New patient marketing is all about finding clients that will bring repeat business, refer their friends and family, and basically spread good vibes about you to the surrounding community. But lately the social coupon craze has poured mud into the water, causing consumers and business owners alike to lose sight of these goals. The result is second-class service that most customers begrudgingly accept because, well, it’s a DEAL!
A few months ago I purchased one of these group coupons for 60 percent off of a full auto detail from a local car wash. Not only was I disappointed with the way I was treated once I redeemed my voucher, I realized that dentists often get stuck by the same traps that caught our car wash business owner when offering any sort of discount.
Rule 1: You should treat Groupon patients the same as your regular patients.
Two weeks ago I left my second voice mail message at the detailing center. The first phone call was never returned the week previous, but this time the owner called me back immediately. Maybe this was going to work out after all. Yes, he could reserve an appointment for me on the day I asked, but because a lot of people are trying to use their vouchers before they expire, he says the only time he can see me is for an early morning drop off. Not a problem.
So last Friday I drop the car off without incident. The owner assures me that the service will be superb, and I am like, hey, maybe these social coupon deals are worth my time. What a way to “kick the tires” and make sure that a business meets my needs, right?
Right? Ehh, not so much. Basically I got a $70 detailing for $70. If I’d paid the regular price of $179 and they’d called what they did to my car “detailing” I would have made them stay there another hour to go back over all the idiotic things that were missed, with me glaring over them for the inconvenience. And maybe I’d even ask for a HUGE discount.
But I was a pre-pay with my coupon. Instead, it was all I could do to get the heck out of there as quickly as I could. Don’t look back. And don’t go back.
Rule 2: Remember who you are trying to attract.
Out of the 150 auto detailing deals that were purchased during the offer period, only four were in the local area, according to the owner, and he seemed to think that those that traveled out of their way to visit his shop weren’t likely to come back. And then… as one of the four that lived locally, I got treated like one of the out-of-towners! Sheesh.
Not only do you want your marketing efforts to attract more repeat customers than one-timers, when you do have a “keeper” you need to make sure that they value not only your coupon offer but that they can see your Big Picture. In other words, why you signed on to be a Coupon Dentist in the first place. Many patients are hungry to understand your practice philosophy and your ethics. Make sure that you don’t compromise either when you decide to participate in a Daily Deal.
Rule 3: Create an offer with No Regrets.
The worst thing you can do is to go upside-down on a social coupon deal, where it actually costs you money to fulfill an offer. Forget prophys because of the perio thing – you don’t want to gnaw off more than you can occlusally manipulate. But then again, if you don’t make your deal enticing enough you won’t get anyone to purchase it.
You also have to be careful with the cuts you agree to share with the various coupon aggregators, and that you’re not ending up with the super-short end of the stick.
Above all, you don’t want your offer to be a Cheapie Freebie. Whitening kits are notorious for post-coupon exasperation in the dental practice. Take the whitening kit and run, say most of the Deal of the Day playbooks.
My suggestion for a Dental Deal that will attract new patients, enthuse your existing client base, and give your dental team a skip in their step, without tying up valuable chair time? Why not offer something that isn’t even dentistry? Try offering digital smile makeover photo shoots.
Maybe the offer reads like this:
“You want to look like a million bucks, but your teeth might be knocking a few zeroes off that last photo session. The smile designers at Dr. Chill’s Dental Practice can bring Photoshop magic to your mouth with this personalized production starring you and your potential.
What you’ll get (a $50 value):
• A one-on-one review of your ideas for smile enhancement
• A 30 minute shoot at our own photo studio
• High-resolution professional headshots, including minor retouching and the smile design of your choice, emailed to you
And be prepared to change your LinkedIn photo soon.”
So you charge a small sum for this, say $15. Hopefully the coupon websites will let you do something for this low. And even though you’ve heard this so much that it’s probably a cliche’ to you by now, keep in mind the most important rule of all:
Rule 4: Under-promise and over-deliver.
The bottom line is that you want to give buyers a reason to become patients.
You can make fun of yourself in your ad copy when you mention that you also want a person to come back as a dental patient. Because that’s like, duh. But you can’t say that “you’ll love us so much that you’ll want to get all that dental work done.” Whatever.
Or you can emphasize how at-home patients will feel in your practice if you have that sort of relaxed environment. Send each purchaser a note about your practice before they redeem their coupons. But no baiting and switching with high-pressure sales pitches. Keep it real, keep it caring, and most importantly, build a relationship with each person that comes in with the coupon. Everyone knows that it costs money to get dental work done. You just want to be sure that patients have your number when they’re ready to commit.
Think of this deal that you’re building in the same way that you think of magazines. The only reason that publishers let a magazine subscription go out for $12 per year is to create value in the mind of the subscriber (who reads free trade magazines cover to cover? no offense, PennWell publishing!) The real dollars come from the ad revenue, of course.
In that sense, your Groupon (or LivingSocial deal, or whatever program you use) can provide a photo service that professionals are looking for to enhance their online profiles, while at the same time creating low-cost marketing for you that is all about WBID: Warm Bodies In the Door.
And those warm bodies won’t care how much you know how to fix their mouths until they know how much you care*. Sometimes it’s just that simple.
*thank you to Linda Zdanowicz for her dental blog tagline that I tried to paraphrase to fit this article.