How to overcome stigma in your rehab marketing and build trust with potential patients

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It can be hard to talk about mental health and addiction, especially for those struggling with these issues.

But the stakes of not reaching those struggling are higher than ever. Close to 20% of all American adults reported living with a mental illness in 2019. Since COVID-19, now 41% of people report struggling with mental health and substance use and misuse. And a study by the NIH found that 55.2% of people living with a mental illness never receive treatment.

The statistics are clear: mental illnesses and substance use disorders are huge problems, but the stigma around mental health can make people not want to seek help.

This poses a unique challenge for rehab marketers. You have to use the right marketing tactics to make sure word gets out to people needing your help. But you also have to approach your marketing techniques with empathy and confidentiality to show potential patients they can trust you with their care.

In rehab marketing, you aren’t just selling a product. You’re also promoting a new lease on life. To reach potential patients, you need a marketing strategy that resonates on a human level and builds trust.

Address patients’ common concerns with blog posts

With the stigma surrounding mental health, many prospective patients are reluctant to speak to others about the challenges they’re going through. Blog posts are a great way to recognize these pain points. By reading your content, potential and current patients can privately see that your service understands their concerns.

Writing this content is only half the battle. You also have to build a distribution strategy that will help get the content in front of the right audience.

Write blog posts around patients’ pain points


Blogs aren’t a place to blatantly promote your services. Your blog’s main focus should be on providing valuable information that builds trust in your organization. Offering helpful information in your blog posts helps generate organic website traffic and builds trust with your audience.

Examples of potential blog topics might be resources for family members of those needing treatment or objections to seeking treatment. Posts like these help break down the barriers to treatment and show that you are empathetic to your patients’ concerns.

To ensure that your articles are helpful and valuable, jot down an objective for each post. For example, “This post will help patients acknowledge their addiction,” or “This post will equip loved ones to have a conversation with someone needing treatment.”

Once you have a clear objective, make sure the information you provide in your article fully answers that objective — not only addressing it but also providing clear steps on how to achieve it.

By offering useful, actionable information, your blog posts will help you build readers’ trust in your service and connect with potential patients.

Boost your blog visibility with SEO

Google Analytics

As you write your blog articles, you need to make sure you optimize the content for search so it gets in front of your patients.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a strategy to help make your website and blog content more visible in search engine results for people searching with keywords related to the topics you’re writing on. To make sure your blog is getting read, you’ll want to focus on SEO to encourage first-page rankings. A study by Backlinko found that only 0.78% of people searching on Google ever clicked a link on the second page.

Search engines deliver results based on algorithms that consider several factors. One ranking element is the placement of keywords in content. You can use programs like Google Ads to make a list of common keywords your potential patients are searching for and include them in your posts. Or you can use software like CallRail’s Call Highlights, which generates a list of frequently used keywords based on phone-call transcripts with potential patients.

As another source of keywords or phrases, think about what questions are often asked about a specific mental illness or substance use disorder. Research specific links of what's already written near the top of search results, and identify if they’re missing any crucial information. Could you fill in the gaps with future content? Is there more to add to the discussion? By covering a topic fully, and by answering frequently asked questions, you're working to become an authority on the subject while building trust with your audience and search engines. This is hugely important for SEO.

It’s not just building the list of keywords and stuffing them into your articles that generate search ranking, though. Where you put the keywords in the article matters, too. Target keywords need to be in titles or in subtitles in addition to the body copy to rank well.

SEO can take some practice to get right. Thankfully, the internet is full of guides to help you use this content strategy, like our own Quick Start to SEO.

Connect with future and past patients on social media


If you want to build trust with potential patients, they need to feel like you understand them and see that you’ve helped others just like them.

Social media is a great platform for this social proof dynamic — using the referrals and success stories of others to build trust in your product. It’s a tried-and-true marketing technique that has powerful results. According to a study by Bright Local, 76% of buyers trust customer reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family.

Use social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to share success stories from past patients and repost positive reviews. These real-person endorsements can increase conversions by as much as 34%. Still, you also need to be careful to protect patients’ privacy. For example, if you have a great testimonial from a past patient, you could make an image with the testimonial on it and attribute the quote to just “Lisa N.” for anonymity.

If you have outspoken past patients who have already posted publicly about their experiences, consider reaching out to see if they would be comfortable doing a video interview. It can really help build trust to hear from real program participants. Whichever method you choose to go with, patient confidentiality and privacy have to remain your top concern.

You can also use social media to learn from past patients to continually improve your offerings. Consider starting an alumni Facebook group to stay in touch with your graduates.

The power of the Facebook group serves several purposes: First, it gives you a sounding board to learn from past experiences. You can post in the group to get feedback on which programs residents found especially impactful or to survey which ad campaign most inspired patients to join your program, for example. Second, you can also use alumni organic discussions to keep tabs on what kinds of resources graduates are looking for once their treatment is over. All this information can be used to inform your future marketing efforts.

Finally, a Facebook alumni group allows you to see the positive outcomes of your program and continue providing support where it’s needed. Continued support is key to setting your patients up for long-term success, and successful patients are more likely to encourage others to seek treatment.

Consistently connect with email marketing campaigns

Trust is built over time. That means it will likely take not just one interaction but a series of positive interactions with your company for a potential patient to trust you with their care. The beauty of email is you can easily schedule a campaign to consistently deliver positive, encouraging, and valuable content right to a potential patient’s inbox.

Reach out to potential patients


It often takes five marketing emails to reach a prospect. But in rehab marketing, the stakes for reaching prospects are about so much more than making a sale.

Develop email campaigns that consistently deliver relevant, relatable, and encouraging information to potential patients. Always include a dedicated form or phone number in these emails so that making the huge step to seek help is as easy as possible.

Collecting prospective patients’ emails can be tricky. Rehab marketing isn’t straightforward — the information-gathering and buying cycle of the audience is varied, and expressing interest in rehab services holds a very different weight than just registering to receive a regular email newsletter.

To garner leads in a compassionate way, you might offer free tours for potential patients and their families and require an email address to reserve a space. You could also set up landing pages through your social media accounts and websites that ask visitors for an email address to receive a PDF booklet about your services. Finally, if your blog is delivering valuable information, you can begin leaving an opt-in link at the end of your articles so readers can be alerted by email when there are new posts.

Once you have your email list, it’s time to set up targeted campaigns that keep your program top of mind. You can create different lists based on factors, such as how they reached out to you or whether the information is for them or a loved one. Dividing your lists by these specifics is a way to build personalized campaigns relevant to each group’s interests and needs.

For example, you may have a list of “Friends of ..." made up of loved ones of those struggling with their mental health or seeking treatment. The targeted emails for this group would be on topics like how to support someone going through rehab, warning signs of relapse, and tools to encourage someone to seek help.

Building an email marketing campaign may seem intimidating, but there are many free or low-cost email marketing programs that make the process very user-friendly.

Stay connected to alumni


Email isn’t just a great way to attract new patients. It’s also a way to continue offering support to former patients. Add those patients to an alumni email newsletter to keep them involved in the organization, offer continued support, and help generate referrals.

With an alumni newsletter, you’re helping past patients work toward recovery. American Addiction Centers cites getting recovered patients involved in a long-term support community as one element of rehab success. Having an open forum that encourages alumni involvement and discussion helps keep alumni accountable and connected to others who share their struggles.

While your potential patient newsletter may have links to relevant blog posts about seeking treatment, overcoming stigma, and paying for rehab, focus your alumni newsletter on continuing support resources. For example, you might share a listing of the names of local post-rehab support groups and the days and times they meet, post continual links and invites to the alumni Facebook community, or share helpful articles that focus on next steps after rehab.

Keeping up with your alumni shows them that your support doesn’t stop once payment is complete. Recovery is a long-term commitment both for the patient and your organization. Remain involved to ensure your patients stay happy and healthy. Healthy alumni are your strongest allies in spreading the word to other potential patients.

Walk the talk with offline community involvement


There’s no doubt that the internet has changed the landscape of rehab marketing. But sometimes, there’s no substitution for real, honest, face-to-face human connection to build brand awareness in your community.

Don’t just say you care about patients. Show it. You may choose to sponsor local drug and mental health recovery events, speak at local conferences, or donate to halfway houses and local rehab support groups. Consider networking with local teen programs, giving presentations at local high schools and colleges, and looking for partnership opportunities with community counselors.

Staying visible in your community is about more than building a good reputation. It reminds potential patients that you’re around and gives them another opportunity to connect with your program.

Reach more patients by tracking rehab marketing

Once you implement these marketing tips, track your campaign’s results to see which tactics resonate with your potential patients.

To carefully monitor this information, consider using a lead-focused marketing and analytics platform, like CallRail. CallRail has a collection of tools to help you gauge how your marketing efforts are working.

Ready to help more patients today? Check out CallRail’s offerings with our 14-day free trial.