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Tracking the Source of New Patients to Maximize Your Advertising ROI

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

call tracking ROI phoneUsing ad-tracking toll-free phone numbers to document what most staffs forget to ask.

If successful marketing has a mantra, it is: "You've got to track!"

Having and using an accurate tracking system to identify the source of new patients from the first phone call is the only way to calculate your marketing's Return-on-Investment (ROI) and to know the effectiveness of your various marketing tools. You've got to track!

Remember, new patient tracking needs to be done on the first phone call. If you wait until the new patient comes into the office to ask (or worse, fill in a blank on your patient intake form), it's very likely that you will get unreliable data.

Ask and ye shall receive

How can you track more effectively?

Well, the easiest and cheapest way is to ask every caller on the very first call, "Whom may we thank for referring you?"

If they were referred by a patient, they'll tell you (and remember to thank the referring patient as well - you can do so if you are careful not to conflict with HIPPA guidelines).

If the patient says something like "yellow pages" or "an ad," ask him or her to identify the ad specifically so that you can attribute the correct marketing vehicle. (Hint: you can ask for a page number, or insert "tracking codes" or artificial extension numbers next to the phone number.)

The only trouble is that while the above methodology is theoretically all you need, in reality, many offices neglect tracking even when they've been shown how to do it.

In a busy office, tracking just seems to fall to the bottom of the priority list. Reality intrudes...people forget to ask the caller...more than one person answers the phone...data is not recorded or lost...staffs fudge the numbers so that they look better to the boss.

Unique phone numbers

Relatively few people took note some years ago when yellow page publishers began offering unique phone numbers to help advertisers track the effectiveness of their ads. While not perfect, this simple methodology was a big step forward to improved accuracy.

You can borrow their idea by signing up for a variety of local or toll-free phone numbers and utilize each for specific ads or promotional vehicles. All calls can simply be forwarded to your main number. Then, simply review your phone bills on a monthly basis to match back calls to ads, and then calculate cost per call and "guesstimate" your return on investment (ROI).

While this method requires a bit of legwork and is not very user friendly, it is a lot better than not tracking at all.

Call your phone company to find out what numbers they have available.

An even better solution exists for Healthcare Success' clients

We were very excited a couple of months ago when we stumbled upon a new company which offers the best method we've seen to track inbound calls - accurately, automatically and consistently.

When prospective patients dial dedicated local or toll-free numbers, the calls are transparently connected to your office, and all the important call details are documented, live and online (no waiting for monthly telephone bills).

The tracking system reports caller ID, the number, date and time, call duration and other details - so you know exactly when and how many people called in response to your ad(s) - 24 hours a day.

You can even record the actual calls for better customer service and training. If you choose this option, appropriate disclosures will be automatically made to the callers, though you may have to take additional steps to ensure you don't run afoul with HIPPA guidelines.

You'll want to use a different tracking number for each promotional channel and/or ad - one number for the yellow pages ad, a different number for your website, and so on. Aggressive advertisers can utilize dozens of specific tracking numbers.

The cost? Cheap. Around $8 per number per month, plus a 9 cent per minute usage fee.

The only catch is that our vendor is not set up to work with small businesses or doctors' offices. Because their margins are razor thin, they have to work with volume customers, i.e., advertising agencies like ours. (They even asked us not to mention their name in this article because they can't cost effectively handle inquiries from private practices.)

As a result, we've decided to offer this terrific service to all of our paying clients (just one more added benefit of hiring Healthcare Success). We don't even mark up their charges, because we feel this is a vital tool for anyone doing significant marketing.

So in conclusion...

It's no contest. Whether or not you work with us, dedicated phone numbers move the tracking responsibility off your front desk, eliminate having the staff report "there were no calls," or discovering too late that you were getting inbound calls but not setting appointments.

With an ad-tracking phone number you can know the actual performance results and ROI of your marketing effort - even potentially in real time.

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