DON’T BE VEIN: INBOUND CALLS HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE VALUABLE TO YOUR PRACTICE
By Bruno Tabbi
The phone is going through a bit of a renaissance. Even almighty Google concedes that inbound calls to businesses are worth more than web leads, hence their push toward click-to-call. A recent <ital>Harvard Business Review <endital> article noted that calls convert to new business 10 to 15 times more than web leads, which only convert 1 to 2 percent of the time. My company’s data is in line with these findings as well. In addition to calls being more valuable, research shows 84 percent of consumers prefer to make first-time appointments by phone.
If you want to get more calls, it’s important to consider your phone number. Many businesses make the mistake of trying to use a phone number they think people will remember. In vein treatment this usually means a phone number with the word LEGS or VEINS in it.
These types of numbers can diminish response rates by 75 percent and force people online because they don’t remember them. The proper way to generate substantially more calls and enhance your brand at the same time is to use a premium vanity phone number. Owning the right number can make you the most memorable vein treatment practice in your market.
WHY INBOUND CALLS WORK
The reasons why phone calls are so much more valuable today are numerous, but the biggest points include that they are more direct, quicker than typing and that people who call are more prepared to purchase.
In the same <ital>Harvard Business Review <endital> article, it was reported that Google found that 61 percent of callers are in the purchase phase of the buying cycle. When a consumer picks up the phone they are significantly closer to becoming a patient than one who fills a form out online.
Picking up the phone not only indicates a stronger interest in getting treatment but that the individual wants it done now rather than later. While consumers may prefer to chat with friends over text message, or to order food online, when faced with a complex purchase, like one involving their health, consumers want to talk to a knowledgeable staff member that can answer their questions immediately.
In addition, people don’t want to be inconvenienced. Humans speak approximately 125-175 words per minute but can only type 38-40 words per minute on a full-sized keyboard and significantly less on a mobile phone.
On your end, staff members whose job it is to follow up with web leads spend more time playing phone tag and replying to inquires that never convert into patients. This allocation of resources on low-quality leads can strain your budget and produce little business. Focusing on increasing inbound calls and training your staff to answer these calls is the best way to ensure a successful practice.
One of our clients, a vein practice with more than 20 locations, conducted an internal study to see which leads were producing the most patients. They wanted to see if advertisements directing people to call their phone number, 1-800-VARICOSE, produced more patients than ads presenting people with a web form.
Here’s what the study found; People who called were 14 times more likely to become patients than the web leads were. They also booked their appointments three times sooner, indicating a sense of urgency over the web leads. Finally, they found that callers were three times less likely to cancel their appointments as well.
To some, the idea of phone leads being more valuable may seem common sense, but with the incredible amount of noise about the latest digital trends it is easy to lose focus on what works.
GET THE RIGHT NUMBER
So how can you make sure your practice gets more calls? By avoiding the wrong phone number and investing in the right one.
Phone leads are incredibly valuable, but they are hard to get so it is vital that you have an unforgettable recall mechanism. With the uncertainty of what prospective patients encounter online it is paramount that you present consumers with a simple and easy to remember number.
Many practices have tried to do this by investing in phone numbers like 888-443-VEIN or 773-265-LEGS. These types of phone numbers are what our industry refers to as hybrids or partial mnemonics. These hybrid numbers are deceiving because they seem like they would be memorable but they actually end up hurting response rates dramatically. This is because consumers remember the word/letter portion of the number but end up forgetting the digit portion.
Beyond the negative impact hybrid numbers can have on your response rates, they also pose a greater danger. If a consumer cannot remember your phone number then they are forced to go online where they will encounter you and all your competitors, along with directory sites, review sites and other distractions. Not to mention if you run AdWords you could end up paying for dozens of clicks every day from people who simply wanted to call you but couldn’t remember your phone number and clicked the first thing they saw with your practice name in it.
Even if your practice is mainly referral based and you rely less on advertising, hybrid numbers can affect you. If someone can only refer your practice name it forces the person receiving the referral to go online. And while nothing is stronger than a solid recommendation it is easy for someone unfamiliar with your practice to get confused with the various vein center listings that might pop up.
My company has done market studies over several DMAs to see the prevalence of hybrid numbers in vein treatment. In some markets as many at 68 percent of the vein practices held themselves out to the public using a hybrid phone number. Consider the difficulty of trying to brand your practice when you are ABC Vein Center competing against XYZ Vein Center and your practice uses 727-433-VEIN and the other uses 727-598-VEIN. Looking this similar makes it very challenging to stand out to unfamiliar consumers.
The best way to ensure you are driving as many calls as possible to your phone is to invest in a truly unforgettable phone number. One that makes you stand out and helps boost your practice’s brand like 1-800-VEIN-DOC, 1-800-VARICOSE, and 1-800-VEINS-GONE. Premium vanity numbers work incredibly well at increasing response. These numbers are shown to generate 58 percent more response than regular numbers on radio and 110 percent on visual media such as TV and billboards. Imagine your practice is ABC Vein Center and uses 1-800-VEIN-DOC while your competitor, XYZ Vein Center using 727-598-VEIN. Which one would you remember? It’s the same one consumers would remember too.
There are several criteria that help determine what qualifies as a premium vanity phone number. We refer to this process as the Hierarchy of Phone Numbers. The first is having a complete word or term. They usually are industry terms or descriptors such as 1-800-DENTIST or 1-800-GOT-JUNK. Finding a number like this is no easy task. There are approximately 88 million toll-free phone numbers. Finding the few that work for vein treatment is highly unlikely but companies like mine specialize in these types of phone numbers and offer regionalized ownership of them.
Avoid terms that require context to make them mean something. For example, your advertising dollars would go much further with 1-800-VEINS-GONE than they would if your practice was called the Fulton Vein Center and you used 1-800-FULTONS. While the latter is a good number, it would require a sizable investment in advertising over a period of several years so that people would associate the term FULTONS with vein treatment. You are much better off with a number that tells people what you do or sell. Also, avoid abbreviations like 855-4UR-LEGS as these are confusing and hard to remember.
The second is that they are toll free. With cell phones, callers are no longer concerned about who pays for the call. The value of toll free is in the enhanced data that they offer over local numbers and that toll-free area codes are the most recognized by consumers, which ultimately makes them easier to remember.
Not all toll-free area codes are the same though. The 800 and 888 series are the best; 877 and 866 are of lower quality. Avoid anything that is 855 or lower (844, 833 and soon 822). These area codes are too new, and consumers have little to no recognition of them, so they tend to be forgotten or misdialed as 800 or 888. With people keeping their cell phone numbers the same as they move across the country, local area codes are less important than in the past and having a toll free number no longer means you are not local.
Premium vanity numbers are incredibly valuable with recent sales of top tier numbers such as 1-800-RECOVERY selling for more than $1 million and 1-800-ATTORNEY for $3 million.
But technology now allows us to regionalize numbers so that businesses can own one exclusively for the markets they need for a fraction of their acquisition cost. The ability to regionalize phone numbers has created an opportunity for many businesses to gain access to premium vanity numbers. The fact that this technology did not always exists also explains the prevalence of hybrid numbers. Many practices would have selected better numbers if they would have had access to them but ended up with a hybrid because it was all they could get, and they thought it would do the job.
Another great feature that makes vanity numbers such a valuable lead source is that they often come with call tracking and call recording. You might seem overwhelmed with the amount of data you track online but with calls it’s very simple. You get a log of the most valuable leads and the ability to listen to the calls to hear what callers are saying to your staff and how your staff is handling them. That is more valuable than any metric on screen time, click-through rates or impressions.
But even if a good amount of your business comes from online, a premium vanity numbers still has much to offer there as well. Online ads featuring a vanity number generate 33 percent more clicks than those with a regular one.
If you want to really grow your practice and invest in the future, then you should consider a premium vanity toll free phone number. Doing so will allow you to brand your practice better, increase response and make you less susceptible to Google and the other online giants. It will also make you easier to refer. VTN
Bruno Tabbi Jr. has more than a decade of experience with premium vanity phone numbers for the vein treatment industry. He is president and co-founder of Ignition Toll Free, a company that specializes in premium vanity phone numbers and has brought 1-800-VEIN-DOC, 1-800-VARICOSE and 1-800-VEINS-GONE to the market.
FREE NUMBER CONSULTATION: To receive a free consultation regarding your practice’s current phone number or to see if a premium vanity phone number is available for your market call 1-800-STRONG-SALES (800-787-6647 Ext. 2).