Google strikes again, this time with a global ban on treatment center advertising. The ban is most likely temporary, but this is yet one more warning that centers absolutely must stop depending on 3rd party platforms for their inquiry and call generation campaigns.
As we always tell our clients, Google is an awful source for sustainable leads due to the high cost and intensive competition.
The only people that use Google to search for treatment are the ones in crisis who need help immediately. Since this is always such a small percentage of the overall population struggling with addiction, every center ends up competing for a very small volume of inquiries, which drives cost per click, and ultimately cost per admission, through the roof.
Plus, you’re missing the other 90% of people struggling with addiction for themselves or a loved one that has not hit rock bottom yet. There’s a veritable blue ocean of potential patients that almost nobody is reaching out to, but we’ll show you how to do that below.
We also need to mention that this most recent ban is part of an overall move to further regulate the field and eliminate the many shady practices around patient brokering. New laws are being put in place requiring treatment centers to brand all advertising. Buying calls from 3rd party TV ads, radio ads, lead generation websites, or other call centers are all on the chopping block in many states.
The only 100% future-proof way to build a sustainable center is going to be to focus solely on owned assets – your center’s website, your center’s internal email database of potential clients, your center’s social media profiles, etc.
So how do you do that? Working with addiction treatment and behavioral health centers across the country, we learned what works and what doesn’t when running rehab marketing campaigns.
What Are the Adwords Alternatives?
Facebook for cost-effective and high quality inquiries.
Very few centers know how to use Facebook. They just post to their pages, where organic reach is less than 4% and basically a huge waste of time. Facebook also just announced on January 11th that they’re lowering organic reach for pages again (although this doesn’t affect ads).
Then they might boost a post here or there or run a really simple ad campaign, which will not result in inquiries.
Facebook is, by far, the cheapest source of inquiries we’ve seen, but you need to know how to set up integrated funnels that nurture individuals through a decision-making process.
Here at Circle Social, we use proprietary funnels that consistently deliver 1 Verification of Benefits (VOB) per 10-12 calls. Average cost per call is $30-$40 and conversion rates are much, much better than Adwords, Radio, or TV due to the nurturing process through the funnel.
You see, marketing is all about building trust and moving potential clients through a decision-making process. You can’t do that in a passive medium like your website or Google Adwords. But, through Facebook’s insanely powerful retargeting capabilities, you can actually build an ongoing conversation with individuals at each stage of the decision-making process.
By the time they get to the end of your funnel, they’re not just ready to get their loved one or themselves (usually their loved one) into treatment, they’re already committed to your center.
The real key with Facebook is to get relevance scores of 10 and click thru rates above 10% with your ad campaigns at the top of the funnel. This significantly drives down cost through the later stages.
From there, it’s just a matter of having high quality admissions staff to finalize the intake.
The other huge advantage with Facebook is that you are able to build up internal contact lists with names, phone numbers, and emails of people looking for treatment.
We always tell our clients that the ultimate goal is to no longer be dependent on 3rd party platforms. While Facebook is currently an excellent source for generating inquiries, you never know if it might make a decision similar to Google at some point.
That’s why it’s imperative that you work to build up your reputation only using your owned assets – your website, your Facebook page, your email list – and that all your outreach efforts are being used to continuously build up internal lists that you own.
This way, no matter what happens, you will always be able to reach potential clients, regardless of what Google or Facebook are doing.
Referral Sources Should Generate the Majority of Your Inquiries & Admits
70% of all treatment center inquiries and admits should be coming from referral sources – alumni, churches, criminal attorneys, social workers, hospitals, physicians, etc.
If you’re depending on digital marketing or other campaigns for more than 30% of inquiries and admits, your center will fail, sooner rather than later. It’s just not a sustainable strategy.
You must have a system in place where staff are regularly reaching out and building relationships in the community as well as forming strategic partnerships across the country.
This can also be with other treatment centers, detoxes, or sober livings. Many of our rehab clients primarily take out-of-network for various insurance plans, so it’s essential to have in-network partners you can refer to if need be.
There should also actually be regular communication between referral partners through email newsletters, personal follow-ups, and on-site events.
Here at Circle Social, we have a standard process that we teach our clients. First, we run marketing campaigns and do outreach to source a large list of referral partners. Then we start contacting them through phone and email, at which point center staff follow-up with personal calls and invites.
Many centers neglect simple things like lunch and learns or open houses, but these kinds of events are tremendously impactful in building up relationships with referral partners.
Do Not Neglect Your Alumni Groups
Alumni groups are another untapped resource in many centers. Sure, you might have your annual picnic, but that’s not enough to stay really top of mind.
For centers that really do a good job of keeping their alumni engaged, we’ll see a full 30% of all their inquiries and admits come from alumni referrals. Cost per admit is also much cheaper, usually averaging only around $1,000, which is 4 to 5 times cheaper than the average cost of an admit from an Adwords, TV, or radio campaign.
Just like with your standard referral partners, alumni need to be regularly engaged through email newsletters unique to them and through other consistent touch points throughout the year. Often, something as simple as a personal text from a counselor or admissions staff a couple times a year can make a world of difference.
Strong Admissions Staff and Processes
We’re constantly shocked at how many centers we work with lack a basic CRM and are still using Excel to track inquiries. If you’re not currently using a CRM for tracking and follow-up (and this must be separate from your EMR to maintain HIPAA compliance), you need to start now or you will continue to just bleed inquiries as they get lost in the shuffle.
We’ve also seen that time is extremely limited when it comes to following up on an inquiry. The centers with the highest conversion rates call back any inquiry within 5 minutes, 10-15 at most. Anything past 15 minutes and conversion rates on inquiries start to drop drastically.
Sometimes centers will have a process setup where the Director of Admission gets an email when a new inquiry comes in from the website, for example. Then, once they open the email, they forward it along to the appropriate staff to make a call.
Well, if the Director of Admissions was busy when the email came in, hours have sometimes passed by the time this happens. It doesn’t work. If that inquiry isn’t being called back in the first 10 minutes, you might as well consider them lost already.
Create a Long-term, Sustainable Plan
Working with centers across the country, we’ve seen it all. The ones that are successful do all of the points mentioned above. For a quick refresh:
- Build up owned assets – your website, your email lists, your social media profiles, and, most importantly, your reputation.
- Right now, Facebook is the best source of digital inquiry generation both in terms of cost and quality of inquiries.
- Referral sources should be driving a majority of inquires if you want a sustainable center. Create a process like we do for clients to consistently reach out and build these relationships.
- Alumni can generate a large number of referrals at a very low cost. There should be systematic outreach to these groups and their families above and beyond an annual gathering.
Do you have questions on any of the above? Get in touch through the form below.