Posted On June 15, 2021

How To Lower Cost Per Admit For Your Drug Rehab

How To Lower Cost Per Admit For Your Drug Rehab -

As a CMO/VP Marketing for a rehab, you want admits to get on the path to sobriety by coming to your treatment center over all others in the area. Every. Single. Time.


But to gain more admits, you might be pouring endless vats of money into marketing strategies that may seem like they’re yielding a high return on investment, but really when you look close enough, your cost per lead and admits have been inching higher.


So, what’s a rehab marketer to do? You want to increase your rehab’s number of admits and census, but you don’t want to run your rehab into the ground by asking for a bigger marketing budget every quarter from your CEO. (Or worse, your CFO!)


Don’t worry—it’s possible for your rehab to attract more admits in a smarter, more cost-efficient way. Before we delve into that, let’s look at what goes into determining cost per admit.


How Do You Calculate Cost Per Admit?


Take the cost of your marketing/admissions/billing efforts during a set time period and divide it by the number of admissions during the same time period.


cost per admit formula


Calculating your rehab’s current cost per admit is a key first step in addressing how to reduce it with incremental changes. Digital marketing is complex, so cutting the budget at its knees is likely to do more damage to your lead generation strategy than help.


We also recommend you take that time to calculate your CPA month over month for as far back as you can. Try to remove factors like costs of increasing staff count, bed count, facility fixes/renovations etc to keep the CPA relevant towards drug rehab marketing optimization. Ideally, this allows you to create a chart of your fluctuating cost per admit over time.


Collection Of Steps Proven To Decrease A Treatment Center’s Cost Per Admit


Revenue, EBITDA are primary concerns of leadership teams of an addiction treatment center. And while they often have their own mechanics to consider to increase those metrics, we will show steps that are meant to decrease cost per leads and therefore cost per admits – some of which will be important to critical for your leadership to achieve their goals (and get yourself some pats on the back as you go along).


These are a collection of steps, and not necessarily in sequential order because we understand not all steps are easy to execute depending on which maturity level your center is at. We have been lucky to employ some or all of these steps for the centers we work with and have seen excellent results.


If you’re a marketing team member in charge or part of your drug rehab marketing team, some of these will require deeper conversations with leadership as their mindset might not be aligned with yours. Some leadership levels might just not understand and will want to always come back to “how many leads is that generating and how much is it costing?” which is unfortunate and short-sighted but with time, they will begin to see they need to employ other tactics to ensure increase in EBITDA.


1.   Follow up with leads

By creating a systemized process of conducting follow ups on leads, you’ll ensure you’re staying on these leads’ radars. Addiction treatment is a very hard decision to make. There are plenty of reasons why it’s difficult for a treatment-seeker to follow-through. A person might think they’re ready for treatment today, and tomorrow they think it was a silly idea. Just the same, a few days later, they might think they’re ready for treatment again. Following up keeps you on their radar for when they are back to being serious.


The leads will also feel like they’re getting a more personalized, helpful experience from your drug rehab.

admissions follow up cadence for addiction treatment admissions

Whether your follow-up process consists of a series of phone calls or an email/SMS cadence, following up will help your rehab stay in the minds of your leads. A follow up in this regard does not need to go beyond 30 days as it could either mean they have admitted at another facility or have dismissed the idea of treatment (among other reasons). Which is why after 30 days, you let them cool off.


Tip: Map out your cadence of follow up channels and timelines on a sheet of paper and monitor how it performs.



2.   Develop a long-term reminder cadence


By developing a cadence for long-term reminders, you’ll be able to follow up monthly with qualified leads that did not admit for at least 6 months. We refer back to the reason that making treatment decisions is hard and requires a lot of willpower. We have seen plenty of instances where the first call came in a year, and in some cases even two years before an admission.

Having a long-term reminder cadence keeps you top of mind and ensures you’re so far ahead of your competitors that it becomes a no-brainer for the leads to remember your drug and alcohol rehab when they are hitting rockbottom.


To do this, you’ll need the email addresses of the callers who are qualified to come to your drug rehab. Make sure your admissions teams are trained accordingly to get the email addresses on the first call while taking consent for non-personalized and helpful electronic communications.


The way this works is, after a caller has been followed up with (as we did in step 1), you gave them 5 months to cool off. Your electronic reminder cadence will now need to switch gears to show them new developments in your center.


Examples are the hiring of a new clinical director, using a new therapy, or addition of hours in individual therapies, etc. Providing them news about your center puts you back on their mind which is what you need. So don’t take the “reminder” part of the cadence literally. It’s meant to remind them about your center, not remind them to come into treatment.


Tip: The content of these electronic communications needs to be about your drug rehab. Not about the lead’s addiction or requiring them to seek treatment. Get in touch with us for some more ideas.


3.   Utilize Website Chat Widgets


If your website has chat function capabilities, use them with conviction. Ensure your team logs on during set times. If it doesn’t have the capability, add a chat widget to your site. These chat systems can be helpful in answering a potential admit’s questions efficiently and discreetly.


Chat systems can be an extremely lucrative avenue for collecting new leads, if they’re executed correctly. You see, a chat widget is a great way to anonymize a sensitive conversation while collecting basic information. In fact, we’ve found that many prospective admits and their loved ones prefer typing messages in a chat, when given the option between that and a live phone call. Those preferring this method find calls to be too rigid and official—having a chat widget takes away that rigidity and offers a way to get quick answers.  In a few surveys we ran with admits of our addiction treatment clients, we learned that people chose the chat option instead of calling because it was “less real”. Apparently, making the call officiates their search for treatment – something most of them are afraid of. They prefer to be anonymously and casually researching their options.


Other times, proxies like secretaries, referral partners, office administrators, billing providers, insurers etc are conducting preliminary research into a drug rehab. As part of that research, they prefer questions be answered quickly via chat so it’s easier for them to compile it into a dossier for presentation. Most of our executive rehab clients even send our PDF presentations over chat when they find out it’s the HR department of a corporation.


Chat systems do not have to be complicated for your staff either. By living as apps on the smartphones of your admissions team, chat widgets make it possible for your team to not be tied down to a computer in order to answer incoming messages. Or chat widgets can be powered by AI-driven chatbots—no staff labor required (just be careful while programming it so it says only what you want it to say with all sensitivities intact)


Whether your chat system is answered by humans or driven by AI, it’s sure to bring more qualified leads to your rehab.


4.   Cross-Promote Community Partners


By creating webinars or other content with community partners, you’ll be able to cross promote your rehab’s brand with theirs and vice-versa. This is a key strategy that many business development and outreach teams overlook but it’s such an easy channel for branding in addition to fostering referrals. Examples of great community partners to team up with include psychotherapists, interventionists, therapists, and marriage counsellors.


To start, we would recommend you pick five of your top referral partners and sit down with them to figure out what content can be developed and mutually beneficial for both of your organizations.


Promotion materials can be anything from providing talks to alumni, doing webinars, printing informational brochures, etc. Admittedly though, this is very hard to execute diligently. That’s because outreach teams have their own goals of booking insite meetings and getting referrals. It’s hard to get them to also open a conversation about cross-promotion with these referrers. But it has been done, so it’s definitely possible.


5.   Use Email Automation


Automated email has numerous advantages. Don’t worry, it nips privacy compliance issues in the bud if the emails aren’t segmented or personalized.


Often, form submissions are about 10-20% of a treatment center’s lead count. More importantly, form submitters conversion to admissions rates are lower compared to that of phone call leads. With the time we’ve spent in the industry, we have come to see that it’s because form submitters are often at the early stages of researching for treatment. And quite frankly, they are not so committed yet for treatment. This can’t be said for all form submitters of course.


This is precisely why you should leverage some basic automation so they do not slip through the cracks as they go deeper into their journey towards treatment.


Admissions teams see that form submissions may not be fully qualified, so they do not follow it up with priority. Automation like sending an email saying their submission made it to you are very welcome. Your competitors often don’t do this which leaves a prospect confused if their submission even made it. So just having that email confirmation gives the submitter peace of mind. And hey, if you include a phone number in there, they will call you if the admissions team takes too long.


Another great use case for email automation in rehab marketing is to send helpful content to form completers throughout their journey, whether they speak with admissions or not. A week into the form submission you could send content like FAQ about admissions, or how you’re different or what kind of therapies you utilize and why, etc. This content is your opportunity to bond with the person and educate them as they continue to look into treatment. Again, trick is to educate them about your addiction treatment center.


6.   Provide Detailed Info on Your Drug Rehab Website


To lower your cost per admit and serve as a helpful resource, you’ll want to provide as much detailed information on your website as possible. We get that generating phone calls are a drug rehab marketers key goal and using curiosity-invoking CTAs throughout your website gives you that. But in surveys, the most asked for thing after instant VOBs is instant information. Many callers have a deeply rooted frustration for not being able to find the information they need that led to them having to call. Their frustration is further exacerbated due to the fact that it’s a lot of textual fluff added to websites to rank higher in search. Did you know you could rank your drug rehab high on search results without having stuff entire pages with SEO optimized text?


As a standard, this information should be so detailed that a site visitor will need to call your admission department only for Verification of Benefits (VOB) and schedule an admission date, for example.

time it takes to research before making the first call

The timeline of rehab research plays is a big part in this. You see, treatment research begins long before the rehab selection process. The drug rehabs who get more admits out of leads are the ones who do not always require a phone call to provide clarity/in-depth info. Those who don’t want to read through will always see your phone number and just call anyway. So there’s no risk in providing as much information as possible. The best example we give about being detailed is providing 3D walking tours of your facilities as opposed to just showing a gallery of pictures. Or providing information about what happens after they decide they want to pick your center for treatment. Even before the 2020 COVID19 pandemic, many families prefered to not have to tour a facility and rather just come in on the admission date.


7.   Use a Retargeting Strategy


Did you know that making a decision to seek treatment is seldom made by one person? It literally takes a village. If it’s a family, then there’s family members involved. Friends come into the picture if there’s need for an intervention. All this often gets kickstarted in a physicians office. That’s multiple stakeholders to decide that one person has no other way out but to go to rehab.


When the decision is made for seeking treatment, at a specific center, you can bet a good handful of these stakeholders come to your website from various devices. And often, they know you by name so they run a search on a search engine, and visit your website. No, they don’t search for “drug rehabs near me” because they’re at the final stages of shortlists.


To really get everyone to speak in high praises about you and remembering your center over others, you’ll want to put a retargeting strategy  into place. Staggering your ads to your rehab website visitors over a period of time allows you to stay top of mind.  Not getting forgotten is critical to success. Especially in the world of addiction treatment; it’s not competitors you should worry about, it’s denial, it’s the time-to-admit, it’s the sheer overwhelm of many treatment providers. And the minute all this begins to set in, people throw the idea of rehab out the window.


Ads that show up every now and then will reinforce the message that treatment is going to save their life. Our proprietary Cascaded Retargeting strategy, for example, ensures your brand stays top of mind for up to 90 days! That’s up to 90 days for each device that visited your website!


8.   Call Up Old Leads from the Past Quarter


This is similar to following up with leads mentioned above. Instead of emails though, this is to pick up the phone and call the qualified leads from last quarter. These are leads that you have already paid for via marketing costs, but have gone dormant. They may have a little engagement on emails, but still a call to “catch up and see how things have been” are helpful.


We know centers who employ this strategy gain at least 1 new admit every couple months. Like recovery, seeking treatment is also a process, so catching up with them can help get things going again. Try it and see!


9.   Build a Strong Rehab Brand


Over the last 10 years or so, many businesses that utilize online marketing tactics got spoiled with something called attribution. Without going into details as that’s not the point of this post, it allows every leadership team to see what the ROI of a marketing channel has been. If they use Google Ads (previously known as Google Adwords), they can see that they may have received $10 back for every $1 used in Ad spend, for example.


We say spoiled because it’s led them to get blinded by the results seen by PPC. After all, it has otherwise been very hard to see how well a marketing medium/channel performs to help you achieve your bottomline goals. You see, attribution was a privilege, not a right. For a few years now, privacy concerns have been brewing which will come to a head in attribution going away back to the old times. The old times where you focused on bottomline metrics like MER and employed sound marketing strategies that might include one or more mediums.


But more importantly, while mediums like PPC and SEO are surely good mediums to utilize, they have had their flaws. Like, being over-reliant on a single platform, or pitting you up against your competitors driving up the cost per lead, etc. And in the treatment industry in particular, because multiple stakeholders are part of the treatment decision, often, PPC/SEO took the lion’s share of the credit for bringing in the phone call. For a deeper look into all this, check out our other article here.


So instead of relying on drug rehab ppc ads and seo alone, it is important to create a strong rehab brand that attracts prospective admits. Due to other factors like increase in competition, certifications required, privacy concerns, the cost per admit has been inching higher specifically for those centers who threw up their website on PPC. It works, but under the hood, it’s starting to rust. To combat this head on, develop solid branding and utilize content so that you’re on their minds before they’re even aware they have a problem.


Generate more brand awareness, develop affinity and leverage your referral partners for more community development.


Our formula for developing content for branding is to think about emotions a person (or their family) goes through during the early diagnostic part of addiction. Here are a few that have time and time again delivered for our clients:


  1. Doubt (Am I really addicted?)
  2. Denial (I’m drinking a bottle every night because of stress. I’m not addicted.)
  3. Confusion (Is he an alcoholic? But he goes to work at 8am every morning looking fresh!)


10.   Nurture Your Pipeline


You might be thinking “What pipeline? We don’t have one because we get calls, we either turn them into admissions or we don’t” And this goes back to the mentality attribution has developed. There is a false assumption that channels that provide attribution are the only reason for admissions. In reality, there is an extremely large chunk of potential admits who are eyeballing you from a far. Identifying them and nurturing them starts the process of getting them closer to treatment at your center.


It’s time to tackle your funnel from top to bottom. Decrease your rehab’s cost per acquisition up front by utilizing top-of-the-funnel targeting tactics, including video ads and display ads. These integrated marketing tactics keep the pool of prospects you’re nurturing fresh by generating new prospects.


An ideal integrated marketing strategy for drug rehabs includes these tactics that encompass the full sales funnel:


  • Video (other than Youtube)
  • Banner and display advertising
  • Native advertising
  • Google Ads (SEM – PPC)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Content strategy and development
  • Lead magnets and funnel development
  • Privacy-compliant email automation
  • Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)


By using these tactics wisely, you’re sure to gain the attention of even more prospective admits.

Lower Your Patient Acquisition Cost: Final Thoughts

And there you have it. Now, you’re equipped with the tools you need to lower your patient acquisition cost. To recap, you’ll want to:


  • Aim for the full journey
  • Follow up with new leads
  • Develop a reminder/cadence system
  • Utilize website chat widgets
  • Cross-promote community partners
  • Use email automation
  • Provide detailed info on your site
  • Use a cascaded retargeting strategy
  • Call up old leads from the past quarter
  • Build a strong rehab brand


With these tactics in place, your cost per admit should decrease over time, not go up—setting your drug rehab and potential patients up for success together. Get in touch with us if you need help putting these in motion!