As we prepare to spend the weekend in Washington DC at the American Association of Orthodontists annual conference (“AAO”), we are reminded of the last time this trade show was here – in 2009, although it seems like yesterday.
So many things have changed, yet so many things have stayed the same. The line-up of presentation topics is always a good pulse on the orthodontic profession’s current areas of interest. A lot has changed clinically. Virtually any case that presents can now be treated with aligners, thanks to significant innovation over the past decade on the part of Align Technology and others. The advancements with Invisalign in particular have caused more patients – especially adults – than ever before to seek treatment. In looking at the schedule of office staff lectures, however, we see examples of how things have not changed all that much.
One of the biggest challenges facing orthodontic offices is, and always has been, identifying well-informed, ready-to-start patients and attracting them to the practice. With perennial AAO topic titles like, “How Independent Orthodontists Can Edge Out Corporate Competition,” (Ms. Wendy O’Donovan Phillips), “The Practice Inside the Business,” (Ms. LeeAnn Peniche), and “Building an Elite Office with Facebook Marketing,” (Dr. Neal Kravitz), it is easy to see that many of the same hurdles remain relevant.
Marketing plans within many orthodontic practices are neither well-designed, nor well-executed. Of course, there are many exceptions – but it generally remains an elusive aspect of practice-building. One of the primary reasons is that the “shopping” and evaluation process is highly inefficient for patients.
"The AAO has always been a terrific showcase for the latest and greatest with all things orthodontics."
- Greg Pellegrom, CEO & Co-founder, BidMySmile
A recent study demonstrated that 49% of patients seeking orthodontic treatment pursue more than one consult. And 20% visit more than two offices. These patients are not necessarily price-shopping. In fact, this same study asked them exactly what they were looking for. In order, the priorities were (1) a reputable doctor and staff, (2) treatment options, (3) price, and (4) location. The fact is that most people have a good idea about how much braces cost – what they are really looking for is the right fit. And when that fit is not there, it can be a frustrating experience for marketing-focused offices that have invested resources into a promotional campaign, only to have patients start treatment at a competitive office.
Judging by the proliferation of exhibitors and new companies focused on practice marketing, we can see that many others are drawing the same conclusions. The AAO has always been a terrific showcase for the latest and greatest with all things orthodontics. Members of the BidMySmile team have been attending this conference since the mid-1990s. It is a place where doctors and staff members can come to learn and earn continuing education credit – to make sure that the very best treatments and technologies are being made available through the practice. It is a place where companies from the industry introduce new products and work with their doctor customers to highlight and share the clinical benefits of these tools. Cloud-based practice management software, brackets and arch wires, adhesives, clear aligners, even cameras and a growing range of imaging technologies – it’s all here in Washington DC this weekend.
And there is a reason that Washington DC has been chosen as the destination for this great event twice now within the last eight years. Whether driving over the Francis Key Scott Bridge, visiting the Supreme Court, touring the National Arboretum, taking in the Smithsonian Institution’s many treasures, or just strolling through the Mall – there is always something memorable to experience in this historic, iconic, and great American capital city.