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Oregon Dental Board Bans Groupon

Oregon Dental Board Bans Groupon

Unless you live in the state of Oregon you may have missed the breaking news that the Oregon State Dental Board has banned to use of Groupon for Oregon Dentists. The Board’s position is that Groupon is a violation of the concept of commissions and fee-splitting.

Here is a link to an article announcing the ban:

http://www.businessinsider.com/oregon-dentists-and-chiropractors-ban-groupons-2011-9?op=1

Here is the statement provided on the Oregon State Board’s website:

!!NEWSFLASH!! Internet Coupon Advertising!!! Please Read!!

The Board has recently become aware of different companies soliciting Oregon licensees to enter into contracts for marketing and promotion services between the licensee and the company to promote voucher systems for potential patients. The Board has preliminarily determined that these may violate the unprofessional conduct rule OAR 818-012-0030(3) which prohibits offering rebates, split fees, or commissions for services rendered to a patient to any person other than a partner, employee or employer.

The Board suggests that until this can be fully reviewed by the Board, licensees proceed with caution and if they feel necessary seek legal counsel on this matter or contact the Board office at (971) 673-3200

If you practice in the State of Oregon it would indeed be wise to proceed with caution regarding Groupon or other ‘daily deal’ sites. However, what does this mean for Dentists in other locations? It remains to be seen if other States will follow Oregon’s lead on the ban, though it is likely that other states are looking into action as this blog goes to print. The broader question is whether offering deep discounts on a service is a wise marketing strategy. I’ll share my experiences and opinion.

First, my experience. Some of our clients have participated in Groupon or other daily deal site promotions as part of their marketing activities. We have seen three offers among our clients; Whitening Special (ie: $100 in-office whitening), New Patient Special (ie: $69 cleaning, exam, x-rays), Invisalign Special ($49 Invisalign Exam then $1,000 off Invisalign Case Fee). The entire concept behind Groupon is to offer an amazing deal to get people to visit your practice, then impress these new patients to become regular patients. Does it work? More importantly, does this work for dentistry?

Our experience is that the Whitening and New Patient Specials have been absolute failures. Plenty of people have responded to the ‘deal’, but very few have become regular patients. They came in for the deal and blew right back out. Because the deal was such a deep discount, offices lose money on the deal service. The Invisalign Special has produced better results. Typically we will see 15-20 people respond to the Invisalign deal with a conversion rate of 50-60% of these patients following through with Invisalign treatment. You will need to analyze if your profit margin on these Invisalign cases justifies the $1,000 discount.

Now, my opinion. Groupon or other daily deal sites are just not the best way to market your practice. The concept is enticing because it is so easy. The pitch is, ‘just sign up and watch new patients flock to your office’. The reality is less than exciting. I am reminded of a quote that Coach John Wooden often repeated; “Nothing will work, unless you do”. Instead of going for the easy marketing fix, I’d encourage you to work at developing a comprehensive plan that includes the three elements of; Internal Marketing, External Marketing and Digital Marketing. Here’s to your success. Keep Smiling!