The Internet Never Got A Shutdown Order: You Don’t Need PPP, You Need PPC (and SEO)
The world turned upside down… That’s a good way to describe what’s happened in the era of the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses shut down for months, people sequestered in their homes with nowhere to go, jobs lost… It has all added up to challenges that people and companies in this country have never faced before. Yet, there’s been one hero in all of this: the internet. What you may not realize is that it’s the secret weapon your addiction treatment center can leverage effectively in these challenging times.
Let’s not sugarcoat it: the situation has been serious across the country. We also know that the coronavirus pandemic has hit detox and rehab centers especially hard. In the wake of states issuing shelter-in-place orders, as many as half of addiction treatment centers effectively halted their in-patient programs, relying instead on out-patient treatment and teleconsultations until restrictions are fully lifted.
The challenges go beyond the challenges of in-patient treatment. NA and AA peer accountability model meetings have been compromised as a result of the pandemic. At the time of this writing, no meetings are allowed, and this presents a significant problem for people in recovery. If you switch to telehealth, it removes the element of anonymity. Addiction treatment facilities are struggling with the question of whether or not a new model or technology is needed that offers anonymity.
With all of these pressing issues occurring, facility operators are understandably apprehensive about the future and what the new landscape is going to look like in the addiction treatment space.
The New Abnormal: The Landscape & The Hurdles
Perhaps the scariest aspect of the coronavirus pandemic isn’t the medical and financial consequences but rather the social consequences. These are indeed profound, and they will no doubt be studied long after the pandemic becomes a distant memory.
It’s important to keep in mind that this pandemic created a situation that no living person has ever experienced. The idea of tens of millions of people across the country quarantined in their homes for months on end with practically nowhere to go is unprecedented.
Month after month of total or near total isolation from other people is stressful in and of itself. Now, factor in the uncertainty about when the pandemic will be over along with fears about becoming infected and the loss of a job, or fears about losing it soon, and you have the perfect recipe for PTSD.
All in all, we have nothing to compare this quarantine experience with. And that means many healthcare facilities probably aren’t fully prepared for its consequences because they don’t necessarily know how to anticipate them.
In the addiction treatment industry, there is considerable anticipation of a wave of patients suffering addiction symptoms as a direct result of quarantine. Some of these people were already quite vulnerable before the pandemic and now circumstances simply made a bad situation worse. However, facilities are likely to see an entirely new type of patient: individuals with addiction problems due largely or perhaps even entirely to quarantine conditions.
This phenomenon raises some questions, such as:
- What will this type of patient feel about the concept of addiction treatment?
- How will this new type of patient be harder to convert?
- Will they be more likely to suffer “sticker shock” when it comes to fees?
- Do you have to do anything differently in order to reach them?
The picture is no less difficult for individuals who were dealing with addiction issues long before the pandemic struck. Even under the best of circumstances, successfully treating addiction can be extremely challenging. Now imagine these individuals presented with the unique stress associated with quarantine.
Addiction experts have been quick to remind us that the isolation of being shut in is an enormous trigger for relapse. For example, there’s the whole issue of the home environment itself. Under normal circumstances, people can separate themselves from an unstable home environment, at least for part of each day. But what happens during quarantine? People are essentially unable to get away from an unhealthy place. They have to live it 24/7. Clearly, that’s an invitation to relapse.
Even a relatively stable home environment can be upended by the pandemic’s effects. Consider the number of people left unemployed by businesses being shut down. As businesses open, not all of those jobs are coming back (at least not in the short run). It goes without saying that being unemployed is terribly stressful. Even more stressful is losing the health insurance that went along with that job. Now imagine being an individual struggling with addiction and having to worry about possibly losing a job and his or her health insurance.
The full impact of all of this has yet to be felt. How bad will the effects be? No one knows for sure. However, everyone in the addiction treatment space needs to recognize that the effects of quarantine will likely be felt long after COVID-19 fades from the headlines.
The damage done to a vulnerable population due to the effects of quarantine promises to be substantial. How greatly will the number of addiction cases surge in the coming months? That’s difficult to predict but it’s likely to be alarming. For example, a recent study estimates that up to 75,000 additional people in the United States could die from drug or alcohol misuse (as well as suicide) as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result of all of these circumstances, addiction treatment centers are faced with a number of questions. Namely:
- How should our facility proceed moving forward?
- Will we ever return to the level of admissions we had previously?
- Are we prepared to make whatever changes are necessary in a changed landscape?
How you answer these questions dictates whether your facility thrives in the coming months or simply survives.
Don’t Let Panic Guide Your Marketing Decisions
In a knee-jerk reaction, some businesses put their marketing programs into hibernation when the quarantine began. It wasn’t a hibernation that had been mandated by their respective states. It was entirely self-imposed.
Although it’s a natural instinct to attempt limiting the financial effects of being partially shut down, addiction treatment centers keeping a low marketing profile in this pandemic aren’t doing themselves any favors. Every time you reduce your marketing, you’re limiting your presence more and more. As marketers, Dreamscape Marketing can’t emphasize enough that becoming invisible is about the worst thing that can happen to any business. A reduced marketing plan invariably means diminished patient loyalty and fewer new patients.
There’s another factor to consider as well: just because you’re diminishing your marketing presence doesn’t mean all of your competitors will do the same. As the US struggles to reopen, this situation puts your facility at a distinct disadvantage.
The Government Isn’t Coming to Save You, But Your Digital Marketing Can
Regardless of where any of us land on the political spectrum, there’s one thing we all need to acknowledge:
Small businesses at this time are well and truly on their own.
The message for future company success is flashing in large neon letters: sink or swim. It’s that simple. Fortunately, the situation isn’t nearly as grim as it sounds. You aren’t left defenseless due to the pandemic. You have an incredibly powerful tool at your disposal: digital marketing.
When the pandemic hit, we watched as businesses locked their doors and busy city streets were suddenly empty. Sports, entertainment events were cancelled or postponed. Late-night comedians were forced to perform in their living rooms instead of network studios. Nothing was left unaffected. Well, almost nothing.
As we witnessed all of this disruption to daily routines, a strange thing happened. The internet was unscathed and served as a lifeline to people and companies alike. In the process, digital marketing emerged as a big winner. Blogs and landing pages continued to be written and posted, social media presence for businesses grew and things continued almost as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that nothing can stop digital marketing strategies from being effectively planned and successfully implemented. While many traditional marketing activities were curtailed or compromised by the shutdown, digital marketing continued without any interruption. It never missed a beat.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel Is Strong Digital Marketing
Gradually, the country will emerge from quarantine as it attempts to return to some sort of normal. However, the “great re-emergence” won’t be so great if your addiction treatment center isn’t prepared for it. Putting your digital marketing to sleep temporarily isn’t the answer, it’s part of the problem. Instead, you should rely on digital marketing to successfully reopen.
Remember that there could be flare-ups in the short term and or similar situations that disrupt the normal work environment down the road. If you have a solid marketing plan in place, you will be much better able to weather the unexpected.
The following factors constitute the new reality for addiction treatment centers:
- The strong potential for a shift in consumer priorities as things reopen. Will people feel comfortable coming back to your facility? How can you adapt to a changed mindset and make people more comfortable with the idea of coming to your facility for treatment?
- Telehealth, MAT and concierge services are taking on greater importance. How can you explain and promote them?
- There’s a need to shift to a subscription model to keep steady income and on demand.
PPC Action Steps You Can Take Right Now
The ad space at the top of the search engine results page on Google are the first things seen by web viewers. Pay Per Click, or PPC, increases the number of times your site is placed with these sponsored results. As you strive to get back on track, an invigorated addiction treatment center PPC campaign can be a logical step to take.
Pay per click (PPC) offers a way to help diversify your internet marketing. Businesses that engage in PPC will also appear more often in general search results. Dreamscape Marketing uses web traffic analytics to enhance your search results. We’ll ensure that your website appears in searches based on the most relevant keywords pertaining to mental health treatment.
With PPC, we always tell our clients that there’s a caveat involved. Dreamscape Marketing firmly believes that PPC should never be viewed as a stand-alone strategy. Instead, we think it’s best approached as a useful supplement… one helpful tool in a toolbox full of helpful tools that help you achieve the admission rates you desire.
SEO Action Steps You Can Take Right Now
These are obviously enormous challenges for any addiction treatment center. With digital marketing, however, there are extremely effective ways to address these factors:
Generate Fresh Website Content
Your blogs, for example, should discuss how you’re re-opening and what precautions you’re taking for your patients’ safety. You can publish blogs to explain new or changing aspects of treatment as a result of the pandemic. For example, you could discuss why virtual consultations can be an effective way for patients to adhere to social distancing while still getting the help they need.
New content is always necessary for your website. Both Google and web viewers expect you to provide it. If you scale back on marketing by reducing fresh content, you are effectively destroying your ability to communicate with your audience. If your trusted voice falls silent, you cease to be a source of up-to-date information for existing and prospective patients. There’s another consideration as well. By pulling back on new content, you will eventually jeopardize your Google ranking. Remember that Google wants to see new content on websites. Anxious web viewers want the same.
Aggressively Use Social Media
Social media is an excellent vehicle for informing and educating your audience about changes taking place as a direct result of the pandemic crisis. It is an excellent place to offer reassurance as well as promote emerging priorities like telehealth. It only makes sense to leverage the immediate access that social media offers to reach your audience with timely updates.
Much misinformation circulates during any crisis. Now, more than ever, it’s important that your audience gets accurate information about addiction treatment in the era of social distancing. As a trusted information source, you have the ability to ease their fears and keep them focused on the goal of addiction treatment.
Additional SEO Action Steps
Without question, it’s an excellent idea to also enhance a number of areas of your digital marketing strategy, including:
- Website redesign (when was the last time your website was redesigned?)
- Press releases (for important updates like facilities re-opening their in-patient programs, expanding services like MAT, changing operation hours, etc.)
- Infographics (an effective way to convey important messages about how the pandemic effects addiction & addiction treatment)
- eBooks (an opportunity to provide in-depth information about the new normal in addiction treatment with your audience)
All of these endeavors help make your facility more top of mind for your target audience.
This Too Shall Pass
As bad as things seem, it’s important to keep in mind that they will get better. Unfortunately, there is certain to be another wave or a series of spikes before we’re out of the woods (in the form of either a vaccine or effective treatment or both). Until that day arrives, it’s up to addiction treatment centers to leverage the greatest gift they could possibly have in this situation: digital marketing.
As we witnessed so clearly, the pandemic forced people to live more of their lives online than ever before. As a result, your addiction treatment center needs to do the best job possible to join them there with smart digital marketing that meets them on their own ground and speaks to the new normal they’re living.
When life slowly begins to return to something resembling normal, your intelligent use of digital marketing at this moment in time will determine how quickly your facility’s bottom line improves.
Remember that when an economic recovery comes, it doesn’t automatically guarantee your facility’s recovery as well. Coming out of a crisis, you want to hit the ground running, not struggle to regain lost ground (or catch up to competitors). Smart digital marketing strategies empower you to face the future with far greater confidence.