Quick, what the hottest form of lead generation in the addiction treatment marketing space? Word of Mouth? Internet? TV? Social Media? E-mail? Pay Per Click Advertising? While I don’t have the exact answers for you and it is different for each treatment center and the one common method I keep hearing over and over again is REFERRALS.
Referrals come in many different forms and sizes. They can be word of mouth and Internet and all of the above, but they are referrals nonetheless. Remember back to your first few dates? The dates that were introductions were probably more successful than the picks up’s at the local watering hole, or for Jim Peake, I even picked up a gal on the New Jersey Turnpike Toll Plaza coming back from a weekend at the beach. (It did not work out for very long, that was 20 years ago). I think that because of the “accountability factor” and referred date tended to be a little more responsible.
And in the drug addiction treatment field it is no different than the dating arena, there are stakes involved, big stakes for both the referrer and the referee. So if the stakes in referrals are high why not learn from someone who wrote the book on it and pick up on the nuances so that we can get better at it? I read John Jantsch Duct Tape Marketing for Small Businesses a few years ago and he recently came out with The Referral Engine, Teaching Your Business to Market Itself.
I decided to investigate the book to see if there might be any possible fits in the treatment center arena and Jantsch did not disappoint. At the same time his advice is also relevant to my own consulting business in the treatment center space.
Referrals are the Life Blood of Treatment Centers
To quote John Jantsch in Chapter 1, “There is a tiny part of the brain, the hypothalamus, that – among other things – helps regulate sexual urges, thirst and hunger, maternal behavior, aggression, pleasure, and, to some degree your propensity to refer. The hypothalamus likes validation – it registers pleasure in doing good and being recognized for it, and it is home to the need to belong to something greater than ourselves. This is the social drive for making referrals.” Does this sound familiar?
In my time in working in the addiction treatment field I have noticed that the referrals practice is alive and well in recovery as it is in addiction. (Remember we all knew who had the good weed?) I am seeing referral everywhere for example; therapists referring to treatment centers, on ground marketers sending in leads to treatment centers, treatment centers referring to other treatment centers, Google referring PPC ads, Directories referring leads etc.
Referral leads tend to be much better qualified than cold leads coming in off Yellow Pages or the Internet or anywhere else for that matter. On a side note, if you take for example a keyword search on the phrase “drug rehab” which is searched on 1,138 times per day and “Georgia drug rehab” which is searched on 42 times per day which one do you think will refer and convert a higher quality Internet lead/person to the treatment center in Georgia? So even internet referral leads have different quality scores and admission rates and so too the warm hand off between individuals.
Referrals as a Form of Survival?
Like the keyword example above the same goes true in all the other facets in marketing to treatment centers. So if not all of these referral sources are created equal would it not make sense to treat them differently so that we can obtain the optimal results from each? That is what this Referral Engine book is all about, putting referral systems in place. It is about taking referrals and systematizing them so that the maximum results are gained. With that said, there are time and money resources that are involved in making these referrals easy for the referrers, the easier they are the more we will get.
Why do we do referrals? What are the referrers looking for? In some cases some people want nothing other than a warm thank you. In other cases they have a strong desire to help people especially the ones with the addiction. They want a sense of community, a sense of belonging. Others want money which opens up an ethical can of worms. “Some people just make referrals because they need to and others refer as a form of survival. “ (Page 4)
What?! Holy Toledo! Referrals as a form of survival? Really? I don’t believe it, or I can’t believe it but I continued to read on. Jantsch does seem to support this pretty well throughout the book. He also says that “we refer to connect with other people and to build our own form of social currency.” That seems pretty straight forward and logical and I can get my head around that.
What systems do “we” have in place to manage addiction treatment referrals?
Jantsch did an informal survey with several thousand small businesses and found that 63.4% of them got their business through referrals! Wow, this number goes back to my instinct in the beginning of the article that referrals were big in the treatment business but this is the small business sector. (Slightly different) I would think that the addiction treatment business the 63.4% number is probably much higher just because of the nature of the business and most of us are small businesses to boot.
What was even a bigger glaring statistic (page 11) that 79.9% of the small businesses “readily admitted they had no system of any kind to generate referrals.” I’ve got to admit, that I too don’t have a “system” either for my consulting business. I don’t get my leads from SEO or the internet; I get them from word of mouth. So I too have warm hand off’s from the referrer to client and myself.
So I too need to take some of John’s advice and put my referral systems in place. While The Referral Engine is not a unique book in its topic, it is up-to-date (2010) and can serve as a perfect blueprint for helping treatment centers manage our referrals and improving the lives of many addicts.
Thanks for the kind words Shawn, sure there is more information but we just have to sit still and write it to express it. 😉
I have a question, Jim. Do centers buy referral traffic on the web? Can they buy leads?
If you consider Google “referral traffic” then the answer is yes. Can centers buy leads? The answer is yes, however there are not many places selling “qualified leads” in the addiction treatment center space as there are in the weight loss space or the for profit education space in my experience.