A Custom Call-to-Action

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, May 7, 2008

Wouldn't it be cool if your hospital's phone number was so memorable that your customers—including referring physicians and patients—didn't even have to look it up? An academic medical center's heart care number could be (800) HEART SMART, for example. A community hospital that offers personalized care could have the number (800) ACH CARES. A hospital wanting to tout its overall superiority could use (800) TOP-HOSP.

In fact it's more than cool—it's a smart marketing tactic: Customized numbers used in the call-to-action in marketing efforts can increase response rates by 30–60%, says Laura Noonan, vice president of marketing at 800response, which rents out its collection of toll-free numbers to businesses by region. (Hospitals in different regions can share the same number—calls are automatically routed to the correct hospital based on the caller's area code.)

The reason it works: People quite simply remember words more easily than they do numbers. And, says Noonan, "It's all about the recall."

NextCare Urgent Care in Mesa, AZ, has two toll-free vanity numbers. The main number, (800) NEXTCARE, works for them because it is so easy to remember.

Another number, which they use as the call-to-action for a campaign they called "What's Next? NextCare," does more than improve recall, says Megan Lamy, regional manager of marketing and sales. The number, (877) WHATSNEXT, helps the organization track effectiveness of ad placements. For example, she can look at the call volume following a radio spot that airs during the morning drive and compare that to one that runs during the evening commute.

NextCare employs another form of customization, using a different URL for each print publication they advertise in. Then Lamy and her team looks at response data to decide where best to invest the organization's marketing dollars going forward.

Media advertising is expensive, Noonan says. If you're going to spend the money on it, you want to leave the audience with an easy-to-remember way to reach you when they need to, even if it's weeks or months later.

"It's really just good advertising practice," she says.

Having trouble fitting a word or phrase that's right for your organization into a 10-digit number? "It doesn't matter," Noonan says. "The phone will still ring if you dial the next number."

Experiences wanted
Have you ever been a patient in your own hospital? We're looking for marketing professionals who have seen their organization from the point-of-view of the patient or have programs in place to ensure that employees can empathize with patients. Please e-mail me at gshaw@healthleadersmedia.com.

Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at gshaw@healthleadersmedia.com.
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