Do Click To Call Ads Work in Treatment Marketing?

What if you could "jump the line" and get calls directly?

What if you could "jump the line" and get calls directly?

If you're doing web marketing for addiction treatment, why bother running ads to landing pages at all? Why not just let people call you directly from your ads?

That's the allure of "click to call" ads in Google Adwords.

If you're reading this, you're probably wondering "do they work".

Short answer is "only if your services are cheap", with shades-of-gray. I'll explain why that is - with real world examples from our experience - below, and tell you what to do depending on your specific situation.

First, though, let's look at why Click to Call ads can be so...alluring.

Why Click to Call Ads Can Be So...Alluring

I've explained elsewhere the stages of an online intake cycle for a treatment center:

First a potential client needs to search your keyword in Google...

...then he or she needs to click on your ad...

...then go to your website or landing page...

...then, if the stars align, finally call you.

That's at least two things that have to happen for you to get a call:

  1. They click on your ad
  2. After visiting your website, they pick up the phone

But what if you could cut that process short? One of the many options in Google's Adwords platform is "click-to-call" ads. Here's what one looks like:

click to call.jpg

They only display to mobile users, but they allow a browser to click directly on the ad, then your call center gets an immediate call.

Now your process looks like:

  1. They click on your ad, which also initiates the call. One-and-done.

Before I deflate your hopes, let me pump them up still more. Here's a hypothetical campaign - similar to real campaigns we've seen, but altered enough to protect privileged details - that's using almost exclusively click-to-call ads. This is just a 24-hour view.

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 8.44.38 AM.png

See the conversions? 5 calls in a day, with the cost-per-conversion at around $300!

Many centers I speak to daydream of $300 calls. "If I could convert one-in-ten of those into an admit..."

And there's no reason to fuss with building or optimizing landing pages, or following up with the visitors who didn't directly pick up the phone, but filled out a contact form instead.

Psyched enough? Ok, time for "wet blanket";)

Reason One You Might Want to Think Twice - Lead Quality

Astute readers probably spotted a detail I glossed over. And most of the center owners I speak to are savvy enough to recognize it.

Do you know what I'm talking about?

It's lead quality.

Here's what one owner of a large center told me last week: "Everyone wants to guarantee leads. At this point, I'm only interested in working with a marketer who guarantees admits."

To illustrate the "quality problem", imagine you were paying me "per lead" (which in treatment essentially means "per call"), and you weren't paying too-close-attention to how many callers you admitted, and you also weren't interested in the campaigns I was running. (In other words, the total opposite of almost every center owner, most of whom, as I described, are extremely astute about online marketing.)

It's easy to find people interested in free stuff

It's easy to find people interested in free stuff

If I were unscrupulous and didn't care about my professional reputation, I'd just run ads for "free rehab" all day, and send you metric tons of calls.

And percent would be qualified.

You'd pay for tons of clicks and get zero admits.

On the other end of the spectrum, Brian, our Adwords manager, used to run campaigns for local contractors. He had a client who had to pay $60-or-more just for a click to his website, but who was converting close to 30% of those leads into customers. His acquisition cost was actually dirt cheap because the quality was so high.

So where does click-to-call rank for addiction treatment lead quality? Very low, it turns out.

For starters, many the centers we work with provide extremely high-value services, and many aren't able to accept things like Medicare, or state versions like Mass-Health or Medi-Cal.

People who are serious about big investments "do their research"

People who are serious about big investments "do their research"

Think about the last time you made a large investment, like college tuition, or even a home. Did you Google it, and click on the first result you saw, or did you do your research?

Prospective treatment clients are no different. For a top-shelf residential or intensive outpatient program, they like to take their time deciding, and they like a loooooot of reassurance that they're making the best choice.

That's what your website landing pages do. Instead of forcing a browser to make an up-or-down decision on a potentially-five-figure investment in recovery, you're demonstrating value and competency, and building warm impressions on your landing page. (For a complete guide on how to do that, read this.)

So it makes intuitive sense, but what does the data say? Here's an email from my adwords team from last month:

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 8.59.00 AM.png


The best leads came almost exclusively from desktop searches. That means the calls you want are people sitting down at their desk, and taking time to make a decision.

Click-to-call searches, by definition, are exclusively mobile. Which means we were able to attribute zero high-quality calls to click-to-call.

Reason Two You Might Want to Think Twice - You're Only Capturing a "Sliver" of The Market

Even if click-to-call ads didn't cary the risk of wasting stacks of money on garbage calls, we still wouldn't recommend them as more than one small facet of your campaign strategy, let alone the primary one.

Remember the example above? The fact that at a high-ticket investment, the majority of potential buyers will want time to decide, and proof-they-can-trust-you?

It turns out that's a special case of a larger principle of marketing; what my colleague John McIntyre calls "The 3 Percent Rule". It goes something like this:

In the average market, only around 3% of site visitors will be "red hot" and ready to invest.

Around 50% will never invest.

But a huge number - potentially 47% - might invest. But they need more time, and they need to trust you more.

I used to write about this all the time when I did email marketing, because I'd see websites that pushed for a sale on the front page, and didn't collect any email addresses.

They were leaving more than 9/10 of their potential sales on the table.

But it's the same with click-to-call ads. Even if the quality was good (which, as we've seen, it's not), you'd only be siphoning off a small fraction of your potential clients, since most need more time, and more information, to decide.

"But if I only use landing pages, won't I miss out on the people ready to call right now?"

No, and here's why...

What to Do Instead

It turns out Google gives you a way to have your cake and eat it too. They're called "ad extensions". Here's what one looks like:

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 9.06.47 AM.png

It seems simple, but by putting your number in an ad extension, not only are you giving the people ready to call this second a way to do that (for free, by the way, since you only pay for clicks in Adwords)...'re also giving the vast majority of your potential clients the additional information and reassurance they need.