The Surprising Benefits of Groupon Deals for Dentists

In the dental community, many practitioners scoff at the idea of using Groupon to attract new patients. After all, Groupon has gained a bit of a reputation of attracting customers who are simply looking for a good deal, and who aren't interested in maintaining a long-term relationship with your practice. However, there are many surprising benefits that often go overlooked, which can make Groupon an attractive marketing endeavor for your practice.

In this article, we'll conduct a thorough analysis of the surprising benefits of Groupon as a marketing tool, and we'll also discuss some of the potential downsides.

Improve your search engine rankings

One of the best, yet least obvious benefits of partnering with Groupon is that you can get free search engine advertising as part of the deal. Groupon pays Google AdWords and Bing Ads to help promote your business, which can help drive your business to the top of the search results.

This perk is particularly beneficial for any dental practice that has a common or generic name (e.g. NY Dental), and ranks lower in search results than other practices with similar names. For example, would you be able to distinguish among the following practice names? NY Dental Group, NY Dental, New York Dental Group LLP, New York Dental Office, and NY Dental (again).

These are all real practices, and all of these practices appeared in a Google search for "NY Dental". However, since one of the two "NY Dental" practices is currently running a Groupon deal, it pops up as the third (promotional) result on Google AdWords:

Dental Groupon Google search results

By contrast, this practice shows up as the 8th result if you scroll down to the regular (nonpromotional) search results. According to a study conducted on Google result positioning, about 32% of people click on the first Google search result, while only roughly 3% of people click on the 8th result.

Dental Groupon Google search results - eighth place

Because NY Dental is a very generic name, in this case, running a Groupon deal was a smart decision, because it helped them stand out from the crowd and rank more highly than their similarly named competitors--without personally having to pay for a Google ad.

Market to local patients--without paying any upfront fees

Groupon provides built-in marketing and helps you gain exposure to new patients in your local area through three main sources:

  1. Anyone searching Google for a Groupon deal in their local area (e.g. a search for "New York City Groupon deal" may show your deal, if you are an NYC-based dentist).
  2. A link in a newsletter that Groupon sends to subscribers in your area.
  3. Anyone who directly searches or browses Groupon (either on the Groupon website or in the mobile app) for a dental deal in your area.

Whether a potential patient comes across your deal through a Groupon newsletter, by searching or browsing directly on Groupon, or a Google search, they will see your Groupon deal page, which includes a description of the deal you're offering, as well as details about you and your practice. This is essentially like free marketing for your practice.

Although there's always the risk that you will only attract low-quality patients who are not likely to convert into long-time patients, the fact that Groupon doesn't charge any upfront costs makes this a viable way to try to attract new patients, even if you only try it out temporarily as an experiment.

Build an online reputation

Certain people will never consider visiting a new dental practice if it doesn't have any patient reviews. If your practice already has a lot of positive reviews, you may not want to risk potentially tainting your online reputation with Groupon deal. However, if you've had trouble attracting patient reviews thus far, Groupon could be a great way to help your practice gain more reviews and attract the types of patients who like to read reviews before deciding to visit a new practice.

If you run a Groupon deal, Groupon helps solicit reviews on your behalf. These reviews will appear on your Groupon deal page, as well as in search results on Google. If your Groupon campaign takes off, you can easily gain hundreds of reviews--in fact, one of the best-selling dental Groupon deals in New York City has attracted 1,400 reviews! However, it's unlikely that all of the reviews will be positive, so you will have to be prepared to take the bad with the good.

It's nearly impossible to prevent the occasional bad review, but you can make an effort to tip the odds in your favor. Every aspect of the Groupon deal experience must be flawless: the booking process, waiting time, the procedure itself, and billing for the procedure (and any additional costs) should proceed without a hitch.

If you participate in a Groupon deal, you have to keep one thing in mind: Every Groupon patient is putting you and your entire practice on trial. In the end, the patient will reach a verdict, which determines if they will ever return to your practice for a followup treatment. And there is one more hurdle to consider--because these patients are getting a discount, you have to make an even greater effort to impress them, in order to persuade them to pay full price for the same procedure in the future.

Attract new types of patients

According to the National Association of Dental Plans, approximately 114 million Americans do not have dental insurance. This portion of the population is significantly less likely to visit the dentist. However, some percentage of the uninsured population is likely to visit deals sites like Groupon to get the affordable access to preventive care, like dental exams, X-rays, and cleanings.

A quick search on Yelp for the term "dentist groupon" appears to back up our hypothesis. In one review for a dental practice in New York, a patient wrote, "I too, am benefits-less, so I went with the Groupon."

In the case of one dental practice that has a 4.5 star average rating on Yelp, and 36 reviews (7 of which mention Groupon), many of the Groupon reviewers said that they were either waiting for their dental insurance to kick in, or they were uninsured and looking for affordable care. One reviewer said "I really hope my future dental insurance will include [dental practice name here]!" Another reviewer wrote, "My first visit was before I was on my employer's dental plan." Many of the Groupon reviewers were positive about their experience, and mentioned that they were pleasantly surprised that they weren't pressured to buy more procedures or products, even though they were there for a discounted exam.

What can we learn from these reviews? Groupon is infamous for attracting people who are looking for the best price, which makes them unlikely to return to your practice after they have redeemed their Groupon. However, with some luck, your Groupon deal may also lure in a desirable faction of new patients: those who are temporarily uninsured, but won't be for much longer.

Unlike those who are simply looking for a deal, this segment of the population is looking for a temporary discount on dental care, but they expect to start receiving dental benefits at some point in the future. If you impress these patients, they'll be more likely to remember you in the future, after they're covered by insurance. As such, running a Groupon deal may help you attract dependable new patients who were initially drawn to your discount, but would be willing to return for full-price care later on, after they are covered by insurance.

Another important side benefit of attracting uninsured patients through Groupon is that they may be more likely to refer your practice to their (insured) friends. In one particular Yelp review, the reviewer wrote that he didn't have dental insurance, but he was so impressed with the Groupon experience that he wanted to try to come back as often as he could, and refer all of his friends.

Give Grouponers the royal treatment -- and upsell smartly

Groupon customers commonly issue two complaints about redeeming their deals: feeling pressured to buy additional services, and getting treated rudely for redeeming their discount. If you do decide to partner with Groupon, make sure to train every member of your staff to treat Groupon patients just as well as--if not better than--regular patients. This can pay off hugely when you're trying to convert Groupon patients into long-time repeat patients.

Although Groupon patients are wary of the "upsell", it can be a good strategy for dentists if it is done tastefully. For example, if you are offering a Groupon for a whitening treatment, you can train your receptionist to politely ask if the patient might also be interested in booking a cleaning as part of the visit (and also offer to confirm if it would be covered by insurance). One Yelp reviewer attested to the fact that this tactic can work: "I bought a Groupon for teeth whitening, I also decided to do a teeth cleaning right before since I was due for one." Alternatively, if you're offering a Groupon for a cleaning, you may want to consider extending the discount, a strategy that appeared to win over another Yelp reviewer: "I also loved that they offered the same Groupon price if you return in six months."

When Groupon doesn't make sense

Groupon has many benefits to offer your practice, but you should also consider the potential downsides of running this type of promotion. For example, you need to prepare for the possibility that you will only gain patients who have no intention of ever coming back after they've redeemed their Groupon. The other concern is that the deal will potentially result in a negative financial impact on your practice. If you see that other dentists in your area are offering impossibly low prices, you may lose money on the procedure because you will have to offer a steep discount to match your competitors (remember that you also have to share a percentage of the profits with Groupon). It may be wise to conduct some research to see what prices other dentists are offering on Groupon in your area.

Another one of the biggest benefits to using Groupon is that they pay for promotional search engine ads. If your practice already ranks highly in search results for your area, then this perk will not benefit your practice as much as another practice that currently ranks poorly on Google.

If you already have a lot of positive patient reviews, you may want to avoid running a Groupon deal, because it's possible that Groupon will attract negative reviews that tarnish your online reputation. The reviews may also mention the price of your Groupon, which will inevitably disappoint others who have to pay full price for the same procedure after the deal is over. Indeed, practices that run Groupon deals may find that they will have a hard time ending the Groupon deal, because their patients have become accustomed to the discounted price.

Bottom line: It doesn't hurt to experiment

As we've seen here, it's possible that your dental practice can benefit from running a Groupon promotion, particularly if you're having trouble attracting new patients in the area, or if you want to rank more highly in search engine results. Running a Groupon deal requires a great deal of strategizing and planning, but it can reap great rewards if you execute it successfully, impress and convert new patients into lifelong, repeat patients, and/or find a way to upsell related services without driving people away.

Comments and Questions