Some of the best healthcare marketing is happening in femtech.
You’ve heard of femtech, even if you don’t know it. The online companies mentioned but never named in the news, who provide women with discreet access to “morning after” pills, are part of the femtech movement.
Femtech is a segment of direct to consumer healthcare that has exploded in the last 10 years, thanks to social media, pay per click advertising and smartphone technology. It’s a small slice of the tech industry, but it’s growing.
The need is tremendous.
Femtech is a fairly new term, coined by entrepreneur Ida Tin of Clue in 2016. According to Clue’s website, “Ida knew immediately that in order for these products to be taken seriously, the market needed to be defined, so she suggested that Clue should begin to call itself a femtech company.”
In a McKinsey article, the authors write, “In the course of just a few years, it has grown to encompass a range of technology-enabled, consumer-centric products and solutions.”
Most femtech companies, like any good startup, begin with a problem. A woman had a health question or issue that should have been easy to resolve. When it wasn’t, she sought to solve it for herself and her tribe.
Take Clue. That company was founded when Tin was taking her temperature with one hand and recording it manually on her phone with the other to track ovulation. “I urgently wanted to merge those two devices,” she says on the company’s website.
Why women’s healthcare tech and innovation matters
Healthcare solutions designed by women, for women, are dramatically different from modern medicine, which was designed with men in mind.
Here’s why: healthcare wasn’t designed for women, even though we’re half the world’s population and make 80 percent of healthcare purchase decisions. We're considered a subset of healthcare.
Consider the following from McKinsey and Company:
Research that focuses only on men can be deadly for women – heart attacks are associated with pain in the left arm and chest. For women it can be nausea, ingestion, and general discomfort – which are misdiagnosed as heartburn.
Women have been underrepresented in medical trials, which can lead to inaccurate treatment and dosing.
Solutions designed for male physiology can mean suboptimal outcomes for women, such as in hip replacements.
Women are less likely to be treated for pain when our symptoms are at times expressed as “emotional” or “psychosomatic.”
Healthcare designed by women, for women, feels different too, even in OB/GYN care. I saw this firsthand in my own contrasting birth experiences. My two daughters were delivered by OB/GYNs in large practices. I found a female physician I liked both times. But even the most attentive physician in a large hospital network can only offer patients a few minutes of attention. The doctor at delivery is a toss up because it depends on who is on call.
I don’t remember the name of the OB who delivered my second, but I’ll never forget the spinal headache afterward. More traumatic than the headache was the reaction from the doctor on call practice when I reached out. She claimed to have “no idea gynecologically what it could be” and insisted I go to the ER, hours after she had discharged me from the hospital.
For my next birth, I chose a midwifery practice, not because I knew anything about midwifery. It was because they were the only small practice of women where I was guaranteed to know the clinician at delivery.
This was the first time I experienced healthcare designed for women, by women. It meant getting as much time as I needed at appointments. And it meant having a midwife at my side from the moment I arrived at the hospital, until delivery. She did not leave the room.
Midwifery felt like the best kept secret in women’s medicine. Why didn’t I know this before? I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.
When healthcare is better for women, it's better for our families, our communities and, yes, even our workplaces.
Creating community with healthcare marketing
There are bastions of better women’s healthcare happening all over the world. Just last week a new women’s clinic opening in Berkeley popped into my LinkedIn newsfeed. Everything on the Millie website resonates. The women they seek to serve can see themselves in the stories they share on their blogs. Choosing their practice looks a lot like joining a community. That’s by design.
Sarah duRivage-Jacobs, a senior content manager for Millie and formerly at Modern Fertility, says that a lot of women’s issues these companies are addressing can seem taboo to discuss. Community gives women a space to talk, connect and feel heard. This is crucial because as she explains, “Infertility, as well as all the shifting hormones with pregnancy, can feel isolating. This just exacerbates all the mental health concerns that can arise out of experiencing infertility.”
Oula, a “modern maternity center,” features a whole section on their homepage focusing on community.
Community is a key feature in femtech content marketing. Apps feature blogs filled with personal stories that resonate, as well as health information that’s hard to find on a typical over-medicalized large hospital system website.
But care designed for women, by women, depends on robust marketing. Any kind of selling direct to healthcare consumers, rather than having physician liaisons as sales reps, requires good marketing.
Millie, which opens in the fall, has a small staff of five featured on their website. Two of them are marketers.
Content is integral to Millie’s mission, not merely a way to market a new brand. “A lot of issues with maternal mortality and morbidity stem from limited availability of information,” says duRivage-Jacobs. “Presenting warning signs and educating about what to keep top of mind gets people to reach out sooner than later to a practitioner. And a blog has more reach than just the patients in a healthcare company.”
Most of these small private practices or startups don’t have the budget of large hospital networks. The content marketing they’re doing, built on the idea that knowledge is key to health, is informative and empowering.
Here’s some thoughtful and even aspirational copywriting examples from femtech companies:
Tia: Connected care, reimagined & tailored to you
Favor (formerly The Pill Club): Our approach is to thread kindness into every aspect of your care - from visits and prescriptions delivered with self-care extras, to reminders and treatment plans.
Bloomlife: Igniting a maternal health revolution
Modern Fertility: Want kids one day? Whether you’re years away from kids or thinking of trying soon, we’ll guide you through your fertility hormones now so you have options later.
Elektra Health: Let’s smash the menopause taboo, together.
That “smashing the menopause taboo” is copy we even have to write in 2022 about a women’s normal, healthy lifescycle shows just how much work we have to do for women’s healthcare equity.
Multiply that sentiment manifold for anyone who’s BIPOC and/or LGBTQ.
We’re only at the beginning of femtech. According to The New York Times, femtech in 2019 generated $820.6 million in global revenue and received $592 million in venture capital investment. “That same year, the ride-sharing app Uber alone raised $8.1 billion in an initial public offering. The difference in scale is staggering, especially when women spend an estimated $500 billion a year on medical expenses, according to PitchBook.”
According to McKinsey and Company, the market potential is massive. “Depending on scope, estimates for femtech’s current market size range from $500 million to $1 billion. Forecasts suggest opportunities for double-digit revenue growth.”
The need is massive too. “In some cases, femtech companies are filling gaps not yet addressed by biopharma and device incumbents, such as in the area of maternal health. Yet this is clearly, and promisingly, only the beginning of what femtech can address. There are still significant white spaces.”
Better healthcare for women matters for men and children too. Women are often caretakers, so better health for women means better health for everyone.
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