Whether you believe it to be for good or bad, health professionals are unable to use testimonials to market their businesses. And while many practitioners feel limited in the ways that they are able to promote their products and services because of this, the truth is that there are a number of effective ways to market your business online without using testimonials.
Here, I explain the do’s and don’t’s around testimonial use and share four strategies for marketing your business without using testimonials.
In Australia, the National Boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (AHPRA) advertising guidelines that define a testimonial as “recommendations or positive statements about the clinical aspects of a regulated health service used in advertising. Examples include patient stories, patient experiences or success stories.”
The reasoning behind why National Law does not allow health professionals to use testimonials to advertise their business or services is because of the potential risk of harm this may cause to the public.
This is because the use of testimonials can:
However, not all reviews or positive comments made about a regulated health service are considered testimonials, and this is where the line between what is and isn’t considered a testimonial becomes a little trickier to decipher.
Any comment made about the non-clinical aspects of your services or business is not considered a testimonial for the purpose of National Law. For example, comments made about the brand experience your business offers, your communication style, or even someone’s opinions on you as a practitioner and how you made them feel are allowed to be advertised.
Whereas, positive reviews and comments made about the clinical aspects of your work are considered a testimonial and are not allowed to be advertised.
The ban on using testimonials to advertise your business does not extend to your patients or clients being able to share information about your business and services freely online.
AHPRA acknowledges that in today’s digital world, consumers will use online reviews to make informed decisions about their healthcare choices, including their choice of practitioner.
That is why they indicate that it is okay for clients to express their views and leave public reviews (i.e. in the form of a Google review) about their experiences working with you. However, you are unable to use this publicly posted review to advertise your products and services on your business website.
In summary, while you are not able to use testimonials to advertise your business directly, publicly posted client reviews and comments can exist on the internet for others to find themselves should they research your business online.
The good news? There are a number of great ways to market your business online without using testimonials.
I explore four of these below.
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon based on the idea that people will copy the actions of others in an attempt to emulate their behaviour in certain situations. In marketing, social proof references the idea that people look towards others and are influenced by what they are saying online about a particular business’ products and services when making buying decisions.
Social proof provides consumers with shared stories of other people’s experiences that are relatable and provides certainty around your brand as being the best option for what they are looking for. This is also why having publically listed reviews can be beneficial as it helps to validate that a person's decision to work with you will be worth the investment involved.
You can convey social proof instead of using testimonials to market your business by utilising Google reviews, pictures, social media comments, and social media DMs (only with the permission to share) that showcase positive comments about the non-clinical aspects of what it is like to work with you.
You can also share content where you have been featured as an expert in your field (e.g. a podcast, in print media, in digital media), or where you have partnered with a reputable brand as a way to build trust and credibility with your audience.
Storytelling is a fundamental part of the human experience. Stories shape how people see you and can be used to drive strong connections with your brand, build trust and motivate people to buy.
Telling stories is a great way for your brand to share your core values and showcase your unique personality in a way that feels less like advertising and more like strengthening your relationships with customers.
Storytelling awakens empathy and promotes engagement by presenting your audience with things that they care about and adds a human element to your content, making you more relatable, approachable and trustworthy.
Remembering that you want to stay clear of showcasing the clinical aspects of your work, storytelling is not simply presenting your audience with a case study but rather highlighting things that will trigger an emotional response in your ideal client.
Instead of using testimonials, try incorporating storytelling content to market your business such as:
All of these examples have the potential to trigger an emotional response in your audience and drive connection with your brand through storytelling rather than the use of testimonials.
Providing people with insight into your business is a great way to market your business without using testimonials.
By sharing the behind-the-scenes working of your business, you further boost connection with your audience and increase awareness around the services and products you offer.
A great way to achieve this in your business is by unveiling all of the things that you do to provide an amazing customer experience, and more importantly, the ones that your competitors do not do. Some behind-the-scenes content to get you started include:
Your own professional and ethical judgment on what is and is not okay to share should be practiced when marketing your business. However, behind-the-scenes content is easy to create as it can be as simple as documenting the day-to-day running of your work-life.
Highlighting that your business’ services and products are in demand is a strategy that taps into more inbound marketing methods, meaning that it is a strategic approach attracting potential customers to come to you as opposed to you seeking them out.
By doing this instead of using testimonials, you firstly spark interest and a sense of curiosity around your brand, encouraging people to want to learn more about what your brand has to offer. But secondly, it portrays that you are popular, and being humans if we can see that something is gaining traction then usually we want to be a part of it.
So start showing just how in demand you are by:
All of these things will help drive awareness and build interest in your business, and therefore moving your customer further along their buying journey with your brand.
Whilst testimonials (reviews that showcase the clinical aspects of your work) are not allowed to be shared as a way to market your business, there are plenty of other great marketing opportunities that you can implement and are completely testimonial-free.
Positive reviews on non-clinical aspects of your business surrounding brand experience, your communication style, and how clients feel after working with you is a great stepping stone to adopting social proof as a marketing tactic to gain credibility and consumer trust.
Storytelling and sharing the behind-the-scenes of your business workings are examples of powerful connection-building moments with your audience, leading them to a place of intrigue around your products and services so that when you show potential customers that your business is in demand, they are ready to purchase from you.
The information provided is generalised and based on my interpretation of the advertising guidelines outlined in Australia by AHPRA. The existing guidelines surrounding the use of testimonials to market your business may vary between countries and health professions, therefore it is your responsibility as a health professional to ensure that you are upholding the ethical and professional standards as outlined by your profession’s governing body.
April 12, 2021
I help entrepreneurial health professionals market their businesses online with ease through digital courses, resources and services that support them in building a profitable and scalable business.
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