Case Study: Dentist Finds the Key to Daily Deal Success

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Houston dentist Dr. Heather Wilmore has plenty of experience with daily deal companies, having run offers with a handful in just the past year. Her reason for offering group coupons has less to do with turning a profit and more to do with building a strong client base. She’s learned to structure her deals in a way that increases the chances that new patients will continue returning for follow up appointments long after their coupons have been redeemed.

I saw that you ran a deal recently on BuyWithMe. Is that the first daily deal you’ve offered?
No, it’s actually the third. My office manager gets a lot of stuff from Groupon and LivingSocial, and we noticed that [dentists] were doing deals for bleaching with an exam. So, we contacted Groupon, LivingSocial, and Urban Dealight all at the same time. Urban Dealight happened to be the first one that responded back. So we did a bleaching special with them and had a pretty good turnout.

About two or three months later, in June, I had a lady from Austin contact me on Facebook saying that she was working for a company called aDealio that does promotions online. I felt like I’d give them a try out, and I did. That one wasn’t so hot. I only had two responses compared to the 109 from Urban Dealight. All these new online promotions are popping up, so I might as well try them. Now, I’ve got Our representative from used to work with Citysearch, and she knew me from my marketing with Citysearch. So, that helped. My husband found another one when he was looking online last week called Bloomspot and we [went] live with them on Monday.

How do you decide which daily deal companies to work with?
I really just work with all of them. When it comes to the deals, we decide the deals together. They come up with what they’re suggesting and what they’ve seen that’s sold and what’s been most successful, then we negotiate exactly what the discount will be and what the cost will be to the customer. It’s usually a 50/50 split, [but] I have to make sure the 50 percent that I get covers any material. And with the bleaching I have to make sure the 50 percent portion covers my bleach. With Bloomspot, we’re doing a promotion with Invisalign. At first, they wanted to do $2,000 for a $5,000 case, which is a full case. I told them we couldn’t do that because my lab bill alone is $1,600. If we’re selling this for $2,000, I get a 50/50 split, and my lab bill is $1,600, then I’m out $600. So, we changed it to $2,400 for a $3,800 case, which is an express case, and my lab bill is only $899.

The deals aren’t for making a profit. They [need] to cover whatever expenses I have, but they’re more about having new patients come in and building that clientele. We learned that with Urban Dealight. We did an in-office bleaching, and we learned that a lot people already had other dentists. They didn’t want to spend the $400, $500, or $600 out-of-pocket for their dentists’ in-office bleaching, so they came here and then they were going back to their own dentists. That’s why with the new deals we learned to do an exam with the in-office bleaching. We’re going to do an exam, cleaning, and x-rays, so it’s really geared more for people looking for [a new] dentist.

It sounds like patient retention is really important to you. What do you think makes a good deal in the eyes of your customers?
With today’s economy, [what’s important is] the price and how much you get for it. I think a lot of it does have to do with the amount, the price, and what the patient is receiving. It’s just the way the economy is. A lot of people don’t want to go [to the dentist] because they don’t have insurance and they don’t have [money] to spend for an exam and cleaning. They know they need dental work, they just don’t have the means for it all. So, with these deals it kind of helps. Now with the special, you get the exam, the cleanings, x-rays, and bleaching for $150. We even have some patients with insurance who are scheduling [appointments], and we’re not charging their insurance. That gives them more benefits they can use if they need that filling or crown [in the future]. So, it’s just trying to maximize what you have insurance-wise.

Besides daily deals, how else do you advertise?
It’s just marketing and getting the name out there. Then learning what marketing works, what marketing doesn’t work, and which one will show some sort of return. Right now what I’m doing, too, is I always check [online reviews]. People write reviews all the time, so I go through the internet and see if bad reviews were written, and see what people have said. It is really just learning what works. You have to keep up with marketing; knowing what works, what doesn’t, and going from there.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.