Health product marketing hasn’t always been legal. The practice only opened up after the landmark 1977 Supreme Court case Bates v. The State Bar of Arizona made it legal for doctors and health professionals to market their services and products_._ In the 1980s, license boards finally deemed this type of marketing ethical, and now we see it everywhere, from Big Pharma taking out ads in magazines to influencers advertising teeth whiteners and weight-loss tea on Instagram.
Still, the world of marketing health care products is actually highly regulated, which makes many health care practices and organizations shy away from promoting their products as effectively as they can. This does a disservice to company growth. With proper marketing in the right health and wellness niches, your small health care business will see a steady trajectory of growth.
Use Consistent Branding
The best way to market health care products to sell is by having a clear brand vision. If customers can easily recognize your brand, they’re more likely to be loyal because they view you as an actual entity in which they can emotionally invest. Find which health and wellness niches work for your products and keep your branding consistent within them.
Don't Offer Free Gifts, Discounted Items, Cash or Rewards
It might be common for a company to throw in freebies when they’re trying to promote new products to their existing customers, but this is generally illegal in the health care space. You’re not typically allowed to offer discount items or freebies to referring physicians per the federal Ethics in Patient Referrals Act.
In layman’s terms, this means it’s usually illegal to butter up doctors with gifts, discounts and free swag to prescribe or recommend your products to patients. It’s best to leave the free goods out of your health product marketing plan.
Similarly, it might be illegal to hire a third party and pay them commissions and rewards for referring sales and generating business depending on which health care products you’re trying to sell. Anything like a “refer a friend” program is off limits.
Optimize Your Website’s SEO
Today, it’s commonplace to do a web search about your poor health symptoms and spend hours on WebMD freaking out about the potential diagnosis. We’re only human. This is exactly why it’s important to optimize your website to rank highly on search engines. The more people brought in through a search, the more health care products you’re going to sell.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is a powerful tool that reaches beyond your brand’s chosen health and wellness niches. You can get a leg up on your website by:
- Having links point back to your pages
- Getting backlinks from reputable websites
- Claiming your website on Google My Business
- Submitting your site to Google
- Having helpful blog posts catered toward SEO
Don’t Violate HIPAA Laws While Marketing Health Care Products
HIPAA laws are the foundation of patient protection and confidentiality regardless of health and wellness niches. Across the board, you cannot ever send patient information over an unsecure network. You also can’t use protected health information for internal or external marketing purposes. In fact, you can’t disclose any private patient information — such as names, patient testimonials or before-and-after photos — without prior authorization.
Pay for Online Ads
You can actually pay Google to rank your website at the top of its search engine as an ad. This is absolutely helpful for visibility, but Google is not the only website you should target.
In health product marketing, Facebook and Instagram are valuable tools. Paid social media advertisements can target very specific health and wellness niches. If you’re selling products in the beauty and fitness or nutrition space, Instagram, which is image-led, is specifically helpful. Facebook, which focuses on written words, links and news, is generally catered better toward the fertility and mental health spaces.
Utilize Social Media Influencers for Health Product Marketing
Many health care companies find massive success with influencer marketing. Just look at companies like Sugar Bear Hair and Flat Tummy Tea. Why does this work so well? Social media influencers, or those who are highly followed on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, generally have fierce fans who are highly engaged. In other words, if you find an influencer in the right health and wellness niches for your products, you’re gaining access to a plethora of potential customers who are actually interested in what you’re offering.
This can also quickly fall into a gray area of legality, so you should proceed with caution. Influencers must indicate when a post is an advertisement per Federal Trade Commission laws, and it’s certainly not ethical to allow influencers to include misleading information. The FDA has also cracked down on influencers not clearly disclosing warnings and risk information in their posts.
- Marketing is most effective when the marketer believes in the product. Use the products that are being sold. Enthusiasm and a belief in the product will help when marketing the product to others.
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.