Alumni Marketing - Better Patient Outcomes, Lower Cost per Admission

Alumni Marketing - Better Patient Outcomes, Lower Cost per Admission

Alumni marketing is one of the cheapest, but most underutilized forms of marketing within many addiction treatment programs. A program with strong alumni outreach will see 15-20% of its census filled from alumni referrals alone; and the cost per admit on those often comes down to less than $400.

Treatment programs should already have alumni emails and phone numbers in order to maintain consistent contact. They should also have referrals’ contact information, both professional and loved ones, that are included in alumni outreach.

For programs that have established some kind of systematized outreach, usually a general newsletter list or a yearly event, neither are enough to improve results on their own.

Why Is Consistent Alumni Outreach Critical for Long-term Patient Success?

The opposite of addiction is connection. One reason groups like Alcoholics Anonymous can be beneficial is that they provide a community of like-minded individuals. But joining a new AA group of strangers, who someone has no history with, is often not as valuable as staying connected with staff, counselors and other alumni where relationships and bonds were created while in treatment.

Shared experiences are what build communities and the more someone has shared with a particular group of people, the stronger their bonds become.

Research shows that extending length of care improves patient outcomes. While alumni engagement is not formal treatment, it’s safe to say that maintaining positive contact with alumni can only aid them in their recovery journey.

There are the obvious benefits of being able to speak with a trusted individual, talk through challenges with someone to help provide solutions and maintain access to other support networks. But this outreach only works if there is a consistent, regular follow-up. A yearly get-together or impersonal newsletters are not going to establish the level of connection needed.

How Does Alumni Outreach Drive Admissions?

The most effective alumni outreach equates to at least one live touch per week, especially immediately following discharge from treatment. Additional touchpoints, like those used through the CaredFor app, can be daily.

These touchpoints and constant communications can be very beneficial. If an alumni starts feeling overwhelmed or ends up struggling with substances again, they can get back into treatment before the problem becomes bigger. This helps alumni access lower levels of care, like outpatient, which is much less disruptive to their life. Accessing care sooner has obvious clinical benefits along with the business benefit for the center of admission. While re-admissions should only account for a small portion of your census at any given time the main business benefit to consistent alumni engagement is referrals.

To stay top-of-mind with alumni, you need consistent outreach through a variety of channels. Once you do this well, 15-20% of your admissions will start to come from alumni with a cost per admit (CPA) under $400. Alumni will refer friends, family, fellow group members and others.

What Are the Most Effective Ways to Do Alumni Outreach?

These days people prefer a variety of methods of communication. Some read emails, some prefer Facebook messenger or an app, while others prefer a text or phone call. The key for an alumni coordinator is to engage in outreach through multiple channels and make notes on which people prefer which channels.

At Circle Social, we recommend the following:

  • An app, like CaredFor, for daily engagement or at-will engagement.

  • Bi-weekly newsletters with updates specific to the center and program. These can also be sent out via text, assuming you have the proper HIPAA waivers and client permissions.

  • Consistent outreach from counselors and an alumni coordinator. This should be daily for two weeks following discharge, once a week after that for up to 3 months, and then as as needed for the alum. These timelines are not fixed and should be determined by how much support you feel the patient needs.

  • Weekly engagement activities. This could be a peer run group at the center, a weekly pick-up basketball game or just time to get together and hang out. Obviously, this isn’t as possible for fly-away programs, but I recommend exploring online virtual meeting options.

  • An annual gathering.

  • Facebook retargeting using a Custom Audience just for alumni. This can include Messenger campaigns.

  • Quarterly mailers/physical newsletters.

Another VERY IMPORTANT factor, do not just include alumni in these communications. Include their family and friends, whoever referred them into the center, as well. Family and friends are often part of a larger support group with others who also have a loved one struggling with addiction. When you keep them engaged, it also prompts more referrals from those connected to your alumni.

Start implementing these methods today and you’ll be on the right track to grow a healthy census and admissions from alumni referrals.

Nick Jaworski is the CEO of Circle Social Inc. a strategic addiction treatment marketing agency that helps treatment programs integrate omni-channel marketing strategies to drive inquiries and admissions. When he’s not helping clients or advocating for recovery issues across the US, he can be found spending time with his favorite person in the world - his daughter.