Should Doctors Do Groupon?

Groupon deal, Botox

It’s one of the biggest Internet sensations in online marketing but is it right for you? “It,” of course, is Groupon, the deal-of-the-day website that provides big discounts to online shoppers, and it presents unique opportunities and challenges for you and your practice.

Groupon can be difficult to work with, says Eva Sheie, director of client strategy for Strategic Edge Partners (and a new guest blogger here at medibeauty). On the positive side, it can drive tons of clicks to your site.

Consider the case of a Strategic Edge client who offered a $400 IPL procedure for $99. Although a potential loss-leader, more than 1,800 people visited the site the day the offer ran and 81 signed up for the practice’s email list. “It was completely worth it,” says Sheie, “just for the web traffic and conversions alone.”

Groupon deal, Google Analytics, conversions

On the other hand, working with Groupon also presents unique challenges. Generally speaking, the company dictates the terms of its deals — the standard arrangement calls for a 50% discount, with Groupon taking roughly half of what’s left — and the site’s snarky style may be better suited to fast-food restaurants than long-term beauty treatments. Touting Botox as an alternative to “cryogenically freezing your face” because it “doesn’t impact the patient’s ability to be alive” may not project the image you want.

There are also significant questions as to whether Groupon actually builds repeat business or simply attracts one-time visitors seeking a good deal before moving on. The same is true for LivingSocial, Yuupon and other daily-deal sites.

Bottom line, says Sheie: “You should not expect to make money on your Groupon deal but rather, view it as a tool for exposure.”

Doctor Takeaways

1. Daily deals are best used for aesthetic, not medical procedures

When daily deals are structured as compensation-per-lead arrangements, they amount to fee-splitting, which is illegal for medical procedures in many jurisdictions, notes Tracy Drumm in Plastic Surgery Practice. The law, as usual, lags the fast-paced world of the Internet but until specific rules are developed, limit Groupon deals to products and services provided by aestheticians and other office staff.

2. Limit deals to single-treatment procedures

Imagine the results if 100 people accepted a Groupon deal for a multi-treatment procedure like laser hair removal. Add up the time and salaries involved and the heightened toll on your equipment and there’s no way to make a profit when you’re only netting 25% of the revenue. Stick to single-treatment procedures (or products) instead.

3. Lay the groundwork to facilitate upselling or cross-selling

Ultimately, Groupon deals are a means to introduce potential patients to your practice so it’s important to make them feel welcome when they visit your website and your office. Sheie recommends running a “Welcome Groupon” banner on the former and solid sales training in the latter: “If they come in for the Groupon deal, you want to ask what else are you interested in or did you know we also do provide this service?

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.