*ELabRx Puts Some Teeth Into Its Loyalty Program

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Americus Dental Labs Inc., owner of eLabRx.com, hopes building loyalty among dentists nationwide won't be like pulling teeth.

ELabRx, the first online interactive prescription fulfillment program for dentists, has launched its Americus GetAway Miles program. Dentists earn miles for using the site to purchase dentures, crowns, bridges, fillings and other materials.

The challenge facing the site is that dentists have been ordering products using pen and paper for their entire careers. Getting them to use the Web is a struggle.

"We're trying to move mountains with these doctors," said Michael Bocian, vice president of marketing at Americus Dental Labs Inc., New York. "They're used to doing business one way -- manually, not through the Internet. They've done it that way for 100 years. We're trying to get the doctors to change their habits. This has been done in other industries but in the dental community, it's cutting edge."

Dentists earn one mile for every dollar invoiced on eLabRx.com to their office. They get 500 miles to sign up and send in their first case online. They can redeem their miles for a variety of awards, including leisure travel opportunities and merchandise ranging from jewelry to home décor.

ADL used the word "miles" intentionally, said Bocian. "We're playing off American Express Reward Miles and frequent-flier miles. Doctors are accustomed to hearing that term. We want to get it in their heads that there's travel associated with the program."

The campaign was created by MMS incentives, a provider of loyalty and performance management programs. Although it's still in its infancy, having launched in April, "this program gives [ADL] a competitive edge," said Mylle Mangum, CEO of MMS, Atlanta. "The currency locks in the dentist, potentially forever."

To boost membership the site kicked off a Double Miles program over the Labor Day weekend. It is also leveraging its database of 2,000 dentists as it began e-mailing their offices. The message uses the 500 miles offer as bait for dentists to sign up. ADL considered buying opt-in names, but it was impossible finding a "decent e-mail list," said Bocian.

Later this month, the site plans to send a direct mail drop of 30,000 pieces promoting the loyalty campaign. ADL also sends out promotional materials within the statements and invoices of its existing customers. Additionally, it will advertise in the dental trade publications such as Practical Periodontics and Aesthetic Dentistry.

The company also is running an internal incentive program where salespeople can win a trip to one of 180 hotels if they sign up 50 dentists over the course of 60 days. The incentive kicked off over the holiday weekend as well.

One of the key benefits of the GetAway Miles program for ADL is the cost savings. "That's our main purpose. There's a big cost benefit to our company in utilizing the Web as a method for order entry," said Bocian.

ADL has also found that their orders are placed quicker, with greater accuracy and with fewer time-consuming phone calls between the lab and the dentists' offices. "We've bypassed the data entry," said Bocian. "There's no more incomplete information. With the form's rules, you can't continue without filling out the information. This way we don't have to call them repeatedly and take them away from the chair, which is costly for them."

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