By Dr. Christopher Phelps
I recently heard from a dentist who’s fundamentally opposed to call tracker programs. His reasoning is that he’s got a great number, you know, something like 1-800-TOOTHER. (This is not his real number. In fact, a quick Google search says that it’s available, so if you want to ignore my advice, stop reading now and go reserve your new phone number.) He puts his number on his toothbrushes and on fliers. He has radio and television ads and huge billboards, all dedicated to proclaiming his number to the world. Everyone who sees them knows that he’s the ‘tooth guy.’ He must have scads of new patients calling his office because of this memorable phone number, right?
Truthfully, he has no idea how many new patients call from this number or on which ad source specifically they saw it and are calling from. He can’t tell which of his calls come from billboards, which come from referrals, and which are just random wrong numbers. He doesn’t know how many calls result in new patients, or which sources of ad revenue bring in the most profitable patients. He’s blanketed his region with expensive advertising, and he can’t even tell if it’s working or why patients ultimately choose his practice. In reality, it probably has nothing to do with his snazzy number.
Five Basic Problems with Using a Phone Number as Your Brand
I understand the temptation to use your number as your brand. After all, attorneys do it. Florists do it. People who sell mattresses and carpets do it. If you know anything about the science of Influence and Dr. Robert Cialdini’s Principle of Consensus or Social Proof, then you know that just because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t mean that they are correct or have thought it through. Many times they are just doing it because that’s what everyone else they’ve seen before has done. However, if you can block out the influence of Consensus there are several reasons why branded numbers are not a good fit for your dental practice.
- The Internet has changed how people look for dentists. Most Americans have internet access. If they’re a stranger in town and are looking for a new dentist, they’re likely to head to the internet first. That way, they can see your office hours and location, check reviews, and see if you’re a good fit for them. By the time they’re looking for your phone number, the ‘sale’ has already happened. You don’t need a branded phone number to do your selling for you.
- Branded Numbers are easy to forget or confuse. Yes, even if you have a really cool number or great jingle, people are likely to forget it unless you have something as memorable as 1-800-Flowers. The thing is, you don’t serve a national clientele, or even an entire media market. Your number is likely to be something barely memorable and confusing. Will your patients really be able to remember the difference between 1-800-TOOTHER and 1-800-TEETHER in a pinch?
- Do you want the patients who are seeking a generic dentist? Branded numbers appeal most to people who are looking for a dentist, any dentist. Maybe you’ve built your practice around emergency care, and people who are desperate for a dentist right now and calling the most memorable number are your bread and butter. However, for most dentists, your best prospective patients aren’t the ones who are just looking for a generic dentist.
- Branded numbers don’t highlight your skills and talents. Not only do they attract the patients who just want a generic dentist, but they may also drive away the patients who are the best fit for your practice. For instance, do you offer same-day crowns with CEREC technology? Your branded number can’t convey that level of detail. It makes you blend into the crowd when you should be standing out.
- When you use a single, branded number, you lose valuable data. A branded number means that you can’t use tracking numbers to determine the source of calls. That means you don’t actually know important things like:
- Which advertising campaigns result in the most new patients.
- How much you’re spending per new patient in each campaign.
- What the average new patient attracted by a campaign spends in the first year.
- Which campaigns bring in patients who will refer family and friends.
- Which campaigns are likely to attract calls from people who can’t or won’t become patients?
A branded number makes you less likely to use the sort of call tracking programs that can give you this data. And when you avoid call tracking programs, you also lose valuable information on how well your staff members convert calls into appointments.
While there are several call tracking programs available, I, of course, prefer my own: Call Tracker ROI. We’ve customized our program specifically for dentists, and our service includes a live person listening to recordings of each call and tracking the 5 main data points that I’ve discovered we need for our practices to make smarter marketing decisions and to make those decisions faster.
When designed properly, call tracking programs give you the data you need to target your marketing, spend less money to attract more patients, and to inspire your staff to ‘close the deal’ on new patient calls. They’re a great tool for success, but only if you can admit that your phone number is not your brand.
Christopher Phelps, DMD, CMCT works with professionals across the country in identifying their marketing hurdles and showing them how to succeed and grow in an otherwise tough, competitive economy.