Recovery Unscripted Podcast - Episode 9

Featured Guest: Michael Myles, Chief Executive Officer, Active Marketing

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For this episode, I caught up with Michael Myles, CEO of Active Marketing, at the Recovery Results conference in Dallas. Michael weighs in on a number of emerging marketing trends and shares how treatment providers who improve their branding ultimately improve their ability to help more people, more efficiently.

Michael founded Active Marketing out of his desire for bringing together business and technology and has been helping treatment providers find new and better ways to reach consumers and meet their goals ever since. His eyes were really opened when he attended a behavioral healthcare conference in 2013. “I just kind of realized that there were a lot of people in this industry who didn’t have any path to taking their facility to market,” Michael remembers. “That’s when I really started to become a part of the treatment community, not just as a vendor but really as a part of the treatment community.”

One of the tools that Michael and his team at Active Marketing utilize to help their clients is content marketing. “When done properly, content marketing is the creation of great content and then leveraging that content, that is now an asset for your organization, to generate demand for your services,” Michael explains. “Maybe your content is a video and it’s an interview with someone who is just entering treatment…that’s not just SEO, that’s great content.”

But perhaps the most important way that a treatment provider can help position itself for success is through creating its own unique brand as industry consolidation continues to ramp up. “As that happens, what’s going to differentiate Company A from Company B when you offer all the same things?” Michael asks. “Brand is really built on a meaningful differentiator…over time, that brand and that brand differentiation, that’s what’s going to make the difference.”

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Podcast Transcript: David Condos with Michael Myles

David Condos: Hey guys, welcome to another episode of Recovery Unscripted. I’m your host David Condos and this podcast is powered by Foundations Recovery Network. For this episode, I caught up with Active Marketing CEO, Michael Myles, at the Recovery Results conference in Dallas, Texas.

Michael founded Active Marketing out of his love for bringing together business and technology, and he’s been helping treatment providers find new and better ways to reach consumers and achieve their goals ever since. Excited to hear what he has to say? So, here is Michael. Welcome Michael. Good to have you here.

Michael Myles: Thanks David.

David: Let’s start off by having you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a marketer and then founded Active Marketing.

Michael: I am particularly nerdy. So, I found myself drawn towards computer programming but I didn’t want to take that in college, I thought that I already had that on lock. So, what I did was I took business. That’s really where I cut my teeth on marketing. Next thing you know there is the internet, so I came out making websites. I actually named my company Active Internet Marketing to begin with and the reason I named it active was because a sea showed up at the top of the yellow pages.

That actually worked. I got a client who referred me to an addiction treatment client who was just starting up and loaned the hold up, then I ended up having a 10-year business relationship with this guy and his organization grew from, I don’t know it was maybe between 50-100 beds when we started to over 700. And that was really how I got into it and then you know, just word of mouth. Until about 2013 I attended a conference and I just realized that there were a lot of people in this industry that really didn’t have any path to taking their facility to market.

So, that immediately drew me to these conferences and that’s when I really started to become a part of the treatment community. Not just as a vendor, but really as a part of the treatment community. So, that’s how I ended up here sitting with you today.

David: Yes, that was kind of the next question I was going to ask, it seems like you work exclusively within this industry?

Michael: Yes.

David: I was going to ask what drew you to that, it seems like you saw a need and here you are.

Michael: Yes. Really what ended up happening was I was doing a good job– Back we are talking a decade ago. And just word of mouth referrals they were all treatment centers. It ended up– I didn’t choose the addiction treatment industry, it really chose me. Now of course, I love the industry, I love being able to do something that makes a difference other than the bottom-line. We are not selling TVs, we’re helping save peoples’ lives and I really feel like what I as a marketer can bring is lowering the cost of treatment and lowering the barriers for people to get treatment.

David: Sure. So could you tell us a little but more about your current day to day role in active marketing and about the team that you’ve built there?

Michael: As the leader of the organization, my favorite thing to do is certainly lead, when I can sit down with my team members, and learn about them and what their goals are, and I can facilitate them doing that if it’s a pivot in their career, if it is more opportunity to do the type of work that they want to do, if it is a shift in their schedule.

I really get a lot of personal satisfaction watching them flourish and grow as people and as business professionals. There is just nothing like working with someone who is passionate and an expert. It is just about as good as it gets.

David: That’s a powerful combination.

Michael: Yes.

David: I want us to talk about some of the specific things that you guys offer, one thing is content marketing.

Michael: Yes.

David: Could you tell us a little bit more about how content marketing is different from just plain old advertising and how you’ve been able to help clients reach their goals, by using that.

Michael: I think most of, most people outside the industry would think of it just as SEO, just Search Engine Optimization. But when done properly, content marketing is the creation of great content and then leveraging that content that is now an asset for your organization to generate demand for your services.

So, maybe your content is a video and it is an interview with someone who is just entering treatment. All of a sudden that’s compelling and people want to watch it and when they do they become attached to the, you know to this person who is speaking and they become attached to their story they can immediately relate to it and for people who are seeking treatment they have probably a lot of common ground. So it makes for great story telling and it’s also a really important story to tell and to hear.

So, that’s another great example of content, but that’s not just a SEO, that’s real content. Even a downloadable application for an iPhone if it was you know just a mood tracker, if people are going to track their mood every day, they are going to look at your logo every day and that’s just good branding.

David: Right. Yes, just become part of peoples’ lives.

Michael: Right. Also, content marketing, because your content is the app or your content is the video or maybe your content is what most people think of this content which is just a blog post or an e-book.

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David: So, another aspect of, under this marketing umbrella is branding.

Michael: Yes.

David: Could you tell us a little bit more about why branding is so important today and how do you go about helping a client establish their distinct brand. Whether they are brand new and they are creating it or they already view themselves as established and you are helping them distill what is special about them.

Michael: Yes, really good question. Active marketing put together a survey, the state of the treatment industry in 2016– the survey run for the month of August, and we talked through about 300 treatment centers and treatment professionals. 85% of respondents said that on a scale of ‘not important’ to ‘extremely important,’ 85% said that brand was extremely important. When getting professional referrals, so think about that. That means that your BD reps, and their success, 85% of treatment owners and leadership believe that brand is important.

However, these exact same people when asked how much of their marketing budget will be dedicated to branding 20%. So, we know that as the industry matures and we all can watch this happening right now. It’s happening so fast and so conspicuously, there is so much consolidation, and there is the full continuum of care, it’s eventually going to be pretty much the norm, if it isn’t already, really the norm.

Everyone that we talk to with rare exceptions is in our path to the full continuum, because that’s the only way to compete. It’s to mitigate the cost of acquisition because competition is so high. But as that happens what’s going to differentiate company A from company B, when you offer all the same things and insurance really dictates, what services you offer, right? So, your service offerings are going to be the same and we talk about brand all the time.

There really are no brands in the industry, you got Passages Malibu, Hazelden Betty Ford, there is really not a lot of brands. So the market is wide open for it and yet everyone still says they offer full continuum care, holistic treatment, customizable care. Nobody says the exact same things or they have the nicest facility or we have the best clinicians but everybody says that. Until someone actually experiences your program how do they know how great the clinicians are? And by then the marketing is already done.

David: And if everybody is saying that, then well what does it really mean?

Michael: Well, everybody says it so there is no differentiation, so, a brand is really built on a meaningful differentiator, which we just talked about storytelling. Every person’s story is unique and meaningful. Every treatment center has a story that’s unique and meaningful. And we really believe that if we can get our clients to tell their story in a meaningful way then and we can make it interesting and– do all the things that good marketing does.

That overtime, that brand, and that brand differentiation that is what is going to make the difference and move the needle and proper client accusation for one thing. Imagine if instead of raising the price, what you did was provide a proceed discount. Imagine if Evian sold at the same prices– I do not know one of the Aquafina all of a sudden people would think, men Evian is normally four bucks but I can get it for two dollars.

David: Yes, I am getting a great deal.

Michael: Getting a great deal, right? You can do the same thing in the treatment industry, oh wow this is a great brand and it cost the same as this kind down the road that I have never heard of and has no credibility with me at all, your cost per new patient decreases as your brand trust and bring credibility increase.

Again, this is something that transcends addiction treatment into all businesses which is why you see GM. They do not do any direct response advertising where they want you to call in and buy a car right now that is all branding because they know that increases the amount of sales that they are going to make.

I believe and as an organization we really live it that the brand is the only way to secure your future in the addiction treatment industry, it might be okay for the next couple of years, but when BD reps go away which is happening as there is continuum of care in more organizations, they do not refer.

So when they do not refer, you do not need business development people as much anymore right as that starts to happen, treatment facilities are going to have to start standing on their own legs, their own brand and direct marketing to the client, so your brand and you brand good well is an asset that your business as long as you continue to maintain it, it would continue to pay dividends and we believe there is a huge ally.

David: Yes, it really seems like one of the most valuable things you can have as a company now.

Michael: No question and if you look at Google and Coke and Apple and Disney more than 50 percent of their share price which is the value of the organization, is brand goodwill, that is on your balance sheet, it is-

David: You can’t just start something new and compete at their level.

Michael: Right, if you would have buy Apple, 60 percent of what you are paying for, is the Apple brand, but you take the Apple brand away and put—“Smith & Company” on it and it is only worth– less than half for the exact same company without that Apple make.

David: Another aspect that I wanted touch on was social media. This is something that is still being legitimized as actual business marketing practice, so I want to see if you can tell us how you may have successfully incorporated that into some of your clients’ plans.

Michael: Social media is tough, because of the industry that we working now and the same survey that we did, we did ask about social media and all the channels to market. The majority more than 75% of responded and said that social media was very important and about that same percentage said that they were investing in social media, not very much but they were actively using social media.

Most are not seeing good result from it, if you take just the mismanagement aside they do not really know– you got people who do not really have a lot of marketing expertise and most treatment centers just add all social media unto someone else’s already foreplay– you can give them a lot of leeway with that. But in reality as much as we work so hard to erase the stigma and try to communicate that this is not this is a health issue not a character flaw this is a health issue.

The population at large does not always feel that way about it and it is very private. I think that what people are starting to see is that the markets are really reflecting this reluctance to be open on a public forum with all of their peers, everyone that they even remotely care about. People that they went to high school with and have not talk to since are all of a sudden going to know all their personal business, all of their personal healthcare.

Take the stigma of addiction treatment out of it health is private. We can get client accusations on Facebook, but they are pretty expensive you really have to pay for it whether you pay for it with the– native advertising in the feed or the ads on the– normal paid adds on the side, it is tough. What we think Facebook is past for private alumni groups, and we have seen that work very well.

When it comes to referrals, from professional reference to treatment centers, Facebook is not the venue for that but we think that then has a lot of potential and we see people using that pretty effectively, although that is also very challenging, very time consuming we– there is an a ally to be a positive ally to be heard there– you really have to take it seriously it is not something you can do as an afterthought, I think there is probably a minimum investment I do not have the ability to quantify that of the cost.

But there is some minimum amount of time investment, probably not very much monetarily aside from the labor cost if you will. But we think LinkedIn can be effective for professional referrals.

David: That is a good point a lot of the stuff that we have been talking about today applies pretty much across the board to other industries, but this is one issue where because of the healthcare and privacy it does present specific challenges.

Michael: Yes, it does.

David: Wanted to also touch on a new self-service marketing platform, I saw the brochure out of your table about Outreach Impact, could you tell us a little bit more about why you decided to do that and how it works?

Michael: Yes, absolutely we are really excited about Outreach Impact. Most of the people that we talked to are not 20-bed facilities. Instead they are solo clinicians, or are private small private practices and there is just nothing for them.

So we really felt like it was good for us as an organization, but also really good for the treatment industry to provide an offering that can help. So we created an offering called Outreach Impact that is a low cost off-the-shelf packaged campaigns that include a complete marketing plan. So while there are not custom to every individual brand, they allow our clients to sign up, upload a logo and then choose the campaign they want.

It comes with all of the marketing criteria whether it is posters or post cards, Facebook banners, email templates, everything they need to really get in front of the people they want to become their clients automatically and we can do that at a cost that is affordable to a one person start up private practice.

David: Yes, that is cool because that is– it does seem like if you are a solo clinician it would be hard to even think about marketing because you do not have a team you, do not have-

Michael: Right.

David: Yes I mean it is just it is a lot different than a full facility.

Michael: Yes, we are leveraging software and we are leveraging that creative team and active marketing to make it happen.

David: I want to wrap up by kind of talking about what you see as the next wave, I know like without reach impact you are trying to meet new needs and expand what you guys do, what do you see for some changes that you think will happen in marketing and this industry going forward?

Michael: What we are going to see is, we will start to see the maturation of the television market. The best analogy I can use is Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I think most people have seen the ads.

[crosstalk]

David: I have seen those ads, yes.

Michael: So, they are offering a service that is on paper it is a substitute for what you can get with your local oncology clinic, right. But they have really managed to differentiate themselves by specializing and by really planning their flags specifically in just that market and branding. They are not the only cancer clinic right but I think they are the first one that most people think of.

I think that what we will start to see is that same thing happen in addiction treatment and it will not necessarily speak to the quality of care, but it will speak to the quality of marketing and those organizations that have the best brand, they will be dominating and will see a lot of the smaller players that do not have a brand will start to see them, their quality of care start to dwindle because their revenue and the fees that they can charge will also go down.

We know that the revenue cycle is going to change and the and re endorsement for specific services, are going to change, then when that happens it will really be pretty level plain field with really realistic margins real business margins not 50% margin on everything.

As that happens, marketing is going to have to get a lot smarter. The financial side of the business is going have to get a lot smarter. We’re already seeing that. We got Goldman Sachs investing in hedge funds buying up treatment centers. As that happens, we start to see savvier business people. When that happens, we’re going see a big push towards branding and those organizations that have a brand will be the ones that are succeeding and those that don’t are really going struggle and may just completely go away.

David: It all comes back to brand.

Michael: I think so. Whether it’s a brand in your local market or brand nationally. I think that those organizations without a brand will probably seize to exist.

David: Thank you for your time Michael.

Michael: You’re welcome, David. Thank you.

David: Thanks again to Michael for joining us. Now, I’m excited to close this episode by introducing Jordan Young, who works as part of the team at Foundations Events. As you may remember, I mentioned at the beginning of this episode that my conversation with Michael was recorded at the Recovery Results conference in Dallas along with the few of our previous episodes.

Well, Recovery Results is just one of the four great conferences that Foundations Events puts on for the behavioral health care industry. Their next conference is right around the corner. I thought this would be a great time to have Jordan tell us a bit more about what they do. So without further ado, welcome Jordan Young.

Jordan: Thank for having me on here, David.

David: All right. How are you doing today?

Jordan: I’m doing great. I’m excited to talk about Foundations Events and all the really exciting things that we have going on in 2017.

David: Perfect. Let’s start off by taking a minute to just have you give a brief introduction to what Foundations Events is all about.

Jordan: Great. Foundations Events is the event side of Foundations Recovery Network. We provide opportunities for behavioral health care professionals to expand their education and expand their networks through our conferences, our educational webinar series and through our Heroes in Recovery 6k race series.

In 2017, we will be hosting four national conferences. The first of which is Innovations in Recovery which will take place April 3rd to 6th at Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. Second up is Innovations in Behavioral Healthcare in our hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, June 19th and 20th. Next up will be Moments of Change taking place at The Breakers in Palm Beach, October 2nd through 5th, followed by Recovery Results at The Ritz Carlton in Dallas, Texas, November 28th and 29th.

David: Nice. All right, sounds like you got a full year ahead.

Jordan: It’s going to be a great year.

David: Cool. Back to the conferences, there’s a lot of reasons to go. But could you tell us a little bit more why people come, continue education– I know it’s part of it –and also networking.

Jordan: The conferences are a great opportunity for people to come together to expand their education, whether they need continue education, credits or not. We do provide those on very relevant topics, advances in therapy approaches, doing with, especially populations, process addictions becoming more efficient in your business and a number of other issues impacting our field right now.

Maybe the most and factual thing our conferences can help a professional with is expanding their network, whether that just expanding their contacts or expanding their referral network for treatment centers, or if you provide us an ancillary service for a treatment center expanding your business that way.

David: Yes, like how Michael Myles was talking about in his interview.

Jordan: Exactly. Mike does a great job. He fully understands the opportunities available for networking and building new business relationships through our conferences.

David: I know, Innovations in Recovery in San Diego like you said is coming right up. Could you tell us a little bit about what is special specifically about that event?

Jordan: Right now, we’re dealing with a lot of uncertainty in the behavioral healthcare industry. There’s a lot of uncertainty about reimbursements as it relates to private insurance companies or and actually the affordable care acts, repair, replacement, whatever is going to happen there.

In addition to the great clinical presentations and the great presentations on becoming efficient on your business, there will be a number of legislative presentations that will address these issues.

David: Alright. Thanks again for being with us today. For listeners who are interested in finding out more info about Foundations Events or possibly looking to become an attendee or sponsor for a future conference, where can they go to do that?

Jordan: You can go to our website at foundationsevents.com.

David: All right. Thanks again Jordan.

Jordan: Thanks David.

David: This has been the Recovery Unscripted podcast. Today, we heard from Michael Miles, the CEO of Active Marketing. If you’d like to find out more about what Michael and his team have to offer, visit them at activemarketing.com. As always, thank you for listening. Please share this podcast, rate it on iTunes, in your preferred app and stay tune for more episodes. See you next time.