One of the most accurate barometers in determining the competitive nature of an industry is by researching per click costs within relevant Google AdWords campaigns. And while I myself am not a big proponent of AdWords, it does paint an interesting picture in learning that keywords, like rehab, recovery and treatment, all rank within the top 20 nationwide, according to Wordstream.
Ours is a very unique industry, we essentially sell “hope” to those of whom are often desperate for it. Moreover, even those renowned facilities boasting extravagant 80 or even 90 percent success rates – a term most of us tend to scoff at – continue to flourish despite the corresponding 10 to 20 percent failure rate! In all seriousness, can you think of any other business model that can flourish while 10 to 20 percent of its clientele fail at that which the business claims to deliver? Would you take your car to this type of brake shop or your child to this type of pediatrician? Of course not. But the world of treatment offers complex variables which clearly set it apart from the rest.
We are a needs-based industry that has grown incredibly competitive on the web. Our audiences are smarter and more informed. They are often bombarded with non-stop buzz phrases and have to rifle through countless online directories and referral sites. Their loved one’s life is on the line and they are desperate to connect with that “one” sentence, testimonial, video, clinical explanation, breakthrough discovery, etc. prior to picking up the phone and speaking to yet another admission rep. Remember this, sometimes it is better to give them what they want or need before telling them what they should do or have, and even more so when dealing with such deeply personal matters as addiction.
If you are among the few so fortunate out there struggling with a shortage in private-pay bed space, you’re obviously hitting the mark in terms of branding, exposure and business development in general. For all those however, that are less fortunate or less interested in the throw-and-see-what-sticks approach and prefer utilizing practical and effective methods, allow me to share some of my own personal insights…
• INSURANCE: I realize this falls outside the scope of web development, but it’s a necessary highlight given the changing landscape. The ACA brought about nearly 10 million additional subscribers nationwide, all of which have the newly mandated mental health coverage. The fact is this, fewer people are doing generic web searches for treatment and instead are calling the member support number on the back of their insurance cards. We all know the pains and limitations associated with accepting health insurance, but be aware that going exclusively after the private-pay demographic means greater complexity today than ever before. So what’s my point? My point is, if your focus remains entirely on private-pay and/or out-of-network PPO, you must increase your game all the way around, from online appearance and branding, to referral avenues, ad appearances, business development reps and so on.
• WEB PRESENCE: This is everything! Sure, online ads, SEO, social media, directory listings, etc. are important, but their effect is dramatically diluted if your website and landing pages are not to par. Over the 6 years I’ve been doing this, I cannot once remember someone telling me they would call an intake line without first perusing the company site, regardless of where the initial click or referral originated from. Your website must be responsive and mobile friendly, load at least relatively fast on both PC and mobile, and utilize proven design methodologies. It should incorporate the latest in coding and best practices in SEO, rich snippets and other various technical nuances. It absolutely must balance the elements of design and content in a way that connects with the viewer’s emotions and conveys a realistic message of hope and impending success. It should, in essence, balance all of these critical elements as a cohesive and effective selling tool.
• PEACE-OF-MIND: Your website should absolutely highlight affiliations and credentials. Most people have never heard of CARF, NAADAC, NIDA, NAATP and so on, but their presence on your site merits instant credibility. For instance, does anyone out there know what 4G LTE really stands for? I personally have no clue, and frankly, I don’t care. But, I do know with 100% certainty that it will solve my prior mobile misfortunes and I’m more than willing pay extra for it!
• TESTIMONIALS: I’m a natural skeptic when it comes to web testimonials, especially while displayed on the very website of that which has a vested interest in your business. If you’re going to display testimonials be sure they carry added credibility by including first and last name (or at least last initial), city and state of residence, photo (if at all possible) and anything else that further personalizes it. Equally important, be sure to include testimonials from different angles, i.e., the ex-client, the once crying and now overjoyed mother, the contracted treatment professional endorsing your program, and maybe even an attorney whose client was magically spared jail time due to your program’s expertise.
• IDENTIFY & CONNECT: How many times have you heard someone say, “If you or a loved one are struggling with blah blah blah…?” It’s generic and overused, and while it might work for renowned facilities that can hang their hats on time-tested branding, lines like that typically do not bolster the creation of new brands while in this highly competitive field. Be fresh, identify with the viewer’s pain and quickly capture their hope; and do it above the fold! Try something like, “We understand the pain and what we offer is a uniquely effective doorway into a life beyond it.” Or how about something like, “This can be the very last time you ever find yourself searching for treatment that works.”
• UNBIASED GUIDANCE: This is a big one! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve spoken to frustrated loved ones needing guidance through the cluster of generic content out there. They click on a site and yet again, it too is nothing more than recovery jargon and a toll free number with a stock image of a female customer service rep. I understand the importance of funnel sites and contracting with referral services and so on, but also try going the route of adding clarity through practical and inviting insight. Give the viewer information that is less focused on impressive speech, for instance, and based more on providing primary and practical information…and do your best to keep it client-centered and unbiased. For instance, I once created a brief test video that never actually got used, it was mainly just as a quick example of one type of educational approach to an old client of mine. The sound quality is embarrassing to say the least, and the video itself is comprised of nothing more than cheesy still images, but the concept is relatively unique. The video attempts to briefly educate the viewer on some important questions to ask admission reps, questions that most lay people would not know to ask: http://youtu.be/-yX47E1Q7yM. Taking this approach immediately positions you as an authority in a unique sense, especially when done so without self-promotion throughout each talking point. And again, please pardon the sound quality and imagery.
• ONLINE CHAT: If you’re going to use an online chat feature be sure it translates well across all devices and that it doesn’t affect the layout integrity on mobile devices, especially when viewing vertically.
• CALL TO ACTION: Once again, use fresh call-to-action statements that embody empathy, insight, hope and triumph. Be original and effective, because yours is likely one of many sites they’re looking at.
• PRIMARY NAVIGATION: Be specific and use your top navigation bar effectively. You only have a few clicks in which to grab their interests, so maybe stay away from using your top nav bar as an SEO content tool and focus more on what the viewer needs to see in order to pick up that phone. The reality is this, if they’re looking at your site, it’s a fair guess that things aren’t going so well in their lives. Connect with their pain using a hopeful undertone, and which immediately then lifts them into a newfound clarity that compels them to pick up the phone.
• LOCAL LISTINGS: Any web marketing firm worth a **** knows the value of optimizing your local business listings on Google Plus, and Bing as well but more so Google. Google has leveled the playing field by allotting more real estate to local business listings, and this can mean top of page one rankings. You absolutely must optimize for local search, that is, in addition to organic SEO.
• REFERRALS: This doesn’t initially have much to do with your web presence, however, anyone you approach as a potential referral source will need to be impressed by your site’s appearance. If I’m a criminal defense attorney and am considering referring a client to your facility as a means of avoiding possible jail time, you better believe I’ll be perusing your site inside and out prior to suggesting this course to my client. I would even suggest having dedicated pages for these professionals in order to outline why your center is an optimal solution for their client.
Keep in mind that everything I’ve discussed above is but a brief overview; there is much more that can be said on a number of fronts. When it comes down to it, your overall web presence is of paramount importance. Always stay on top of it and ensure you have checks and balances in place.
Two final things: One, never, ever, ever engage in “blackhat” marketing tactics, basically cutting corners as a means for propelling your site’s positioning on search results. You WILL lose in the long run. Two, be very careful in who you choose to run your social media pages. Everything they post might as well be words coming out of yours or your facility representative’s mouths. You must always have some level of oversight and accountability on your company’s social pages. In fact, I recently learned of a treatment center who’s social media person – who also happens to be one of their night techs – relapsed and took the liberty of ranting all over their social profiles with unspeakable claims, including numerous HIPAA violations relating to current clients. How’s that for nightmarish?
My phone is always on and I basically have no social life, so please don’t hesitate to call or email with any questions whatsoever. With all that said, best wishes in your web endeavors and may we all continue fighting the good fight!
Originally from Denver, Colorado, and now living in Hollywood, Florida, Ron has been working in the field of web marketing within the behavioral health industry since 2009. Having worked his way to director of operations at Sober Nexus, LLC, he parted ways in 2012 to follow a passion that soon after materialized in the form of ATRI – Addiction Treatment Reviews & Information (www.addiction-rehab-reviews.org). In addition, Ron and his small staff also offer private web development & marketing designed typically for emerging facilities and services relating to addiction recovery. For questions or comments please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (954) 598-1430.