The Field of Recovery and Substance Abuse Treatment in Florida was rocked this summer when the legislature implemented a series of new laws on July 1st in regards to marketing and referrals. For those of us committed to our patients and their ethical care, this comes as a welcome relief.
At the same time, it has cut off referral pipelines for legitimate centers who depended on 3rd party call centers or websites for much of their business. It’s been speculated that a full 20% of treatment providers in Florida are facing the need to shut down.
There’s Always a Silver Lining
Grave as that may sound, this situation is a blessing in disguise. The fact is that most treatment providers had done little in the way of marketing their own centers, instead relying on these 3rd parties to build websites or run Adwords campaigns that ranked high in search results and generated a steady stream of referrals.
However, these 3rd party sites and call centers usually had nowhere near the commitment to patients that providers have. It also created an awful situation for potential patients who constantly ended up talking to some referral or lead gen company rather than an actual provider that could help.
As we all know, there is often a very small window for people once they are ready to seek treatment. Miss that window and they might not sober up or get up the courage to call again for months, if they ever do at all.
This was the biggest problem with the referral agencies. They were so good at SEO and Adwords that they outranked the recovery centers. As we all know, few people look past the first page of Google for results and the first page was flooded with 3rd party services rather than the direct access to help that people were seeking.
Recovery is a Journey: The Need to Rebuild
Because many recovery centers were so reliant on 3rd parties, they had failed to ever build up their own outreach and reputation. Herein lies the main problem. Without an established outreach and communications strategy, and with no reputation in the treatment community, these centers are left floundering for a way to connect with patients again.
However, all is not lost. Those 3rd party referral and lead gen services were incredibly expensive, often charging hundreds of dollars per lead. With that kind of budget, it is very easy to build out one’s own marketing and outreach initiative using some of the same tactics that the 3rd parties had been using, mainly SEO and Adwords.
Facebook and Twitter are also excellent tools for outreach and are far cheaper than either SEO or Adwords. In Palm Beach County, where, by our last count, there were over 1,200 treatment centers alone, the cost of a click on Adwords would reach as high as $100. That’s insane!
The cost of a similar click on Facebook or Twitter will generally be under $5 and can be as low as $1 once campaigns are optimized.
Now, you might be saying that no one at your center has the capabilities to run such campaigns or that SEO is incredibly expensive and takes a long time to build (and you’d be right). However, you don’t necessarily need to hire for this role. It can still be outsourced to a professional agency.
Third Party vs. Center Owned Media: What You Need to Know
The July 1st laws that Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law explicitly forbid the use of 3rd parties for referral or lead generation through their call centers or websites. But recovery centers can still use 3rd parties to help them build out their own, internal marketing campaigns.
As long as a treatment center is directing all website traffic and phone calls to their website and to a phone number that puts the caller directly in touch with staff at their own center, you’re perfectly welcome to outsource the management of those campaigns to an agency.
Obviously, there are also stricter laws surrounding misrepresentation and deception in advertising, but any ethical center had already been following those, so no changes needed there.
In easy bullet point form:
- Licensed treatment centers cannot refer patients to any sober living home that does not obtain a voluntary license from the state.
- Deceptive marketing practices are illegal. In addition to standard false promises, any advertisement that directs individuals to a 3rd party or unrelated site not expressly described in the ad will be subject to prosecution.
- This also includes over promising, such as “Get sober in 30 days or less”
- “Benefits” may not be provided to patients or their referrers. This could be in the form of a cash handout or a free X-box, for example.
- Patient brokering is still illegal and now comes with stiffer, and escalating, penalties. If you are unfamiliar, this is the practice that has plagued Florida’s recovery community whereby individuals go and find users and then get paid a kickback fee for bringing in to a particular treatment center they have a contract with.
- Here is one of the most important “Entering into a contract with a marketing provider who agrees to generate referrals or leads for the placement of patients with a service provider or in a recovery residence through a call center or a web-based presence.”All those 3rd parties that were collecting or contracted to collect referrals through their own call centers or websites are now illegal. You may only generate leads through efforts directed to your own website and online properties (like your Facebook Page or Twitter Account) or calls coming from your own staff. You can still contract with 3rd parties, but they have to direct efforts to your owned properties, not to a 3rd party.
This is where we come in. Here at Circle Social Inc., we are experts in healthcare digital marketing and outreach. In particular, we have extensive expertise managing and optimizing Facebook Campaigns, which can be far, far cheaper than Adwords within certain industries.
So if you’re feeling the crunch since July 1st and you’re wondering how to connect with your patients, we can help. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 800-396-9927.
Want to see some case studies regarding the work we’ve done for other recovery centers and mental health clinics? Check out our post The Power of Digital Storytelling for Therapy Centers.
Then give us a call. We’re committed to helping your patients find the help they need. They’re all online, so that’s where you need to be too. We’ll help you be there. Fill out the form below, and let’s get started.