Custom Mouthguards Propel Online Dental Lab
People who grind their teeth in their sleep rely on custom-made guards for prevention. For sellers of these guards, the complication is the custom fit. This requires an exact impression of the teeth, which presumably requires an in-person visit.
But not if the seller is Pro Teeth Guard, an online dental lab based in San Diego, Calif., that sells custom mouthguards via e-commerce. Its print-to-mail process facilitates custom manufacturing and customer satisfaction.
I recently spoke with JP Ji, President of Pro Teeth Guard, about production challenges, customer service strategies, marketing, and more.
Our full audio interview is embedded below. The transcript is edited and condensed.
Eric Bandholz: Tell us about Pro Teeth Guard.
JP Ji: We sell custom mouth guards for people who grind their teeth in their sleep. We send a kit to customers. They take an impression of their teeth and send it back to us. We then make the custom mouthguard and send the finished product to the buyer. We offer adjustments, a one-year warranty, and a 60-day money-back guarantee.
We started the business in 2012 when my mother started a lab serving local dentists. We now have nine employees and just over $1 million in annual revenue. During Covid a lot of dentists closed. By this time, online sales had become a minor part of the business, probably 5% of overall revenue. So we said, “Let’s focus on our e-commerce site.”
Currently, the dental lab only serves e-commerce. My mother is in charge of the technical side of making the product and making sure it fits perfectly. I am in charge of marketing, customer service and finance.
We use a dashboard for each role within the company – inspired by the book “Who: The A Method for Hiring” by Geoff Smart. Each position has basic results. We also have what we call “Stretch Results”. A critical outcome for a customer service employee is being able to follow processes, respond to inquiries, and provide an excellent experience. An extended outcome is to identify opportunities for improvement, such as improved efficiency.
I ask employees, “What did you suggest this year or this quarter for improvement?” They won’t be negatively impacted or disciplined if they don’t achieve a stretch goal, but that’s part of the role. We call customer service “customer happiness”. Everyone in our company is a Customer Happiness Manager.
Bandholz: You get support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. How it works?
Jim: We use a third party live chat service called HelpFlow. It uses our internal list of frequently asked questions. We collate all questions received via email and phone calls, build the list and send it to them. Over time, HelpFlow staff improves by updating internal FAQs. We have been using the service for seven years. They can now answer 80% of customer service questions based on previous support tickets.
Most chat agents are overseas. Agents are assigned to multiple clients, not just us. They report on a metric called “chatted revenue”. They might document, “This client chatted with us then converted.” Some customers may have converted regardless, but the conversion rate of those who engaged in chats is about 10 times higher than those who didn’t. The service charges a monthly retainer fee. It scales based on volume, which equates to a few dollars per chat.
Bandholz: You also use a conversion optimization firm.
Jim: Yes. The company, Conversion Crimes, conducts user testing to uncover friction points on a website and where people get confused. Conversion Crimes sends a buyer who matches our target audience on our site – someone who needs a night watchman. The company records the person navigating the site with specific steps and clues. For example, steps might be “Land on page. Scroll. Don’t click on anything. What is this page about?” This tests if a page conveys the purpose of our brand, website or product – on mobile and desktop.
We send these recordings to the people in our UI agency. They will take notes and discuss these limitations. After launching a new design, we will repeat the process with another test.
Here is an example. We have learned that it is difficult for people to know which of our products to buy. We have four bespoke night guards, all similar but with different thicknesses and materials. Customers want to know which one they need. We have therefore integrated a quiz to help you. Based on the answers, he will recommend the best product. This quiz has a high level of engagement.
Bandholz: What is your marketing strategy?
Jim: We started out really strong on search engine optimization in 2012. It was easier back then. So that was our main channel for a long time, SEO and Google Ads. We’ve had ups and downs with Google’s algorithm. We had updates that halved our traffic over time. Then we recovered. Now, organic search customers make up about 15% to 20% of total revenue.
We always use Google Ads. And affiliates are an important channel – around 25% of revenue – as many are SEO masters. If you are looking for the best mouth guard, the best mouth guard or the best mouth guard, our affiliates are usually the first one, two or three results.
The rest is email marketing. We have never cracked Facebook Ads. For a while we ran retargeting ads on Facebook. It was good. But even then, after the iOS 14.5 updates, retargeting wasn’t profitable for us. We’ve probably spent the equivalent of a Honda Civic on Facebook Ads and never really gotten a return.
We have mastered our content marketing process well. So far, it’s almost entirely for SEO. But people don’t always google questions about mouth guards and teeth grinding. So we’re looking to invest in videos, like on YouTube and TikTok.
A competitor launched a TikTok channel. One of their teeth grinding videos on TikTok has been viewed over a million times. We’re looking to leverage TikTok and the Creator Market to try similar things.
Bandholz: Where can people find out more about you?
Jim: Our website is ProTeethGuard.com. I’m on it Twitter and LinkedIn.