How to reach growth in digital health for seniors: 19 traction channels for healthcare startups

Digital health is all the fad. In 2019, the worldwide digital health market was value an estimated $175B. With an anticipated CAGR of virtually 25 per cent from 2019 to 2025, the digital health market ought to reach almost 660 billion {dollars} by 2025, Statista says. No shock, then, that buyers’ urge for food in the trade is rising, too: In 2020, funding by buyers in the digital health trade totalled $21.6B – the most important quantity to this point, once more, in accordance to Statista. However, in spite of the hype, challenges distinctive to digital health have gotten more and more apparent to many entrepreneurs and buyers. Even in Germany, the place the Digital Care Act, a brand new regulation that makes health apps eligible for reimbursement to the 73M Germans lined by public insurance coverage, to this point solely 3.700 apps have been prescribed in the primary three months of this new act. Not the growth that almost all anticipated. There are varied causes for this sluggish adoption. One large cause is the distinctive circumstances that make advertising tough in this context. Here are some examples:
Many illnesses disproportionately have an effect on older shopper teams who’re much less amenable to social media  
It’s not simply the sufferers who want to be satisfied of the answer, their healthcare suppliers (docs, nurses, caregivers, therapists) do, too, since they’re those supposed to prescribe the answer
In most nations, promoting medical services are regulated.
Value propositions are extra difficult to convey in the event that they contain medical claims, and never simply emotional or operational advantages
Many individuals with persistent sickness illnesses are extra disconnected from society and more durable to reachThat’s why a considerate method to advertising is especially vital in digital health. Simply copy-pasting approaches from different industries are doubtless to fail. The effort put into the advertising technique shall be value it, particularly for those who handle to reach older sufferers, who typically profit most from digital health and are more and more open to digital options, particularly for the reason that Covid-pandemic (see visible 1). Furthermore, seniors management almost 70% of all property in the United States.” in accordance to the US census.
Visual 1: Push of digital health presents for +65 years previous seniors in Germany. (Source: bitkom)But this isn’t nearly age. Diseases have an effect on completely different individuals in another way. Some are extra frequent in aged, others extra frequent in individuals with sure jobs or ethnic backgrounds, and so on. The key message is that every digital health answer would possibly want a distinct advertising technique as a result of they cater to very completely different individuals with distinctive wants. This is why we as digital health entrepreneurs have tailored the steering of a much-beloved guide known as “Traction” by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares to the digital health context. We have examined it and operationalised it in our personal digital health ventures – each exterior and inside FoundersLane, a Corporate Venture Builder with a concentrate on healthcare innovation. One of the guide’s key suggestions and learnings is that you just shouldn’t over-rely in your instinct and as a substitute work in a hypothesis- and data-driven method, to discover the highest 2-3 traction channels which might be best for your answer in your goal market at this particular improvement stage. The method is easy: Out of 19 potential traction channels, you possibly can select the 6 that you just assume are more than likely to achieve success.Then check them systematically on a low price range till you discover proof for the highest 2-3 that outperform the others. Those are the channels that you need to concentrate on and make investments your price range in. 
Visual 2: 19 traction channels tailored to digital health – initially by Weinberg & MaresConcentrating on blogs There are loads of blogs on the market which might be targeted on sure health subjects. You have blogs for diabetics, blogs for higher sleep, blogs for gluten-free diet, and so on. Blogs which have a great readership can get you quite a lot of extremely related eyeballs in your startup in no time. Plus, you possibly can assume that profitable weblog homeowners actually know their group and goal audiences very well to allow them to discover the suitable wording and angles that may earn the best curiosity out of your goal group. Getting featured on a related weblog has a number of benefits:
you get uncovered to the suitable individuals who care about your options
you have got somebody who may also help you craft the suitable message to them 
you profit from the endorsement by a blogger who has already constructed up social capital inside the goal group that pursuits you. Be conscious that there are various kinds of bloggers. You may need patient-facing bloggers, these may very well be your typical ‘influencers’, typically lay individuals who have been affected by a illness themselves and communicate by way of the lens of a affected person. And you then usually have writers who goal knowledgeable viewers, these are extra what the pharmaceutical trade likes to name “Key Opinion Leaders”, they’re (exterior of their blogs) often much less current on Instagram or Facebook however extra energetic in skilled societies and visual on Twitter, YouTube or ResearchGate. So that’s the place you need to strive to discover and background-check them, earlier than participating with them.Don’t assume that you just all the time want to pay them. We’ve acquired invaluable assist for free affected person and physician influencers as a result of they liked our mission and easily wished to assist us as a result of we had been contributing to their trigger. (*19*) you possibly can barter with reciprocal publication presents (I.e. I publish in your platform, you publish on mine). But even when they cost for a point out, that’s nonetheless value consideration.Publicity Especially for older populations, conventional newspapers, TV, radio, and so on. are sometimes a most well-liked and trusted supply of knowledge. Getting lined, both as a press-mention or by writing your individual articles for the press, you possibly can reach related individuals that might in any other case in all probability by no means hear of you. However, in contrast to digital media, mentions in conventional publications fade away shortly as they are going to not often be broadcast or printed over and over they usually typically reach far more people than are related for your answer. But conventional publicity additionally provides quite a lot of credibility.For this method, basic curiosity media are simply as fascinating as health-focused media (WebMD is an efficient instance of a trusted on-line health journal in the USA, whereas in Germany, Apothekenumschau, a print journal, is by far essentially the most extensively distributed medium, particularly amongst aged). With every publication, you reach a distinct viewers (forcing serendipitous encounters with readers) and generally get seen by the identical reader in completely different media (growing model belief). Unconventional PR This one is for the true consideration seekers, doing one thing that’s uncommon and sudden to get media consideration. Viral movies just like the ice bucket problem, publicity stunts like RedBull’s skydive from area can get quite a lot of traction however generally it’s additionally the little moments of pleasure one can create for their prospects, e.g. by serving to them discover an sudden prognosis that they in any other case wouldn’t have discovered so quick. Or you are able to do it like Spring and Clue, who actively contribute to health analysis along with famend educational companions and thereby get further consideration in the press. This traction channel can work significantly properly in healthcare, the place sufferers typically have many unknown unknowns and you’ll shock them with easy interventions that make their lives higher and the subjects are sometimes extremely emotional, which is nice for headlines.Search engine advertising (SEM) Here, the concept is clearly to get right into a paid commercial to seem on search engine outcomes. This has all the time been tough in healthcare as a result of there are a lot of restrictions, both due to authorized constraints or as a result of the platforms like google ban promoting medicine or medical therapies. Plus, with the current adjustments, e.g. Apple’s new iOS, really focused promoting turns into more and more tough (see a Forbes piece on that). Note that in healthcare, there are sometimes skilled phrases and lay phrases, you want to be very aware about which time period you’re promoting. For instance, for those who concentrate on “coronary heart assault”, you’re extra doubtless to get laypeople discovering your advert than for the time period “myocardial infarction”.Social and show advertisements With all of the current iOS updates and restrictions on re-marketing, social and show advertisements have gotten a tough channel. They all the time had been in healthcare, nonetheless, as a result of health-related ads, particularly once they embody therapies and health claims, are topic to complete scrutiny or just get blocked solely. But you should use it efficiently to enhance model consciousness and intelligent marketeers, working intently with authorized consultants can discover methods of getting the suitable message throughout with out infringing on social media platform necessities or legal guidelines.Offline advertisements These are nonetheless well-liked, even for digital merchandise—assume billboards and newspaper advertisements. We’ve had nice experiences with humorous billboard advertisements which might be tailor-made to the narratives of our TV- and social media video advertisements. If you possibly can set off an emotion along with your viewers (which needs to be potential with health-related subjects), then you possibly can enhance your model consciousness. Public transport billboards will also be good or you possibly can goal to go considerably extra area of interest by taking it shut to the place your particular viewers could be current: pharmacies, public swimming amenities, or parks, for instance.Search engine optimisation (website positioning) Any method that allows you to rank larger on search outcomes for sure key phrases with out having to pay somebody to actively put you on prime will make your life a lot simpler, from a regulatory standpoint. In digital health, the problem is, in fact, to select the suitable key phrases to push. Most startups begin in a distinct segment after which increase additional, however don’t over-focus in your ‘lengthy tail’ phrases for the primary illness (like arthrosis, hip surgical procedure, hip joint ache), strive to additionally get related to some broader phrases resembling “affected person companion”, “affected person training” and even digital health. Again, it’s not nearly convincing your sufferers but additionally the docs, nurses, and therapists. Terms needs to be each basic and particular, lay-friendly and professional-level (e.g. strive to get website positioning for myocardial infarction AND coronary heart assault, not simply one of many two).Content advertising Especially in healthcare, it’s tremendous tough for laypeople to work out which content material is reliable, and which one isn’t. People love to google their health issues and double-check what they heard from their docs. You can shortly present quite a lot of worth to your prospects by changing into that trusted supply of unusual and easy-to-understand however well-curated and fact-checked content material. Think about involving influential co-authors, like docs or distinguished sufferers and journalists to additional enhance the clout of your content material. By the best way: even for those who write primarily for sufferers—when docs see you’re doing a great job at it, they’ll pay attention to it and are extra doubtless to promote you. Patient training is vital for their work, too. It can be extremely tough, so anybody who may also help them on that entrance is a welcome ally.Email advertising Sending out stunning emails and analysing reader behaviour has develop into pretty simple thanks to the varied e-mailing instruments like Mailchimp or Activecampaign. But getting the content material proper may be fairly labour intense which is why it’s typically mixed with content material advertising. To make your life simpler, you possibly can reuse your content material, e.g. by emailing your web site content material earlier than it goes on-line in your web page or by creating a brief listicle out of an current piece. Some newsletters solely curate current content material from different related information webpages—and create nice worth for their readers in doing so. Make positive to get very analytical about your person behaviour. We realized in one case that decreasing the frequency of the publication really led to larger opening charges! After months of stressing out about creating unique content material, we ran an experiment with wider intervals and realized that much less was really extra in this state of affairs. If your key viewers is aged, think about sending bodily mail quite than a publication. At least you can supply the choice.Viral advertising Virality can work wonders for health options. Doctors are very well related and so are sufferers if they’ve to go to the hospital or attend group therapy periods. So in case your instrument is intrinsically convincing, the phrase can unfold quick on each the edges which might be vital to you: the sufferers and the suppliers. But we do suggest giving this a push, add referral packages and maybe supply incentives for a profitable referral. Just be conscious that in the case of healthcare professionals, monetary incentives can shortly lead to compliance issues and would possibly obtain the alternative (docs changing into afraid of recommending you). So be certain to verify all the small print along with your authorized counsel first.Engineering as advertising This sounds extra subtle than it has to be. We fared properly with creating freebies for our key customers like providing checklists for sufferers that might assist our potential customers put together for a physician assembly or how to make sure that one can return dwelling after a hip alternative surgical procedure.Business improvement Here you possibly can take into consideration teaming up with different gamers to cross-promote or create joint choices that profit each. Those may very well be different startups that supply companies that may complement your answer. For instance, in case your app focuses on coronary heart illness it could be smart to take into consideration partnerships with diabetes or psychological health app suppliers. Alternatively, you possibly can goal to work with care suppliers, resembling hospitals and nursing houses, or maybe medical provide shops could be appropriate companions. Insurers may also be fascinating traction companions, not less than in idea. They usually need to differentiate themselves over their competitors by having customer-centric digital options that appeal to and maintain fascinating insurees (i.e. those that are typically extra in proactively managing their health). Health warning: Don’t anticipate quick traction by way of partnerships with conventional gamers. It’s not a good suggestion to get your hopes too excessive right here, however do maintain these potential partnerships in thoughts and make investments a while exploring them.Existing platforms Rather than constructing your individual group from scratch, it could be value current platforms. There are many on the market, kind of targeted on sure illnesses or goal teams. Most have tremendous strict guidelines and don’t enable any exterior researchers or corporations to interact with their viewers. This is usually for excellent causes: sufferers want a protected area the place they’ll work together with out individuals always nagging them (with in the end monetary motives). So you typically have higher probabilities by communities which might be pushed by laypeople, sufferers or kin (dad and mom of youngsters with persistent illness are sometimes very properly related). These current communities are steadily a part of current platforms like Facebook. Depending on what age group you’re wanting for, some platforms are going to be extra beneficial for you than others. Facebook, as you possibly can see in the graph beneath, is usually a greater place for older populations. For one in every of our startups, we discovered a group of 3500 customers with hip issues. The proprietor of the group was very supportive since he appreciated our mission and we may assist him out by selling his guide on the subject. These sorts of exchanges are sometimes extra fruitful and rewarding than working with giant devoted affected person communities with many gatekeepers.
Visual 3: Facebook most used social community for +65 yearsSales Direct gross sales is a traditional method in healthcare and it has been perfected by the pharmaceutical and medical machine industries over the previous a long time. However, it has develop into more and more regulated and most docs now have gross sales rep fatigue. Some startups we work with are sturdy proponents of the direct gross sales route as the important thing traction channel for any options that wants to be offered to clinics. However, we additionally hear of many irritating gross sales conferences with a number of stakeholders, lengthy gross sales cycles, and low conversion charges.Affiliate Marketing This is basically the concept that different corporations obtain compensation for producing leads for you. Sounds charming and works properly in many industries however right here once more, you want to verify each element with the attorneys first as you would possibly shortly get into compliance points and lots of affiliate internet marketing companies are banning health-related options. However, don’t get discouraged too quick. Especially web sites with an current concentrate on healthcare could be extra open to affiliate internet marketing, particularly if it clearly provides worth to their viewers and isn’t merely advertising for the great of the affiliate firm.Speaking Engagements Whether free or paid, talking engagements are an effective way to acquire traction as a result of it offers a really private impression of oneself. Whenever potential, strive to get a recording or choose for podcasts and VLOGs as they are going to convey you a bigger viewers over time in contrast to an offline one-off speech and you’ll all the time refer individuals to it in the longer term. Be very conscious of the completely different audiences you want to cater to. Ideally, you should have speeches that interact sufferers and others that shall be extra fascinating to docs, nurses, or strategic enterprise companions.Trade exhibits There is an abundance of commerce exhibits in the healthcare trade. This isn’t usually a useful channel to reach sufferers however it may be good to discover strategic partnerships. There are varied healthcare-related conferences, e.g. for orthopaedics or cardiology, then you have got occasions like HIMSS which might be extra targeted on digital innovation in healthcare, and there are additionally commerce occasions that target aged or caregivers like The Care Show (UK) or  REHACARE INTERNATIONAL (GER) – the world’s largest worldwide truthful for rehabilitation and care. We steadily see younger startups who really feel sturdy FOMO if they don’t buy a sales space at these commerce exhibits. Frankly, these are as a rule too costly and barely good worth for cash. Even after spending 1000’s, startups will typically find yourself with a not-so-impressive small sales space in a nook, which could even do extra hurt than good in phrases of persisting positively in individuals’s reminiscence. It may be sufficient to attend the occasion as a visitor or maybe get a talking engagement someplace. Then strive to pre-arrange as many conferences with corporations, journalists, and influencers that you prefer to to know you.Offline occasions Especially in healthcare, private interplay can go a great distance. There are varied offline occasions you can attend to meet your goal group. Many hospitals, for instance, have data evenings round particular illnesses. These are usually free to attend and are aimed toward serving to sufferers perceive their illnesses higher and present them the therapy choices accessible to them. Attending these has varied benefits. You can be taught from what subjects the audio system concentrate on, you possibly can be taught from what questions are being requested by the viewers, and you’ll straight method sufferers after the discuss to get extra insights and doubtlessly early prospects. It’s additionally potential to launch your individual occasions. We’ve run data evenings for sufferers ourselves, led by a physician on our startup crew. And then we adopted up with person testing periods to get suggestions on our App. It’s fairly an effort however can go very well in the mid-term as soon as phrase spreads and also you get bigger teams gathering at your occasions. Offline occasions will also be good to get different stakeholders concerned, for instance, we did the same data night for basic practitioners in getting a ‘kitchen view’ of digital health innovation.Community constructing  And lastly, you possibly can in fact create your individual group. This can occur by way of offline occasions, newsletters, creating your individual on-line discussion board, and so on. Or you possibly can take into consideration including social parts to your digital health answer, which could be a major worth driver for your prospects and your answer’s valuation. If you succeed right here, you would possibly end up having a naturally rising passionate group of loyal supporters. As mentioned earlier, phrase of mouth is robust in healthcare, particularly amongst docs as they’re usually properly related amongst one another. However, it’ll devour quite a lot of your time since a group wants sturdy preliminary exercise to be fascinating and seem alive. It additionally requires quite a lot of moderation and oversight to make sure that the content material has prime quality and is free from uncomfortable speech. Only when it reaches a sure measurement will it develop into related to customers and provided that there are such a lot of communities already on the market, it could be extremely laborious to make your new group take off.
Visual 4: Idea Brainstorming session with the crew alongside the 19 traction channelsMain takeaways
Many affected person segments are dominated by aged customers. Seniors in the digital health space is a rising market section that’s usually thought-about to be tough to reach but when carried out properly you possibly can seize a sizeable market with sturdy wants.
Given that increasingly more digitally literate customers are coming into the silver surfer age and that non-digitally native residents are additionally more and more adopting digital applied sciences, the alternatives for gaining traction among the many aged is rising quick for digital health entrepreneurs.
When selecting your traction channels, assume like a scientist. Don’t soar in your preliminary preferences, they’re biased and possibly don’t match affected person and aged goal teams.
As you begin, strive to brainstorm as creatively as potential on how you can flip every of the listed traction channels into actuality for your particular case. We hope that our examples function inspirations, nonetheless, they need to not constrain your considering. 
Document and construction your concepts in an actionable and measurable means. In the tip, it’s not about your intestine feeling however about validating or falsifying hypotheses. See additionally visible 5 for instance of how one can doc your experiments.
Visual 5: Example: How we utilized the framework in apply to our ventures
Test low-cost. You shouldn’t spend quite a lot of hundred on every channel at first. That needs to be sufficient to acquire insights on potential leads generated and so on.
Once you’ve examined the completely different channels systematically, you need to arrive at 2-3 core traction channels that actually drive your growth. Double down on these and discover the place you discover synergies between them. What channels fly is very case dependent.
Once you discovered them, stick to them however maintain difficult your self. As your answer matures, your goal teams would possibly change. Or your growth would possibly stagnate in one goal inhabitants since you are reaching a saturation degree—for those who then want to goal different sorts of individuals, you would possibly want a distinct traction technique. Simply repeat the ideation and testing course of.
Health Warning: Advertising and advertising in healthcare all the time require shut conversations with authorized consultants. You’ll be stunned how far more it’s regulated than different industries—and the way a lot you are able to do for those who’re good in regards to the constraints.Tim Bogdan is a digital health entrepreneur and former Venture Development Lead – Health at FoundersLane. His ardour and focus are on constructing digital ventures in the health area — for instance, Currently, he’s energetic as a co-founder of an aged care startup with the mission to simplify entry to care companies. In his earlier roles, he based the b2b market Frescue in the sustainability area and was working in digital innovation as a method marketing consultant, chief of employees to the administration board of a worldwide skilled companies agency and undertaking lead in an innovation lab.Dr Sven Jungmann is a doctor-turned-entrepreneur. He is a companion at FoundersLane and an advisor to health startups and buyers. Handelsblatt listed him amongst Germany’s smartest innovators. Sven consults varied startups together with Wellster Healthtech, a massively profitable D2C healthcare startup in Germany and Halitus, a breath analytics answer. He additionally based an award-winning firm that gamifies medical training.

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