cheap-dental-patients

What Groupon and direct mail / postcard campaigns don’t want you to know about the dental patients they bring into your practice

“Her parents are rich, and she’ll buy you whatever you want,” they giggled.

That’s quite an offer to receive, especially if you’re 12-years-old, but I turned it down.

That offer was made (at least indirectly) by Stephanie, the new girl in my middle school. She wanted to go steady, and her gaggle of friends made sure I knew all of the benefits of being her boyfriend before I made a decision.

Stephanie was nice, but I was more interested in sports, swimming at the neighborhood pool, and Pac-Man than I was girls back then. As politely and as “unawkwardly” as I could, I declined the offer.

So what does two pre-pubescent kids going steady have to do with Groupon and direct mail offers you use for your dental practice? Plenty. Think of it this way: you’re Stephanie (you want to start a relationship—in your case, with dental patients); direct mail is Stephanie’s friends (they want to help you attract what you’re looking for), and potential dental patients, well, they are me (people who may/may not be interested in starting a relationship).

When you start a relationship by offering discounts and freebies (essentially buying attention), what kind of patients do you think you’ll attract? Yep, mostly price shoppers and opportunists. The next questions you should ask are, “How loyal are these patients going to be to my practice? Will they move on to another practice as soon as they spot another attractive offer?”

To be fair, there is a percentage of price-shopper dental patients who will become loyal to your practice. They scheduled an appointment because you offered them a deal, but they stayed because you won them over. In those cases, good for you! However, most of them are going to move on to the next dentist who offers a deal, so you discount your services for nothing.

Using tactics like Groupon and direct mail offers can bring in patients quickly, but they won’t bring in the patients you want. There still might be some value in it, but there are other, more effective ways to bring in patients. Consider online video.

Unlike text and still photos, video has the unique ability to connect with potential patients on a personal and emotional level. When you can make that kind of connection–people become patients (and loyal patients). Video works because the relationship started by you sharing who you are and why you love your profession and your patients, and not by offering a cheap discount.

Will a price shopper watch a two-minute video on your website? No chance. They’ll scour your website and the internet for deals/coupons. If they’re unsuccessful, they’ll call your front office and ask, “How much is a crown, prophy, composite, etc.” They’ll then price shop your fees with other practices in your area.

So who would invest the time to watch a two-minute online video about you and your practice? Someone who wants to select the right dentist for themselves and their family—someone looking for more than a one-time discount—someone looking for a dental home. Aren’t those the type of patients you’re looking for.

Hmm, as for Stephanie. Well, I moved away at the beginning of high school, so I can’t say definitively what happened to her. I suspect she was able to get over me and on to someone else within a couple of days, hours, I mean minutes, and I hope she learned that you can’t buy love or loyalty—can’t do it with Groupon or direct mail either.

PS—Groupon, and particularly direct mail, can be effective in driving in patients to your practice, so I am not advocating that you dismiss them completely. I would, however, augment those efforts with other marketing efforts that will likely bring in patients who aren’t deal shopping—e.g. video.

Additional dental marketing articles you should check out:

Leverage YouTube to drive in more dental patients

Dental patient testimonials—why some work now; some don’t

Dental marketing and design tips—rapid fire format