Communication Changes and Developing Digital Relationships
Building trust without face-to-face interactions
Jonathan Hill, BS
If 2020 taught us one thing, it was the importance of adapting. While COVID-19 knocked the dental laboratory industry down, it did not knock out the ones who modified their business to the changing circumstances. When states began mandating the closure of dental practices, dental laboratories immediately lost the ability to get directly in front of their clients. At one time, this face-to-face approach was the livelihood of the dental laboratory. It was the only way to pick up new accounts. But times have changed, and COVID-19 taught some lessons to anyone willing to listen.
Remember dating, and how you used to meet someone out, get a phone number, follow up later, and then meet for dinner or a coffee? That now seems like a long-lost art that has been replaced with grabbing your phone, downloading an app, uploading a profile, and then swiping. Who would have predicted the dating scene would have become digitized? There is an eerily similar parallel to dating and building business relationships, and for most of us, the pandemic of 2020 brought unexpected twists and turns to both our personal lives and professional lives.
Some fundamental rules apply to nearly every relationship in life. Parent/child, dating, marital, and business relationships all pivot around one core element: Trust. Children test parents to see if they can be trusted. Dating partners will not accept marriage proposals without trust. Even animals with abusive pasts struggle to trust a new owner. And business transactions will rarely occur without trust. So how do you overcome the hurdle of not being able to develop a relationship face-to-face?
Most of us live in the world of text messages and social media interactions. We send SMS text messages to everyone now. We conduct business through text. We communicate with almost every person and every brand through text. We freely give out our phone numbers, while a few short years ago we clung to them like they were our bank account numbers. Entire relationships are being built behind the scenes of every social media platform for many people who have never even met. Are you taking advantage here?
Our entire lives have become digitized. We now are 100% accessible, and have everything we need in the palm of our hand. No one leaves home without their phone, and each of us is inundated with hundreds, if not thousands, of advertisements and messages in our short 24-hour day. This is a tremendous opportunity on which to capitalize. Your audience is waiting. Are you giving them what they're looking for?
I learned three simple ways to adapt during the pandemic. Implementing these steps is crucial, regardless of whether we ever experience another similar situation.
About the Author
Jonathan Hill, BS is the owner of EXCELerate, LLC, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
3 Steps to Adapt
1. Show Your Dentists That You Exist
Today, there are no limits to how visible we can be online. We can be on social media platforms. We can build as many websites as we want. We can have multiple YouTube video channels. We can communicate via email, as frequently as we want. We can show up on Google, Yelp, and the list goes on and on. When dentists search online for a dental laboratory in your area, are they seeing yours? Make sure your laboratory is positioned online everywhere. A simple, repetitive message is what's needed. If you are out of sight to your dentists, you are out of mind to them as well.
2. Get Them to Like You
After you're "on the digital map" and dentists know you exist, get them to like you. Consider it a prerequisite before they trust you. My personal belief is that the best way to build trust is to be authentic. Just be you. Don't try to be someone you're not. Your personal brand and your business are synonymous with one another. If someone thinks favorably of you, they're likely going to think favorably of your laboratory, and vice versa. However, the same rule of thumb applies if someone does not think favorably of you. Remember, not everyone will like you, but your aim should never be to please everyone. Try to serve everyone, and you will serve no one. When you post on social media and/or send emails, see which types of content get the most favorable engagement and comments. Listen to what your audience likes and post more content like that. Consistency is the approach here.
3. Earn Their Trust
Earn dentists' trust by providing tremendous value without expecting anything in return. Something of value is anything that will help your dentists solve problems, become better in their practice, or increase their revenues. This could include tips and suggestions on staining and glazing, porcelain layering, 3D printing, CAD, material selection, marketing or business strategies, and more. As a dental laboratory, you are the expert. There is tremendous value you can provide to your dentists that does not cost you a penny. As you provide more value, without expecting anything in return, your chances of picking up new accounts vastly increase when the time comes that these dentists need help or a new laboratory.
Look back at the last few decades of the dental laboratory industry. It has changed by leaps and bounds with regard to how restorations and appliances are now being fabricated. If you are reading this, then you learned to adapt to those changes, and you have the same ability to continue to adapt now. Take what the pandemic taught us and use it to propel your laboratory forward. There is always opportunity and a way out during a storm.