The world is a wondrous place. I wonder about a great many things, all the time. Questions like, “How much longer will Align continue to permit orthodontists to take advantage of the mega brand recognition that Invisalign has built over decades of spending tens of millions a year in marketing?” are especially haunting of late. “Why has Invisalign allowed unfettered access to leads they own for so long?” is another vexing question. These questions are not scary to me personally as I saw the writing on the wall and did a personal/professional 180 on Invisalign about a year ago, but I am afraid for my friends and colleagues who don’t see the big picture. These particular questions have come to the forefront of my mind recently because of two events:
- I just attended Invisalign Summit in Vegas and had more than a few very interesting conversations with peers and friends.
- There has been a great deal of talk about SmileDirectClub and Invisalign on the Facebook groups of late. Well, complaining and outrage are more accurate descriptions than talk.
Why should you care? Why do I?
Well, I care because I want to positon my business to ride the prevailing winds in our industry – to take advantage of market forces much larger than my practice and my sphere of influence rather than being ridden down by them. I care because I think many of my friends and colleagues are underestimating the penetration of the Invisalign brand, unaware of what SmileDirectClub will become in the future and overconfident in the groupthink ideals that the vast majority of orthodontist subscribe to when it comes to how things should be done. This is dangerous for individuals and for the profession. You should care if you want to continue to grow and prosper over the next couple decades. Decades that will see more change than we saw in the entire history of orthodontics to this point. Yes, yes, you are very smart and you are doing great and you’ve always done it the way you have and you’ll probably be just fine doing what you do. It’s your choice and you can think and practice and do whatever you like. But isn’t it smart to know why you do what you do instead of just following the herd and nodding your head and going along with the way we have always done it? Don’t you want to know what is happening around you? Don’t you owe it to your family and your employees and your patients to at least try and see the big picture before wholesale rejecting anything you don’t like or approve of?
On to the point. I wonder how much longer Invisalign will allow orthodontists who push braces to every single patient that darkens the door of their practice to have access to their patient base? Oh yes, make no mistake, Invisalign owns a patient base. A very big one. They just haven’t asserted themselves when it comes to defending it because we think it’s ours and we make a lot of noise whenever someone does something we don’t like. But unless I am out of touch or miss my very educated guess, this will not be the case for much longer. I suspect that at some point in the near future Invisalign will be involved in the decision making process for leads (patients) they attract through their marketing channels when it comes to every aspect of treatment. Everything from choosing a doctor to initial contact with the practice to the new patient appointment to appliance selection and even the retainer selection and delivery will be influenced by Invisalign at some point in the future. I suspect that Invisalign will tire of the current and constant pushback and griping from orthodontists and, at some point soon, they will risk the ire of orthodontic specialists to defend the patient base and brand they have grown through decades of deliberate, direct to consumer market penetration. I expect that when this happens, many orthodontists will be up in arms and there will be a great deal of talk about how “someone should do something” but based on our past performance when it comes to anyone doing anything it won’t go much past talk and Align knows that. I also suspect that instead of backing down like they did with the case requirements, this time Invisalign will stand their ground and force orthodontists to play by their rules if we want access to Invisalign’s leads and use of their brand.
“They can’t do that! Those are my patients! I won’t stand for it. I’m a doctor and they are an evil corporation. Braces are the gold standard and you can’t do most cases with Invisalign” I can hear many of you saying.
“I can’t afford the lab fee! No way I can be profitable paying 1800 dollars a case. That’s crazy” others will cry.
“I’m going to call the state board and report them. You’ll see. Organized dentistry won’t stand for this” some will say.
I used to say the same things. How do you think I know what you’re thinking? I would ask you to consider a few things:
- The hard, cold truth is that Invisalign can handle almost any case that braces can these days if you develop your plastic skillset to the degree you’ve honed your braces acumen. That’s just a fact. If you don’t believe me let me introduce you to a few of the Invisalign studs who convinced me that I was wrong in believing “braces are better”
- Patients want Invisalign
- You only have to pay the lab fee on people who want Invisalign and if you aren’t willing to give patients what they want and deliver Invisalign to Invisalign leads then you won’t get those patients in the future. Plus, the more cases you do, the lower your lab fee is. Which is better, all of nothing or part of something? You’ll have to decide but Invisalign, Medicaid and Insurance are all the same to me.
- Patients want Invisalign.
- State boards and organized dentistry are toast. You can no longer count on them to defend dentistry’s unfair monopoly.
- Patients want Invisalign
- Would you allow another person to utilize your brand or your name that you’ve worked hard to develop? Under any circumstances? What if they used it to their advantage while taking advantage of you? I think not…
- The point of this article?? I don’t know anything for sure but I’m speculating that you won’t get access to the Invisalign leads unless you give patients what they want. No matter your reasons for doing so. No matter how right you think you are. No matter how unfair you are sure this is.
- Of course there is a chance that I’m wrong and you’re right… Time will tell. But I’ll remind you, once more, that PATIENTS WANT INVISALIGN.
Still don’t believe me? Still think you don’t care and don’t have to care? That’s cool. You can do what you want but perhaps you might consider this?
- Align will do over a billion dollars in revenue in the next 12 months. They aren’t dumb and they are getting smarter.
- Align has a history of overcoming obstacles and resistance to their product. Remember when orthodontists refused to use Invisalign back at the turn of the century? How did that work out for us? We gift wrapped Invisalign for the PCDs is what happened.
- Want a modern day comparison to 2000? Here you go – Most orthodontists are doing the minimum number of Invisalign cases they can do to get the level they want on the doctor locator. Orthodontists are pushing Invisalign leads to do braces. Orthodontists are even doing bait and switch on Invisalign leads and putting them in other clear options… so what does Align do to overcome this? Invisalign took a stake in SmileDirectClub to have a seat at the table at what will become the largest delivery channel in orthodontics (yes, you heard me, the largest). This will enhance their direct to consumer options and make sure they aren’t made obsolete by evolving models. Of course orthodontists are outraged – mainly because they don’t understand SDC, their target demographic, their delivery system and because they haven’t read the book The Innovator’s Dilemma but also because they think a publicly traded company like Align should act in the best interests of orthodontists instead of shareholders. (Also, let’s not forget that Align CEO Joe Hogan sued SDC first but that didn’t win him any applause from orthodontists so he made a smart business move, did a 180 and took a stake in SDC).
- Someone was going to get in bed with SmileDirectClub and if we orthodontist were smart we would be thankful that it wasn’t some mega pharma company with no ties to orthodontists and no restraint.
- The next logical step, from where I’m sitting, is for Align to clamp down control on THEIR brand and THEIR patient base and serve those orthodontists (and dentists) who feature Invisalign as an equal alternative to braces – or a superior one when appropriate.
I’m not asking you to agree. I don’t care if you think this is right or fair. Where I live, fair comes to town once a year… I am asking you to become aware of the market forces at play in your profession and suggesting that you understand why publicly traded companies do what they do so you have some inkling of what lies ahead. If you do so then you’ll be better prepared to succeed in an ever changing world! We all have choices and we all must live with the consequences of those choices. I make a point of owning my decisions. Do you? I’m pretty sure Invisalign is about to do what they do best – change with the changing world to deliver effective products to patients who want them while providing maximum benefit to their shareholders. That’s what good, publicly traded companies do. The good news is that this fact makes them fairly predictable.
PS I saw this at the Invisalign summit and I think this photo tells it all. There are two kinds of people, those who think this is crazy and those who think this is likely. Which are you?
Oh, BTW, if you haven’t read this book then, honestly, you can’t have an informed opinion on SmileDirectClub. READ IT. It’s tiny. If you want I’ll send you a copy just send me your address.