The New Marketing Strategy for Drug and Alcohol Treatment

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“You know what these addiction treatment conferences have become? Marketers marketing to marketers.” Dr. Kevin McCauley 

Over the last ten years the marketing strategy for drug and alcohol treatment facilities across the nation has changed.  Once upon a time (ten years ago), marketers for drug and alcohol treatment facilities were segregated.  Primary treatment facilities like the Betty Ford Center and the Hazeldon Treatment Centers had their marketing strategy and residential/extended care addiction treatment facilities had their marketing strategy.  The primary centers would market to the public, to doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists and the extended care facilities would market to primary centers.  It used to be a nice arrangement.  Extended care facilities and residential treatment facilities were able to gain the confidence of primary facilities and the primary facilities would refer to the extended care residential treatment facilities when their clients needed more treatment after the 30 days of primary treatment.  Everyone was happy.  But, over the years the climate has changed.  Most Extended Care Residential Addiction Treatment facilities offer primary treatment, or at least almost everything that primary treatment used to offer or offers, and the old 30 day primary facilities all have residential extended care treatment.  This left all the residential extended care facilities with no one to refer to them anymore.   Why would a primary facility like Betty Ford or Hazeldon refer their clients to an extended care facility when they had their own?

So, the extended care residential addiction treatment facilities were left scrambling for the crumbs and the few primary 30 day treatment facilities left in the Country without extended care treatment were bombarded with marketers from the extended care facilities begging them to send their clients to their particular extended care facility.  This continues to happen to this day.

Another thing that happened was that the addiction treatment conventions and conferences began to fill up with treatment facilities all marketing to each other.  It used to be a good thing, but today what has happened is that these conferences and conventions are filled with marketers marketing to each other.

I have been involved in marketing since the early days of Sober Living By The Sea, back when no one really knew who they were and credit Dr. Kevin McCauley for coming to the realization one day in our weekly marketing meeting at SLBTS that all the conventions and conferences we were attending were filled with marketers marketing to marketers and none of them could actually refer to each other.  The conferences and conventions became a bunch of sharks in a fish tank with no fish.  Unfortunately, this continues to happen.   These days, every treatment facility essentially does the same thing as every other treatment facility with the exception of minor differences and creativities in programming.  The old primary treatment facilities who have not had to rely on other treatment facilities to drive their businesses have long experience in the kind of marketing that extended care facilities now have to learn how to do.

It’s a new world out there for marketers marketing extended care/residential treatment facilities.  They can no longer rely on each other to generate business, yet many of them continue to convince treatment facilities that the old model still works and that all their marketing connections at other treatment facilities will help them get business.  That fact is that it’s just not possible.  Again the ultimate question is – why would one treatment facility refer to another when they both do essentially the same thing?

Extended care/residential treatment facilities need to seriously reexamine their marketing strategies and realize that the days of marketing to other treatment facilities is dead and buried.  The effort it takes to get the few little crumbs one treatment facility might be able to offer another just isn’t worth it anymore.  Unless the extended care/residential treatment facility has something truly unique  to offer other extended care treatment facilities (like a college program, wink, wink) then it is truly a useless practice to market to marketers from other treatment facilities, and soon, every treatment program will have college programs too, and that last avenue will be dead as well.

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