Why ATCs Use PPC
High growth in year-over-year Pay-Per-Click (PPC) costs has caught Addiction Treatment Centers (ATCs) off guard, yet most of these facilities are still willing to bite the bullet on these all-important ad spends.
That’s primarily to keep their beds full, and there’s certainly compelling data underpinning that reasoning. According to LegitScript, 86% of addiction treatment seekers use Google before picking up the phone and inquiring for more information.
PPC also makes sense considering that the majority of Google search queries lead to clicks on one of the first three sponsored results and that 57.5% of people do not even recognize that content as paid advertising.
And with Google deriving around 90% of its revenue from ads, rest assured that the king of search has a strong incentive to keep tipping the scales in favor of you, the ad buyer, over a competitor who doesn’t pay the bills.
As long as your ad copy closely matches a user’s search terms, the Google algorithm will continue to reward your ATC with prime positioning.
Reasons for Skepticism About PPC
We asked industry leaders within our network about their initial hesitancy with PPC, and distilled the following insights:
- They fear the largest industry players will lavishly splurge on PPC to stay on top.
- They’ve been burnt in the past by a PPC “specialist” whose advice caused their Cost-Per-Admission (CPA) to soar.
- They’ve lacked the means for accurately calculating CPA.
That last concern – how to determine your CPA – is a complex issue we cover in greater depth here. In short, that metric is based on a wide range of factors, and the name of the game is efficiency to keep ad spending under control.
If you do have a set formula for measuring CPA but are still unconvinced about the necessity of advertising on Google and Microsoft (formerly Bing Ads), you’re probably thinking:
“Why would I invest in something that drives a higher CPA when my referrals are practically free, my Business Development team kicks butt, and I see my SEO generates many calls at a beautiful price?”
Kudos if you’re at that level. Most don’t make it that far! But even if you’re part of that privileged minority and have a strong census now, you can’t expect that thriving customer landscape to last forever.
And even beyond keeping the beds full, Google Ads provide at least 7 additional major benefits for your ATC – both today and down the road.
#1 A More Efficient Admissions Team
Every Admissions team prefers to work exclusively with verification of benefits (VOB) qualified leads. Indeed, at some ATCs, the true “sales stage” of the process only kicks in following verification of a prospect’s benefits.
Some ATCs, however, have opted for a numbers game.
This often includes using a third-party-affiliated Pay-Per-Call (PPCall) system that attracts a large volume of low-intent prospects while also creating uncertainty among your investors, who will want assurances that your client pipeline is reliable.
Under a PPCall system, Admissions teams often end up squandering their valuable time on vast quantities of non-VOP-qualified leads. In fact, the inefficiency is so extreme that some centers I’ve spoken to tolerate one admit for every 300 calls received.
And when your Admissions team isn’t speaking to enough qualified leads, symptoms of demotivation start to seep in, performance drops, and attrition goes up.
Rather, the commercial intent behind a search query means your reps are handling calls from potential clients who are proactively seeking solutions that your center can offer them, pushing up call quality and higher lead-to-admit rates.
A well-structured PPC campaign also leads to a better Lead-to-VOB rate, which will benefit you in at least these 4 ways:
- A more motivated admissions team eager to sell your service offering
- A big improvement in close rates, particularly among your top performers
- Lower attrition rates and fewer resources spent on hiring additional or replacement admissions reps and training them
- Frees up your reps’ time, allowing them to spend more time on their pipeline and other revenue-generating activities.
#2 Increased Company Valuation
Think of your PPC as the solid rock foundation of your marketing and customer acquisition framework.
With a carefully crafted PPC campaign in place, your ATC will be able to calm the concerns of current and potential investors if the census drops and assure them that your business isn’t vulnerable to the shifting sands of third-party uncertainty and volatility.
Investors want consistency. PPC offers them that relative to other channels like referrals or SEO, whose VOB-lead-generating effectiveness is more susceptible to a black swan event or Google’s next algorithm shift. They would therefore rather pay more for a facility with full census than go bargain-hunting for one with mostly empty beds.
A multichannel marketing approach also provides an additional benefit to would-be investors: a recognized brand. Otherwise, they would have to devote another large chunk of resources to brand-building after spending millions of dollars purchasing a center.
Ultimately, the enhanced stability and brand recognition that PPC offers will increase your company’s valuation vis-a-vis other ATCs.
#3 Insurance-Based Targeting
Imagine running a facility in which your entire census had PPO policy coverage. Sounds ideal, right? Of course, all facilities would like to receive the highest reimbursement rate. But whether you’re in-network or out-of-network, you should have absolute clarity on the clients you prefer to admit.
The challenge HIPAA presents is that clients’ medical records and contact information are shielded from disclosure to third parties (including insurers and healthcare providers) without those individuals’ expressed consent.
That’s where PPC can be a game-changer.
Google Ads are highly effective as a lead-generating tool, with people searching for terms like “rehab with Aetna,” or “ATCs that accept Blue Cross” every hour of every day. Every. Single. Day.
And there are many other ways you can attract or deter certain audiences that indicate commercial from state insurances, such as the settings and messaging, thereby generating higher quality leads relative to other channels.
#4 Census Acceleration
As a general rule of thumb, ATCs are unprofitable until their census exceeds a 60% threshold.
That means if you’re entertaining the idea of opening a facility – or are in the process of doing so – you may spend some time in the red while revving up your inbound lead generation process.
But if you opt for PPC right off the bat, the story is very different because results are nearly instantaneous once you’ve set the formula in motion.
As long as you’re crystal clear on your ideal patient profile, you can hit the ground running and generate admissions almost immediately.
#5 Out-of-State Reach
For inpatient and residential programs in saturated states like California, New Jersey, or Florida, intense local competition can lead to untenable CPA rates for even the biggest players.
Likewise, a “high-end” facility in a less-populated area (e.g. Hawaii) will struggle to achieve sufficient census by leaning on a purely local campaign.
And while it is possible to generate out-of-state leads with SEO, you’ll have less control over where your inbound calls are coming from vis-a-vis a PPC approach. With Google Ads, for example, you can precisely target your preferred audience by selecting the state, city, and zip code you want your ads to appear in.
This is great news because although some potential clients will prefer a facility close to home, there are always going to be VOB-qualified leads who are completely sold on your facility – and your facility alone – and ready to fly out at a moment’s notice.
Of course, before opting to expand your marketing geographically, you will need to consider whether your admissions team is prepared to fly in clients from out of state. Be sure that your team is following a checklist to keep track of new clients at all times to ensure their safe transportation and that they stay motivated to start their (literal) journey to recovery.
A PPC-driven out-of-state strategy also will allow you to bring in new clients who have a higher chance of completing your addiction treatment program and can serve as a great source of referrals.
On average, these individuals have a greater sense of purpose about being at your facility because of the sacrifice that traveling to another state entails.
Their chance of success also is generally enhanced by their distance from home because they can separate themselves from different factors in their habitual environment – bad influences, external pressures, etc. – that may have contributed to their addiction problems.
#6 Brand Protection
Chances are you’re reading this article because you’re now focused on growing your center.
In that regard, it’s important to realize that your growth in terms of clients and revenue also means enhanced brand recognition and a presence on the radar of other centers, who will in turn start bidding on your brand name in an attempt to “steal” your admits.
Pretty sneaky, huh?
They do this as a low-cost strategy for intercepting prospective clients who otherwise likely would have landed at your facility.
Fortunately, Google’s quality score takes this into account and makes the cost of using your brand name more expensive for your competitors than it is for you.
The key thing to realize is that when you bid on your own brand name as part of your paid search strategy, you deter your rivals from using this tactic. You’re also inexpensively steering those potential admits to your website, thus achieving CPAs in the low $100s.
#7 Spending Flexibility
While exclusively relying on SEO or referrals and rejecting Pay-Per-Click altogether is penny-wise, pound-foolish, it’s important to know that strategically reducing PPC spending is a viable option at certain times, especially when you’re approaching full census or starting to build a waitlist.
Many so-called PPC “specialists” typically won’t promote that flexibility, propagating the myth that Google’s algorithm will castigate major – or even minor – fluctuations in ad spend by negatively impacting your lead-generation performance.
That’s simply not the case. In fact, Google expects you to make changes and will not punish you for doing so.
Why aren’t these PPC “specialists” telling you this? It’s simple. The more you spend, the bigger your paycheck.
The ability to cut back on PPC spending is a key advantage of this marketing channel relative to SEO, which you must continuously invest in or else risk being swamped by your competitors.
When it comes to PPC, the best approach is to adopt a two-tiered strategy.
With your Tier 1 campaign, you’ll categorize these on the searches that provide you with the most optimal CPA.
But then you’ll also simultaneously run a Tier 2 campaign left on standby. In this instance, you’ll tolerate a slightly higher CPA but only use it when the census is below target.
You’ll then only raise spending within that tier when the necessity arises – for example, in months like July or December when ATCs typically experience a dip in admissions.
Toning down your PPC ad spend more than what PPC “specialists” advocate is a smart way to gain control over your conversions (in this case, numbers of calls), while at the same time more accurately forecasting your month-over-month CPA.
There’s no denying that PPC is pricey. But you also have to weigh the cost of not making use of this all-important lead-generation channel. Considering the wide spectrum of benefits it provides – lead quality, sales efficiency, brand-name ownership, and many more – it really becomes a matter of how you make use of this powerful tool.