Marketing Your Business With Public Health Guidelines

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Public health guidelines like the USDA’s periodic Food Pyramid update are usually information overkill for consumers – yet, ironically, lacking guidance for folks who want to put the guidelines into practice.

Other consumers are skeptical – they’re not convinced that mainstream public health recommendations are always the best for their specific situation, and they’d like to hear what other experts think.

That’s good news for your business.

First, health-related governmental or not-for-profit policy initiatives offer a great marketing opportunity to associate your business with a highly visible program. These initiatives typically generate enormous free publicity over 5-10 years following their issuance. For example, Congress requires the federal government to update the dietary guidelines every five years. And the food pyramid has been with us for over 10 years. These programs also have tremendous credibility for many consumers because they are official government pronouncements and reflect current scientific thinking.

Second, these guidelines inevitably advocate aggressive nutrition, fitness or other health goals that are daunting compared to most consumers’ current lifestyles. Numerous sources, from the Wall Street Journal to CNN to internet message boards, indicate that most adults find these widely communicated unachievable and overwhelming. Even motivated individuals often find the new guidelines discouraging, simply because they feel so far away from achieving them.

And third, these recommendations only reflect one perspective on what’s best. Not all experts agree, and neither do all consumers.  For example, not every exercise professional believes cardio is the end-all be-all. Offering alternative perspectives can set your wellness business apart.

These reactions create a business opportunity for you. Whether you run a health club, weight management program, or similar business, your programs can gain credibility and benefit from widespread publicity by referencing the new guidelines in your marketing and customer programs and making it clear that your programs embrace the most current scientific thinking.

At the same time, reinforce to consumers that your program takes the guidelines and puts them in an easy-to-use, can’t-fail format. Turn the pages of data into clear plans that they can follow. It’s the best of both worlds: the official recommendations, in a user-friendly format.

Or, dive into the myths and misconceptions reflected in the latest health guidelines. Perhaps your practice has a different take on dietary fat, or the importance of connecting the mind and body, or a different philosophy about physical fitness, or other insights not reflected in the “official” perspective.

Action: Six ideas to help you capitalize on this opportunity:

1) Free information sessions on newly-published guidelines which “fit” with your wellness business are a great way to help potential consumers associate your business with the latest scientific thinking. You may focus on how you put these guidelines into action – or how your approach differs.

2) If you agree with the guidelines, use advertising and marketing that emphasize two themes: 1) simple, easy-to-follow guidelines based on 2) the latest scientific thinking published by the government or trusted not-for-profits. For example, your corporate wellness marketing materials should specifically mention that your program aligns with the Official U.S. National Physical Activity Plan.

3) And explain clearly how your program’s exercise and/or nutrition components link back to the public guidelines. Connect the dots for your customers so that they understand that they are following the new recommendations.

4) Partner with related businesses and professionals – grocery stores, cooking class instructors, dieticians, personal trainers, health clubs, health educators, etc. to offer integrated programs that help consumers address specific wellness goals.

5) Emphasize baby steps that will get your customers from where they are to where they want to be. Remind them that lifestyle change is a journey, not a one-time event. Incremental progress is the goal, not overnight success.

6) If you’re not familiar with the stages of readiness to change, check out James Prochaska’s classic Changing For Good. It’s a great tool for helping you tailor programs and services to your customers based on their readiness to make lifestyle changes.

7) And if you don’t agree with the guidelines or recommendations, this is the perfect opportunity to market your business based on the differences.