What do an electrician and a dentist have in common? Meet Carl Graves, DDS, owner of Sand Dollar Dental in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. He was a successful electrician in St. Louis and is now a successful dentist with a growing practice in the Florida Panhandle. Our weekly advertiser success stories are sponsored by SPECbyte.com.
Graves started dental school at 40, graduated, and moved his family south. He bought a failing dental center, renovated the 1963 building (mostly on his own) and, with the help of radio advertising, more than doubled the business within a year.
Radio Ink: What sets Sand Dollar Dental apart from other dental practices?
Graves: It’s a family business. I own it, my wife helps me with the front desk as
office manager, and my two sons help with maintenance. I have a receptionist, two assistants, and one hygienist, and I’m getting ready to hire a second hygienist. We are everything you would not expect to see at a dental office.
Going to see a dentist for a lot of people is very stagnant, very stale. We have fun with our patients, we interact with them. I have some patients that when I’m doing extractions or root canals, they are laughing. That never happens in a dental office; we bring our patients into the fun with us. A lot of people are afraid to go to the dentist. If you can be a real person and interact with them, they appreciate that, and that makes the experience less stressful.
Radio Ink: How were you introduced to radio?
Graves: I was introduced to radio by Facebook. I was doing my own marketing and sentfriend invitations to about 250 people in one day who were in the Fort Walton Beach
area. They accepted my request, and then I invited them to like my dental page. About 25 percent liked my page, and about 10 to 15 percent of those are now my patients. My Sand Dollar Dental page got almost a thousand likes in less than a year. One of those was a DJ at WHWY 98.1, Bo Reynolds, who contacted me and said he needed a dentist. I said, “I need a radio station,” and he said, “Let’s get together and talk.”
Radio Ink: What was your experience like when you met with your account executive for the first time?
Graves: I had had another radio group that met with me first, and it was kind of a put-off because they told me that this is how many people “possibly” can hear my ads in the area. They couldn’t give me specifics. I’m a people person. If I can look at you the first time and hear a few words out of your mouth and I can believe you, I’ll probably trust you and believe that you are trustable.
When I met with John Griffo from Community Broadcasters, his proposal was exactly what I wanted to hear: how many people listen to the radio station, and how many people at certain times of the day are going to actually be able to hear my commercial. The other group couldn’t tell me that. When I met with John, that was the type of information he brought me, without my asking. It was exactly the information I wanted. Right then and there, I trusted him.
Of course it was an average, but he gave me information that was much more realistic: this is how many people we have listening to our radio station, this is when your ad is going to be played, this is how many times it will be played, and probably this many people will hear your ad.
Radio Ink: What type of ads did you put on, and what station did you start on?
Graves: We started out on WHWY first, for about six months. The first thing I told John, before signing a contract, was that I want the DJ doing my spots to come in and be my patient, because when he talked about me, I wanted it to be real. I didn’t want him to just read copy, I wanted him to say, “I have seen Dr. Graves, and this is my experience. This is what Dr. Graves did for me, and my God, it was amazing.” I wanted him to be able to say that, and if he couldn’t say that, I didn’t want him to do it.
I saw Bo Reynolds a couple of times, we did a little bit of work, and then I told them these are the points I want: I’m a military veteran, I respect the military — it’s a big military area. I wanted them to know we are fun, friendly, and approachable. Half the people in the bars around here know me because a lot of the musicians that play in the bars see me. I didn’t want them to know I do crowns and bridges and stuff like that; everybody knows dentists do that. I wanted them to know who we are.
Radio Ink: How were the results?
Graves: It was almost instantaneous. The radio station said it may take three to four months to see a good return on what you’re putting in, but it was no time at all — it was less than a month. We went from seeing 30 to 40 new patients a month to seeing 100 new patients.
Radio Ink: How did you know the increase was a result of radio advertising?
Graves: We ask all of our patients how they heard about us. Some said Facebook, but most of them, about 60 to 70 percent, said, “I heard Bo talk about you.”
Radio Ink: How has radio advertising changed your business?
Graves: We have gone from where we were seeing patients in two to three weeks to now we are booking them two to three months in advance. I had to add on a second room, buy more equipment, and bring on another hygienist so I can see patients quicker, so I can give them the care they need instead of their having to wait half a year.
I’m on three of the Community Broadcasters stations now. Two of them I do straight advertising on. The third, the Rock station, I sponsor one of their shows and run straight ads. I’m working with John now and expect to be on the fourth station soon.
Radio Ink: Why do you like the relationship you have with the Community Broadcasters team?
Graves: They are phenomenal! I can go over to the radio station any time and talk with the general manager, talk with the sales guys, talk with the DJs. Even if it’s not always about business, just hanging out and talking. It’s the type of relationship I want with my patients and the people I work with. It’s not just business, it’s about friends. I like people I can trust, and there is nobody over there that has let me down or led me wrong.
Radio Ink: What would you say to potential advertisers considering radio — advertisers who may be a bit hesitant?
Graves: Look at the platform you want your business to be on, and think about the money you’re spending. Yeah, you might pay a little more for radio, but you have to look at the return on your investment. I’d say I’ve made eight to 10 dollars on every dollar I’ve spent on radio advertising, if not more in some instances and some months.
Look at the potential you have; don’t look at the bottom line that you have right now. Start out slow if you have to, but look at the potential you have with radio versus any other form of advertising. I’ve done newspaper, I’ve done billboards, but my greatest achievement so far has been radio advertising.
Sand Dollar Dental
Thanks to Kevin Malone, market manager, and John Griffo, media consultant, for Community Broadcasters Fort Walton Beach-Destin (WHWY 98.1, WZLB 103.1, WWAV 102.1 & WECQ 92.1).
Our previous Advertiser Success Stories:
Marina Grows Big Thanks To Radio