Here are three strategies orthodontic practices can implement to market in-office printed aligners and attract new starts

By Jane Kollmer

As the demand for clear aligners increases, more orthodontic practices are investing in in-office aligner production using 3D printers. These custom-made mouthpieces can now be made on-demand, offering convenience and speed that make for a smooth treatment plan and eliminating the need to buy from big-brand companies. From there, orthodontic practices that fabricate their own clear aligners can and should take steps to brand and market their in-office printed aligners effectively, too, according to Jaclyn Whiddon, an orthodontic marketing consultant. Her firm helps practices communicate their products and services through effective marketing.

This is important because today’s consumer has more options than ever for tooth movement, so practices need to figure out the best ways to get their attention. Whiddon points out that people don’t buy the best product or service; they buy the one that has been communicated the best.

At the 2022 American Association of Orthodontists’ Annual Session held in Miami Beach, Fla, Whiddon presented three marketing principles that orthodontic practices can implement to promote in-office printed aligners and attract new starts.

Master the Message to Market In-Office Printed Aligners

The first thing an orthodontic practice should do is identify their message. Whiddon says the best marketing tool is the orthodontist because they are trained in tooth movement and that leads to the desired outcome, which is a perfect, beautiful smile.

“People are not necessarily searching the Internet for the person in town that prints their own aligners,” Whiddon says. Therefore, keep the message focused on how a consumer can get to their end result.

When developing a message that will resonate with consumers, it helps to think about their pain points and then look for ways your practice addresses them. For example, college-aged kids who have stopped wearing a retainer, lost their retainer, or have had tooth movement and need minor treatment are ideal candidates for in-office printed aligners.

Other audience segments could be parents of patients and young professionals who are seeking invisible treatment options. Whiddon recommends that orthodontic practices fine-tune their messaging for each of these groups.

“You don’t have very long to keep their attention,” she says. “They want to know what’s in it for them and the quickest and easiest way to get there.”

Because time is limited, Whiddon recommends creating a one-liner, sort of elevator pitch about their in-office printed product.

The message should speak to each audience group in a way that tells them how the product will improve their life and the negatives that they will avoid. These statements could focus on easy treatment, quick turnaround, affordability—whatever reason the practice wants to emphasize for in-office printed aligners as an alternative to other treatment options.

The right messaging offers a clear path that makes it easy for the potential patient to understand how the doctor, products, and services will help them reach their goals. It also makes it easy for them to take action, whether that is to learn more, find the office or schedule an appointment.

Elevate Your In-Office Aligners Brand

Once the message has been established, orthodontic practices will next need to create a roadmap for how to best communicate it. Whiddon says, “Plan the work and work the plan.”

To achieve marketing objectives, Whiddon reminds orthodontists that it’s essential to set aside dedicated time and money for marketing efforts.

She advises that marketing should revolve around positioning the practice as the expert in tooth movement. Practices can create social media videos that are educational and informative. Potential topics include: Class I/II/III treatment options, DIY dangers, retention and relapse, and the benefits of advancements in orthodontic treatment. Every now and then it is okay to pepper in a call-to-action, such as “call today to schedule.”

On the practice’s website, Whiddon says useful content can generate leads. For clear aligners, the content can include before and after photos or an explanation of the types of bites that can be corrected. Practices could even create a graph showing how their in-office printed aligner compares to the national leading brands. Selling points vary by individual practice.

Attending community events is another way to get in front of new consumers and interact with them. Whiddon suggests offering a downloadable piece of expert content such as “a guide to tooth movement” or “the top three things or five things you need to know before you begin orthodontic treatment.” That way, practices can capture email addresses and generate leads to guide through the sales funnel. Much of this process can be automated with marketing software that includes customer relationship management.

Although marketing takes a lot of planning and execution, Whiddon recommends “batch prepping,” such as using four hours of creative time to schedule email campaigns and social media posts ahead of time.

“There’s things that you can do when you’re using your time strategically instead of reactively,” she says.

Use Custom Packaging to Market Your In-Office Aligners

Packaging matters to consumers a lot more than people think. The general public has come to associate boxes or packages with valuable items. Iconic brands such as Tiffany’s or Neiman Marcus come in a distinct box or bag that symbolizes quality and luxury.

Presenting the patient with a clear aligner in a clinical plastic bag does not convey its importance. Furthermore, many people who begin treatment are self-conscious of their smile, so they will be less inclined to share any photos until they get their results.

In order to engage the patient from the very start, Whiddon suggests elevating the experience with a “surprise and delight” box, a marketing strategy that aims to attract and nurture the customer relationship by providing unexpected rewards. The clear aligner can be accompanied by aligner cases, an aligner removal tool, a whitening pen, or a T-shirt—the sky’s the limit. The creative design on the box is important, too, and it allows the orthodontic practice to reinforce their message, make it look polished, and pique curiosity.

“Not only does it imply that they’re getting a quality product that is equal to the national leading brand, but it also creates a social sharing opportunity where they can tell people that they’re on their smile journey,” explains Whiddon, whose group helps practices create branded packaging.

Due to the popular social media trend where people make videos and share as they “unbox” a package, more patients will feel compelled to share the surprise on social platforms. Whiddon says to include a card in the box asking them to share on social media, tag the office, use a specific hashtag unique to the practice.

“Custom packaging is a better presentation for the investment and trust that someone is making in you and your product,” she says. OP

Jane Kollmer is a freelance writer for Orthodontic Products.