Addiction treatment marketing in 2017 bears little resemblance to ten years ago. Any quick google search confirms a growing number of treatment centers have wholly embraced the web.
As just one example, I used to complain up-and-down about keeping websites focussed and minimal (like the world's best startups do), but I'm seeing more-and-more treatment centers doing it right.
All-the-same, treatment-center marketing continues to lag behind the best-in-class direct-response marketers in a few key areas. The good news is, if you're among the first to dispense with these mistakes and market your treatment center like it's 2017, you'll rise above the competition, even if you're still small-and-scrappy.
Myth 1 - Your Marketing Should Be "Diversified"
If you search "addiction treatment center marketing" on Google, many of the agencies that pop up are making the same mistake. Here's are two examples chosen-at-random from the top five results from that very search:
"Five essential strategies"
The cornerstone of their pitch? That you need multiple marketing channels, and that more is better.
On the surface, it seems logical, right? If one channel gets you x clients-a-month, and another gets you y, by doing both, you'll get x+y.
There's just one problem: the best thinkers in direct response marketing - people like Frank Kern, Jay Abraham, and Perry Marshall, who, collectively, have made literally billions for clients from Bulletproof Coffee to AT&T - don't think like that.
Here's what Marshall has to say about it:
It's the same thing with those "five essential strategies" one agency website says you need to have.
- 80% of your best clients might be coming from just one of those strategies
- The other four combined might account for only 20% of your clients
Ok, but the other four are still adding something, right?
Not necessarily, and the reason is that your ad dollars and attention are finite. To illustrate, I like to use the "broken vending machine" analogy.
Say you had 3 broken vending machines in a room. Instead of taking your money and giving you a snack, they all would take your money, and give you back more money.
Let's say one would give you back 25 cents for every 10 cents. Another would give you back 50 cents for every 10 cents. And the third would give you back a dollar for every 10 cents.
Finally, let's say you have a finite pile of coins.
Now - I guarantee not one reader of this article would think it was a good idea to divide the coins equally, and put some in each machine. You'd obviously put all your coins in the dollar machine.
In real life, of course, there are shades-of-gray.
Many clients come from referral, so it's never a bad idea to attend conferences and events, and foster relationships with other, complimentary treatment providers.
What's more, some marketing channels are "non-zero-sum", meaning efforts dedicated to one don't cannibalize the other. (SEO and PPC are one such case I'll describe below.)
Finally, it's sometimes a good idea to test several channels in parallel, until you have a clear winner. (In real life, you have to test the vending machines to figure which one gives you a dollar for every dime.)
But that doesn't change the fact that the "more is better" marketing ethos is fundamentally wrong.
I've had prospective clients ask me "how many of the five essential marketing channels do you do?"
And the majority of treatment marketing agencies are still trying to distinguish themselves by the number of different services they provide.
I'll celebrate when more start echoing PayPal founder Peter Thiel (as described in this post by Duck Duck Go founder Gabriel Weinberg), and tell me, "we're looking for our one needle-moving traffic channel. Can you help?"
Myth 2 - You Have to Choose Between SEO and PPC
If many treatment center owners I speak to think they need every marketing channel at once, another group are convinced they have to choose between SEO and PPC.
Remember those "non-zero-sum" tradeoffs I spoke about?
This is one.
Should you do PPC or SEO? The answer is "both". At least until you know how well each works for you. (Then, if one is a definitive winner, focus more on that.)
As I'll describe in greater detail in an upcoming post, SEO and PPC are so different in both implementation and expected result, they're often complimentary.
SEO often takes a long time to work - nay, to know if it's going to work.
PPC will usually work close-to-right-away if it's going to work long-term. (Though gradual refinement can coax even more results.)
SEO is "free" once you've built the links, but difficult to attribute, and even more difficult to cost-effectiveness-check. (For instance, did your clients find you directly from a google search, or did they keep you in mind, then follow a display ad a month later? Even when attribution is clear, how do you calculate the time and money it cost to get that client in your door?)
PPC, obviously, requires you to pay for those clicks. But the attribution is immediate. You know exactly where your clients came from, and - provided your marketer set up your campaigns and call tracking correctly - how much you paid to acquire them.
What's required with SEO to rank highly in Google can be opaque, and an algorithm change to a search engine can change your rank overnight.
PPC can sometimes be costly out-of-the-gate (one reason we won't even work with centers who can't begin with at least a $5000/month ad budget), but it's a "mature platform". That means cost-per-click already spiked, and we're not likely to see much volatility soon. What's more, the Google Adwords platform is far more "set and forget" than something like Facebook ads, which require continuous refreshing. That means you can spend your management fees improving your campaigns - not just refreshing them to continue to get the same results.
We recommend treatment centers do both. It's going to take SEO years to work/determine the effectiveness of, so you'd better start planting that garden today. In the meantime, you need clients, and PPC gives you immediate feedback about its own effectiveness for your center, and almost immediate clients if it's a good fit.
(Want to see if PPC is a good fit for your center? Just click here.)
Myth 3 - Your Client Relationships Need to Be Short
I'm willing to bet you haven't heard anybody say, "you should make sure your relationship to your treatment clients should be finite and short."
That would be absurd.
Many former addicts continue to need help on an ongoing basis in order to stay sober.
What's more, many want to know and trust you before they commit to something like inpatient treatment.
But I sure don't hear any marketing agencies talking about it.
To a direct-response veteran, there's something obviously missing...
In the opening paragraphs of this piece, I discussed how a growing number of centers are using websites that bear closer resemblance to those of billion-dollar startups than to Craigslist.
They're spare, and focussed, and give the visitor a clear next action.
But most are still not doing much with the contact information they collect, besides following up by phone and email for about a week.
By contrast, here's what a subscriber to an industry-leading SaaS (software-as-a-service) company's site might expect.
Week 1: information about the benefits of the product, reason to upgrade.
Weeks 2 -12: weekly emails with helpful information related to the product, and occasional opportunities to upgrade for a bonus.
For new customers: emails encouraging them to use and get the most out of the software, which encourage them to get more value from it, and, hence, use it for longer.
For old subscribers: "hey - are you still interested" emails, which prompt longtime lurkers to either renew their interest, or unsubscribe.
In treatment, we're not selling a product, so much as giving help to those who need it. But imagine these email follow-ups:
Continued gentle "check-ins" and useful information for qualified people who filled out the contact form but either weren't admitted, or didn't pick up the phone, for months.
Follow-ups and check ins with alumni, helping them hew to the program, and offering help should they relapse or need someone to talk to.
Finally, remember how I said you should eventually focus on only one traffic channel that's going to be your bread-and-butter, because any "diversification" of your efforts is wasting resources that could be put to better use?
Luckily, email is complimentary to whichever ends up being your needle-moving traffic channel. If PPC gets them to your site, email is how you follow up, and continue to build a relationship based on trust.
How to Market Your Treatment Center in 2017
If you clicked on this article hoping to get some actionable takeaways and begin moving the needle towards getting more-and-better clients, here are a few "next steps".
- It's likely one marketing channel will be your "breadwinner". Instead of looking to increase your channels, you should look to narrow them. Gabriel Weinberg, author of Traction, recommends you choose 3 channels that have the potential to me needle-movers, and test them. When you find a winner, double-down. (To see if PPC might be the needle-mover for you, just click here.)
- If you're struggling to choose between SEO and PPC, don't. Start testing both immediately. If they both work, great.
- If you're not following up with prospective clients and alumni, start. Books like Ryan Deiss' Invisible Selling Machine are a good resource for more information. (We also do this for clients, but only after optimizing marketing channels for a few months.)