The ABCs of Ethical Med Spa Advertising and Upselling

Jamey Walsh
April 25, 2024

Whether you’re cutting the ribbon on a new medical spa or growing your existing practice, medical spa advertising puts your best face forward with patients. Asking patients to put their appearance and well-being into your hands requires a lot of trust, and building that trust starts with ethical advertising. 

Creating a marketing approach that sets realistic expectations and complies with regulations—while getting patients excited about how you can help them become better, more beautiful versions of themselves—is not only possible but also simple with the right resources.

Why is ethical medical spa advertising vital?

As more people across generations want to feel healthier and younger, the med spa industry is starting to bloom, with the global medical spa market expected to grow from $14.4 billion in 2022 to $25.9 billion by 2026. 

To maintain that growth, medical spa owners must ensure that every element of their practice—including advertising—helps customers feel like they’re in safe hands, while also adhering to laws and regulations within the field. That includes laws specifically devoted to making medical spa advertising as accurate as possible. 

If you haven’t already, you should check out our comprehensive guide to med spa marketing. Now, let’s get started!

Misleading claims can set unrealistic expectations

While some businesses are allowed to embrace a little hyperbole in their claims, such as promising the “best hamburgers in town” or “the only vacuum cleaner you’ll ever need,” medical spas are governed by regulations demanding objectively accurate statements in advertising. 

The average patient might take promises like a procedure being “100% painless” at face value—leading to frustration or disappointment when they experience even mild discomfort. Some patients may even feel like they signed a consent form without understanding what they could reasonably expect.  

According to the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa), they say, “Claiming that a course of treatment will make someone feel ‘X years younger’ may be prohibited under this sort of rule, whereas ‘many patients report feeling more youthful’ may not.”

Advertising may prey on insecurities of target audience

The goal of any high-quality medical spa should be to make patients feel beautiful inside and out. Using advertising that makes people feel bad about their bodies goes against that goal, and it’s also bad for business. 

Medical spas that incorporate stigmatizing language or images in their marketing materials can receive public backlash. One Canadian salon got bad press and scathing online reviews for a campaign that promoted body contouring with images of a pig in lingerie and the tagline, “When your lingerie says Victoria's Secret but your body says McDonald's.”

Needless to say, you must avoid this kind of campaign at all costs and should focus on body positivity first and foremost.

Upselling can prioritize profit over patient well-being

Taking the opportunity to engage customers about additional services and promotions while they’re already in front of you is a normal part of any business. While upselling can help medical spas increase revenue, you must ensure that the additional procedures will actually benefit the patient. 

You should suggest treatments based on a patient’s needs and health history. A patient upsold into a procedure that doesn’t benefit them might not be inclined to return to your spa—and will likely share their poor experience with friends and family. 

Confidentiality regulations around testimonials and before-after photos

As any healthcare professional knows, patient confidentiality and consent are major priorities in all healthcare settings. Under the “Privacy Rule” in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), “all individually identifiable health information” is protected under law, meaning that healthcare agencies generally can’t share information that might disclose a patient’s identity without their express written consent. 

Though you might be proud of your team’s hard work at making beauty look effortless on your patients, using before-and-after images of patients without their consent is a violation of HIPAA. Even if your grateful patients want their pictures or testimonials to appear in marketing materials, you must be sure to have them sign consent forms. 

Penalties for violating advertising regulations are severe

Violating confidentiality rules isn’t just bad for business—it could break your business entirely. Fines for HIPAA violations can range from $100 to $50,000 per violation. In addition to getting the attention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, certain violations can even count as criminal violations that will be investigated by the Department of Justice. 

4 medical spa advertising ideas that remain ethical

Med spa advertising might seem too restrictive, but there are plenty of creative ways to engage patients and build long-term relationships. Digital signage in waiting areas is an important aspect of medical spa marketing, allowing you to entertain your patients with customized ad content that falls within ethics considerations. 

Using UPshow Health, you enjoy the flexibility to create and update campaigns that highlight your products and services, encourage patients to leave positive reviews, share their experiences and build brand loyalty. 

Use advertising to educate patients about procedures

Informed consent is the foundation of any successful procedure, whether it’s a Botox injection, a chemical peel, or laser hair removal. With UPshow Health, you can turn patient wait times into an educational opportunity by developing informational content for your on-premises screens. Using digital signage to explain common procedures can alleviate patient anxiety and make them feel more empowered in the process. 

For more interactive engagement, you can use UPshow Health to share QR codes that route patients to quizzes or other content about med spa procedures or even general wellness. 

Never, ever use body shaming in your marketing

Med spa advertising should never make a patient feel like they’re dealing with the bullies back in high school. With the right message, you can show patients that you and your team care about enhancing their natural beauty with your treatments.

Sharing that message with professional-looking, visually polished content is now effortless thanks to built-in integrations between UPshow Health and the online design tool Canva. Even team members without a strong background in graphic design can use this integration to develop content with original, inspirational messaging. 

Utilize on-premise screens for non-invasive upselling

Instead of high-pressure upselling that can make patients feel uncomfortable, you can use the screens in your waiting area to promote services that might be natural extensions of the procedures that customers are already receiving. Using UPshow Health, you can do more than update your on-premise screens to feature services attached to some of your more popular, common procedures—you can also change displays from screen to screen to highlight multiple services at once. 

Employ QR codes for easy access to consent forms

Patient testimonials can be the equivalent of word of mouth for online audiences. Of course, to share any patient photos and stories, you must get patients to sign consent forms. 

It can be easy for even the most enthusiastic patient to forget to sign forms in person. Fortunately, UPshow Health comes with QR code integrations that allow customers to easily access consent forms. Integrations between UPshow and Smart Paper also make it possible for patients to print and return the forms.  

UPshow Health: Your vehicle for ethical med spa advertising

Medical spa advertising doesn’t have to make lofty promises of perfection, make patients feel like they’re flawed, or aggressively upsell services to customers regardless of their needs to be successful. 

With effective digital signage through UPshow Health, you can easily create and share messages that inspire patients to feel connected to your brand while offering information about your products and services. 

Give your med spa advertising a bold new look and try UPshow Health today

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