There are thousands of addiction recovery centers throughout the United States, and as many as 10 percent of American adults report being in some form of recovery for substance or alcohol abuse. That's a huge market for addiction recovery centers, and lots of competition to contend with.

Most companies, facing such potential and such competition, would turn toward marketing and advertising strategies to build more brand visibility, highlight your company's unique advantages, and of course, attract more potential clients. However, for addiction recovery centers, marketing isn't exactly straightforward.

The Challenges of Addiction Recovery Marketing

The addiction recovery industry, if it can be called that, faces certain challenges that aren't a problem for other niches. These are some of the biggest obstacles:

1. Trust.

According to Client Reach, 46 percent of people would deliberately avoid an addiction treatment provider if they were unable to find any reviews of their services, and for good reason. Addiction is a serious disease, and a debilitating condition to deal with. If you're going to begin recovering successfully, you need to have a reputable organization with top talent to help you take those first few steps. Before an addiction recovery center can attract more traffic or earn more conversions, it has to establish some level of baseline trust.

2. Anonymity and embarrassment.

Despite the fact that addiction is a disease, there's still a stigma around addiction that prevents people from getting the help they need. People may be reluctant to search online for addiction recovery centers, or engage with addiction recovery brands, like on social media. They may even avoid going to addiction recovery websites, preferring to suffer in silence rather than subjecting themselves to any kind of public scrutiny.

3. Unknown needs.

Not everyone who abuses drugs and alcohol realizes they have a problem. For example, according to NBC News, 18.3 percent of Americans binge drink at least occasionally, but only a fraction of these people ever believe themselves to have alcoholic tendencies. Crossing that barrier and making people realize that they're engaging in both physically and mentally destructive habits is a key challenge for treatment centers to overcome.

4. A lack of brand examples.

If you're a restaurant, you can look to major national brands like McDonald's or Olive Garden to see what types of advertising strategies work best for their audiences. If you're in the marketing space, you can learn from some of the top authorities in your respective niche. But for addiction recovery centers, there aren't many noteworthy authorities on the subject--nor is there an abundance of addiction recovery-related advertising. Without notable examples to follow or draw inspiration from, recovery centers struggle to find initial concepts to introduce.

5. Preexisting relationships.

Many addiction treatment centers get the majority of their new patients from existing relationships with other organizations and partners. For example, when doctors find out that their patients are struggling with an addiction, they'll likely make a referral--and because the patient already trusts their doctor, they're likely to follow through on that referral. One solution to this problem is to secure more partnerships with support groups, physicians, and therapists, but it doesn't make your marketing or advertising any more effective.

6. Success and relapse.

Depending on a number of independent variables, between 40 and 60 percent of recovering addicts eventually relapse, according to Recovery.org. This presents a unique problem; many businesses develop their reputations over time by earning repeat business, but in the addiction recovery industry, the more successful you are, the fewer recurring patients you're going to have. Having a high relapse rate may keep your clients engaged with you, but your reputation may suffer as a result. Instead, you need to keep your efforts focused on engagements with new potential clients.

Diversifying Your Approach

Marketing your addiction recovery center may be especially difficult, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Considering the unique challenges of addiction recovery marketing, target strategies that will allow you to mitigate, control, or overcome them.

For example, to overcome the trust barrier, you could invest more heavily in your third-party visibility and online reviews, and to overcome the unknown needs problem, you could invest more heavily in content marketing.

Your best move is to invest in multiple marketing strategies, and compare them to see which ones work best. Only with measurable data points will you be able to determine which tactics earn you the highest ROI, and help you avoid the pitfalls of addiction recovery marketing.

Published on: Apr 21, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.