Invisalign held the promise of being the most radical change in orthodontic treatment in decades, if it worked. It promised to dramatically increase new patient inflow as well as improve patient satisfaction. However, orthodontists has been ‘burned’ by seemingly game-changing technologies in the past. So, why should they trust a technology that was invented by a 25-year old Stanford business student without any dental background? We were hired to convince doctors and patients that this, then as yet unnamed, product would change their lives.
Changing Doctor Behavior
The previous, “game changing” advance in orthodontics (Straight Wire) had taken over a decade for orthodontists to adopt and still wasn’t fully implemented. Align Technology (makers of Invisalign) was an unknown, new to the market company. Additionally, many doctors were a little wary of it due to its being located in the heart of Silicon Valley and having Venture Capital backing. Without a significant change in behavior, Align would run out of money long before orthodontists adopted the technology at rates sufficient to keep the company afloat.
Orthodontics was one of the last medical fields to be void of DTC advertising. After all, Dr. Miller treated you and you really didn’t know what brand of braces he was using. We realized that the only way we could bend the adoption curve was to drive potential patients into offices asking for our product by name. This had some risk as orthodontists were not used to patients doing this. However, we felt these could be mitigated by effective communication and recruitment.
The first part of the solution was to train as many doctors as possible in the use of Invisalign. This required the groundbreaking use of satellite transmission to training sites around the country. One of the way we helped fill the trainings was by letting doctors know how many days remained until national television advertising would begin. We got this message out through direct mail, email, sales reps, and journal advertising. When the TV ads started, only those trained received referrals. The start of advertising pushed many of those still on the fence into the next available training sessions. Providing advanced warning through the various channels kept complaints about DTC at a minimum.
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Ensuring Best Practices
Potential patients were calling into orthodontist offices by the thousands. Unfortunately, many were being subjected to “bait and switch” tactics by orthodontists, or the calls were simply being mishandled by the call centers, or the orthodontist’s staff. As a result, the company’s yield rate was only 1-2% of inbound callers.
Extensive qualitative and quantitative research with patients, prospective patients, and doctors (including Secret Shopper calls) yielded dozens of insights into the frustrations felt by patients and best practices employed by the leading offices. Patients needed a shorter process from start to finish and needed to be connected with the best doctors (“Champions”) in order to increase our closure rates. Doctors needed to be sorted into the good, the bad, and the ugly. They also needed to have their staff trained on the best practice methods that increased patient start rates.
Call referrals were doled out to doctors based upon their historical case submission rates, as well as proximity to patients (U.S. Patent #08326647). This database was used by our call centers and our website to track patient referrals and case submissions and was updated daily. The proprietary algorithm helped ensure that we sent cases to the office most likely to convert the case. We added a “warm transfer” system whereby we were able to connect patients directly with doctors’ offices during business hours, thus, saving them from making another call. We also implemented extensive training of best practices for orthodontic staffs, produced training manuals to be used by the receptionist and the treatment coordinators, created separate training modules for them at doctor workshops, and hired a leading practice management company to work with staff individually, in addition to bi-monthly conference calls.
Professional Marketing Increases Doctor Confidence
Invisalign was growing and potential patients were coming in to orthodontic offices asking about the product. However, many doctors were still uncertain about the technology and its ability to work. After all, this technology no longer used the bread and butter technique of orthodontic bands and wires. It used plastic aligners – the type typically used to hold teeth in place at the end of treatment, not move them.
Research showed that orthodontists wanted to see finished cases in order to believe that it works. However, it wasn’t practical to have our small 30-person sales force attempt to take cases to offices. Additionally, after their own experience, the recommendation of peers and thought leaders is a key way to convince orthodontists about the viability of new technologies.
We implemented a multi-pronged solution:
- A case contest at the annual orthodontist convention (AAO) to highlight the breadth of cases that could be treated with Invisalign;
- A published case book sent to every orthodontist and dentist in the country to show the effectiveness of this technique; and
- The use of well-known orthodontists in journal advertising, as larger than life billboards at conventions, and convention speakers.
- A virtual tour of the facility to help doctors understand how the entire process worked and the extreme precision and cutting edge technology built into the process.
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