How we helped the country’s largest orthodontic group increase lead volume by 73%

Company Overview

About Smile Doctors

Created in 2015 by Dr. Scott Law, Dr. Dana Fender, and Dr. Greg Goggans, Smile Doctors is a leading group of orthodontists coming together from across the country to support a shared vision: “patients come to us with a smile and leave with an even bigger smile.” With more than 295 locations in 25 states—both branded and non-branded—Smile Doctors is the largest ortho-focused dental service organization (OSO) in the country.

Smile Workshop Dentist Marketing Campaign
The Problem

Unstructured, Underperforming Paid Media Campaigns

Marketing is an investment that Smile Doctors was ready to make in earnest. When they engaged Cardinal Digital Marketing, Smile Doctors had a handful of direct mail and Google Ads campaigns running, the latter managed by another agency. However, conversion rates, brand awareness metrics, and lead volume were flagging. Smile Doctors’ in-house team was small and nimble but needed the right partner to expand their capabilities into strategic
media management.

In addition, Smile Doctors had never explored Facebook advertising, which was a considerable blindspot. The orthodontic market is becoming increasingly competitive with direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatment options like Invisalign and Smile Direct Club, which invest heavily in social.

To increase brand awareness and remain competitive, Smile Doctors needed to put pay-per-click (PPC) advertising in the hands of experts with direct industry knowledge.

The Solution

A Fresh, Performance-driven Approach to Paid Media

The biggest story here is that Smile Doctors came to us with an immature paid media strategy and low brand awareness. Within the first month of launching paid social campaigns, we saw considerable success. This led to a complete media contract that included paid social, paid search, smart display, and video ads. The most significant improvements came from restructuring their current accounts and refining our audience segmentation to go after specific age groups and demographics.

Implementing a comprehensive full-funnel advertising strategy was key to increasing brand awareness and driving high-quality leads.

Step 1

Restructure, Consolidate, and Use Smart Bidding

Our first step was to assess their current campaign performance and conduct extensive research on Smile Doctor’s digital competitors. With this information, we then established performance baselines for our campaigns. We used enhanced bids to improve efforts across campaigns and gain better algorithmic insight into which audiences would work best.

Campaign-level consolidations helped to improve algorithmic performance significantly without sacrificing relevancy. For PPC, grouping by themes and intent has been pushed to the ad group level to allow the algorithm to find the most cost-effective conversion while still targeting ads based on location (very important for Smile Doctors, which has many locations across the United States).

In addition to the restructured campaigns, our team developed lookalike audiences to prospect for new users to narrow the large audience sizes and focus on the people most likely to convert. Finally, our team found that campaigns were only targeting braces-related keywords. We decided to test generic keyword sets and found multiple opportunities in pediatric and aligner-related terms that had yet to be targeted by Smile Doctors.

To reduce cost per conversion (CPC), we tested several new bidding strategies. Our tests revealed that smart bidding delivered a CPC at a rate 20-30% lower than manual bidding strategies. Smart bidding allowed us to automate the bidding strategy and identify the most effective ad, which allowed us to improve campaign efficiencies and lower costs.

What does “account restructuring and consolidation” mean?

At any given time, an organization’s paid advertising accounts may have any number of ad groups and campaigns, each with its own keywords, audience settings, and performance objectives. To improve performance we will often consolidate and restructure accounts. The first step is to conduct a full audit, including keyword and audience research, then add, subtract, or merge campaigns for more optimal results. The objective is to collect as much conversion data as possible within a single campaign so the algorithm can “learn” how to improve performance.

Step 2

Build New Landing Pages

Our creative team wrote, designed, and developed new customized landing pages for each corresponding ad campaign. The new assets followed paid media best practices, which improved click-through rates (CTR) and lowered cost per acquisition (CPA) while providing another avenue for audience retention and retargeting (re-engaging users who engaged with a Smile Doctors’ ad but did not yet convert).

We built new landing pages using our formula for highly relevant, high converting landing pages. Since implementing these pages, we’ve seen a 35% increase in conversion rates (CVR).

  • Use relevant and persuasive copywriting aligned with the consumer intent of each ad campaign.
  • Focus on the target audience, including the type of language they’d use and the details, problems, and solutions they care about.
  • Align landing page with ad campaign: one problem, one solution, one unique value proposition, and one goal.
  • Add trust signals such as testimonials, ratings, reviews, certifications, and case studies.
  • Optimize for mobile to improve usability and bounce rates and thus ad quality scores.
Step 3

Launch a Full-funnel Advertising Strategy

To increase brand awareness and reach those most likely to convert, we used a full-funnel approach that spanned social media, smart display, and other digital channels.

Most Facebook and Instagram users aren’t scrolling the platform looking for orthodontic care. Nor are they ready to book an appointment right then and there. If your campaigns broadly target a cold audience with generic ads, you can blow your advertising budget without generating any qualified leads. Our goal at the top of the funnel was to increase awareness and identify warm prospects.

Then, we used upper-funnel campaign data to build custom audiences and campaigns that aligned with the user’s stage within the buying cycle and their engagement level. By generating awareness and nurturing these engaged audiences first, the bottom-of-the-funnel campaigns were more effective at converting leads at a lower CPC.

Full-funnel Strategy

What is a full-funnel advertising strategy?

This approach allows us to deliver the most appropriate messaging to users dependent on where they are in the patient journey. Here’s what that it looks like in practice:

  • Optimize keyword strategy, target audience, and ad creative for consumer intent at each stage of the marketing funnel (awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, conversion).
  • Promote video brand awareness ads that help Smile Doctors gain more brand equity and engage cold prospects.
  • Launch remarketing campaigns targeted to audiences who engaged with the website, video, and other Smile Doctors’ content.
  • Focus on the target audience, including the type of language they’d use and the details, problems, and solutions they care about.
  • Convert engaged audiences with strong promotional offers and CTAs.
The Results

A Dramatic Increase in Lead Generation

Since launching this new and improved campaign strategy, Smile Doctors has enjoyed a 146% increase in calls and form submissions, alongside a 33% decrease in CPA. Translation: this is a DSO getting a lot of return on their ad spend in a market where every lead counts. Overall, PPC-originated leads are up 73%, while the conversion rate has also increased by 28%. Since the start of our engagement, we’ve driven more than 37,000

In terms of brand awareness, a key area of need that we identified early on, our search, display, and social media campaigns have increased branded searches by more than 69%, with impressions up to 300%. Today, more people are searching for Smile Doctors, and their ads appear at the top of the search engine results page. In such a highly competitive digital space, such as orthodontics, owning high-intent and branded search terms can be a game-changer.

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