|Yes, we'll help you harness your worth online. The solution? A website that connects a group of doctors and gives them a forum to interact, both at the personal and public level. Where they can discuss diseases and treatments, receive and offer advice, improve their knowledge levels and even access a resume database. Where pharmaceutical and medical insurance companies can endorse their services and glean useful information from the activities happening on the site.
We aren't talking about a simple community site here. We're talking about a community that is interactive, personalized and content-rich. Where members once signed in wouldn't want to move from the site.
More than a doctor community
Doctors from various practices can register and avail special member-related services online. They can share knowledge in chat sessions and forums, polls and surveys, knowledge that will be useful not just to fellow-doctors but also to pharmaceutical companies and other partners in the health care industry.
A doctor can post details of his patients without revealing personal information about the patient and ask for advice from other doctors through a private chat or job seekers can post resumes and view job postings online. Doctors can post documents that can be edited and shared through private chat or messaging.
The site can put affiliate marketing to good use. Pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment suppliers or doctors can put up valuable medical content that can serve as crowd-pullers and thereby advertise their services or products.
I've described the steps involved in getting such a website up and running. We start with developing the features that your website will have.
- A community for doctors
- An advertising forum for the healthcare industry (pharmaceuticals, the medical equipment and insurance)
- Facility to upload, edit and share information
- Recruitment (Post and apply)
- Shopping (affiliate marketing and advertising)
- Member profiling/CV
- Valuable Content
- Polls/Surveys/Chat forums
- Personalized Newsletters
Move from community to e-commerce
How does a business like this grow? Let's look at the different stages that the website owner needs to be aware of when he embarks on a task like this. The first step is to generate the right kind of traffic on the website, and then engage the visitors to the site with useful information and then lock in the traffic through Enhanced offerings and value.
Generating traffic and awareness through brand building
You need passing visitors to come into the site and view a 'happening' site. You can begin by offering a simple directory to other resources on the network that would be of interest to target members (doctors or anyone in the healthcare industry). Once the directory is developed, the initiative can be launched and you can start building a presence. You need not invest too heavily in content at this stage, instead you can leverage the content generated by others. Build a brand image among target members and direct them to the most relevant section on the site until these members get into the habit of visiting the site whenever they need information. At this stage you, the website owner, can use valuable information about the interests and needs of target community members like tracking the topics most requested and the rates of repeat usage. This will help you prioritize what kind of offerings you should be concentrating on in the future.
You are building a site that connects doctors. There will be equivalents in the physical world, well-established communities like word-of-mouth networks, newsletters or magazines. Advertise your business through these communities and ensure that they provide regular coverage of the virtual community too.
Watching how members behave on your site will be of use too. What sites do they visit? It might help to contact these sites and develop an affiliate marketing program with them.
Value offerings: Interactivity, personalization and rich content
As soon as visitors or members visit the site, you should work at keeping them there. Increasing member usage rates can help build a member profile that in turn permits more accurate targeting of merchandizing and advertising messages. This will help in attracting relevant content providers and vendors and also help in creating the conditions for the next stage of community development, i.e. preventing members from switching to competitor sites.
How can you achieve this? Engage members by offering personalization features on the site. This will help in defining a narrower community for each member, where each doctor views only the content he is interested in.
Bulletin boards, chat and forums can ask members to identify and rate content topics, drugs, treatment methods, recommended clinics and hospitals, medical equipment, health plan, educational information like online courses etc that will engage other members too. These sessions can also be used for members to contact each other and gain useful advice on any topic of need. The act of contributing to a forum creates a sense of involvement and establishes a bond between members.
Content generated in these forums and chat sessions can attract new vendors. For example, pharmaceutical companies can decide which type of drug to sell to whom. But the website administrator should make sure that he captures information in a manner that does not violate the privacy concerns of members. Spam and junk mail are a definite no-no and it would help to avoid anything remotely connected with them. Members can volunteer information about what kind of advertisements and information they require.
Member-generated content - accumulated postings to bulletin boards and transcripts of chat are an asset that needs to be monitored and saved appropriately. This kind of content won't be available on other sites.
A personalized newsletter that informs each member about the latest content additions as per his interests will go a long way in ensuring that the member becomes addicted to your site for life.