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Eight strategies your laboratory can implement to hold onto dentist clients amid this struggling economy
By Michael McCarthy, MBA
It’s rare to find a laboratory owner who is trained in marketing theory. Yes, some labs do an incredible amount of marketing, but a significant marketing effort usually requires a sizable monetary investment. The good news is that you don’t have to pay a market analyst thousands of dollars to effectively promote your business.
Simply knowing your customers and their needs can help you to develop many strong, successful marketing strategies. The following is a list of simple yet effective marketing tactics to keep your business moving, and possibly growing, in this downward economy.
1. Talk Technology
Dentist clients may not be aware of the latest technology that you are using in your laboratory. Do you have a state-of-the-art CAD/CAM system? Do you have a glazing technique with the expertise to back it up? Talk about the equipment you employ to set your laboratory apart from others in the dentist’s mind.
Many dentists like to talk about their lab partners to their colleagues so if you deliver a strong message to them, you might be able to reach a larger population of potential clients.
2. Design a Promotion
Create a promotion that is tailored to a specific dentist—eg, “Dr. Smith, just for you this month, prescribe 10 crowns and get 2 free.” Dentists are highly incentive-motivated. Look at the current monthly prescriptions you receive from specfic dental practices and use that information to develop individualized promotions that will encourage them to use your laboratory.
3. Read, Read, Read
Many dentists and dental technicians read dental trade publications. Keeping up with the current literature shows your commitment and passion for your profession and your client’s business as well. Remember you serve as the laboratory expert for the dentist, and providing reference materials or examples from the literature can reinforce that expertise.
4. E-mail Clients
Keeping in touch with clients electronically is easier then ever. A Google search of “e-mail templates” will generate many sources for creating a monthly touch-base e-mail for customers. These e-mails let customers know what is going on in your laboratory, and give you a means to share updates about new materials, locations, and staff members.
5. Praise Employees
Showcase your laboratory’s staff and their talents. Send a photo of the great work your employees produce, and let clients know they can always expect the same level of quality.
6. Take a Lunch Break
Dentists love to talk dentistry, and a casual lunch is a great way to discuss how their business is performing; their preferred sales representatives, dealers, and distributors; staffing issues; and the satisfaction levels of assistants working with the laboratory.
7. Share Costs
Some smart laboratories are helping to offset dentists’ advertising costs. Many dentists are employing neighborhood mailer programs focused on implants, offering a special price on a specific type of implant they provide. Neighborhood mailers are cost-effective, and reach many homes. Consider making a deal with a dentist in which you share the cost of the mailing, as long as your preferred implant is showcased in the mailing and your laboratory’s name is clearly stated.
As a result, your laboratory’s name will reach the public and your lab will be positioned as an expert in implants. Consumers will routinely bring these flyers into dental offices and ask for the product by name, even if it is not that specific dentist’s advertisement. Surrounding dentists receive these promotional mailers in their homes—they are consumers, too, and it just might get you a new client.
8. Use Social Media
You can implement many of these tactics by using social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can use social media to target the dentist directly, share news and events, provide fans and followers with exclusive promotions, and develop relationships with clients. It also provides you with another way to consistently promote your laboratory’s name.
For example, your lab’s Facebook page could feature staff photos, before/after shots, fun tips, videos, and more. Taking advantage of these free web spaces is a no-brainer.
There is no “silver-bullet” marketing technique that is going to get your business soaring in a short time. Employing some or all of these techniques will help you to keep your laboratory at the forefront of your dentist client’s mind. A simple and kind gesture may be the very thing that keeps a dentist from seeking out another laboratory partner or sending business offshore.
About the Author
Michael McCarthy, MBA, is the chief strategy officer and managing partner of Lanmark Group, Inc in Eatontown, New Jersey.