by Sarah Allan
Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling, DMD, uses social media to connect with and keep new patients
She has 3,000 “Likes” on Facebook. She has a huge teenage fan base. She is constantly on tour, and when she is home, celebrities flock to her. She is a master of invention and reinvention, always staying a few steps ahead of the times. She is not Lady Gaga. She is Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling, DMD, aka “Dr Jacquie Smiles.”
After receiving her DMD degree and completing her orthodontic residency at Boston University School of Dental Medicine, Fulop-Goodling stayed on as a professor. She became the first female Director of BU Dental School’s Orthodontic Department. She also recently became the first woman ever to receive the “Super Elite Provider” award from Invisalign, a company she’s been affiliated with since its inception. In 1999, Fulop-Goodling participated in the pilot program, which at the time was exclusively for orthodontists. She was impressed by the technology and enthusiastically became part of the first group certified in the Northeast.
Since then, her practice has grown to include four locations in Manhattan and Long Island. The past few years’ economy hasn’t been easy on most. “When people are worrying about their mortgages and putting food on the table, orthodontics—especially for adults—can be a tough sell,” she explains. She has, however, found a way to use the challenging financial climate to her advantage. Thanks to an understanding of social marketing, some outside-the-box thinking, and patience, she has managed what many have not: converting casual Web browsers into orthodontic patients.
“Last year,” Fulop-Goodling recounts, “a patient walked in and asked me if I’d ever heard of Groupon. Another patient, who is in PR, started describing what the discount Web sites are, and I thought, ‘Wow, it’s like a Sam’s Club or Costco for the Internet.’ As an orthodontist, how would I be able to recruit these patients? How do I know they need ortho? How do they know they need ortho? How would they know if they qualify for Invisalign? So I decided that what we needed to do was to become the 1-800-DENTIST of the discount Web sites.” She started by discounting whitening, bleaching, and a dental exam through a promotion on GiltCity, a popular discount Web site.
“It’s not that I wanted to do the whitening,” she clarifies. “The point was the consultation. We got 280 patients in
3 days, and started 20 of them on Invisalign. Some patients qualified for Invisalign but were not in a position to start treatment. We referred them to a general dentist for a cleaning and encouraged them to return when they were ready. It’s all about planting the seed in people’s minds. They will return when they can.”
Locations: Manhattan, NY; Long Island, NY; Monroe, NY
Years in practice: 15
Office square footage: 3,400, 1,500, 2,500
Patients per day: 65 average among all locations
Starts per year: 600 among all locations
Days worked per week: 3 in office, 2 academic
Education: Boston University School of Dental Medicine
Fulop-Goodling’s office became a sort of recruiting firm, connecting patients with dentists. “A patient came in and said they love theatre, so we sent them to Dr. A, on Fifth Avenue who loves the arts. A designer came in from Barney’s on Madison Avenue. We referred her to Dr. L who loves fashion. Within a week, my phone was ringing off the hook with all of these general dentists calling us. I told them I would refer patients to general dentists who were willing to have an interchange with me.”
Like all orthodontists, Fulop-Goodling faces competition from general dentists who treat patients with Invisalign. Her take on it is this: “It’s like an OB/GYN doing Botox. They are doing extensive and difficult implants, restorations, cosmetics, Invisalign. … How can one person perfect all that? The patients are the ones who don’t benefit. I frequently have patients come into my practice who have found me on the Internet, explaining that they are unhappy with their smile or ‘bite’ but to please not tell their general dentist they came by. We will strictly work with general dentists who perfect their field, which is diagnostics and aesthetics.”
Last December, during the holidays, Fulop-Goodling’s practice was inundated with gifts from general dentists, among them many turquoise Tiffany boxes. “Normally,” she says, “it’s the specialist who is giving the gifts. That’s what we were taught in school. You bring a box of donuts to every general dentist in town and hope they remember to send patients your way. We reversed the whole referral process.”
While Fulop-Goodling has cultivated Invisalign patients through discount Web sites, she had done it without ever providing a discount on Invisalign. When Groupon contacted her to see if she’d like to run an Invisalign special for $2,999, she declined. Her current fee is around $6,000 for a 1-year adult Invisalign case (on par with the national average). On top of the already significantly reduced rate for services, Groupon takes a huge cut of the proceeds. She knows of an orthodontist who did participate in the Groupon deal. He started 100 cases and was excited to be getting a check for about $180,000. He was no doubt less excited when the lab bill came to more than $150,000. Even with Invisalign’s highest rebate program, this deal didn’t makes sense when you factored in the overhead.
Fulop-Goodling believes that dental providers damage their own practice, undermine the practices of others, put new patients at risk, and alienate full-price clients by discounting the actual treatment.
An active Facebook page, maintained in-house, creates a community of current and former patients.
Saving patients money is not her only marketing strategy. Fulop-Goodling and her associates have built a strong Facebook following as well. The Facebook page is maintained by people in the practice, never outsourced. She doesn’t see why people spend so much money on outside marketing when no one knows a company better than the people who own and operate it every day. Beyond providing a forum for information and deals, the Facebook page has further strengthened the community of current and former patients. By creating a familial environment, Fulop-Goodling hopes to ensure that patients will eagerly refer their own friends and family to the practice.
The greatest referral source of all are the teens on Long Island. “One teen will be in Invisalign and he’ll pop his trays out at lunchtime, and another kid will see that and remember the horror of having visible and unremovable metal braces. ... Sometimes, they weren’t lucky enough to have had braces at an earlier age, and now they are teens and the vanity has kicked in. They ask where their friend got their Invisalign done. The kids say, ‘Dr. Jacquie in Woodbury,’ and the friends then want to come see me, too. We treated one kid who got ‘nicest smile’ for his superlative in high school. He’s an athlete, and everyone looks up to him. We get his friends, the cheerleading squad, and all of the younger kids who admire him. Looking cool is the number one pressure. Of course, teens will convince their parents to do anything. In my New York and Long Island offices at least, teenagers are the decision-makers in their households.”
Fulop-Goodling is a Twitter aficionado as well. She typically tweets to educate people about Invisalign. For example, patients frequently post that they are experiencing discomfort from the attachments, the small “hooks” that are affixed to the teeth to keep the trays in place. Since the attachments are covered when a patient has his aligners in, Fulop-Goodling makes sure to remind these complainers, in no uncertain terms, that their “trays should be worn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, except during eating and brushing!” When misguided orthodontic tweets become too infuriating, she takes a break to see what her favorite tweeters are up to, namely late-night television host Craig Ferguson and the cast of the HBO comedy Entourage.
Fulop-Goodling also connects with patients face-to-face.
With a full schedule of speaking engagements that take her all over the globe, Fulop-Goodling is constantly waiting around at the airport. She takes this as an opportunity to venture into Invisalign chat rooms, where she again corrects people’s usage of the product, often posing as a star patient.
In her spare time, Fulop-Goodling has also developed a smartphone application called “Align on Time.” Most Invisalign patients receive a paper calendar to remind them when to change their trays. Who uses paper anymore? With her app, patients simply type in the number of trays they will use, the time frame over which they will use them, and hit “Send.” The app syncs with smartphone calendars, and an alert sounds when it’s time for a new set of trays.
Even Fulop-Goodling’s business cards have a social media element. She worked with a designer to develop a QR code, which is a bar code that can be read by smartphones. When patients get her business card, they simply scan it with their smartphones and all of the information they need about the practice is automatically stored in their device.
What sets Fulop-Goodling apart isn’t just her skill and marketing prowess, but also the experience she provides for her patients. Her husband, Anthony Goodling, is an architect who helped design her offices. Her Long Island office sees mainly children and teens, so for inspiration she took Anthony to a local amusement park and asked him to recreate that feeling of fun. The 3,400 square feet of space is light and whimsical, and filled with every type of game: Xbox and Wii for the patients, Color Me Elmo for the little ones and
siblings, and Texas Hold ’Em video poker for the parents. She tells the kids that orthodontics should be the last thing on their minds while they visit. She’d rather they think about what game to play and leave the teeth business up to her.
The look of Fulop-Goodling’s Long Island office was inspired by an amusement park.
The Manhattan office caters more to adults. Her approach there was based on the idea that, in the hustle and bustle of the city, people are looking for a tranquil retreat. She and Anthony went to the Frederic Fekkai salon for a massage, and left with a vision. The result is a spa-like office made entirely of glass. The light streams in, but when a patient touches the walls in his or her room, they immediately frost over for privacy. The practice serves a different spa-inspired infused beverage every day.
All this style is backed up by substance. Fulop-Goodling works with three associates, all of whom are former students, from Harvard, Columbia, and NYU. They have been with her for 7, 4, and 3 years, respectively. While Fulop-Goodling makes sure to handle all consultations and treatment plans, she must divide her time between three offices and a hectic lecture schedule. The associates handle the delivery of the aligners, strip teeth when necessary, and enforce the individualized treatment plan that Fulop-Goodling has recommended. The associates keep each practice running at least 5 days per week, and are frequently rewarded for all they do. She has taken her entire office staff to Las Vegas, the Bahamas, and the Hamptons. This past Memorial Day, the whole crew went to the Dominican Republic for 5 days, with nary a dental conference on the agenda—just fun and relaxation.
Fulop-Goodling and her team have built a bit of a celebrity following. Her patients include singer John Legend, Annalynne McCord from Nip/Tuck, Maksim Chmerkovskiy from Dancing With the Stars, and Roy Williams of the Dallas Cowboys, who Fulop-Goodling claims takes up her whole room but is exceedingly polite. Despite having strong ties to Boston, she happily treats several of the New York Yankees’ star players as well.
Fulop-Goodling is involved in her many communities as well, particularly with the Long Island kids. She finds it’s a great way to build business and give back at the same time. She frequently comes out to support the local high school sports teams, and recently she rented out an entire amusement park and invited 1,500 patients, along with their parents and friends.
She is heavily involved with the annual Tunnel to Towers Run, an event in honor of Stephen Siller, a firefighter who had just gotten off the night shift in Brooklyn on the morning of September 11, 2001. When he heard that the first of the Twin Towers had been hit, he ran 5 kilometers through the already closed Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. He perished alongside two of Fulop-Goodling’s high school classmates. The 5K run traces his heroic journey and raises money for burn centers and injured servicemen and women. She has worked hard to get the word out about the charity, and now many of Fulop-Goodling’s patients are regular participants in the event.
Fulop-Goodling likes to spend her rare moments of downtime with her husband and family. The last date they had was a night at the theater, seeing The Fantasticks. It was, she says, a great show at a great price. Her dental team bought her the tickets on the discount site Living Social.
Sarah Allan is a contributing writer for Orthodontic Products. For more information, contact /i>