The following article is written by a fellow DIYMarketer who is also a Dentist. It’s really exciting to have readers and practitioners share their strategies and success stories.

The woes of dentists in our era of recession are no secret to the public. When we’re forced to make cuts to our family and personal budgets, we tend to sacrifice caring for our own health all too early.

Doctors know that it’s a dangerous trend, but that hasn’t stopped the decline in new patients coming through the doors. Dentists, in particular, have been forced to find new ways to adapt, both due to the recession and to a constant stream of new practitioners into many local markets.

I’m a dentist myself. Over the last three years, our office has begun to utilize social media and online discounts in ways that I would never have imagined just a short time ago. We’ve found that it’s highly important to brand yourself online and maintain that presence in order to attract new clients and maintain existing ones. Whatever type of business you’re in, those same principles apply.

While ‘traditional’ Google Ad Words PPC (pay-per-click) marketing is viable and booming, it can be an expensive endeavor for a small business. It requires an employee constantly tending to the ad word campaign, or you’ll find yourself overpaying for neglected ad words you have automatically set up. Ad words, already an alternative to print and the Yellow Pages, are already finding substitute methods of online marketing to replace them.

With Google+, offering a ‘+1’ to a business can up their Google ranking amongst your friends and Google contacts. If you’ve given a +1 to a website, it’s more likely to show up on the pages of people in your Google contacts. Similar principles apply to Facebook and the ‘Like’ button. Businesses need to maintain a vibrant, frequently updated Facebook home page in order to obtain and encourage ‘Likes.’ Those that click the button are essentially signing up for updates. If you’re a dentist or health care professional who services your patients infrequently, staying in the loop and reminding them to visit you is an invaluable tool that social media offers.

Daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social have proven to be game-changers for a few industries, including dentistry. Although restaurants and salons have begun a steep retreat from daily deals, citing poor return customer rates, other industries have benefited from the steeply discounted offers.

It’s estimated that about 1 in 11 daily deals is now health care related. Unlike a restaurant, where the owner has little control over whether or not a customer returns (beyond offering quality food and good service), a health care professional collects all of the contact information of their clients. Getting a new customer through the door is the hardest step.

A huge number of people, including those with health insurance, don’t have dental coverage. Paying out-of-pocket for x-rays, cleanings, and examinations can be a hugely discouraging factor to getting through the front door. Groupon and Living Social generally ask their merchants to offer their product at 50 percent off, and then take a sizeable chunk out of that as a fee. The result may be that the merchant offers their product with little or no profit.

Although that hasn’t paid off for some businesses, it’s still a smart move for health care professionals like dentists, acupuncturists, and chiropractors that specialize in personalized care. Furthermore, new patient costs like initial screenings and x-rays don’t have to be repeated for return customers, encouraging loyalty.

Before offering a daily deal with Groupon or Living Social, consider the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Running a Groupon deal is cheap for the advertiser, as they don’t pay for running the ad, but instead collect their portion of the promotional proceeds after the run-date.
  • It is an excellent source of online promotion.
  • Exposure to very tech-savvy customers.
  • Creates a flood of customers.

Cons:

  • For a smaller dentistry office, turning on the fire hose of patients might be difficult to manage.
  • Generating return clients doesn’t happen on its own. You’ll need infrastructure to maintain relationships with Facebook, Google+, and personalized mailings.
  • Although Groupons pay up-front, the profit margin may be low.

One thing you won’t have to worry about at a dentistry office is potential clientele trying to take advantage of a Groupon. Often times at restaurants, you may see the same people redeeming multiple Groupons. It’s difficult to get away with (and somewhat pointless) getting your teeth cleaned twice in the same week!

What other industries are daily deals sites like Groupon still a wise marketing choice for? Do you have success or horror stories from using these services?

About the Author

Bahram Nasehi is a Vice President and partner at Dulles Glass and Mirror. He is instrumental in the developement and manufacturing of commercial glass products including wall and gym mirrors, and residential products such as custom cut glass shelves, shower doors and table tops.