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Communicating the Brand
Choosing effective tools is key to establishing a successful brand.
By Dean Mersky, DDS
Calling to make dinner reservations at a new restaurant, the phone rings for what seems to be forever before a young, uninterested adult answers. His unwelcoming and abbreviated responses left us questioning—do we make the reservation or try somewhere else? Our initial experience, which had nothing to do with the food, may have prevented us from having a fantastic meal. In business, a company’s brand is communicated and judged with every customer contact and encounter. A poor first impression could easily be its undoing.
Everything that touches current and prospective customers provides a brand experience. These experiences need to be consistent in their message regardless of how they are received. If you do not take the lead in this effort, your brand will be inconsistent and random, having been left for inadequately trained employees to establish.
Corporate ID in Branding
A corporate ID should reflect who the company is, what they do, and why the world is a better place with your business in it.
Most prospective customers look at a company’s identity and get a “feeling.” They react emotionally to what they see, develop an impression, and decide whether or not they should trust moving forward or pass. Being strategic in developing a corporate identity is very important, as pointed out by Don McGinn, a senior editor of the Harvard Business Review. Citing research conducted by Dan King, National University of Singapore, and Chris Janiszewski, University of Florida, McGinn reported that companies often tie products to “magic numbers.” The research found that subjects were consistently drawn to numbers that could be easily processed. In the study, a product presented as “Zinc 24” was far more popular than the same product called “Zinc 31” or just plain “Zinc.”
Brochures, case boxes, and invoices are equally as important because they reach customers many times each month. These should be carefully considered as a part of an overall branding strategy. Considering their potential impact, less costly off-the-shelf goods that could “de-brand” your business should be avoided. Seek the advice of professional marketers and designers for written materials, quality content, design, and structure, all crucial to communicating the business’ brand. Hire them to design and write the content of your company’s brochures and website. Communicate the exact market you are trying to reach and provide the developer with more than enough information on the industry so he or she has a clear and concise strategic plan.
Direct Customer Contact
One of the biggest mistakes laboratories make is allowing the wrong people to answer the phone and make calls or deliver the finished products. Front desk or delivery personnel should be benevolent communicators whose principle role is to create great customer experiences. They should be acting as roving ambassadors and opportunity seekers who are trained to use open-ended questions to gain important information about customers’ needs and activities. They should obtain customer feedback and look for opportunities to offer additional support and cross-sell important services. Scheduled debriefing sessions would reinforce the need for these activities. Additionally, all direct-contact employees should be trained using role-playing techniques and have their interactions recorded for joint review.
There is no more important activity than direct contact when it comes to growing a business. If you want your company to be known for providing valuable and friendly service, each personal contact must be viewed as an opportunity to show how much you care. Make random calls to your laboratory from anonymous phone numbers. You might be surprised.
Quality in Packaging
The author has seen cases delivered in paper bags, old case boxes, and in boxes from a laboratory’s competitors with models wrapped in paper towels and placed in baggies, even clinical cases with models and dies unwrapped, separated, and randomly strewn in the box, supported only by foam from the top and bottom. Poor packaging will only lessen the perceived product value.
Quality packaging speaks volumes about a laboratory’s attention to detail and management oversight. Professionally developed corporate identity and collateral marketing materials will make for a poor investment if you later fail in your follow-through. Periodically, open a packaged case to assess how well it represents your laboratory. If disappointed, take a photograph and show it on a large screen with photographs of a well-packaged case for immediate impact.
Everything, including color, font, design/layout, and content, comes together on the business website. The biggest mistake you can make is designing your website to serve yourself. Instead, emphasize the needs and interests of your target markets matched with the restorative solutions you provide. A message directed to dentists that specialize in full-mouth reconstruction will probably be different from a message targeting those looking for the lowest prices.
Website layout should always be intuitive and easy to maneuver, but should also follow a flow geared to the specific interests of the target audience. For example, it might be more effective to concentrate on case planning instead of specific materials when trying to attract clients who are more interested in service than price. Consider designing click-throughs that follow a logical but brief treatment sequence from product rationale to final result. Always keep in mind that while products are important, you should deemphasize manufacturer branding and maximize your own branding.
Many were shocked when Anderson Consulting, formerly Arthur Anderson (before Enron), decided to change its name to Accenture. After all, time had proven there was nothing wrong with the brand or name of Anderson Consulting. However, corporate leadership felt the name failed to communicate the company’s departure from the past and new direction. In 2001, and after having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, Anderson Consulting Corporation took their first three letters, ACC, and renamed the company, Accenture, to signify “Accent on the Future.”
Accenture’s net revenues in 2010 exceeded $20 billion. The best companies in the world spend heavily on developing their brands because “It pays to do it right.”
Your professionally developed corporate identity and marketing materials must accurately communicate your brand. Then, every day should be viewed as teeming with new opportunities to communicate to the world why they need you and your laboratory.
About the Author
Dean Merskey, DDS, is the Implant Coordinator for Thayer Dental Laboratory in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.