Understanding consumer behavior is a crucial element of any successful marketing strategy. It allows business owners to target an audience’s specific needs and determine how their current offerings can deliver accordingly. What’s most interesting and oftentimes overlooked, though, is that consumer-driven marketing also helps to shape preferences of potential customers. The ability to shape preferences, and thus purchasing decisions, is equally valuable in the marketing equation.
Consider purchasing a car. A car manufacturer must understand what various types of consumers—first-time car owner, growing family, etc.—factor as most important in their purchase and target those desires appropriately. Likewise, they must help educate consumers as to what factors they should consider, but maybe are not, based on previous consumer feedback and satisfaction. Thus, the manufacturer is able to meet both current and future expectations, resulting in happier customers.
In the addiction treatment industry, balancing each side of the consumer-driven marketing equation is critical. Marketing efforts must inform individuals about the treatment process—hence targeting future desires—just as much as they should target existing desires.
This is particularly important due to the fact that prospective clients must evaluate aspects of treatment they believe to be most valuable without prior first-hand experience or a set of standardized measurements of “success.” In the absence of proper external information or resources, this may facilitate a disconnect between what consumers believe they want and what is actually impactful to the recovery process.
What do consumers want?
Based on our own market research, there is, in fact, a disconnect in preferences between consumers pre- and post-treatment (as it relates to several core areas): organizational status, staff, facility offerings, residential policies, financial policies, and audio/visual features. While values closely align in regard to financial policies or staff, there are significant gaps in others. For example, alumni tend to place a higher value on facility offerings, residential policies, or organizational status than consumers who are considering treatment.
Taking a deeper look at specific variables within facility offerings—the category showing the largest preference gap—prospective clients heavily undervalue group counseling, facility amenities and recreation and activities. Meanwhile, these are elements rated highly by individuals who have completed treatment. We can infer that due to their ratings, alumni believe these aspects of treatment positively influence the recovery process. Likewise, based on the ratings given by consumers considering treatment, we can infer that these are not heavily considered factors in the decision-making process. In all actuality, they should be.
What does this mean for marketers?
Ultimately, by understanding how the process of treatment itself shifts consumer preferences, providers can positively impact a person’s long-term recovery. Correctly evaluating individual preferences pre- and post-treatment, and informing consumers of such shifting preferences by way of marketing efforts, could facilitate greater accuracy of treatment expectations. Preconceived notions and expectations are likely to influence the therapeutic process, as well as the outcomes of treatment. Therefore, an alignment of expectations with the information provided prior to treatment may improve the overall treatment experience and increase treatment adherence.
Providers that do not include robust and accurate information that aligns with pre- and post-treatment preferences in their marketing efforts run the risk of unfilled client expectations, thus decreasing overall facility reputation.
Ruchi Dhami is director of research at Recovery Brands.