The B2C and B2B marketing transformation helping Invisalign win more smiles

Global VP brand talks through the digital marketing investment and personalised marketing approach dleibering double-digit revenue dividends


Orthodontic and dental brand, Invisalign, has chalked up 35 per cent growth in Asia-Pacific, 13 per cent lift in the US and secured more than 30,000 consultations through a custom mobile-led concierge app after a digital marketing transformation.

Global VP brand and consumer of Invisalign parent company, Align Technology, Kamal Bhandal, said the company has a dual-sided marketing approach: To raise end consumer awareness and demand for its Invisalign clear aligner products for correcting smiles; and to build engagement with its B2B customer base of dentists and orthodontists. Alongside the Invisalign product, the global business supplies the Itero scanner to dentists and orthodontists.

The group boasts of more than 7.5 million Invisalign patients globally and annual revenues of US$2.3 billion.

“We truly believe a better smile has the power to create a better future. So we need to create digital technology and experiences allowing people to move forward in their lives,” Bhandal told attendees at last week’s Dreamforce conference. Core Invisalign consumers include adults, teenagers and young children and their parents.

Yet transactions are ultimately made via its B2B customer base of dentists and orthodontists. “We create demand then drive consumers into the doctor’s office. So a consumer is asking for Invisalign by name then gets a great experience via our Itero scanner and Invisalign,” Bhandal said.

The job as marketers is therefore to join those experience dots, Bhandal said. “We have to know who we are marketing to, how to get them into a doctor’s practice, then ensure the doctor experience is reflective of who we are as a brand. What we then have to do for the doctor is make sure they also have great experience with our brand.” 

Yet like many brands, connecting what has become a circular, multi-channel, data-led customer journey couldn’t be achieved without a technology-led transformation. Along with old legacy systems that did not talk to one another, disparate data sources on both the consumer and customer side were sitting externally to the organisation. From a campaign perspective, this resulted in a traditional, one-channel marketing approach, Bhandal explained.

“We knew we had to get to omnichannel approach because it’s where consumers were and what they expect,” she said. “We have a business creating highly customised solution for every consumer but delivering highly impersonalised experience as a brand.

“We as the marketers and technology teams had to figure out how to stitch data together, if we could, in order to make sense of it. And do it at a global scale.”

Platform foundations

The foundation chosen was Salesforce’s Customer 360 platform. Bhandal said a key reason was the vendor’s global scale and consistency globally.

“On marketing side, we would have a single, consistent view of who our consumers and customers were and those interactions. As I have conversations with regional marketing counterparts, it becomes a common language to rally around and have unified conversations around,” Bhandal said.

On the consumer side, Align focused first on utilising Salesforce Journey Builder within the Marketing Cloud. “We chose this because the technology we had in place was so outdated it was the first thing we had to change,” Bhandal said.

“Anytime we wanted to pull data, we had to pay someone to pull it. The first step was bringing data in-house. From there, we knew we could start to build relevant experiences, and nurture that relationship if someone raises their hand with interest and starting their research.

“We started building campaigns out and segmenting consumers, understanding who was coming in and expressing interest.”

Segmentation was based on where a consumer was in their journey. “If that consumer had just started research, they went down a journey A path. That had to be different to segment three, who is ready to go and need a doctor right now,” Bhandal said.

“We love both segments, but it’s incredibly important to understand where consumers were to tailor conversations and ensure once they were ready to crossover journeys, it became a seamless exercise to take them into that next journey quickly.”

The next step was a more personalised experience for consumers on the Invisalign website. “For marketers, we had to ensure the redesign of experiences became an easier task for them, which is where Heroku came in,” Bhandal said.

One key way the group has used the Salesforce platform is to create tailored, custom messages. One of these is a smile assessment quiz, a lead generation form that again helps marketers gain visibility of where consumers are in their interest cycle, capture their information, then enable personalised lead nurturing programs.

A further spoke to the Invisalign marketing wheel was adopting Social Studio, which Bhandal said enabled her team to listen to what conversations are happening in the social world and engage with consumers in real time and in a unified and consistent way globally.

“Social is the name of the game. The challenge is fragmentation means more platforms to manage, listen to and engage through,” Bhandal said. “Social Studio allowed us to do all that at scale – to listen in to what consumers say about brand and the questions they’re asking, giving us intel around not only if they are a user and post-purchase journey, but in the prospect part, gaining insight into the top things they need to know to progress further in journey. We can identify the core barriers customers are stumbling on, and how we create content to address those.

“As you monitor brand sentiment and competitive intel, you can then activate advocates to chime into those conversations prospects are having about your brand or competitive products. Our Invisalign advocates become part of the dialogue and story we want told in a compelling way.”  

Invisalign is also using Social Studio for consumer brand marketing and management to publish and schedule content, responding to core questions as they come in.

“It’s a great platform worldwide to ensure consistency and leverage we have internally so all teams are not trying to solve the same problems on their own. We didn’t have that before as we were so fragmented,” Bhandal added.  

The latest consumer-oriented piece for Align is Salesforce’s Audience Studio, a data management platform (DMP). This will allow marketers to take consumer insights and apply them within Invisalign’s media programs.

“I see this as brains of the tech stack – an area where we’re be able to know consumer inside and out across multiple touchpoints,” Bhandal said. “This will help us really understand who our consumer segments are at broader level than just in the consumer journey. For example, in terms of children, or brand affinities. We can then segment users from prospects to refine marketing messages further.”

B2B needs

Then there’s the B2B side of the coin. With many dentists and orthodontic specialists small businesses lacking technology skills, any tools supporting engagement with this core customer group needed to be simple and integrated, Bhandal said. In turn, this led to adoption of Service Cloud.

“We are in business of creating demand and pushing consumers into doctor’s office,” she said. “We have to connect the people interested in Invisalign with the doctors who prescribe treatment.

“Tapping Salesforce Service and Sales clouds ensures an integrated experience for them as they are meeting with their patients and want to make an order for Invisalign. It had to be easy to place an order then have a service relationship occur so global communications are quick and seamless.

“The second thing on the doctor’s side was a portal they interact with on daily basis, which had to be self-service. Service Cloud helped achieve that.” 

A key conversion tool Align built using Salesforce’s Heroku and Lightning technologies and the Marketing Cloud is the Invisalign SmileView App. This artificial intelligence (AI)-based tool is used by doctors in their practice as they’re talking to someone about what their new smile looks like, simulating what that individual might look like by rendering a before and after image in under a minute.

“In a world where seeing is believing, this technology has become an enabler for doctors to have focused conversation with someone in the practice, and become an incremental revenue stream for them, as it helped people get across that threshold of ‘is this really worth it’,” Bhandal said.

Invisalign has also started putting the SmileView App in the hands of consumers just starting their research to deepen consideration.

“All we had previously was words to understand what Invisalign could do for them; this was interesting way to see what they could look like with treatment,” Bhandal said.  

Invisalign Concierge, meanwhile, is a further assessment data tool, used by Bhandal and her team to help consumers get connected to a doctor nearby.

Once consumers are using its products, gaining insight into how they use Invisalign and their experiences is important information to feed back into R&D team and the product experience teams, she said.

All this has seen Invisalign chalk up 35 per cent year-on-year growth in APAC, 13 per cent growth in the US, and 30 per cent growth in EMEA. Bhandal said 557,000 Invisalign consultations in the US have been scheduled through the new platform.

“We would not have been able to do that without this technology platform to make connection between people interested and doctors delivering it,” she said.  

More than 30,000 cases have also been started through the Smile Concierge program. “These are all people that may otherwise not have started, started later on, or that we wouldn’t know about,” Bhandal said.

Lessons learnt

Bhandal agreed the most overwhelming part of marketing transformation is how to actually start the journey. “My recommendation is to take a look at what you have today, then figure out what experiences are broken – and start with those, then building on top,” she said.

“It’s too easy to say I want it all tomorrow. Yet the more you can turn it into bite-sized pieces, the more it becomes manageable. And it helps you to start showing the demonstrable impact you’re looking to create with end customers.”

A second piece of advice from Bhandal is knowing your customer inside and out by redefining who your customer is constantly. One thing that’s surprised the Align team is how many microsegments exist across its consumer base.

“For example, in our adult business, we intuitively know a ‘cusper’ – a 19-23 year-old – will be different to a Millennial, who is different to a Gen Xer or a Gen X growing up. What became obvious on this journey was the many ways we could fine-tune our messaging,” she said.

“By knowing customer inside and out, seen double-digit growth, and we’re very happy with the results we’ve seen. But our goal is we’re never done – there are so many pieces of technology we haven’t tapped into yet.”

  • Nadia Cameron travelled to Dreamforce as a guest of Salesforce.

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