The Buyer's Journey for Rehab Marketing: A Long, Strange Trip

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You’ll hear a lot about the “buyer’s journey” if you talk to folks in marketing today.

You’ll hear things like “this list isn’t ready for that email campaign yet—they’re still in the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey” or “your leads are getting stuck at the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey,” or we “need more content that focuses on the awareness phase of the buyer’s journey.”

OK. But what is this mystical journey that your leads are going on?

No, seriously, what’s the The Buyer’s Journey?

Glad you asked.

The buyer’s journey is the model modern marketers use for the decision-making process that turns your leads into patients.

The buyer’s journey is laid out in three phases: awareness, consideration, and decision. Let’s look at what each of these phases mean in terms of marketing for addiction services.

Awareness: The Lead Expresses Emotions About a Problem

In this phase, the lead becomes aware of the way a problem is affecting their life. They usually express this awareness in terms of symptoms or negative feelings.

In the addiction world, leads in the awareness phase might say:

“I’m scared that my spouse threatened to leave me.”
“I’ve had it—my son’s drinking makes me so angry!”  
“My buddy is right; this isn’t fun anymore. What changed?”

Leads are having negative feelings about what’s happening but they don’t have the words to fully describe the problem yet.

Leads in the awareness phase are mostly interested in general content about what’s happening to them. They’re into quizzes about whether or not they (or their loved ones) have a problem, information about at-home drug testing, and blog posts about the side effects of different drugs. They're likely to click on useful content about legal, family, or workplace problems stemming from addiction.

In short, leads in the awareness phase want content that helps them refine their understanding of their situation and address the symptoms or negative feelings they’re experiencing.

Delivering this kind of content to leads in the awareness phase gives you a golden opportunity to nurture your relationship with a lead as they transition into consideration of solutions to their problem. Today, they want to talk about symptoms but tomorrow—when they’re ready to start thinking in terms of problems and solutions—you’re right there, walking along with them on this journey. If you’ve delivered reliable content to leads in the awareness phase, you have already positioned yourself as a trusted buddy.

Consideration: The Lead Investigates Possible Solutions

This is the phase when the lead fully understands the problem, identifies with the problem, and begins to research possible solutions.

Your leads in the consideration phase might say:

“I need to get clean to save my marriage.”
“My son is an alcoholic.”
“I guess I have a problem.”

At this point, your rehab leads might:

  • Meet with a clergyperson

  • Meet with their doctor

  • Call a drug and alcohol abuse hotline

  • Google “how does NA work”

  • Consult an astrologer

  • Ask their friends what they should do

  • Look up nearby treatment centers on their phone  

They’re gathering information about possible types of solutions. Notice that your lead hasn’t even determined if professional treatment is actually the right solution to their problem yet. They’re considering whether their friends, their place of worship, or community-based programs might be the solution. Heck, they might be considering the military, a nunnery, or Antarctica for all we know! I've seen addicts try all three. 

Your job here as a marketer is to give your lead information about why your solution category is the best one for them.

Leads in the consideration phase can be nurtured with blog posts about why treatment can be safer than going it alone, emails about why residential treatment works better than self-help programs, and articles about how professional treatment can be the cheapest option in the long run. I also like articles on the pitfalls of the "geographical cure" for the consideration phase.

When they’ve settled on the category of solution that makes the most sense for them, you leads can graduate to the decision phase.   

Decision: The Lead Chooses a Solution

Finally, your leads have made it to the decision phase! They know what solution category is right for them and all they need to do now is choose a service within this category.

In other words, they want treatment. But which one?

Now—and only now!—your leads are ready to hear all about YOU in particular.

Hit them with everything you’ve got at this point: the story of your brand, features of your center, qualifications of your staff, alumni testimonials, staff-to-patient ratio, and outcomes reports. They want to know all about it.

Notice how there is no point in bombarding them with this information in the awareness or the consideration phase? Awareness or consideration phase leads don’t even know if they want to do treatment yet. So why would they care about your treatment methodology or the nice new equine therapy place you just partnered with?

Save the “me, me, me” talk for your leads in the decision phase. Bothering awareness and consideration leads with decision phase information will do nothing for your conversion rate. In fact, all that me-talk might even harm your brand new relationship with your lead.

Leads in the decision phase are interested in what sets you apart from other treatment centers or providers. Don’t be shy about highlighting the benefits your leads will get from your center that they won’t get from the other guy.

The decision phase is all about comparing one option against the next, so make sure you come out on top.

More Life, Less Transaction

The buyer’s journey is more than just a framework we can use to map what is going on in our lead’s mind as they move through the sales funnel.

It’s a game-changing way of looking at admissions.

Rather than looking at an admit as a singular event, the buyer’s journey model encourages us to look at admissions as an epic human story with a beginning, middle, and end.  

When you think about it, the buyer’s journey makes a lot of sense. It’s a more holistic way of looking at the life lived around the transaction.

And that’s what we want, right? More life and less transaction.

Understanding the journey your leads are on means that you can develop content for each of the phases of their journey. Timely content that speaks to your leads where they’re at helps you deepen your relationships with leads and nudge them down the yellow brick road towards conversion.

The deeper the relationships, the better the conversion rate—your customers get better content, you get better customers.

You know, I say “win-win” a lot when I’m talking about inbound marketing but I’m going to say it again. The Buyer’s Journey model is a killer win-win that benefits leads, patients, and marketers. It’s tough not to get excited about something like that.

So, here’s to more life and less transaction in our personal and professional lives. Spend some time with the buyer’s journey and I guarantee you will learn more about your service, discover new things about your leads and find new marketing possibilities hiding in plain sight.

It’s a trip.  

Bon Voyage!

Erin Gilday