Converting New Clients
Demonstrating your laboratory’s value to attract more business
By Mark T. Murphy, DDS
CPR has been our mantra for the last few months: Conversion, Penetration, and Retention. Often, when the author consults for dental laboratories, the primary goal and business strategy is to acquire more new accounts in order to facilitate growth. However, these laboratories may have only invested minimal or even no thought in Retention and Penetration, the two more important growth drivers. We have already spent considerable time discussing the math, merits, and metrics of Retention, as well as the benefits of cross-selling or Penetration. Now, we have earned the right to investigate Conversion. Here is the awesome little secret about getting more new dentists—if you do an incredible job retaining customers and have laboratory bills that reflect a broader and/or deeper relationship than average with your clients, then you will almost automatically attract new clients. Spending more time on retention and penetration than on conversion leads to an overall happier customer base. Science and research have shown that happy customers share their experiences with their peers, providing laboratory owners with free word-of-mouth referrals. In addition, almost every survey of dentists has shown that by a wide margin, referrals are still the leading factor in attracting new clients.
Even with the help of word-of-mouth, new client acquisition can be tricky, as not all new clients are the same. When acquiring new clients, laboratory owners may want to consider the following guidelines and ideas in order to secure the best possible clients for their business.
There are three rules to keep in mind when courting new clients.
Build Relationships and Trust
Far too often, laboratory owners drive their marketing with an overt clinical and technical orientation, message, and deliverables. However, most of your customers do business with you because they have come to like and/or trust you, not just because of your product offerings. They trust you with their patient’s health, personal and professional self-esteem, material and procedural knowledge gaps and, of course, their occasional poor preparations and impressions. Clients expect good-fitting restorations with healthy contours, excellent esthetics, and the proper shade. Those are a given, not a differentiator, for most laboratories.
Even when you are sending out a marketing piece similar to another laboratory’s successful campaign, put a twist on it. Make it different and memorable. The emotional component of decision-making is so important that even commercial advertisers strive to get you to remember their TV ad over others. Help prospects remember you and be diligent about demonstrating the quality of your work.
Be Patient and Stay in Touch
During a consultation experience many years ago, the author’s team was working with a laboratory owner who measured how many new clients he gained from a lecture, booth display, or sponsorship in a 60-day timeframe. This did not allow nearly enough time to judge whether or not the outreach had been successful. New client prospects need time to build trust and move their relationship forward when becoming a new friend or partner. Sometimes the seeds planted at a meeting mature after 6 or even 12 months because a prospect’s former laboratory was no longer working out and we were on their radar. We manage to stay on dentists’ radars through monthly, non-promotional correspondence. Keep in touch with the potential clients you meet at events, one day they may need your services.
When pursuing new clients, added value associated with your laboratory can set you apart from the competition.
Make Continuing Education Memorable
CE should not be a direct profit center for dental laboratories, it should help increase existing business and convert prospects into customers. It is an investment in marketing, not something you have to make up the cost of in tuition. Charging tuition does increase the value of your event, but laboratories should consider steep discounts for existing or soon-to-be-existing clients. The author has even seen some laboratories donate some or all of the collected tuition to a meaningful local or dental charity, giving meaning to the fee.
Develop Study Clubs
Just about every successful laboratory owner or manager is involved in study clubs. The new players on the scene are the Pankey Learning Groups. They not only cover clinical issues, they also delve into behavioral practice issues. The Pankey study club model is high tech, high touch, and highly innovative. The group leader does not pay the annual fee, and there is a facilitated model that can bring in speakers twice a year.
Touch the Team
One creative idea that has worked for many laboratories is a staff appreciation night. Staff members hardly ever get schmoozed and often are key decision makers around a variety of topics—including the laboratory services being used. The laboratory owner may include an educational aspect to the event and sneak in some interactive hands on activities. It will be fun, engaging, and likely result in new clients or more business from your existing ones. Additionally, be sure to invite a few favorite clients who can brag about you during the evening. It doesn’t hurt to have some influential friends in the room.
Many of the CE institutes have excellent dentist and technician programs, but very few let them both take the same course and learn side-by-side. The Pankey Institute is one of those venues, and they offer a significant fee reduction for technicians taking the Essentials Continuum. Several of the laboratory managers at MicroDental have attended courses at different CE institutions, and they often return with new dentist friends and build relationships with people who they otherwise would have never met.
Mark T. Murphy, DDS is the Lead Faculty for Clinical Education at MicroDental/DTI Dental Technologies Inc. in Dublin, CA.
To see a video about the Pankey Learning Groups, be sure to visit dentalaegis.com/go/idt686.