Why Your Health Startup is Struggling to Gain Traction Online

Falling into the trap of "Marketing Hype" can kill your chances of success

Who am I? No one really, in the grand scheme of things, but as an editor of a healthcare publication, I spend my days online, browsing healthcare websites. I happen across some really interesting ones, advertising products and services that seek to address all the ills that ail our industry. I leave the majority of them feeling a little confused and a little saddened. So many great ideas and fantastic products that have fallen by the wayside, Lost in translation.

The lure of the “Honey Pot”

The “building a better mousetrap” mentality fuels many startups and they transfer this energy and mindset into their marketing, of which, their websites and social media form an integral part. In their haste to share their genius with the world, one critical element is overlooked. The mouse. It’s the reason your product exists and if you fail to inform the mouse that your product is designed for him, it becomes a fancy contraption he’s going to walk right by.

Simplicity sells and it’s one of the reasons basic mousetraps work. The mouse isn’t confused by new-fangled bells, whistles, and app features, or flashy signs and blinking neon lights proclaiming global salvation. He can clearly see the cheese and knows it’s meant for him. The question I’d like you to apply to your website and marketing is this. Can your mouse see your cheese? Or, have you buried it?

If I stop by your company’s website I am looking to understand why your product or service may be of importance to the healthcare industry. To do this I need to be able to quickly and easily ascertain the following and trust me on this, your customer applies the identical criteria.

  • What are you selling?
  • Why does it matter to me as a potential user? Which problem does it address in my day-to-day practice and how? (FEATURES)
  • How will using your product or service simplify/improve my life and the life of my patients, if applicable? (BENEFITS)

Cutting through the Bull

Now, as charming, visually entertaining, and stunning as your website may be, I don’t have all day to admire the skills of your web designer. Neither do very busy decision-makers and healthcare practitioners. I’m here for business and you need to accommodate me. I am your customer and I want to see the cheese, upfront, and center, Get coy or clever with me and I am out of there. You’re not the only cheese vendor in town.

Of the last 40 sites I’ve been looking at for inclusion on a list, 32 scored a whopping 0 on cheese value. Guess which ones made it onto the list?

It takes me minutes of precious time and numerous pages, often involving the back button, to find out exactly what it is you are selling, who you are selling it to, and why the customer may benefit from your product or service. That, as any decent marketing firm will tell you, is a fail. A spectacular and sad one and I can see why. It the same reason for almost all 32 sites.

You’re trying to baffle with bullshit. Industry speak, complex and often meaningless marketing terms, concepts, and phrases that you’ve picked up from other parts of the sector (or possibly been gifted by a well-intentioned Ad agency) that have no place or bearing in a commercial setting. In the process, your product or service has become lost. You have in effect, compromised your ability to accurately, clearly, and simply convey your ideas to your market. Your customer has real problems requiring real solutions.

If you’ve solved these problems, please tell them, upfront, in plain English, on your website’s front page.

No one cares about your Industry Award or references from thought leaders and industry sages. These arent the cheese. They are simply fancy dressing for later, that obfuscate your product. You’ve spent thousands, sometimes millions, building and developing the cheese, only to wrap it up so your customer cannot see it. If you’re reading this and saying to yourself, that’s not me, do yourself a favor and check your site against the simplicity checklist I’ve created below.

If it fails the simplicity test, consider a do-over and restructure your pages to present your cheese to the mouse. If you arent getting traction for your product or service and you can honestly say, it’s an industry first, a game-changer, then this may be why. You may very well be focusing on the “wow” aspects of your product rather than what it actually does, and it’s an incredibly easy trap to fall into, particularly with complex solutions.

Keeping it simple is more difficult than you think

Simplicity always wins, hands down. It is more elegant, more effective and often, insanely difficult to achieve. Ask any designer. Here’s a quick checklist to see if you’ve achieved simplicity nirvana and hit the sweet spot with your marketing.

  1. Where’s your cheese at, page-wise? Frontpage or buried?
  2. Have you told the mice which ones you’re targeting? That ranks right up there with cheese value.
  3. What problem does your product or service address and how? Yes, the page scrolls so you can get this on the front page too!. Don’t horde important info for later. Later may never come.
  4. How does it fix, solve, alleviate or remove the problem? Now that I’ve seen the cheese you can start pulling me into the site, so lead on.

So how does your site perform in terms of this checklist? The complexity of your product or service is directly linked to the difficulty level associated with finding this simple sweet spot. You, as the owner/creator/founder/developer of the product, are best placed to perform this task as no one understands your business better than you. If your product has struggled to gain a foothold, address these issues and you can apply the same mindset to your marketing across all media.

Here is a final list and this one is designed to help you compose a clear and simple message to convey to your customer, no matter how complex your ideas or project. The list is also useful to entrepreneurs looking to establish new solutions in the healthcare market. If you can not answer the questions below then you need to consider exactly what the benefits are of your innovation and if they are indeed commercially viable.

Remember I’m not, as a potential customer, interested in your ability to string together twenty meaningless words or industry catchphrases. Simplicity. What does your product do for me and what can it do for my patients? Anything else is merely distracting and annoying noise.

Describe your cheese, if you can

Take a notepad or your phone and jot these questions down. Don’t attempt to answer them straight away, but spend some time thinking about the questions in relation to your product or service and then attempt to answer them in plain, simple English. Note the constraints on length. There is a good reason for this. 

You should be able to summarize anything worthwhile in one or two sentences. If not, your ability to capture the attention of your customer will be compromised. Customers have notoriously short attention spans, especially the busy ones. If you need pages to explain your cheese, you’re lost.

Take your completed answers and compare them to your website and marketing. Are you on message or are you selling gobbledegook? 

  1. Describe your product, trying to include your target market, problems it addresses, and its primary features. You have two short sentences so think of this as a tweet. Hone in on the real value you bring to the market and the people you offer it to.
  2. In a single sentence and as few words as possible, clearly identify your target market.
  3. List your product’s three primary features (what it offers). If three features cannot entice your client then you’re focusing on the wrong ones. No more than three. These three features should form the basis of your marketing strategy.
  4. List the key benefits of each feature, again three for each feature. Benefits are directly related to your customer and their patients or your target market. Keep them specific, keep them down to less than ten words each, ideally five.

That’s it. The answers you provide for the above should form the basis for your marketing and should be prominent across all your media. You can focus on any of the features for particular media to draw in your mice. You’ve given them a real sniff of the cheese and as long as you keep that cheese visible at all times, your product or service, if a real need exists, will be successful.

And, you‘ll have really grateful editors who can easily and within minutes big up your brand across the internet, confident they’ve identified your key offering, your key market, and the value your company offers. No hype, just the raw features, and benefits.

Deconstructing the “Fancy” Myth

A last thought on content, its purpose, and using it effectively. Whatever content you feature on your site, it should all bear direct relevance to your product/service and your target market. 

If you only have enough content around your product or service to fill four pages, don’t build eight pages. Relevancy matters far more than fluff and you can focus on making sure those four pages are the most informative, helpful four pages published on the internet. Remember why your customer is visiting your site. You’re not a health news agency unless you are. Don’t encroach on their territory.

Stick to what you do, what you know, keep it simple and keep it focused. I guarantee a win.


Medika Life has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Medika Life

This article lives here: Healthcare Policy and OpinionWhy Your Health Startup is Struggling to Gain Traction Online
Robert Turner, Founding Editor
Robert Turner, Founding Editorhttps://medkoin.health
Robert is a Founder of Medika Life. He is a published author and owner of MedKoin Healthcare Solutions. He lives between the Philippines and the UK. and is an outspoken advocate for human rights. Access to basic healthcare and eradicating racial and gender bias in medicine are key motivators behind the Medika website and reflect Robert's passion for accessible medical care globally.

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