A defined image encourages differentiation and success in communicating a brand.
Laboratory owners in the past have relied on a ready smile and reliable product quality to increase sales. However, today’s new technological developments, sophisticated marketing tools, and continuing downward price pressures have made increasing laboratory revenues more difficult. Relying only on technology to convey a compelling story to potential clients has proven disappointing as its adoption spread and became less unique. Instead, those laboratories demonstrating the most financial success are differentiating themselves by combining new technological applications with highly polished marketing. They understand that every point of contact communicates who they are, what they do, and why the market should work with them.
Every communication with clients is an opportunity to create an exceptional brand experience. And there is no more important communication that telling the world "Who" you are, "What" you do, and "Why" they need to know. These statements are fundamental to building a strong and consistent competitive statement.
The "Who" Factor
Every employee should be keenly aware of your company’s "Who" factor. This is your laboratory’s values, beliefs, and policies; it is your company’s DNA. The "Who" factor sets bars for performance for both inside and outside the laboratory. Inside the laboratory, understanding the "Who" concept reduces ambiguities in operations and internal communications by replacing subjective reviews and comments with objective performance measurements and assessments. It can help all parties to commit to lab-wide continuous improvement and accountability that can then be communicated through marketing.
Outside the laboratory, the "Who" factor fosters trust in the market by setting customer expectations that your laboratory has the means to perform as promised in every way. This information needs to be conveyed to customers to help them understand the processes your laboratory has in place to assure quality in everything you do.
Be honest in examining "Who" you are, and be ready to make adjustments to better position your laboratory for today’s world. Building on strengths while seeking help for areas of weakness will bolster your competitiveness. "Who" requires objectivity and conviction.
The "What" Factor
The "What" factor refers to what you do. A clear understanding of "What" keeps you focused on where you need to build the business and apply assets to be more efficient and effective in helping your customers.
For example, before purchasing equipment or a new product offering, consider how it can be applied to benefit your customers. Will a new scanner increase quality or lower fees, two components of the value equation: Value = (Quality + Benefit) / Price?
Revealing an important expertise is also a "What" factor and will further differentiate your lab. Contrast that approach with "We are a full-service laboratory…" message. While you might offer a full array of services, being a full-service laboratory is not a customer-centric "What" factor. Instead of focusing on "full-service" try to find a specific need that you can uniquely fill. For example, try to establish the need to match crowns and removable partial dentures under the same roof. This would communicate a specific solution for a specific need unique to your capabilities.
Regardless of whether you consider yourself a "fixed" lab, a "removables" lab, or a "full service" lab, "What" you do is offer your clients individual services and solutions that address their specific requirements or needs, which they may or may not have identified. But keep in mind that communicating "What" you do involves more listening than talking. To help a future customer better appreciate your capabilities, ask questions that help reveal their interests. Then, narrow the dialogue to match the "What" you do precisely to the "What" they’ve articulated, turning need into want.
The "Why" Factor
The "Why" factor seems to be the most difficult question to answer. "Why" refers to those factors that make your laboratory so special that every dentist needs to know about you. Today’s technologies have caused a shift in the way astute dental laboratories differentiate themselves. The days of differentiating yourself solely on a pleasant personality and well-honed technical skills is quickly fading at the hands of commoditization. Advances in Internet connectivity, social media, and interactive websites have provided savvy laboratory marketers with opportunities to offer new services at a lower cost to broader markets with greater ease and effectiveness.
As daunting as the above may sound, these avenues are open for everyone’s advantage. With the right technology used correctly, laboratories of all sizes have the capability and the capacity to increase their competitiveness. Of course, it might require re-examining "Who" you are and "What" you do as well as a strategic shift in your workflow and where you see your value. Most importantly, it will require a bona fide commitment to learn and deliver digital solutions in ways that create excitement. Growing the business will also mean less time at the bench and more time communicating "Why" the world needs to know about your business.
If the dentist market were an orchard, the low-hanging fruit would be long gone, picked clean by those laboratories that offer the lowest prices. But there is still plenty of fruit remaining for those that can reinvent themselves in creative ways. The sweetest and ripest are found higher up. To reach them, embrace new techniques and tools and commit to more thoughtful strategies when telling the world "Who" you are, "What" you do, and "Why" they need to know.
About the Author
Dr. Mersky is the Implant Coordinator for Thayer Dental Laboratory.