By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
It’s an elementary healthcare advertising rule, without a call-to-action, a message is at least incomplete. More likely, the advertising effort is probably an ineffective waste of time, effort and money.
But if a call-to-action (CTA) is such a vital and fundamental element, why is it that experienced healthcare communications pros dispense with the indispensable? In many cases, they are too close to their work. And to them, the CTA—what the reader should do next—is implicit, boldly self-evident or implied.
But the only-somewhat-interested reader is not immersed in the subject. Not yet anyway. They are busy with their own interests. A compelling ad and a clear call-to-action moves them from passive to active participation.
Even when the next step seems obvious, all forms of doctor and healthcare advertising—from direct mail to television spots—work better with a clear call-to-action. In framing the action step—which is more than the last two words, the main considerations include:
- Define your goals and objectives;
- WHO: Know your audience needs or interests;
- WHAT: Use action words to direct and motivate;
- WHY: Be clear about benefits or pay-off;
- WHEN: Encourage immediate action;
- HOW: Direct a simple and specific action (call, make appointment, order now);
- Stick to one compelling thing for the reader to do;
- WHERE: Provide an easy and obvious action channel, (phone number, clickable link, address);
- Make the CTA graphically strong and prominent.
The call-to-action is a means for interaction between the provider and the prospective patient. Interaction is not only a step in delivering a benefit to the reader (and new business for the practice), it is an engagement tool and the beginning point of a relationship.
The call-to-action often is directing the reader to call and make an appointment. But depending on the goals, marketing tools and objectives, the CTA could be any number of other actions that attract, inform, engage, cause the reader to share content via social media, and/or keep the provider top-of-mind.
Here are some idea starters to consider:
- Ask open-ended questions to inspire a continuing dialog or discussion;
- Embrace timely, thought-provoking, creative ideas or concepts;
- Provide information via Q&A, discussions, or online events;
- Include fun, participation formats, such as contests or activities that educate and inform;
- Offer downloadable ebooks, podcasts, webinars or other online formats;
- Facilitate sign-up or sign-in (a form of commitment) for events, etc.;
Think of the call-to-action in doctor and healthcare marketing as an all-important first step to an objective or goal. Actively directing “what’s next” leads the reader into a relationship, perhaps by way of a first appointment in the medical office, or via an ongoing dialog or engaged customer connection. In healthcare, it’s necessary to engage prospective patients today for solutions they may need tomorrow.