Rethinking Your Digital Marketing

Recovery Unscripted banner image for episode 33

Episode #33 | August 16, 2017

Featured Guest: Brian Q. Davis

Today’s guest is Brian Q. Davis, Senior Vice President of the Scorpion healthcare marketing organization. Brian sat down with me at the Innovations in Behavioral Healthcare conference in Nashville to describe how his team helps addiction treatment centers reach more people through smarter digital marketing. He also explains why it’s so important to create a positive user experience with your website and to understand and learn from the real-time results of each campaign.

Podcast Transcript

David Condos: Hi guys, welcome to this episode of Recovery Unscripted, a podcast powered by Foundations Recovery Network. I’m David Condos and today’s guest is Brian Q. Davis, Senior Vice President of Scorpion Healthcare.

Brian sat down with me at the Innovations in Behavioral Healthcare conference in Nashville to describe how his team helps addiction treatment centers reach more people through smarter digital marketing. He shares some tips for getting yourself in front of the right prospective patients online and explains why it’s so important to understand and learn from the real-time results of each campaign. All right, here’s Brian.

I’m here with Brian Q. Davis. Thanks for being with us, Brian.

Brian Q. Davis: Thank you, I really appreciate the opportunity. This is a great event you guys have going here and I’m really enjoying to be here so far.

David: Awesome. So, let’s start off by having you tell us about your journey to becoming a marketer and being where you are today.

Brian: Oh wow. I had a long career in actually a completely different world in aerospace and defense technology for about a decade. Working on helicopters and missiles and bombers, and people that make parts for those kinds of planes, that was the world I lived in for a decade.

Then, I had a friend of mine who was — This is the best, about eight years ago, a friend of mine that was working for an internet marketing company said, “Come on man, the internet, it’s marketing, it’s blowing up.” And, I said, “Man, I don’t know anything about marketing and the internet.” He said, “No, I need your help.” So, “Okay, let’s go check it out”.

Sure enough, it was the right time and the transition there had gone from applying technology in a manufacturing setting to actually applying technology in a marketing setting. In that, the marketing had become so technology-driven as a result of the internet. It was no longer just good enough to be creative, it was about how do you manage all of the technology, apply it the right ways, understand where to deploy it strategically and to deliver results.

And then, there’s all this, all kinds of technology as there is today that creates a fairly confusing marketplace for those that are trying to really get results. That’s where organizations like ours, that’s where I’ve always found niches, trying to take lots of complexity and make it simpler and then try to figure out where it can be applied to help executive deliver results for their organizations.

David: That’s really interesting. You saw some overlap between aerospace technology and internet marketing technology, that’s awesome.

Brian: Even in the healthcare we’re marketing so that was the other jump there, was in the healthcare and there’s still so much opportunity for this technology to be applied in ways that really can hopefully shorten these time between people needing help and people getting help.

That’s really something that’s a core part of Scorpion’s philosophy and really one of the reasons we get up every day, is that we know that and specifically in the healthcare world, that if we do our jobs really well, there’s a good chance that we do help a patient. Or the family members of a patient access and find the care that they need just a little bit quicker.

And, if they do that, that can be the difference in somebody’s outcome. So, that’s where it really is something we think about all the time. And we have the stories and we hear from people about not just, “Yes, campaign did well”, but, “Did we actually get more people to these service that could help them?” And that’s pretty inspiring.

David: Could we back up a little, and for anyone who’s not familiar could you tell us about what Scorpion does and about your role there?

Brian: Yes. Scorpion’s a comprehensive digital marketing organization that focuses in a couple of primary verticals. Legal industry, we’re a pioneer in the legal industry back 17 years ago and helping attorneys use the web to attract their ideal types of clients.

Very shortly after we launched that we noticed that healthcare organizations all said the same challenge of, “How do I attract my ideal type of patient in a moment of uncertainty?” Healthcare services, legal services both have a commonality, in that they are both things you don’t think about until you need them. It’s not the kind of thing we shop for all the time.

So, when I do look for it, there’s a good chance I’m at a heightened level of uncertainty. There’s some kind of catalyst or some type of thing that has created a situation where I am taking action and in that moment I’m taking action but I’m very uncertain. So engineering a process to get my services in front of that person. And then, deliver an experience that lets them incrementally reduce their uncertainty to the point where they are willing to take action, is really what the whole equation is about.

We brought all our services into a more of a man-in-service approach, so as opposed to buying technology and building this, and designing this and hiring four different companies. It’s really about how do we bring this all together and so we can manage the entire equation. Within Scorpion, I run the healthcare organization.

David: Okay, cool. You gave a presentation, just now- this morning at the conference titled Attracting Patients Online in Their Time of Need. First, I know you touched on this a little bit, but could you give us an overview of the online marketplace in this field right now as you see it?

Brian: Yes, sure. In terms of the marketplace itself, many organizations may not realize this but the addiction treatment world online is in relative terms one of the most competitive. It is right up there with personal injury attorneys, insurance, so the more competitive it gets the more players are going to be there, and it’s going to drive up competition, drive up prices.

Then, the question becomes rather them try to have a brute-force approach where I’m just going to try to buy as much as I can really having an intentional strategy that brings together all the different parts of the equation. So, it’s not just search engine marketing or just SCO, or just social or just video. It’s how do all those things work in consult and deliver result.

One of the things our clients have talked about is before working with Scorpion, when things went well, they never knew why they went well. When they went badly, they didn’t know why they went badly. And, they were never able to replicate results. So, part of the approach is to have really good data that we can then use to improve the campaigns over time and improve the overall strategy over time. If you don’t have really clean data, you’re never going to be able to get there. So, that’s part of our approach as well.

David: As you mentioned, timing is a big part of effectively reaching people who are in need within this industry, that’s the goal. What are some things that companies can do to be more present online in the right ways so they can be a step ahead, ready and waiting when people seek help?

Brian: There’s kind of three main things that you need to make sure they’re covered. Number one is that you are intentionally making sure that your brand or facilities or capabilities are being broadcast on the web. There’s 400 million searches for addiction-related terms on Google every year. That’s over a million people a day in the country that are looking for things related to what you do. That’s a massive cry for help, is what that is. If you’re not broadcasting to those folks, then you’re doing them a disservice.

David: And, we all know the statistics about how many people have addiction who aren’t getting help they need.

Brian: Exactly. So yes, you’ve got to make sure to check that box. You got to make sure that you do have a strategy, it is intentional. Pay-per-click advertising is a great channel, that’s people putting their hand up and saying I’m looking for help. Be in front of them.

Number two, video channels, we all use video. Every one of us when we’re looking for any new product, there’s certainly something we’re not familiar with. The first thing any of us do is go look on Youtube for that product, right? Video is a medium that’s visceral, it gives us a lot of information in a short amount of time, and it reduces our uncertainty. We feel much more confident when we see other people– When I see three or more people use it, “Oh, okay I’m in now.” It hedges our bet.

It’s the same thing is true here. Millions of people are looking for addiction-related information on Youtube and there’s not only an opportunity to provide content there and be the producer of educational information, but also use that as a channel to broadcast your brand and your capabilities.

The third part is then social networks and that’s where it’s all about going where the attention is. The attention of the American public is online, on social networks, period. So, make sure that you have a strategy there too. So, those three areas if you have something there is better than nothing. And then, once you got something there then it’s a matter of then how efficient can we be with that investment.

David: Could you tell us a little bit about what goes into formulating a strategy within those three areas that you just mentioned like for a specific client, what would be the first thing you do to approach that?

Brian: It always starts from the outside in. Two components, one is who is the ideal person that we can help. Let’s make sure that we have a real clear picture in our mind of who that is. Because then once we’ve defined that we can understand where their attention might be because then that’s where we want to go. We want to go where that person’s attention is likely to be.

Then, we want to look at– Operationally what is the volume that we’re trying to generate. It’s about making sure that you are marketing things that you can actually– If you attract the attention you can actually execute on. Because, attract attention, you can’t execute is like advertising for the competition so you’d be better off not to do it.

David: So, what makes one strategy, one mix, right for one client as opposed to another client even if they are in the same industry?

Brian: That goes back to differentiation and who their clients might be. One of the things that’s probably challenging for many organizations in the addiction treatment industry right now is that there is a lot of commonality between a lot of centers. One of the things we see, is that when consumers or patients or their families are looking, is that they look a lot when they’re looking online. That indicates that there is some confusion. Think about it if I see the same thing 10 different places, it looks the same, doesn’t inform my decision if any.

I don’t have anything to pivot off of in terms of what will help me make a decision. That’s why we’re really behooves addiction treatment organization to differentiate themselves, not only do that with marketing but they may need to do that with services. Again, if you look like everybody else then there’s nothing that differentiates you, maybe other than your price or your location.

For organizations that want to grow, they’re going to need to look at what services or what experience could be used to differentiate their center versus others in terms of one organization versus another. That’s really where you start though. Is like, “What are the competitive differentiators in one? And then, let’s make sure that we’re using a strategy that highlights those things and takes maximum advantage of what are the differentiators of this organization versus others.

David: As you mentioned you did a presentation today and that was a joint presentation with Emily Babbitt from Google, correct?

Brian: That’s correct.

David: When companies can have a relationship with Google, what are some things that a search engine can help them do that these companies just wouldn’t be able to do on their own?

Brian: If you look at Google as not just a search engine but an aggregator of data and specifically consumer data, they know more about the way humans behave on the internet than just about anybody. So, that’s where folks like Emily and the team there at Google can provide tremendous insight into the way things are changing. And believe me, they’re changing all the time and that’s the challenges.

This is not– You can’t get it right one time and hope it’s going to stay, it’s going to change. But then, the other component and for organization like ours we have a strategic relationship with Google. They have amazing technology, all things you can do. But then, really how do you apply the technology is where organizations like ours come into play. When they roll out new technology, we have special relationships with their development teams.

We’re able to gain access to certain things sooner and start looking at ways that that might apply. So that, we’re trying to always keep our clients a little bit ahead of the curve.

David: Just from what I’ve heard Google can be a little secretive about the stuff that they’re doing. But even just to get as much tiny bit of insight as you can to try to prepare is really valuable right?

Brian: Yes, absolutely, make no mistake – Google’s playing chess not checkers. They’re always about five moves ahead of what’s going on, again it is part of it because they have so much insight into the way people are behaving on the web. But at the end of the day, Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information but also deliver the most relevant answer whenever it’s asked a question.

Because consumer behaviors are changing and we’re now more on our phones than we were on our desktops and we’re now getting into where we search with our voice. There’s all these other things that are coming in. At 12 months from now, it’ll be different. The speed of change is accelerating exponentially.

Where we have a relationship is a lot of times, they’ll say, “Okay, well here’s where we are maybe a move or two ahead, let’s look at where some of this technology might apply on some of your clients. And see if that may give them an advantage as well.” That’s where we have it, we have a great relationship for those folks, then other platforms as well.

We’ve got a whole new set of platforms now with snapchat and Instagram blowing up and Facebook has got its own things. Again, there’s going to be a new one in two years, it is always changing. But it always goes back to your ideal patient, where is their attention? Go where their attention is. And so, it’s less about one platform to another, it’s where their attention is that’s what determines where you need to be.

David: As you mentioned a lot of this has to do with pay-per-click paid advertising which similar to how we were saying the data can seem really overwhelming. I think that world is just something that a lot of people don’t know about; they may be reluctant to venture in there. What are some of the pitfalls that you see related to that and then some of the benefits that that make it worth it?

Brian: A lot of the pitfalls can be that you could theoretically burn a lot of money and not get a lot of results if you don’t know what you’re doing. A couple of the Foundation’s conferences I’ve heard people say, “Well, we don’t do that because it’s really expensive.” What’s expensive is letting the patients that could have found you not find you. But, some of the things that you should expect is you should be able to make an investment and have real time data. We make an investment on E-trade and we see our investments.

You should expect the same thing in this world as well. You should also expect that they are actively looking to improve the economics of the campaign over time. The only way you’re able to do that is to actually be able to say not just how much traffic did we generate that’s meaningless. Anybody can generate traffic and not how many clicks. It’s how many phone calls or form submissions or leads, people that actually took action. And that’s part one but really what we want to optimize against is okay of those who became admissions.

And then, of those who provide the most economic benefit that might be worth optimizing against as well. If you can get it all the way down to their end, truly close the loop that’s where you can start to get more and more economic efficiency out of your campaigns.

David: You do that by tracing back where the most efficient transactions started?

Brian: Yes, we’re monitoring all of it. Again, it’s not a matter of just sending the traffic. It’s a matter of having good relationships with intake teams. Then collaboratively work with them to see where– What made for a great set of calls, what made for not great set of calls. Then we optimize those again that’s another part of the variable. Optimize what drove the positive calls; what drove the negative ones, what drove the really high value ones. Then yes, we have tracking that takes all that information back.

So, what you end up with over a long enough time horizon is a set of campaigns that really become a strategic asset because they’re smart. Takes a while to build that up but once you’ve got that as an asset that’s a powerful set of data to have as part of your business. It’s complex but it’s not rocket science, this is stuff that’s done every day on other verticals and other industries.

David: The pay-per-click, do you view that as– That should be part of almost everyone’s strategy? Is that a big cornerstone now?

Brian: It would be hard to say everybody, I’d be careful with absolutes. But I would say that in general certainly in an “I need it now” type of service which is “I need an attorney,” “I need a doctor,” “I need help with my son’s addiction problem.” That’s a “right now” situation. Pay-per-click is the way to get there and deliver a highly relevant message to that person based on what they’re searching for.

That’s– Again, there’s a whole lot of– spend another couple hours talking about the complexities of that. But the idea is you can create messaging that is very specific to what that person asked for. If you’re the one that delivers that messaging, you have a strategy in place to do that pay-per-click will get you in front of them but you’ve also done them a service by getting them quicker to the information they were looking for.

Yes, in just about every case pay-per-click should be part of the mix especially in the addiction treatment world.

David: Yes, you have to have the total package because when people click through you have to give them that user experience where they feel comfortable and feel like their questions are being answered so they feel comfortable to trust you with this big life decision.

Brian: Exactly, that’s where you get into the next phase of– Its one case to broadcast your services the next part is, how are we reducing the uncertainty in the mind of the patient or their family to get them to take action. We’ve all been through this scenario where we went to a website or we click some ad and we didn’t get the result that we were expecting. We bounce and we go that wasn’t good.

Or we go to a website it doesn’t work quite right or there’s something that doesn’t render the right way, doesn’t render on my mobile phone the right way. That creates a trust deficit in a moment where I’m looking for someone I can trust that has to be engineered, you can’t skimp on that. Because, that moment those first couple of seconds is so important.

If you don’t get it right, it’s advertising for your competitor. Because what a consumer will do is, again the data was showing us this that people will search up to 10 times before they actually choose. They may find something that looks pretty good and even then they’re going continue to look and then they’ll come back. But you can be sure that they’re going to keep going if what they get doesn’t deliver what they asked for or doesn’t deliver it in a way that’s high quality.

Sometimes, you can even have everything high quality and you’re creative maybe not delivering the result– I use the example earlier, I had a client that had a branding message that was very positive, very uplifting on the surface, you’d say, “Well that that’s what I want. That’s the outcome I’m looking for, is this uplifting feel I want to get healed. And same amount of volume of traffic would change the grade to a much more frankly a darker tone and admissions went up.

Sometimes, those variables may not be on the surface apparent until you’re able to test and see how these things actually play out in the result from perspective, deliver and result.

David: That’s why the data is important because it may not even be what you expect even if you know what you’re doing.

Brian: Yes, exactly. You might know what you’re doing but modifying all of that. Getting into all the things that go into data over time it’s just against overhead that most organizations just, they just don’t have the resources or bandwidth to handle it. They’ve got so much on their plates. As I was saying about scorpion all this technology, all the advertising, all the websites stuff, all the digital marketing, at the end of it, it’s about getting a person or somebody’s family member to something that could save their life.

That needs to drive everything. That’s a unique wonderful thing about health care marketing that doesn’t exist in a lot of other– It’s not like we’re selling cars. That really needs to drive everything, that’s why you can’t afford to not do this stuff right. It is going be about why should someone choose your services, your facilities, your health care professionals over other like alternatives.

And, a lot of times, the difference can be how well did your message get to those people.

And, the organizations that put their heads in the sand and decide, “Well, we’ve just been here and they will always be here and people always come to us. There will be a wakeup call, it’s already happening. It also leaves room for those that are innovators and there are woefully few innovators. We’re seeing those actually say, we’re realizing now that a different model is required.

A different business model is required to help us execute online. And reach more consumers and reach more patients and reach more folks and that business model is different than what we’ve done in the past.

It behooves all these organizations to know that it’s their duty to go figure that out and make it better. Because if they don’t, there’s somebody that maybe doesn’t get the help they need. The gravity of that should hopefully drive folks to go look for things that are not the status quo.

David: Yes, it just seems like a parallel to if you were treating somebody, if you were applying some type of therapy and it wasn’t working. You would try something else and say, it seems like a similar thing. It’s like if this marketing strategy isn’t working, that’s not the only one available too.

Brian: There you go.

David: Cool. All right, that’s it. Brian, thanks for being with us.

Brian: Thank you David, I appreciate it, man. Really enjoyed the conversation and thanks for having us on. I really appreciate it.

David: Thanks again to Brian for sharing that with us. Now I’m happy to welcome Will Hart back to the show. Will is part of the Life Challenge team and he joins us each month to give us an update from their community. Life Challenge is the aftercare support network for those who have gone through Foundations treatment programs and anyone else up for accepting the challenge of living a life in recovery.

Last month’s challenge was to take five minutes out of each day, to slow down and take some time away from the stress of everyday life. Now, Will’s back to share the new challenge for this month, so welcome Will.

Will Hart: Hey how are you doing?

David: I’m doing all right man, how are you?

Will: Good thanks for having me again.

David: Of course. What have you got for us this month?

Will: August is actually family fun month and we were hoping that everybody would go out and spend some time and have some fun with their family. Everybody doesn’t have the best relationship with the family that’s their biological relatives but family is your friends too. The people you spend your time with, the community that you’ve built around yourself.

We thought it’d really be really fun to spend some time with those people. Some examples you can order pizza, watch a movie, go get ice cream, go to the zoo, museum, a park et cetera. There’s tons of things like that out there. Cook a family dinner, just use your imagination.

David: Yes, it’s good to just have an excuse to get together and spend some time with the people you care about. Sounds like a great thing to do this month and any month.

Will: It’s a good one to do all the time.

David: Absolutely. As always people can post pictures and stories about what they’re doing on your website, right?

Will: Yes, We have a bragging rights page. There’s an easy little form right there. Just throw in a picture, send it to us and we’ll get a T-shirt in the mail for you. We love to see everybody’s pictures.

David: All right man, sounds good thank you.

David: This has been the Recovery Unscripted podcast. Today we’ve heard from Bryan Q. Davis, senior vice president of Scorpion Healthcare. For more about their work, visit And thank you for listening today. Please take a second to share this episode with someone else who might enjoy it and rate recovery unscripted on your podcast app. See you next time.

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