prepared, you should be able to hold your own against the doctor, and you should say, “Okay. I hear that you do this hip replacement surgery like this, but if you look at the latest published research, there are people that say that you should take a different approach. What would be a response to a patient who would ask you that question in a room?” They love that. It’s like, “Oh, here we go. Ready for a fight.”

So the first thing that I would say is that marketers need to make it very clear to doctors that they practice evidence-based marketing. If you don’t have data to support your first conversation with a doctor, they are going to lose interest in you and lose respect in you very quickly. The second thing is is that, and there are crazy stakeholders out there. I don’t take that away. About 10% of them are very challenging to work with, but there’s 90% that are not. So usually, you can really talk them through what it is that you’re trying to accomplish and what it is that you’re trying to do.

I think that there’s a generational issue here. I think that the leaders that are at the top of things now are starting to retire out and the newer leaders grew up in a more digital focused age. I think they’re not afraid of trying new marketing things. I think that you’re going to see that get pushed more and more, but at the end of the day, the people that we serve are people that went through eight to 12 years of training to tell them that when they walk into a room, they are there to save a person’s life. If nothing screws around with a person’s ego more than that, it’s that.

I don’t work with doctors that much anymore, but sometimes I remember sitting across from them at tables and think to myself, “This person literally has to drill through a person’s skull to get to their brain to cut into it.” What do you have to think about yourself in order to be able to do something like that? I once had a surgeon tell me, a pediatric neurosurgeon, very famous guy say to me, “When I scrub in, I think to myself, ‘The only person on earth who can do this surgery is me. God put me on earth just to do this surgery.'”

When you think about the incredible amount of ego that you have to have in order to do that, if you’re a person with a child with a brain tumor, you love that guy. If you’re trying to talk to him about writing his content, you want to ring his neck because he knows everything and he’s right, and look at him, he can actually save a person’s life, and who are you? You’re just a stupid writer sitting there. What do you know? That’s where it’s really important to develop those soft skills around, “Let’s talk about what you’re trying to accomplish. Let’s talk about what these parents want to know. How would you deliver that news to somebody in your office if they were sitting across the desk from you?” “I would never deliver that news to somebody sitting across the desk. I would come around and sit next to them on the couch.” “That’s a really good point, doctor. Let’s talk about how language like that pops off a page when you speak about it differently as opposed to actually being in somebody’s presence.”

So I think that one of the reasons that we don’t get respected is because we don’t demand that respect. So if we walk in there and say, “I know just as much about what I do as you know about what you do,” then that changes the conversation. When you come armed with data, that changes the conversation. When you know a lot about what it is that they do so that you can poke holes in what they’re telling you, that changes things because they’re not used to people saying that. They’re not used to people challenging their authority and their authority about marketing should be challenged because they don’t often know what they’re talking about.

I remember one time, a long time ago, I had a doctor tell me, “Look at this amazing website that I designed,” and it was black screen with white writing on top of it, which is a UX no-no, right? I said, “I don’t have a chance to read the content right now,” and then I said to him, “but I just want you to know that it’s a user experience. You should not put white text on black writing,” and he got me fired from the project. They did not use me on that project, and I still to this day feel like I did the right thing because in service to the customer is the answer. In service to the patient who’s crying about what’s going to happen to them, that’s the answer. People cannot read white text on black screens, unless you want to use it as a small design pop element or something like that, but it’s not user experience. There’s data to prove it. So I think sometimes you just have to be willing to lose, but know that you’re going to stand up to fight the battle the next day.

Alan Tam (21:05):
I love all the examples that you’ve just shared and all the stories.

Ahava Leibtag (21:09):
Thank you.

Alan Tam (21:10):
I think it really resonates and helps bring it out and put things into perspective, and I hope that the audience is able to glob on to some of these stories and help make them a much stronger marketer, whether it’s healthcare or somewhere else.

Ahava Leibtag (21:26):
Well, I’ll just add one more story to it. I remember one of my first jobs was to write about sinus surgery with one of the most famous sinus surgeons in the world. He walks, and I knew this because I had read about him and I was all prepared for the interview, and he walks into the room and he goes, “Who’s the writer?” and I was like, “Oh, no,” and I’m like, “Hi, it’s me,” and he goes, “I’m going to tell you how users read on the web,” and I was like, “Oh, okay, great.” Now, this was 17 years ago, now at 47 I would say to him, “Great. After this, let’s go up to the OR and I’m going to do surgery on your sinuses.”

I would be interesting to see what his reaction would be now, but I think I actually would do something like that because I’m confident now enough and I’ve been in the trenches enough to know that sometimes you just have to say, “Dude, slow your roll.”

Alan Tam (22:14):
Right, “I’ve watched a YouTube video on sinus surgery. I got this.”

Ahava Leibtag (22:21):
Exactly. Exactly.

Alan Tam (22:22):
So amazing stories, amazing stories. What are some of the trends that you’re seeing now in content marketing in healthcare, and what are some potential areas of growth?

Ahava Leibtag (22:34):
So first of all, privacy and data is a huge issue. So until we tackle that, we’re going to have a lot of trouble with our analytics and our reporting and our dashboards. So that’s something that we’ve got to solve, and we’ve got to figure that out, but that’s obviously for a different podcast. You could probably have 17 different people come on and tell you their opinion about that, and I should not be the one to give it to you. So that’s the first thing I do think that needs to be thought about in terms of the trends.

The second thing is that we have to think about our own channels versus social media channels. So if they get rid of TikTok, you’re talking about a huge audience that disappears overnight. Now, they’re just going to migrate somewhere else, and I wouldn’t telehealth system, “Go spend your time trying to figure out where they’re going to migrate to and when,” because that’s just a waste of resources, but I do think that there might be value in thinking about, “How are we going to make sure that this traffic that’s going through these major channels continues to come to us? How are we going to direct it to ourselves?”

I think short form vertical video, obviously, is in. I think that that’s interesting. Certainly, YouTube shorts, I think, is a very untapped resource for hospitals. I see a lot of them migrating to TikTok, but I think YouTube shorts is actually a really great place to be hanging out. YouTube is not going to be taken away by the United States government anytime soon. So those are some of the trends that I’m seeing.

Then in terms of writing and copy, I would really encourage hospitals to start using Gen Z vernacular in their content, so dropping lines that really show that they’re in touch with the way that people are talking now. I’m a Gen Xer, but I’m part of the sandwich generation, so I have boomer parents and I have Gen Z children, and so I have to learn what Rizzo is, and I have to learn what, “Okay, boomer” means, and I have to learn what “slay” means, and I have to use those words with my children because that’s how I gain trust. Sometimes they roll their eyes and they’re like, “Okay, try hard.” So I think that hospitals need to also start winking at their audiences a little bit more and saying, “Hey, girl.” So that’s where I see some trends developing and some opportunities for growth.

Alan Tam (24:47):
That makes sense, but then assuming that Gen Z is going to be the target demographic, I would assume boomers and Xs are probably going to be more of the prime demographic, especially for majority of healthcare.

Ahava Leibtag (25:03):
Why do you make that assumption, Alan?

Alan Tam (25:05):
Typically, the older you become, the more care services you need. That’s not to say that when you’re younger you don’t. We all have our own health issues and whatnot, but typically as a person as you age, you just need more healthcare. On average, your 65-year-old necessarily will need more healthcare services than your average 20-year-old.

Ahava Leibtag (25:29):
Sure. So the data shows us that boomers will typically go where their doctors tell them to go. Obviously, there are exceptions, but they really count on word of mouth and they count for their doctors to be their quarterbacks. Gen X, you see that less. They’re influenced by content that they read or trends that they see. Gen Z is not as familiar with health as they should be. Millennials clearly know a ton about healthcare, a ton about nutrition, a ton about how to take care of themselves, a ton about how to access care. Gen Z does not. For some reason, we’ve missed them in the healthcare market. Maybe they’re too young, but even when you control for some of these things, it doesn’t seem like they know that much about health that they should.

So my response back to you would be if I’m looking at the classic care model for a boomer, typically they might be looking for services themselves, but chances are they’re having somebody like a daughter or a son or a niece, somebody in their lives who might be a little more digitally savvy, a little bit able to spend the time to do the research, understand what’s really going on. So again, you’re making an assumption. It’s a classic assumption, everyone makes it, but when you start piling up the data that shows what patient experience trends really look like and how people use the web and how they use it to find healthcare information and what they’re actually doing with that information, you find out that maybe there might be value in targeting Gen Z because they then influence their parents or they are going to need healthcare in their 20s and their 30s or we actually believe in educating people about healthcare because we think that makes for a better population.

So there’s all kinds of reason and resources to think through on how you make those decisions, but data should guide that. I think that for really great health systems, you talked about what do you look for that’s good, you can see them pivoting. You can see them thinking through what’s happening. Their Instagram channel looked like one way six months ago and now they’ve completely pivoted that channel from being an employee channel to being a “Let’s develop shorts about sunscreen,” or whatever it is. So that I think is an important thing to think through, and I hope it’s okay that I-

Alan Tam (27:47):
Yeah, absolutely. That’s the whole point is I want to challenge you and I want you to poke holes. Again, data backs it up, and so what you meant and what you said and shared makes a lot of sense. I apply it to my own life, to my parents’ healthcare. It’s like, “Yeah, they do a little bit on their own,” and you’re absolutely right, they just do what the physician says.

Ahava Leibtag (28:07):
That’s right.

Alan Tam (28:08):
If they need to find a new service, that typically falls on myself or my brother. So yeah, that makes a ton sense.

Ahava Leibtag (28:16):
Even more frustratingly, I often find that I will bring them, obviously if you are a boomer set of parents, you should be really happy to have a daughter like me. I know how to navigate the medical system, and they’re like, “We don’t want to hear it.” I’m like, “What?” “We like what Barry tells us to do.” That’s their doctor. My father, I think, needs to go see an advanced specialist, and they want to stick with what their geriatric specialist tells them to do, “No, he’s got it under control. That’s fine.” No amount of content, Alan, that I could show my parents will change their minds about this. So that’s another thing to remember also.

Again, N equals one is not … I would not base a marketing plan around my parents. You know what I mean? That’s not what I’m saying, but I think that when we’re talking about using precious resources to build content, we have to think about, “Where is the majority of our audience and what are we actually trying to get them to do?”

One of the things I talk about when I train writers is that the word act, A-C-T, stands for action changes things. It’s not an action unless somebody actually changes what they’re doing. So clicking on a button, learning more about a topic, thinking differently about a topic, those are all actions. Some of them are measurable to us immediately because they clicked on the button, some of them are not. Maybe it’s returning traffic that you could talk about where they were starting to make a decision.

So I think that when we’re designing our content, we need to be thinking about who are the people that we can most change their actions, how can we really get them to act. Boomers might not be your people, but Gen Z might actually get their parents to change their behavior.

Alan Tam (29:50):
That makes a lot of sense. I do want to pivot our conversation a little bit because a lot of the content we’re talking about, which I like, is really focused on the patients. A lot of healthcare marketers today spend a lot of time on acquisition. So I wanted to get your perspective on where should healthcare marketers focus more on, acquisition or retention?

Ahava Leibtag (30:12):
Well, I think that they should be spending a lot of time acquiring referring physician providers.

Alan Tam (30:15):
Of course.

Ahava Leibtag (30:20):
It depends because it depends on what the product is that the patient originally walked in for. So if you had a patient walk in for maternity and you want them to continue to use your pediatric practice or something like that, that’s where I could see retention being really important. If somebody walked in for an acoustic neuroma, there’s not a lot of retention there except that you would want them to return for any other complex service that they would need.

Where I think that health systems should be spending their time is in nurturing, so not necessarily in retention because you can’t necessarily retain somebody who no longer needs a service. If you get your gallbladder out, you don’t have another gallbladder to get taken out, right? There’s just no retention for a gallbladder surgery patient, but there’s nurturing. So there’s how do you take care of yourself after you’ve had your gallbladder out or are there other classes or events you might be interested in taking care of your healthcare, making sure that they feel like that health system is invested in their best future healthy self so that if they do have another crisis or they do need to approach another doctor, “Hey, you know what? I had my gallbladder taken out when I was in my late 40s. Now I’m in my early 60s. I need a joint replacement. I had a really great experience at that hospital, and they keep sending me emails about all the things that are interesting to me. I’m now going to go back to them for my joint replacement.”

So I think not necessarily acquisition or retention per se, but nurturing is really where I would say hanging out is a good space to be and really thinking about that audience and what they care about.

Alan Tam (31:50):
Absolutely. That totally makes a lot of sense. Again, another marketing 101 piece, which is nurture the lead until they’re ready to convert. What would your advice be to guide marketers here to shift more of their focus and dollars on nurturing and how to influence leadership to invest more in those particular areas?

Ahava Leibtag (32:13):
Sure. So email is the least respected channel that we have and the most used. So the data shows that providers, even after the pandemic, still prefer email as the number one way for pharma to communicate with them. This was a study that was done by pharma. It wasn’t done by hospitals or other people in the healthcare space, but I think you can extrapolate, and they want to be talked to monthly. More than that, they found that it was a bother. So that’s really clear data that gives us an indication of what physicians are looking for.

So sometimes clients will come back and they’ll say, “Well, everybody gets so much email and it can go into their junk email box,” and I’m like, “Well, is it good email?” You know what I mean? They’re also producing a lot of movies and TV shows out there, and you don’t see them stopping to do that. They do it and then they find the hit and then they keep making shows for that hit.

So I often talk about what is the email marketing program designed to do. If you’re going to be very broad, then you’re not going to get people interested, but if you’re really going to zero in on what your audience wants, you’re going to change things. So we worked with a med tech device and we did an entire discovery of their content strategy. We looked at their content existing, we looked at their future business plans, we looked at their audience, and what we found out was that they were completely targeting the wrong market. They were going direct to consumer instead of hanging out with their referring physicians more. So we completely changed what they were doing, and they had a 64% increase in leads. That’s money you can take right to the bank. It used to take them years to generate leads. Now, the lead sales cycle has shortened tremendously.

So one of the things that we are very passionate about and we talk to our clients about is it’s better to hit a narrow segment of the marketplace who’s prime to act, who’s prime to change things than it would be to send out a broad email. However, if you look at, let’s say, the Cleveland Clinic, so Amanda Todorovich talks about this all the time, she knows exactly who her target audience is. It’s a woman in her late 30s or early 40s who’s interested in these health topics. That’s all they write about. They write about that one persona all the time.

I just got their newsletter and there was an article about the health benefits of walking, and I was like, “Oh, I want to read this,” because I need some inspiration. I used to walk every day and then I got busy and I do other things. She knows, that team knows exactly who I am and they write things that are important to me, and so that pops out at me. So I think that when you’re talking about where you should be focusing your efforts, I would really be thinking about building a stellar email marketing program, both for referring physicians and also for consumers. That’s where I would be focusing my dollars because you have so much content already out there, you can repurpose so much of it to slide into those emails and be valuable to people now.

Alan Tam (35:11):
Yeah, incredible insights and perspectives, I think. Thank you for coming in today, Ahava. I really enjoyed the conversation and just dropping some knowledge bombs on content marketing.

Ahava Leibtag (35:27):
Thank you. No, not really, but thank you.

Alan Tam (35:27):
No, I think it’s been very beneficial for many of us, including those in the audience, to have this different perspective and challenging some of the folks that you’re working with backing up your strategy and your objectives with data and with feedback. I think that’s the right approach. That’s the whole concept behind data-driven marketing, and that is inclusive of content marketing.

Ahava Leibtag (35:58):
Yeah. I think for me, I have a little Post-It that sits on my computer monitor and it says, “Whose problem are we solving?” We always have to remember whose problem we’re solving. We’re not solving our institution’s problem, although our institution’s problem is how do we make revenue, but we’re solving somebody else’s problem. So we always have to be thinking about that, is that if we start turning the camera back on ourselves, we’ve made a mistake. It always has to be focused on what problem is the consumer trying to solve, whether it’s, “Do you carry my insurance? How do I pay my bill? Can my family come visit me after I have a baby?” or, “What approach do you use to an acoustic neuroma?” A referring physician, “How do I know you’re educated the way I need you to be? How do I know my patient’s going to get in quickly? How do I know I’m going to get notes back from you?” We always have to be thinking about what does the person want to know about their problem and how can we give them the content that’s going to help them know. We are helping them solve their problem. We are not using them to solve our own problems.

Alan Tam (36:54):
Right. Absolutely. So again, just wonderful knowledge and insights and stories that you’ve shared.

Ahava Leibtag (37:00):
Thank you.

Alan Tam (37:01):
For those of you who are in the audience and would like to continue the conversation and perhaps learn more, which I highly suggest you do with Ahava, what’s the best way for folks to get ahold of you?

Ahava Leibtag (37:12):
Sure. So you can just email me directly,, and then also you can visit our website at I’m on LinkedIn, I’m on Instagram, although that’s my personal. You can get to know my kids and my family. I don’t talk about healthcare content that much on my Instagram channel, but I’m everywhere. It’s not hard to find.

Alan Tam (37:33):
Wonderful. Thank you so much for coming in today. Highly encourage all of you who have been listening. Amazing insights again that Ahava has shared. I think you’ll benefit and learn a lot from a conversation with her. Thank you for tuning in today, and until next time. Hello.

Outro (37:50):
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