What LegitScript Verification Means for Treatment Ads on Facebook

Toll Plaza 9 16 13_002 (1).jpg

It's difficult to find an article or post about Facebook's apparent recent "ban" of treatment ads, save from centers verified by a company called LegitScript, who also vets facilities for Google Adwords, that doesn't outright parrot LegitScript's own press release.

We know the two biggest online advertising platforms want some "shelter" from liability, and that LegitScript, who charges a $995 application fee and a $1995 annual fee per facility, won the contract.

First, at the risk of repeating what you may have read elsewhere, the vital stats:

Effective August 9th, all centers advertising on the Facebook platform will need to get double-verified...

...first, by completing an application with LegitScript similar to the Adwords application that debuted in July...

...and second by completing this application with Facebook.

Next, a few details we discovered that other sources haven't reported:

It appears that Facebook, unlike Google, is rolling this out as a "soft ban", allowing facilities a "grace period" while they apply, instead of outright curtailing ads, then reintroducing them, as Adwords did.

What's more, it appears that both Google and Facebook will accept a single LegitScript accreditation, so, rather like a CARF accreditation, you only have to get it once. According to LegitScript's site, "LegitScript provides the only certification service for drug and alcohol addiction treatment providers that is relied on by Google and Facebook to vet advertisers for eligibility." [Passive voice theirs;)]

(This might be obvious, but it bears mentioning for anyone wondering "do I have to get two LegitScript certifications - one for Adwords, one for Facebook?" No you don't: a single certification will cover both.)

Finally, according to our friends at Circle Social, Facebook is looking at curtailing all non-branded advertising for addiction treatment in the near future. (A "branded-only" approach would mean that only treatment centers advertising as themselves - and not third-party sites like FightAddictionNow - are allowed to advertise on Facebook.)

So, what does this mean?

Get a LegitScript certification yesterday. Much as it rubs-me-the-wrong-way that a single company now controls, and charges money for, access to the world's two biggest advertising platforms, it's now the-price-of-admission, and it's a rounding error compared to the massive ROI potential from online advertising.

In our experience, Facebook is still the cheapest place to get qualified inquiries to your admissions department. (More on exactly what we've seen here.)

Does the new certification requirement mean a "new era" of lowered-competition because it'll drive all the hucksters away?

In my opinion, probably not.

Just as with Adwords, the LS cert is so cheap that the price won't be an obstacle.

Look for the apparently-forthcoming non-branded-ad ban to do more of the "swamp draining".

But even if every lead-aggregator or fly-by-night operator left the platform tomorrow, leads on Facebook won't get any cheaper. Here's why:

Unlike Adwords, which is an auction for transparent keywords (meaning anyone can see the keywords anyone else is using, and bid-up-the-price), Facebook, though still an auction for eyeballs, uses audience targeting, which is opaque to competitors, and unique-to-each-advertiser.

That means if you're getting mostly Medicaid/care calls from Facebook right now, the reason isn't your competition.

As I explain in this article, it's your crappy ad creative and bad funnel design, forcing people into a decision before they've had any exposure to you, which selects for unqualified calls. (Qualified people do research, and want to know more before they get on the phone.)

And it's reputable centers - those who will have no problem getting the LS certification - who are running most of the crappy ads.

So the LegitScript process isn't going improve your cost-per-qualified-lead overnight by wiping out "the competition".

You're still gonna have to get better at marketing.

And if you'd like to read more about exactly what we do, why it's different from the approach most (though not all) marketers use, and why it gets results, I recommend this article. (No opt-in required.)

Why Most Treatment Ads Get Only Medicare and Medicaid Calls, But Ours Don't

For months, I've been collecting a scrapbook of every bad Facebook ads campaign that's crossed my news feed, in the hopes of writing a one-article takedown of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We'll do some of that in this article.

I also want to call out our friends at Circle Social for their excellent article on why treatment ad campaigns get so many medicare and medicaid calls, that I'll be "yes and"ing here.

Two extremely contradictory things characterize the current state of paid advertising in the addiction treatment space.

The first is wall-to-wall cynicism about the efficacy of any marketing channel, and distrust of anyone promising to help a center reach more people who need their help.

The second is massive spending on paid internet campaigns that don't work.

Example The First, and likely the reason you're reading this. I've heard "we hired xyz marketing agency, and all they got us were medicare/aid calls" so often I'm considering getting it tattooed somewhere.

Example The Second, ads like this...

 
IMG_3237.jpeg
 

...or this...

 
IMG_3490.PNG
 

Whenever I come across ads like these, I know they're not producing qualified leads.

Why?

We've tested the funnel. It didn't work. So we made multiple generations of improvements, and now we've got something a lot better.

Sidebar, and good-natured challenge: are you from a center or agency who ran those ads? Prove me wrong;)

First, let's compare the type of results treatment centers are used to getting from internet ads - per Circle Social's article - to what we at Admit Scout have been producing.

Then, we'll look deeper into why.

What's a Typical Result for Treatment Ad Campaigns?

"At best," writes Circle's founder Nick Jaworsky, "5% of your calls [from a typical internet ad campaign] might have insurance, but 1-2% is closer to the norm."

Meanwhile, closer-to-80% of the leads we've generated for clients have private insurance.

In fact, we stopped counting the unqualified leads.

Example:

Results 1 dropshadowed.png

Example:

Proof with drop shadow.png

Let's get caveats out-of-the-way: we don't get many medicaid/care leads because we tell people our clients don't accept medicare or medicaid.

We use a high-commitment contact form to pre-qualify leads before we send them to clients, and, when we ask people to specify their insurance, we say "we regret that we're unable to accept medicaid...".

Even so, our clients still get some heartbreaking medicare/aid inquiries.

But they're the minority.

And they haven't "led anybody on". (And most still return the call to recommend alternatives.)

"Ok, so the secret to getting fewer medicare and medicaid calls is just to put disclaimers on your website? Done!"

Well, it's more complicated.

Because you can discourage medicare/aid recipients from contacting you, and, if those are the only people you're reaching, you'll have just about...zero left over.

But our clients don't have zero.

Instead...

10 qualified-insurance leads for $4k in ad-spend

19 qualified-insurance leads in 2 months

11 qualified-insurance leads in 2 months on a small ad budget

 This was during a period when everybody else was saying "calls are down"

This was during a period when everybody else was saying "calls are down"

How?

Jaworsky calls out another reason: branded ads versus lead aggregators.

But many of the examples I'm about to feature are branded web campaigns.

Ok, example time:):)

Why Most Treatment Web Campaigns are Hot Garbage

Say you had a family member who you worried had an addiction.

Say, surfing the internets late at night, you came across an ad from a treatment center you'd never heard of.

 
 Again, is this your ad? Prove me wrong if you got confirmed qualified calls profitably with this ad;)

Again, is this your ad? Prove me wrong if you got confirmed qualified calls profitably with this ad;)

 

Say you clicked on the ad, to "learn more".

Say this was all you saw:

 
IMG_3410.PNG
 

Would you give your information to these folks?

That would be like accepting a ride from a stranger.

Which brings us to the primary reason most treatment web campaigns aren't getting results.

Sure, sometimes the creative is painfully-and-entertainingly out-of-sync with the audience...

 
 Are you getting confirmed qualified-insurance leads profitably from this ad? Prove me wrong;)

Are you getting confirmed qualified-insurance leads profitably from this ad? Prove me wrong;)

 

...but even the ads with reasonable creative are still getting this wrong.

Just like the "Find Treatment" example above, they're providing zero information to help a would-be client make a decision, besides that they claim to be a treatment center.

They're proposing marriage on the first date.

Now, I happen to know that almost all of the examples I've shown are from reputable centers who do good work, who prize clinical outcomes above "heads in beds" and hire qualified staff to-that-end, and who have the organic social reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook to show it.

But a would-be client would know nothing about any of that, unless he/she did independent research.

98% of social ads I've seen direct people either to a homepage (slightly better), or a lead-form.

Who's not going to trust them? Professionals with resources.

Who's going to click and call, heart-breakingly? Desperate people.

Hence, medicaid and medicare calls.

How to (Really) Avoid Medicare and Medicaid Calls

I wanted to cheer out-loud when Circle's Jaworsky called-out the double-tragedy of marketers selling unqualified calls to treatment centers, because it's exactly what I've been writing:

First, it takes time and resources for your admissions department to field calls from unqualified people.

Second, there's the human tragedy: someone in desperate need of help is getting his/her hopes up, only to have them dashed again.

So what do we do differently to avoid it?

If you want to steal our entire solution, lock-stock-and-barrel, just click here. (We put this out there because we know the good marketers don't need it, the bad ones are too lazy to implement it well, and any center who steals it and gets good results will probably hire us.) Trigger warning: we're going to ask for your email address. Seems fair, right?

But I'll give you three principles the above guide goes into in greater detail:

1. Educate before you ask for a phone number: simply by providing information that helps a would-be client with his/her situation, you'll separate yourself from the vast majority of centers and lead aggregators who just want the call.

2. Track your results. Sure, there are un-attributed calls from people who see your ad, then do independent research, then come back to your website. But plenty will come via the landing pages if you write them well.

3. Follow-up. On social media, unlike Google, you're encountering people while they're not searching for you. That does't mean they don't need your help. So show them a few ads, all with helpful information. And send them some email.

Finally, disclaimer: I like to poke fun, but I know most people in the treatment industry are trying to do their best. Hopefully, before long, we'll see an ecosystem where the Bad Apples have been "washed away", and everybody is marketing their center effectively and ethically. There's room for plenty.