20 Sep 2016 Research

What Consumers Want: Top 5 Tips for Engaging Your Target Audience Online

Ruchi Dhami
Ruchi Dhami
Director of Market Insights & Development

Do you remember that kind of absurd Mel Gibson movie where he somehow gains the power to hear women’s thoughts, and he uses that skill to get Helen Hunt to fall in love with him? Classic early aughts rom-com, for sure. You may not remember the subplot of the movie (okay, if we’re being real, you may not even remember the major plot of this movie either), but Mel Gibson’s character is in advertising and he uses his newfound knowledge of the female psyche to create a resonant marketing campaign for women’s athleticwear. While I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I remember all of these details of the movie from memory — that department store scene is iconic — there’s a really important lesson to be learned from good ol’ Mel about market research.

We may not be able to read people’s minds (and even if we could, Mel really teetered the line of ethical behavior in business), but what we can do is leverage market research to target our audience — and beautifully. There are a ton of advantages to truly understanding your potential consumer. First and foremost, if your campaign messaging or your website content are of no interest to your consumer, are they actually going to take the time to read, process, and engage with that information? If I had to guess, I’d say, probably not. Now, if you really ask yourself the hard questions, and look at your own facility’s website, do you know if the information you’ve presented there is relevant and interesting to your audience? Do you know exactly what your consumers want?

It might be overwhelming to thinking about, and sometimes it’s easier to go with the tried-and-true of what you already have. But if you’re looking for insights into your audience, these are the top 5 things your consumers truly care about — and, luckily, you don’t have to get electrocuted by a hair dryer to find out.

  1. Money over everything, money on my mind

    The first thing people want to know about when they are a looking for treatment, whether for themselves or a loved one, is how much a facility costs. It’s no secret that addiction treatment can be incredibly expensive, and we know all too well that sometimes insurance doesn’t help as much as we need it to. Add that to the fact that cost is the number one barrier to entry, and you’ve got one, big, dark cloud looming over those seeking treatment.

    In a recent study we conducted on marketing content preferences, we found that 81.4% of individuals actively seeking treatment believe that knowing if financial support is available is important to making their decision. Additionally, 74.6% of the same individuals want to know the cost for treatment before they make their decision.

    What’s really crazy here is that financial information is the number one thing people want to know about, but probably the single hardest thing to find online when it comes to addiction treatment. This factoid probably isn’t surprising to you either. There are a lot of reasons why treatment centers may not disclose this information on their websites. Many facilities may offer sliding payment scales or scholarships, which make the individual’s’ actual payment variable. Facilities that accept insurance may want to protect themselves from liability if a patient ends up paying more due to issues with their coverage. Different clients have different treatment needs, which can result in different payments that need to be made. To the consumer, there’s nothing worse than being told that the service they’re investing in will cost “this much,” only to be billed for something much higher. If trust plays as big a role in recovery as we know to be true, then this scenario has the potential to unravel all of the hard work and progress an individual has made on that journey.

    So, what do you do with this information? If it feels like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place when a consumer inquires about the financials, these tips can help you navigate these murky waters:

    (a) Consult your legal team. They can help you craft messaging that will protect you from liability while revealing as much information as you can. They can also help you get some disclaimer language on your site, like encouraging site visitors to check their benefits with their insurance provider before committing to treatment.

    (b) List out all of the factual information that you can. Are you in-network with Cigna? Do you accept Medicaid? Do you allow prospective clients to apply for scholarships to cover treatment-related costs? These are important pieces of information that can help an individual narrow down their treatment options.

    (c) Be transparent. You know that saying, “honesty is the best policy”? It’s important all the time, but particularly when it comes to the massive investment individuals make at the crux of a life-or-death decision. If your facility is super luxe and comes with a designer price tag, let it be known so there are no surprises — for your patients, or for you — down the road.

  2. The voice of the people

    Reviews have never been more important: 74% of consumers read somewhere between two to ten online reviews before trusting a business. And with millennials running the show in the next few years, this number is only going to increase.

    When researching treatment options, your consumers want to get insights from others who’ve been in their shoes.

    The fact of the matter is that people want to know insider information about any sort of investment they make, whether that’s a new cell phone, booking a hotel, or finding a treatment center for a substance use disorder. Think about it this way: this whole piece is about getting the inside scoop on your consumers so you can tailor your marketing to their preferences. Analogous to this, when researching treatment options, your consumers want to get insights from others who’ve been in their shoes — this helps them to tailor their expectations and their recovery journey. Simply put, reviews help your consumers make informed decisions, and that’s increasingly important to them.

    Want to know more about consumer reviews? Read this.

  3. Who cares for you?

    There’s a reason that “who” precedes “what,” “where,” and “why,” and that’s particularly true when an individual’s life is in another’s hands. People are at the center of one’s recovery journey and can have an enormous impact on those who are struggling. For those seeking treatment, information on a facility’s staff is incredibly important.

    In the same study as above, staff experience in the industry was considered important by 76.3% of respondents, and having a clear understanding of the staff training requirements were considered important by 74.6% of respondents.

    So, what does this mean for your online presence? Including things such as staff biographies, photos, and educational content written by your staff, and highlighting the expertise and qualifications of those you employ can go a long way. While there are certainly protections you want to consider to maintain your staff’s privacy, showcasing the people at your treatment center can humanize your brand and reveal all of the wonderful things your facility specializes in and has to offer. This information can help your consumers connect with you on a personal level, making them feel comfortable with your center even before they walk through the door.

  4. Make me an offer I can’t refuse

    While counseling and therapy are incredibly important to those in treatment, the recovery journey is much more robust than that. For individuals in residential treatment, spending all of their time day in and day out in the same place, facility offerings are significant. An individual seeking treatment wants to know things like: Where am I going to be sleeping? What am I going to be eating? What will I do during my downtime? Will I even get downtime? What will my life look like for the next 30-90 days?

    This information can be communicated in a multitude of ways, and depending on how many offerings you have, you may want to consider sharing these details in a mixed method. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

    (a) Pictures are worth a thousand words. Share professional-looking photos of your facility so your audience where they will live, where they will interact with others, and where they can find peace.

    (b) Videos also help tell your story. Take your site visitors on a video tour of your facility to give them the ultimate inside look into your center. Remember to be mindful of HIPAA when you post pictures and videos, though!

    (c) Write some content — and share it! Do you have a really amazing equine therapy program? Write a blog post about the benefits of this type of therapy for the road to recovery.

    (d) Better yet, have your alumni write content for you. An unbiased review or testimonial can be your strongest marketing tool; as we saw in point #2 above, people are craving this information. Highlighting a review that praises the delicious food at your treatment center, for example, can go a long way.

  5. The policy police

    In alignment with understanding what the day-to-day will look like, your prospective clients want to know what the limits and policies are at residential treatment centers. This impacts what their lives will look like while they are in treatment; it’s important for your consumer to know this information to picture themselves at your facility. Your audience wants to know if they’ll have access to television or the Internet while they are living at your center, or if they’ll be allowed to smoke. They want to know if their loved ones can visit them, and when. And most importantly, they want to make sure that their privacy and confidentiality is respected throughout the process.

    To this end, a well-crafted page on your facility’s website can really do the trick. List out some of the broad strokes of what’s permissible at your treatment center (e.g. “smoking is allowed in designated outdoor spaces, “televisions are available in each bedroom”, etc.) and go over your privacy statement. A note from your founder or someone from the executive level can hit the nail on the head too, making the whole message seem more personal.

What tactics and strategies have helped you understand and engage with your target audience? Tell us in the comments below.

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