When it comes to drug rehabilitation centers, pay-per-click (also known as PPC) advertising and SEO may be the go-to methods for generating calls. This digital advertising tactic is simple enough to execute, and has been around for years.
But it’s not simple anymore. Government regulation, privacy laws, policy updates in platforms and increased competition has led to rising ad costs and overall increase in cost per admits. A few years ago, your treatment center would have been one of few in your local area but now it’s one of many.
Enter: Brand Building for Rehabs. Employing top-funnel strategies through video, banner ads, internet connected TV and radio is critical to long-term growth—and can go a long way towards solidifying a drug rehab’s reputation.
Addicton Treatment PPC: The Current Process
Ultimately, drug rehab centers want to increase admits, so they look to get more:
- verification of benefits (VOBs) calls and form submits
- self-pay calls
- in-network calls
- branded calls
They also wouldn’t mind reducing their reliance on lead sellers and directory placements, as that tends to increase average call duration with a reduced lead-to-admit conversion rate because of comparison shopping.
Typically, an addiction treatment center runs PPC to achieve these goals, because that’s what the industry has known over the years. However, running PPC ads alone isn’t always the best solution, especially for a long-term change.
Why PPC Is Not Enough for Rehabs
There are many reasons why the process, as it stands today, doesn’t work. To clarify, yes it works of course but not as it used to. Let’s dive into a few of them.
The Problem with Google Ads
Over the years, Google Ads became the primary channel of PPC for drug rehab centers, with SEO being run in parallel. Centers started by getting all of the industry-relevant keywords in, then checked to see which one gave conversions in the form of leads. After that, they pumped more budget into winning keywords, reducing budget in the non-converting keywords.
This ends up being the same old song and dance—increasing conversions and reducing costs. It’s fine, but it’s not optimal. In fact, when you look at your metrics year-over-year, you might see some rising ad costs and rising competition.
Naturally, this makes it harder for your brand to truly stand out. You become a part of comparison shopping where all the rehabs that show on Google’s first page get clicked and compared. And the cost per admit gradually rises. In turn, this leads to longer sales cycles, your admission team working harder and harder to close, and your pool of prospective admits starting to look very small. As a result, every competitor becomes a big fish in a small pond.
Increasing Privacy Regulations
Another obstacle? Increased privacy regulations. What you can and cannot do. HIPAA, CCPA, GDPR, Senate hearings about privacy, etc have all created hurdles one way or another. Particularly hard hit is the healthcare sector which rehabs are a part of.
These increased privacy regulations have the potential to cause a massive slowdown, like they did in late 2017 when Google blanket-banned addiction treatment ads without a heads-up causing many treatment centers to shut down. Or in mid-2018, when LegitScript (a healthcare compliance and certification company) came into play to allow rehabs to advertise again on Google. (Except the process brought its own can of worms, which is a post for another day.)
We don’t even have to talk about the all-seeing Google changing algorithms on us overnight. Rehabs get calls for weeks, and then nothing for the next few. That feast or famine cycle happens all too often.
Changing Times & Ticking Time Bombs
As you can see, the good times of using a PPC-and-SEO combination are slowly eroding. But as addiction treatment marketers, we knew this couldn’t last forever. The writing was on the wall in 2015 when Google stopped allowing retargeting for the healthcare segment.
Let’s face the facts—it’s just not as simple to use those tactics as it was when they were new. Due to everything going on in the industry (and outside the industry), what rehabs have been doing to “get heads in beds” is no longer sufficient. You never know what’s coming next.
Change is Good (and Necessary)
Ever heard the popular saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?
Well, I’m here to tell you that if it is broke, you must fix it. “That’s why we need to do things differently,” says client. “We can’t expect better results by doing the same things.”
Think Long Term
You planning on sticking around? Having and maintaining a strong, reliable brand for your addiction treatment center will help in the long run. This is a proven strategy that works for just about anything, and we’ve seen results firsthand for the treatment centers we’re working with.
Separating yourself from the day-to-day motions of operating like a rehab “business” will allow you to embark on a journey of establishing authority with your brand. Your center will become an addiction treatment leader in your community. And also has the ability to bring you into the spotlight on a state and national level as well—the sky’s the limit.
Why Should I Bother?
Now, we know that some rehabs haven’t really done this. They don’t see the point in investing time and money into brand building, especially when they think having Google, LegitScript and a Business Development team is getting them leads.
This is partially due to the fact that they may have started in those formative years of Obamacare and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which were simpler times compared to what we’re experiencing now. In those days, drug rehabs were able to secure a business setup, throw a logo onto a website, and start running Google Ads campaigns (known as Google AdWords back then) almost instantly.
We get it; you got used to the good times.
But as we’ve said, those times are slowly going away. With the COVID19 pandemic, the demand is going to go up for treatment which means treatment centers are getting started left and right. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get into the nitty-gritty of what it takes to build a brand that lasts.
Essential Brand Building Blocks
Obtaining the building blocks of creating a drug addiction treatment leader’s brand might seem elusive, but here’s a secret—it’s easier than you think.
In fact, these processes are widely available, and any marketing team worth their salt should be able to execute them.
Here’s a list of 6 key building blocks you can utilize:
- identifying audience personas
- identifying your unique selling proposition
- defining your values
- creating a competitor analysis
- SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis frameworks are great for this
- studying the journey your customers take
- developing the right messaging
The rubber truly meets the road when you utilize multiple marketing channels in your marketing mix to spread your message. By doing this, you’re generating awareness within your target market at several touchpoints, surrounding your audience with your messaging.
Expand Your Target Market
Don’t be afraid to go further than your usual prospects. In some cases, you’ll need to broaden your appeal to reach your goals.
For instance, try to target the people who are only mildly aware of the problem—whether it be their own emerging drug problem or a loved one’s growing problem. For our clients, we regularly apply 5-7% of their budgets in this “expansion phase”. This creates awareness when it’s not a hot topic for them, yet.
Yes, it’s true that appealing to your audience at an earlier stage does require a different type of messaging. However, this also positions you to capture someone’s attention earlier in their customer journey. This generates awareness and brand familiarity, which fosters trust. And trust in a brand is perhaps the most powerful tool that any brand can wield.
See, when you’re trusted, you’ll be who people think of and who they turn to when they’re in need.
5 Hacks for Implementing a New Marketing Method
Now that you’ve hit refresh on the basics, spread the word! There are many tactics you can use to get your messaging out. While the type of tactic you choose is important, how you choose to deploy it is often even more important.
1. Expand Your Tactics
When it comes to expanding your marketing tactics, think outside the box. You could use rich media in banner advertising, but you could also increase your exposure via television ads, through website videos and on mobile apps. Additionally, consider advertising natively on related websites. Whatever you do, don’t limit your options.
2. Avoid Coming on Too Strong
If you can, try to avoid hard-hitting crisis advertising. That may sound counterintuitive, but let us explain.
See, it’s too early in your target audience’s journey for them to resonate with crisis ads. You’re likely after the initial stage cases, such as first use instances—before addiction takes hold and turns into dependence. Getting to that population requires less severe messaging.
Here’s a story on what that could look like:
In 2018, we started with a client who used to have these gloom and doom ads “Addiction Kills. Call Us Now 1800-111-2222”. They wondered why they barely got any calls.
Before adding a method to the madness, we first adjusted the messaging to where these ads were showing and changed it to “How many drinks before it becomes illegal to drive? Find out now.” This ad not only created awareness in a community of alcohol drinkers but made the brand name synonymous with treatment and increased the number of leads received by over 200% within 60 days!
From those leads, they generated 6 admits at a cost-per-admit that was 16.76% lower than average. And this was before a whole strategy was employed. To clarify, getting admits from such a campaign was/is not the goal. It never is. But just applying basics can sometimes flip the results in your favor.
3. Connect on a Deeper Level
You’ll also want to connect with your target personas on a deeper level than other brands. To do that, draw upon your building blocks and reach them when they may be aware of their problem, yet might not think of it as a problem yet. Examples include content that discusses the early signs of alcoholism, or a research piece discussing what makes cocaine so addictive.
4. Cascade Your Retargeting
The world we live in is vast and advanced. Take advantage of that.
You can leverage your exposure with cascaded retargeting, a sequence of ads that are shown to the user at intervals depending on how they’ve acted (or not acted) towards your brand. Yes, retargeting for rehabs is possible when they are HIPAA-compliant and does not jeopardize LegitScript.
When someone is in the stage of seeing solutions to addiction, they naturally turn to search engines. Whether you’re doing PPC and SEO or not, one thing is for certain… your website will show up alongside your competitors. Someone who hasn’t heard of you before will click on your result along with 3-6 other options that Google showed them.
Congratulations. You are now on a “list of contenders”.
On the other hand, if this searcher had previously heard/seen your ad elsewhere (through #1 or #2 above), they would click on you along with others but subconsciously spend more time on your website. You’re still on a list of contenders, but you are in the lead already.
Now if you had retargeting (which other rehabs don’t have access to because they rely on Google for everything), you increase the gap in your lead far ahead because now they get subtle reminders of your existence.
Best way to make this work is to not bombard your audience. It’s important to move through your marketing cycle slowly, so that you’re more likely to establish that sense of genuine, gradual trust.
5. Be Patient
There are many variables that can throw things off in these early stages of addiction awareness, including denial and stigma. These variables take time to work through. People and their loved ones must overcome them in order to truly accept that there is a problem. Therefore, you’ll need to operate on their time—not yours.
Brand Building vs. PPC for Rehabs: Final Thoughts
- For long-term gains and more predictable, regular stream of well-qualified leads you should have a long-term strategy in mind. PPC is one tactic that could be part of your larger strategy, but it isn’t the full plan in 2021 and beyond.
- Brand building includes multiple touchpoints and tactics over time, as well as leading content and a broad strategy across multiple channels. A partner that helps you establish goals and align on your unique value proposition can help you dive deeper into the customer journey.