Behavioral Health Marketing: Helping Patients Access Help
Congratulations! You are providing much needed treatment for those struggling with behavioral health challenges, addiction and/or substance abuse. Mental health facilities are critically important for treating those with acute and chronic disorders . In the U.S Outpatient facilities made up a majority of the facilities available with 4,665 facilities in operation in 2018. Psychiatric hospitals were less prevalent across with just 692 facilities in total. With all of that competition you need to engage in behavioral health marketing for your business.
So how can your business stand out?
Traditional Approach to Behavioral Health Marketing
There are virtually no short-term marketing tactics in the addiction recovery and mental health world that aren’t being used by most competitors simultaneously. Most facilities follow the same approaches to behavioral health marketing and it all looks and feels pretty much the same. When one facility posts something on Facebook, everyone else tends to do the same thing, regardless of the success of that approach.
The majority of marketing in the behavioral health industry (and the healthcare industry, in general) is outdated, unfocused, and unspecialized, and often relies heavily on more traditional marketing efforts that businesses have been using for decades. A lot of facilities base their behavioral health marketing efforts on more traditional techniques such as relationship marketing or referrals. If your treatment facility is small, or brand new, then this can be a very effective marketing tool to get you started but it should never be your sole method of marketing in the long term.
This type of behavioral health marketing relies heavily on personal relationships with marketers and this can be unpredictable. If a marketer leaves your facility, often those relationships go with them and continuity of relationships can be difficult to maintain. This could make relationship-based marketing a less desirable option for the long term marketing of your facility. Diversification is key.
Are you saying the same things as your competition?
There is an excellent chance that you have heard most of your competitors say the following sentences (or something similar):
“We provide compassionate, expert care.”
“We provide free assessments.”
“We provide positive outcomes for our clients.”
“We offer individualized care for every client.”
“We have a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility.”
Ask yourself how often you’ve said those things about your own treatment program.
With that in mind, how can you start to differentiate yourself from the competition? In order to be different, you have to do things differently. This may mean taking some actions that go against the grain of what others in your industry are doing. You are leading the pack – not following.
How can you do behavioral health marketing differently?
If this has typically been your approach to behavioral health marketing it may be time to change tactics and go in a new direction. Why be a follower when you can be a leader? And you don’t have to do it alone – you can get advice from marketers who know the behavioral health industry and who have experience and success in less traditional marketing techniques.
Many companies believe that digital marketing is too costly, too confusing, or too time-consuming. Some companies may have tried to partner with technology companies before that left them with few tangible results and no longer believe in digital marketing as an alternative solution. I have encountered several who say “Google Ads/Facebook Ads just didn’t work for us”.
Unfortunately it can be difficult to distinguish between companies who make fantastic claims about the results that they can provide, and those that can deliver long term, successful and sustainable results in an honest and ethical way.
Digital Marketing Basics
Some of the most common digital marketing tactics you will find include the following:
- PPC – Pay Per Click Advertising
- Facebook/Instagram social media advertising
- SEO (Search engine optimization)
These are all short-term tactics that can be harnessed for a relatively low cost to drive client traffic for a short period of time. These can be optimized by a skilled marketer and are easier metrics to track than the results of traditional marketing activities. The barriers to entry into digital marketing are low but it becomes increasingly competitive when other businesses start to follow suit. This can be challenging when you are just starting out and don’t have a huge budget.
PPC is an internet advertising model used to drive traffic to websites where companies pay for ads on search engines and social networks when their particular ad is clicked on. Advertisers typically bid on keyword phrases relevant to their target market.
While it’s tempting to obsess over every fluctuation in your campaign, looking at the numbers week-by-week (with a bigger analysis each month) will keep campaign performance in perspective. Remember to stay patient and understand that your first year of PPC advertising is helping you set the benchmark for future performance. After that, you’ll have a better understanding of seasonal trends and other factors due to the historical data you can access.
A landing page is a separate one-page website optimized for conversions. By leading potential clients to a customized landing page you can often generate more conversions (such as phone calls or filled-out forms) than sending someone straight to your regular website where they can get lost or overwhelmed.
Consistent branding and a seamless experience can also be more positive for the client leading them to feel less frustrated with trying to find the right place to enter their information and helping them to access help faster. This reduces stress and helps create a sense of trust in your business.
It is always more important to stay focused on quality leads rather than volume. Success is often in the form of a smaller number of qualified clients that can potentially help you pay for your entire month’s PPC budget. If you keep a close eye on what you are spending (checking your data weekly, as PPC results can fluctuate) you can track the return on your investment. Often companies can be shown complex reports with big numbers that don’t make a lot of sense.
When it comes to what data is important these are the key things to focus on:
- Quality Score
- CPQL (Cost Per Qualified Lead)
- LQR (Lead Qualification Rate)
Don’t be concerned with:
- Cost Per Click
- Launching ads quickly
If your PPC campaign involves increasing the number of phone calls to your admissions team, you can use a software solution like Call Tracking Metrics to record all incoming calls linked to your campaign. This is easy to set up and involves using a dedicated phone number connected to your PPC ads.
When you’re just starting out with this type of PPC campaign, it’s a good idea to listen to every call recording yourself—or better yet, pick up the phone yourself to get an idea of the type of leads the campaign is generating.
PPC is one of the more expensive options for digital marketing and it is important to balance this with more cost-effective tactics.
Facebook Ads and Mental Health Marketing Prosperity SEO
Facebook & Instagram advertising
When digital marketing was just starting out social media was seen as an untapped resource for marketers, especially as the audience for platforms like Facebook and Instagram grew. It was fairly easy to manage this in-house and have someone writing the occasional post or putting up images of corporate events and community days. Over time marketers became more experienced with these platforms and the competition increased. Now these platforms are still extremely effective but require much more time and skill to manage with results.
PPC ads are usually triggered by relevant searches in search engines like Google or Bing. This is not the case with social media advertising. While social media takes a broader approach to advertising, the sheer size of those using the platform (2.41 billion) can be effective and reasonably priced. Facebook has the cheapest potential Cost per Admission of any short-term lead generation advertising platform.
While it is becoming easier to create custom audiences and target potential clients more effectively, you can sometimes get a random mix of people who are at different stages in the buying process. Generally speaking people are not necessarily looking for services immediately on Facebook, compared to searching on a search engine. As a result, you get a random mix of people who are ready for treatment now as well as people who might be ready at some point in the future.
This means that it is important to get a high volume of leads and follow up on them as soon as possible to determine their priority. Facebook/Instagram advertising can find you potential clients in different stages of their journey and allows you to follow up with them at different touch-points.
Facebook audiences generally prefer to complete forms than pick up the phone to call a business (90%). You will need to have a way to reach out to potential clients immediately (messaging or having someone at the company monitoring an email account) and allow no more than 5 minutes to pass before following up with them.
One of the best practices that we advise is to try 4 attempts to contact the potential lead by phone and hen 4 attempts by email or text message before you give up on each lead. Data shows that waiting more than 5 minutes to respond can drop your success rate by 90%. This is a surprising statistic, we know, but it shows the importance of being responsive on social media platforms.
Search engine optimization (SEO) and blogging are the slowest but most cost-effective way to generate leads for your business. These methods include creating content on your website and then optimizing it for maximum exposure on the internet. SEO takes time to gain momentum but once they are working they can be a great way to connect with clients who are looking for treatment immediately.
Typically it takes between 6-12 months before seeing a substantial return on your investment. There are many companies out there who will promise results in 30 days or less. These companies often engage in unethical practices that can actually put your website at risk of being penalized by Google and it can take a long time to recover from those penalties. Google rewards companies for investing time in quality services and content and changes algorithms frequently to try and maintain those standards.
When you are starting with SEO it can be easy to get distracted by metrics that don’t really matter. These include:
- #1 Rankings on Google. Search results on Google and other search engines vary person to person. Your search experience is customized based on your location, the device you’re using, and your previous search history—which may be very different to what your ideal client is seeing.
- Typical Industry Keywords: no two people’s searches are alike so there is no one-word fits all approach. Don’t worry exclusively about what your competitor is ranking for.
- Backlinks: It is more important to create valuable content that people actually want to read and share than worrying about getting backlinks from sites you may not even know. Buying backlinks is an even worse idea.
Working The System
Google and Bing are constantly revising their algorithms to make sure that people are not “working the system” and trying to circumvent things.
For example, in 2017 Google decided to ban Google Ads from addiction treatment providers out of concerns that advertisers were using deceptive practices to confuse or manipulate users. This decision was made by Google because the trust of users in their platform is key to their success as a business.
So, rather than doing what your competitors are doing, create blog content that will genuinely help people, rather than just blogging for the SEO boost. This will not only improve your search engine rankings but it will also provide value to your clients, and increase your brand trust among potential clients. Users want content that provides value and that they can trust.
Key Behavioral Health Marketing Metrics
So what metrics should you be looking at?
- Consistent content creation around keywords and topics that are already bringing in traffic
- Year-over-year monthly increase in overall traffic volume
- Volume of long-tail keywords in which you rank first
- Providing high-quality content and user experiences for people searching
There’s no point in trying to manipulate results or find shortcuts to success. The search engine industry responds best to quality, true-and-tried techniques that make it tough for businesses to compete without effort and discipline. These include:
- Traditional link building (linking to others and being linked back in return)
- Blog posts that are either under 500 words or more than 1,000 words and are high-quality
- Attention to detail in content creation – is your content unique and does it engage your potential customers.
Some ways to boost your SEO efforts include:
- Page load time on mobile (AMP) pages. This is an increasingly important factor for ranking since users are likely to discard your site if it takes too long to load.
- Social media following and interaction: a large number of people liking, sharing, and commenting on your content makes a big difference. It is also key to have people engage shortly after posting.
- Time of posting (are you reaching your audience at the right time)
- Posting content at a regular intervals
- Evaluating time on site and time on page: these metrics are used by Google to see how long someone stays on your site before clicking the Back button
- Adjusting your headlines for better CTR: Google has been known to prioritize sites based on their clickthrough rates
- Influencers : interesting media and interactive content on your website can get high-profile people engaged
- Rich media: Video is fast becoming the medium of choice. Make use of video, audio, ebooks, infographics, and other interactive content
Longer-term tactics can help stabilize business over a longer period of time, especially when combined with these quicker approaches, but they often aren’t effective until you have a steady cash flow or able to make a large initial investment.
Budgeting and Strategy
Marketing is not gambling. Just like a personal investment your behavioral health marketing budget will also differ based on what you are trying to achieve. You need to have goals and metrics to measure the achievement of those goals. Your goals will also be influenced by factors such as the age of your business, your tolerance of risk, if you are looking for a long term or a short term return on investment and how much you can invest at that particular time.
When you approach behavioral health marketing with a strategic plan you will have a good idea of the following:
- The length of time you are going to invest in the plan.
- Which channels you are going to invest in and what sort of risk they pose
- What metrics you are going to use to measure your successes.
- What constitutes as ROI and what that is going to look like.
This is absolutely not gambling – it is the smart, strategic and targeted use of your money.
As is the case with most investments, what you put in is what you get out. The higher your investment, the bigger your return, but the greater your risk of loss if things don’t work out. It is key to determine if you would like to have a smaller, safer long term investment, or a faster one with potentially higher returns in the immediate future but with more risk. You should ask yourself some important questions when laying out your strategy:
- What is a realistic time frame that you need to get a return on your initial investment by?
- How much can you afford to invest over that time frame?
- Will it take 1 month, 3 months, 6 months or 1 year to achieve your goals? Being realistic is also key. It is unlikely that, without spending a huge amount of money, your business will be ranked number 1 on Google search within 30 days.
- Are my clients looking for help now? In the immediate future? Much further in the future? This will also help you determine the most effective channels for reaching your target audience.
For many businesses that are just getting started it is often important to reach those seeking immediate help. These customers are more likely to respond to your ads immediately as they are much lower on the sales funnel scale. They are ready to buy and are not just browsing.
As your business grows you will be able to reach customers higher up on the funnel and create more brand awareness and name recognition. These are equally important customers if your business is to continue to grow and thrive. Either way you are dealing with real people with real needs who are coming to you at what is likely the lowest point in their lives, so it is important to connect with them at all stages.
Channels and Risk:
When you are trying to determine your behavioral health marketing budget it is important to consider how much risk your business can tolerate. PPC ads can end up competing with some large players in the industry. This means your bids are going to cost more and you will probably be spending a significant amount of money.
Can your website handle large amounts of traffic if your campaign is hugely successful? Is it fully optimized? Do you have compelling landing pages to convert a large amount of leads? Can your call center handle a large volume of calls? And most importantly, there are many factors such as ad type, copy, or even how the lead is handled once it reaches your business that you may spend all of that money and still not get the volume of clients you were looking for. Is that a risk your business is able to take? Remember that your potential reward is always proportionate to the risk involved.
Once you’ve figured out where your prospective clients fit you can start to figure out which tactics apply best to which groups. If your business desperately needs people who are seeking treatment right now you will want to use short-term, quick return tactics that may also be more expensive. If you are looking to create a steady pipeline, you may want to use longer-term tactics to help affirm and grow your brand.
Good short-term tactics include:
- Local business listings
- Call centers
- Marketers “boots on the ground”
Longer term tactics include:
- Facebook ads and other social media platforms
- Blogs/ Content creation
- Call centers
- Liaisons/ Marketers “boots on the ground”
- Public Relations
PPC and call centers can get you immediate returns on investment but they do little to promote your company’s brand. Alternatively, social media doesn’t always generate immediate returns but can do wonders for your company’s brand and reputation. Get customers first and then grow your brand. Ideally you would be able to do both at the same time.
Metrics for Success
Here’s a handy formula to see whether you’re paying too much for a particular tactic.
- The average marketing Cost Per Client* in a behavioral health treatment center ranges from 8-15% of the top-line revenue that the client pays you.
- Next, take your monthly PPC budget (or the budget of whichever channel you’re targeting) and divide it by the average number of admits you get in a given month to come up with a Cost Per Admit.
- Now divide your Cost Per Client by your Revenue Per Client: is that number above 15%? You’re probably in trouble. Is it below 14%? You are probably in OK shape.
It is important to find the perfect balance between investing enough to ensure that you are giving your strategy a fair chance but not spending too much to recover the costs. What is the ideal number of clients that you would like to bring in each month? Next, determine how much revenue that would generate for your business. An investment of 10% of that revenue is generally a good investment amount for investment and profitability. PPC and Facebook can be profitable in around 3 months while SEO and content creation can take up to 6 months or more to break even and begin showing ROI.
It is also imperative that you measure and track every step of your campaign such as:
- which copy is most effective
- which demographics to target
- what times of day your posts are most beneficial
- what channels are the most productive
- which key words are working the best.
- Do I have a compelling landing page.
- Can my call center convert the leads effectively?
- Does my business generally get good reviews?
There are many ways to track the success of each and every campaign and tweaks can easily be made along the way to ensure maximum success. Each component is critical to the success of your business and it is important that every step is working correctly in order to maximize your investment.
Example Of Weak Links In Your Behavioral Health Marketing Strategy
Here is an example of how things can go wrong if there are any weak areas in your behavioral health marketing campaign. Imagine that your PPC campaign is nicely optimized, targeting affordable but high-yield keywords and has correctly geo-targeted audiences. You are doing everything the way it is supposed to be done, right?
But what happens when a potential client sees the ad but finds the ad copy boring, uninspiring, or confusing? What happens if your landing page is too confusing or has too many fields to complete? Even though most of your campaign is strong, a single weak point is enough to stop a future client in their tracks.
Using PPC as an example here are some more things to watch out for when creating your campaign:
- Keywords: they are too broad. This can generate a lot of clicks but you could be targeting psychology students or someone looking for physical rehabilitation instead of substance abuse services.
- Targeting: you’re reaching the wrong audience with the wrong type of insurance that perhaps your business does not accept.
- Ads: you’re reaching the right people, but they aren’t clicking because the ad copy isn’t compelling
- Landing page: People have clicked on your ad but fail to call or give you their details as the forms could be too long, too confusing, or not compelling.
- Admissions: you’re getting leads and inquiries but very few real conversations. This could be due to a slow response time, lack of personnel in the admissions department or poor training of admissions staff to correctly close the lead.
- Social proof: Your leads are good, and people like your ads but when they search for your facility online they may find bad reviews or outdated information.
Google and LegitScript
in 2017, Google decided to begin cracking down on unethical, shady treatment businesses by blocking ads featuring keywords like “addiction,” “treatment,” and “rehab.” While this had the intended effect of shutting down traffic to unethical providers, it also dealt a blow to legitimate treatment programs, as well, effectively turning off the tap of leads from Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords).
Eventually, Google announced that it would allow treatment providers to advertise on their Ad platforms once more, but it would carefully vet each provider through an independent program called LegitScript, which would help prove that each business was playing by the rules.
Not long after, Microsoft’s search engine Bing also announced that it, too, would only allow LegitScript-certified businesses to purchase PPC ads on its platform.
So, today, LegitScript certification remains the gold standard for PPC advertising in the treatment industry. If you’ve been considering getting certified but haven’t done so yet, don’t wait. Start your application today—even if you’re unsure whether PPC advertising is a key part of your marketing strategy. Like CARF or Joint Commission accreditation, LegitScript certification is quickly becoming standard across all reputable treatment providers.
Yes, it’s true that some other digital advertising platforms don’t require LegitScript certification to run PPC ads, including LinkedIn, Quora, and more. But there’s no guarantee that these sites won’t also decide that LegitScript certification is a prerequisite for doing business soon.
If you answered yes to this question, congratulations, you’re already ahead of the game. But if you’ve been wavering about LegitScript due to the time commitment or cost, understand that not taking action today could cut off opportunities for growth in the future.
So What Do I Do Now?
As the person in charge of business development, marketing or just growing the practice or treatment facility you are ultimately accountable for whether or not the strategy works. The chances are that you aren’t an expert in every area we’ve discussed above (one person rarely is.)
Maybe you’re reasonably confident in your ability to target an audience or maybe someone on your marketing team loves writing blogs. Maybe you have the time to write some basic ad copy and run Facebook ads yourself. Alternatively, maybe you have already outsourced those responsibilities to others and just need to understand whether or not the ads are working or understand how to interpret the data you are receiving.
Some of this is fairly simple, but to ultimately give your campaigns the time and detail that they deserve can be a full time job in and of itself. Add to that the daily task of running a behavioral health marketing team, television ads, radio ads, conferences and exhibitions. It can all just be too much.
Getting The Help You Need
It can be a huge relief to decide to partner with a digital marketing expert who not only knows digital marketing, but who has experience in your industry and who has tried many different approaches and can save you time and money by not making the same mistakes as others have made. It is easy enough to get someone to write a blog for you, but do they know what has already been successful in your industry and what topics people tend to respond to? Do they know the market intimately?
Does the person posting on Facebook know why their posts are not getting clicks or why those clicks are not turning into leads? Are you getting regular reports on the effectiveness of what you are doing on social media? You may not be paying someone with actual money, but you are paying for it in time spent (or not spent) marketing in other ways. There is always a cost to what you are doing even if it seems like you are getting it for free.
Do any of these ring true for you:
- I wish I was better about posting on social media.
- I don’t understand the difference about posting on Facebook or posting an Instagram story
- I have a blog that is half written but I just can’t find the time to finish it.
- We are posting lots of things on social media but we don’t seem to get any leads from it.
- My competitors are always ranking higher than me in the Google Search Index
- I don’t understand fully what SEO is and how it can help my business.
If you can relate to any of these thoughts then it is time to give us a call. Prosperity SEO can meet you wherever you are in the digital marketing strategy process. Whether you are starting out, whether you need to grow your existing business, or whether you have tried to do your digital marketing yourself and have not had success. Don’t waste another minute missing our on the amazing returns you could be achieving with an effective strategy.