SmileDirectClub Optimizes the Customer Journey with Automated Direct Mail

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Emily Stivison manages the direct mail and referral channels for SmileDirectClub’s CRM team. Founded in 2014, SmileDirectClub is the leading dentist-directed at home orthodontic service. Customers use a self-service impression kit, and then receive a series of customized invisible dental aligners to improve their smiles without ever having to visit an orthodontist office. 

This service has proven to be very successful. SmileDirectClub is one of the fastest growing companies in the US, having grown to over 5000 employees, and 300 retail locations in the past 5 years. This growth is driven not just by a great product, but by a clear, consistent focus on the customer. “What’s different for us is that we really focus on the customer rather than the medical aspect of it,” says Emily, “We want the experience to be enjoyable and cost effective.”

Cross-Channel Engagement

To maintain this customer focus, the CRM team carefully manages the customer journey, and shepherds the experience through it. Managers on the team coordinate campaigns across direct mail, email, and mobile channels designed to engage, convert, retain, and maximize customer lifetime value. “We use lots of channels simultaneously,” says Emily, “Customers will interact differently with different channels. This allows us to maximize our reach.”

One channel that has been particularly effective is direct mail. It allows SmileDirectClub to extend customer engagement into the home, and build trust with prospective customers. “Our product is very personal. To be successful we need to build relationships and trust with people. Direct mail is a great channel for this. Plus there are always going to be people in your pipeline who don’t respond to or opt-out of email. Direct mail lets us successfully reach them.”

Direct Mail Reaches Customers at Critical Moments

The CRM team has taken an innovative approach to direct mail. “Our company is always looking for new ways to reach our customers. We have a very experimental mindset,” said Emily. They identify critical moments in the customer journey, and trigger targeted direct mail pieces to engage and drive desired customer behavior.

“From the beginning we tend to be very hands-on with people who are interested in our product. If you order an impression kit, but don’t return it we send you a reminder postcard. If we can’t process your impression, and need to retake it, we’ll send you a postcard inviting you into a store for that. Once our dentists have a treatment plan ready for you, we notify you with a postcard. Each treatment plan has a limited window that it’s valid for, so when it’s nearing expiration, you’ll get a reminder. When you’re at the end of your treatment, we’ll send you a postcard to cross-sell night time retainers that will help maintain your new smile.”

These direct mail pieces are personalized for each customer. “Each piece is customized with the customer’s name, appointment times, appointment details,” says Emily, “It helps us make the message as relevant as possible. We’re also experimenting with using information from a customer’s initial assessment. So, for example, if a customer mentions an upcoming wedding as the reason for wanting to improve their smile, we’ll feature a wedding in the creative.”

The combination of precise targeting and personalization has made direct mail a highly effective channel for SmileDirectClub. “Our direct mail campaigns perform really well. We see high response rates. We see high attribution, and a significant amount of sales from our direct mail pieces.”

Lob Powers Direct Mail Targeting & Personalization

To power their direct mail campaigns, the CRM team at SmileDirectClub relies on Lob. Lob allows them to produce and send direct mail pieces directly from their CRM system as a part of multi-channel outreach. “I’d run direct mail programs before coming to SmileDirectClub,” says Emily, “It was the traditional process: pull a list, manually send it to the print house, review creative and proofs. Lob is completely different. I have 13 campaigns running now. Once they’re setup I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to be constantly pulling a list, and worrying about it. The setup process is easy, and you can make changes on the fly without having to go back to an agency.”

SmileDirectClub integrates Lob’s Print & Mail API directly into their marketing automation system. “A contractor helped us build a direct integration between Lob and our Salesforce tool. It allows us to incorporate Lob directly into our customer journeys. We can pass customer data directly from the CRM to Lob which makes it easy to setup and execute campaigns.”  

Expansion & Growth

As they continue to grow, direct mail will remain an important part of SmileDirectClub’s marketing and retention strategy. “Our whole environment is built around experimentation,” says Emily, “I’m always looking for new ways we could reach customers. We have an expanding retail presence. If a customer is stuck somewhere in the sales cycle, could we use direct mail to bring them into the store? If a customer misses a store appointment, could I send them a personalized letter from the store manager to re-engage? There are a lot of things I want to try. Plus we’re expanding internationally. We’ve launched in the UK and Australia, and have several other countries coming up. Lob will help us extend our direct mail globally.”

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