Deals, discounts and dentistry — coupons for dental practices

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Dental-discountDentistry has traditionally demured from loud marketing. So why the sudden enthusiasm for the Shop A Docket? By Meg Crawford

Traditionally, dentists shied away from the concept of selling dentistry—no one wanted to be branded a used car salesman or ambulance chaser. Plus, Aussies tend to be skeptical when it comes to an upsell in the chair, often thinking it’s a pitch to line the dentist’s pocket rather one than one promoting a necessary procedure.Shop A Docket is a marketing technique that neatly dodges these issues.

The Shop A Docket business started in 1986 with its best-known platform, the printed coupon, offering discounts and offers on the back of receipts at all large supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths, Safeway’s, Kmart, Target and Big W) and some independents. It’s the sole provider of this type of advertising in Australia, promoting more than 5,000 businesses in more than 2,500 supermarkets nationally.

These days, Shop A Docket also has a firm foothold in the digital market. It has more than half a million email subscribers receiving special offers, relevant deals, competitions and product launches in their area. It also has a mobile app with 75,000-plus downloads and 128,000-plus followers on Facebook, which means that it can offer offer geo-targeted messaging to a massive audience.   

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“We were introducing new clients to the dentists, as well as shortening the purchase cycle of the existing customers by reminding them of the service and the brand,” — Tim Wingrove

Another interesting development in the Shop A Docket story is the expansion of the type of businesses and industries it represents. Its core industries are food, restaurants, entertainment, automotive, hair salons, beauty services and gyms. However, in recent years professional, white-collar services have increasingly availed themselves of the Shop A Docket approach, including GPs, chiropractors and dental practices. Dentists in particular have been one of Shop A Dockets fastest growing advertising categories in the last three years.

Dentistry was a little slow on the uptake at first. “It took us a long while to have what is a conservative industry take us seriously,” says Tim Wingrove, Shop A Docket’s national sales manager. However, it didn’t take long before dental practices realised what was on offer was a no-brainer. “As the dental industry became more competitive, dentists twigged to the fact that the primary audience for Shop A Docket is about 70 per cent female. These are women who are aged between 25 and 54 years of age and they’re the mums. Lightbulbs went on: the primary organisers for healthcare of a family, whether it be the doctor or the dentist, are the mums. So, all of a sudden we were seen as an opportunity for dentists to connect with their target audience at a local level.”

The proof, of course, was is in the pudding. Wingrove reports that the returns were great, with high exposure and a competitive advantage. “We were introducing new clients to the dentists, as well as shortening the purchase cycle of the existing customers by reminding them of the service and the brand,” he says.

Discount-couponThe other major benefit is exclusivity over a region. “We only sell 15 advertisers into a particular geography and only one of those spaces is allocated to dentists,” explains Wingrove. “We offer a channel with an exclusive opportunity for a dental practice to reach a defined audience in the absence of all of their competitors. It’s also high exposure. We’re a high-frequency channel: every consumer averages around four coupons for each of our clients in their area per month. So, say you were Cranbourne Dental and you were on a Shop A Docket advertising in your local area; the average consumer will get four Cranbourne Dental messages each month. It builds competitive advantage, getting exposure and connecting with the right audience. Basically, it’s getting brand awareness at a local level with key influencers in the decision making of a household in a channel where there’s an absence of competitors, all of which can be augmented with email campaigns at a local level, Facebook promotions or a coupon for the app.”

Wingrove now has many keen dental practices. “They almost arrange it as ‘set and forget’ marketing. They book rolling 12-month contracts to protect their space and own their own area,” he says.

So, what types of offers are common for dentists when it comes to this type of marketing and how does it unfold in practice? “Free initial consultations or a discounted scale and clean are common,” Wingrove says. “One of the aims is to attract new customers, so it’s often quite an aggressive first offer to get them through the door. It gives the dentist the opportunity to build a relationship with the consumer and once the initial consultation is complete, there’s the opportunity to develop a treatment or care plan if further work is required. The patient may not get all of the work planned, but if the service is good and the relationship develops, they’ll return. Also, it’s often the mums who are the first entry point, and if they are satisfied with the service, it will filter through to the rest of the family. We introduce the dentist to one customer, who may turn into four.”

Aman Poonia, part-owner and practice manager for DentaGlow Taigum in Queensland, has been using Shop A Dockets for his practice for the last two years. “There were two reasons for the decision to use them,” he says. “First of all, I’m a shopper and I’ve seen them in the shopping bags—it’s a good way to advertise. Secondly, we were a relatively new practice, so we were looking at all relevant avenues to get the word out and this was a great way to get into the printed format.”

Poonia has learned a few lessons since starting to use Shop A Dockets. “Initially, we were including a few offers on the one coupon,” he says. “But then we realised it was actually better to put just one—it’s more clear, there’s more space, it’s more readable.” Poonia’s practice has been creative with its offers, including the offer of no gap between the cost of the service and the amount of the rebate from private health cover for the first consultation and then a discount on the gap for subsequent visits.

Poonia already has ideas for the next round of offers. “I think we’re going to focus on high-end work, like implants,” he says. “We’d get fewer inquiries, but a higher return on the investment.”

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