Customized Marketing Pays Off
Finding the Best to market AmeriPlan®'s discount dental program was the difference between success and failure.

By Rusty Cawley/Dallas Business Journal (March 10-16, 2000 issue)

NORTH DALLAS - Twin brothers Dennis and Daniel Bloom knew they had a solid idea: An inexpensive program that would offer consumers deep discounts on prices for dental work. But the business partners couldn't find a way to market their new program.

They'd tried print advertising, direct mail, telemarketing. Nothing seemed to catch fire.

Then the Blooms looked at network marketing, also known as multilevel marketing. This is the strategy that made industry giants of two other Dallas companies, Mary Kay Cosmetics and Excel Communications.

The Blooms attended hundreds of "opportunity meetings" for scores of multilevel companies. And they came to two conclusions.

"One, it's the most dynamic system of marketing known to man," Dennis says. "Two, it's the most abused system of marketing known to man."

The Blooms decided to put their own spin on the multilevel system, redesigning it to offer their representatives more money at earlier stages. Seven years later, their company — AmeriPlan USA® Corp. has thousands selling its discount programs all across the nation.


Double Vision
Born in Brownwood, Texas, the Blooms are that rarest of twins: Mirror identical twins. Daniel is right handed; Dennis is left handed. Daniel is missing the tip of the ring finger on the right hand. Dennis is missing the tip of his ring finger on his left hand. One brother often finishes the other's sentences.

"Yes," Dennis says, "it's a little spooky."

In the 1980's, the Blooms saw an opportunity offering services to CPA's. The Carter administration was busily deregulating professions, such as law and accounting, giving professionals more opportunity than ever to grow. What the Blooms created was a one-stop shop for CPA's, handling everything from marketing to insurance to 401k plans. It was during this time they got the idea for offering a dental program.

Their first tack was to find an insurance company that offered a plan, then act as brokers. But they found that to be too costly for the consumer. Next, they considered creating a dental health management organization, a dental version of an HMO. But dentists hated the idea.

Finally, the Blooms discovered an idea known as a "reduced fee-for-service program." Unlike insurance, the consumer pays a monthly rate to receive a discount rate on professional services. The Blooms found such a program for dental in San Antonio. They were offered a 10% commission on any programs they sold.

"As you know, identical twins have ESP," Dennis says, "and I could read Daniel's mind. He was thinking what I was thinking, which was 'We don't do anything for just 10%.'"

The Blooms decided to create their own program. They hired dentists as consultants with two goals in mind, to create a program that offered great value to the consumer while still making money for the dentists.

"We figured if the doctors won and the consumers won," Dennis says, "then we would do just fine."

The Blooms sold the program to CPA's for more than three years and discovered something amazed them.

"We were actually making more money off this $15-a-month dental program than everything else we were doing," Dennis says.

The twins decided to take their program to the public. The only question was: How do you market it? That's when they found network marketing.

In network marketing, a company signs up an army of independent representatives to sell its product. These representatives receive a commission for the products they sell. They also receive an override on any sales made by recruits they bring to the company, plus overrides on the recruits brought in by those recruits.

This level-upon-level of sales representatives is what gives multilevel marketing its name.

The Blooms decided to alter the traditional model. Most multilevel companies begin to pay big bucks only after a representative has built a network that is seven levels deep. The problem is, most reps never get beyond the third level.

So the Blooms took a different approach. Their commissions top out a 63%, but 60% of that is paid for sales made on the first three levels.

"We turned the pyramid upside down," Dennis says. "Its gives our independant business owners the chance to build a genuine residual income."


Thumbing a Ride
The Blooms launched AmeriPlan® in April 1993 with just two IBO's, themselves. They took advantage of a rare Situation. Both Dennis and Daniel had daughters who worked as flight attendants for Southwest Airlines. That allowed Daniel and Dennis to fly for free.

"People ask us about our business plan for expansion," Daniel says. "I wish I could tell them we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants. But the truth is that we expand to wherever Southwest Airlines was flying."

Today, more than 55,000 IBO's sell AmeriPlan's program in all 50 states (except Alaska).

Individuals pay $11.95 per month, households $19.95 per month. In return, AmeriPlan® customers get up to 80% off their dental work.

The company has added a free vision program and a pharmaceutical program to the original package, and plans to add a chiropractic discount program this month.

AmeriPlan® has aligned itself with 75,000 dentists nationwide. It also works with the pharmaceutical arms of CVS, Target, Walgreen's and other major chains. For eye care, AmeriPlan® has agreements with major names such as Pearle Vision, Eyemasters and LensCrafters.

Today, the twins split duties, with Dennis handling the marketing as Chief Executive Officer and Daniel watching over operations as Chief Operating Officer. And they no longer have to bum a ride on Southwest Airlines. Today they own a Lear 35 Jet, purchased last year from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

"It just shows that when you set a personal goal, you can reach it," Daniel says, "even if you're just a couple of skinny kids from Brownwood."

Note: The contents above are a reproduction of an article published in the Dallas Business Journal March 10-16, 2000 issue.


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