Medical Marketing: How to Survive and Thrive in this Delicate, Highly-Regulated Niche

Medical marketing is not for the faint of heart. If you’re a doctor, a pharmacy, a retailer of medical devices, or your business caters to people with medical needs – then I’m sorry to tell you the rules of engagement for you are far more particular when it comes to online marketing. Most medical services providers are not surprised to hear this as they’re accustomed to running into hefty regulations in all areas of their practice but quite often these barriers impact businesses on the fringe of “medical” who are caught unaware and unprepared. These “fringe” businesses can include medical device manufacturers, naturopaths, alternative medicine provides and even some home modification companies who target the elderly or individuals with developmental disabilities. Not only can the rules surrounding medical marketing severely limit the performance of your accounts, but neglecting to adhere to these policies can have devastating financial and legal consequences.

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Why is Medical Marketing so Much More Challenging?

There are quite a few reasons medical marketing is a significantly more daunting undertaking than your average account but I’ve outlined the key reasons below:

It’s Harder to Achieve a Positive ROI because of Restricted and Prohibited Strategies

Strategies that in other industries can deliver the majority of the Return on Investment for businesses – such as remarketing, many image ads, and some forms of email marketing – are off limits to medical businesses. Additionally, key advertising platforms like Google Adwords, Bing and Facebook prohibit the use of keywords that are often central to describing medical products/services. Each advertising platform has an extensive list of those terms mapped out on their respective platforms. For example, Google has outlined a clear list of medications that can’t be used in advertising HERE but don’t miss the fine print which clarifies that the list is “non-exhaustive” meaning that they reserve the right to add other keywords to the blacklist as they see fit. Furthermore, depending on which country your business operates in there may be governmental limits to the marketing strategies you can employ as well. For example, if you’re a doctor in the United States that wants to use a website to reach new patients you’ll have to make sure all areas of your marketing are HIPAA Compliant. This is by far the main reason most medical marketing strategies don’t go far as it takes tremendous creativity and adaptiveness to be able to craft clear and communicative ads when your most descriptive keywords are out of reach.

A Vulnerable Target Audience

The target audience of most medical businesses is quite a vulnerable group of people. This is something that major search engines, social media websites and advertising platforms recognize and as a result they have developed thick-protective boundaries around anyone they have ‘cached’ as a member of a vulnerable audience. People searching for medications and treatments to one malady or another are immediately labelled as part of this vulnerable audience type – and are therefore just that much harder to reach.

Multiple Platforms to Monitor

While one can expect to encounter tough “rules and regulations” on all search engines, social media websites, and advertising platforms – one cannot expect to encounter THE SAME tough “rules and regulations” on every platform. This means that whoever is managing these accounts must get used to monitoring a different set of ever-changing rules for each platform they’re engaging with. Where the rules of engagement for other business niches are fairly static – the medical industry is constantly evolving, new drugs and treatments are constantly being introduced and consequently the rules surrounding these innovations are evolving as well. The sheer time suck of this fact alone is often enough to cripple a medical marketing strategy.

So, What’s a Medical Services Provider to do?

Fret-not! Medical marketing strategies can be successful it will simply take much more work and a little more know-how. Here are a couple of easy wins you can get started on right away:

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Research the Rules

There’s really no replacement for good research. Although we’ve discussed that the rules are always changing it’s helpful to know what you’re up against today and how to stay informed about what you might be up against tomorrow. Identify the platforms you want to use to build your business and start researching the rules as they currently stand. I’ve included some key spaces you can review and keep an eye on below. You’ll find that once you’ve worked within the confines of these limitations for an extended period of time, it becomes easier to predict how these search engines etc. will respond when new medical markets do emerge. Consequently it is possible to plan ahead based on their known behaviors.

Don’t Work With Amateurs

More often than not, medical service providers are too busy running their businesses to be able to spend copious amounts of time researching ever-changing marketing parameters. As a result, they outsource their marketing to one or another agency. Of course, this can be an excellent solution but as I mentioned in the introductory paragraph of this blog post – dire consequences lie in wait for medical businesses that disregard or mistakenly violate the marketing confines of this industry. You’ll get very little forgiveness from Google, Bing etc. despite the fact that a medical service provider’s accreditation and reputation are at stake. Therefore, my word of caution to anyone looking to outsource their marketing is simply to find someone with a thorough background in medical marketing who has garnered a positive return-on-investment for their clients.

Questions? I am personally available to provide answers: Contact Me or Book an Appointment.


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