Last week, I had the privilege to attend our final ETHOS seminar in New Orleans. The event was part of our series of one-day educational workshops taking place across the country this year for addiction treatment providers.
I had never been to New Orleans before, so I was taken aback by the rather deceptive marketing that took place on the city’s tourist-heavy streets. Walking down Bourbon Street in New Orleans, several of our ETHOS presenters were also surprised by the “marketers” on the neon-lit sidewalks, promoting their restaurants or clubs. “Come in!” some of these promoters said. “We have triple-stack burgers and live music.”
One ETHOS presenter was walking down a section of Bourbon Street that was under construction. “There was a diversion and a sign that said ‘detour’,” he said. But after taking this detour, he found himself in the front lobby of a club – tricked into entering under false pretenses.
Our presenters compared these Bourbon Street tactics to ethical marketing in the addiction treatment industry. They asked our attendees: Is it ethical to mimic the flashy enticers other industries get away with? Are these types of messages an accurate representation of who you are? Our final ETHOS event of the year, held in New Orleans, answered these questions.
If a restaurant on Bourbon Street has signs outside advertising triple-stack burgers, they should sell burgers, our panel agreed. No one wants to be promised one thing, only to receive something else.
In other words, the best way to market anything is to accurately represent who you are. Panel member Ben Cort, founder of ATMO and owner of Cort Consulting, said this is especially true in the addiction and behavioral health industry.
Why do people market unethically? Well, while some individuals do this out of greed, the majority of facilities actually just don’t know enough about ethical marketing. Ben Cort said the solution is “to push back with education and mentorship.”
So just like restaurants on Bourbon Street should sell triple-stack burgers if they advertise triple-stack burgers, facilities should advertise clearly what they offer. Put simply: Don’t advertise your facility as something it isn’t.
It sounds easy enough to start a restaurant, hotel, or bar on Bourbon Street but just like starting any business, you need a strong foundation. This is even more important in the addiction treatment industry, according to Eric P. Yorlano, CEO and founder of Integrity Billing. Many facilities, he said, overlook insurance criteria and just look at state procedures.
To be successful, install billing expertise upfront and be aware of changes on insurance and billing. Make sure your staff is all on the same page to ensure you’re meeting the proper criteria.
Although the clubs and restaurants on Bourbon Street don’t operate in a way that requires empathy, it is one of the most important aspects of the business for those in the behavioral health industry. James Hadlock, marketing director at Acqua Recovery told us about a brand of listening that he calls “deep listening.” The practice requires us to:
“In most cases,” James said, “listening is more than enough.”
Just like the promoters on Bourbon Street, sometimes it’s easy to shout “I want to take you down this path! I want to tell you about our burgers and live music!” But James says it’s more important for individuals to discover the path for themselves. People seeking help don’t want to be talked at, they want to be heard.