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...


...or this...


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


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 Jaworski, "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.


Results 1 dropshadowed.png


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.


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"


Jaworski 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:


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 Jaworski 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.