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Are you a dental discount addict?

Are you a dental discount addict?
Bob Bowers

Most businesses have a goal of staying in business; things like retention, word of mouth, trust, and a respectable reputation are important to them. But, they send a different message when they choose to play the discount manipulation game with their patients. The problem is that these discounts rarely provide what they need to reach their goals.



Manipulative discounting is the heroin of the new patient game in dentistry. They include things like “$1 Initial Exam”, “Free Initial Exam and X-rays”, or “Free Whitening for All New Patients” etc.  These discounts and promotions often supply a short term bump in new patients, but then the high wares off and the practice must come up with something new and better. Often further discounting their services get another buzz. Concurrently, the practice is often disappointed at the poor quality of new patients their new patient marketing is generating. Can you say “Groupon Implosion”?

What many dental practices miss in these discount messages is what they are actually communicating to patients.  Here is what some examples:

Discount message: $1 Initial Exam, Free Initial Exam and X-rays, etc.

Patient impression: “We care more about new patients than we do about our existing clients and we are desperate for more new patients because our existing patients don’t refer us enough new patients. Additionally we promise to find something you need dental wise to cover our costs.”

Discount message: $250 off your First Implant

Patient impression: “I really want to sell you multiple implants so I am willing to discount the first one.”

Discount message: “Free Whitening”

Patient impression: “We really don’t know what might make you want to come to our practice so we are offering you something we think everyone wants.”

Discount message: “Emergency Exam, $1”

Patient impression: “I have an open schedule because our practice isn’t that busy and I am hoping you will come to me with a dental emergency that will lead to immediate treatment needs that we can bill you for today.”


Building a fantastic patient base and new patient flow takes grit and the willingness to define what really differentiates you as a practice. Once you know that- focus on clearly communicating that message to BOTH existing and new patients.  If you really want to offer some type of special recognition or savings, look at ways to reward loyalty and referrals. Invest in marketing that clearly communicates your mission and message and how that differs from the $1 exam addicts.

If you are an addict, we highly recommend reading the following business and marketing books that we promise will leave you with more ideas than you know what to do with.

Start with Why – Simon Sinek

Contagious– Why Things Catch On – Jonah Berger

Fascinate – Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation – Sally Hogshead

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