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Engage Your Clients
Strengthen and maximize current relationships with a variety of strategies
By David H. Khalili
For many dental laboratory owners, marketing campaigns focus primarily on seeking out new dental offices and engaging them to try the laboratory’s work for the first time. The belief is that the key to growing the business lies in accruing as many new clients as possible and convincing them to send in cases. However, this type of front-end marketing strategy overlooks several key factors for sustained revenue growth.
New Client Engagement
One restoration created by an unfamiliar laboratory is only the first step to building a client relationship based on trust, loyalty, and communication; it is not enough to convince a dentist that your laboratory is the best choice for serving the patient’s needs. However, through well-thought-out protocols and built-in incentives, new clients can be encouraged to try multiple cases while getting to know the laboratory’s range of products, service standards, and company culture. Once dentists get in the habit of sending cases to the new laboratory, they are more likely to continue.
Re-engaging Lapsed Clients
A mid-sized laboratory with a client base of 60-80 dentists may have serviced hundreds of individual clients over its lifetime. These former clients may have tapered off for a number of correctable reasons, including: dissatisfaction with a laboratory practice that has since been improved, the lack of a product or service that has since been added, a perceived indifference to their needs that can be remedied through communication, or a better offer by another laboratory that may no longer be in business. Reaching out to these former clients and letting them know how the laboratory has improved since they last sent cases will often persuade them to give it another try.
Incentivizing Low-Volume Clients
The Pareto Principle, commonly known as the 80/20 rule, when applied to business predicts that 80% of a company’s sales come from only 20% of its clients. This rule rings true for dental laboratories. The vast majority of an average laboratory’s monthly sales volume comes from just 20% of its dentists. This means there is an opportunity to increase case volume from the 80% of existing clients through marketing efforts. Learning more about these under-producing clients and targeting messaging to address their specific concerns or needs can quickly boost sales and develop high-quality client relationships.
Cross-Selling Limited-Service Clients
Most dentists use multiple laboratories. For example, they will use one laboratory for removable cases, another for fixed restorations, and a third for implant work. Without research and communication, a laboratory producing PFMs for one of these dentists might assume that the practice does not need denture services. It is important to let existing clients know about all products and services the laboratory provides, including material options, special offers, and new improvements.
Strategies for Engagement
Client engagement is a long-term marketing strategy designed to build brand loyalty, instill trust and confidence, increase order frequency, and address issues efficiently. The goal of client engagement is constant communication to make dentists feel understood, appreciated, informed, and sympathetic.
The first step to client engagement is segregating clients based on categories to focus marketing efforts—for example, New, Lapsed, Low, or Limited. These categories can be further refined to provide a tailored marketing experience designed specifically to the target audience. Each group of clients then must be entered into a marketing contact list for efficient tracking and communication. This list can be a Word document, spreadsheet, or client relationship management (CRM) tool. Next, as much information as possible should be gathered about each client in the list. Record staff names, complete contact information, websites, social media, hours of operation, average monthly case volumes, types of cases ordered, lengths of client relationships, and other information that will be useful for targeting communication. Update these records each time the dental office is contacted, and add notes that will inform future communication. Use the laboratory case management software to track order trends. What types of cases are most popular with this group? What underused case types could benefit them?
Listen and Encourage Feedback
Often, dentists consider switching laboratories when they feel their current laboratory is not meeting their needs or is indifferent to their feedback. Providing dentists with ample opportunities for feedback and making changes based on the feedback will make your clients feel understood and in control. This strategy will encourage dentists to work with you to correct shortfalls, rather than look around for another laboratory.
Effective client feedback requires an organized approach. As a first step, include a survey card with each case that has both multiple-choice and open-ended questions. Be prepared to receive more negative feedback than positive; volunteer response bias tends to highlight shortfalls over strengths. It is important to not react emotionally to negative feedback; taking things personally will not help the laboratory grow.
Identify one staff member as the feedback liaison who collects the feedback, analyzes it to identify trends, and makes recommendations to the rest of the dental laboratory team. The feedback liaison should regularly call clients to ask how things are going and relate the trends back to the team. When dentists contact the laboratory to complain or comment about a case, this information should be tracked and routed to the feedback liaison.
Once an effective feedback system is in place, dentists will feel more comfortable sharing their perceptions about the work they receive, and the laboratory will have an opportunity to make adjustments before the dentist begins to consider using another laboratory. When dentists are encouraged to provide feedback and feel that their concerns are taken seriously, they feel a sense of ownership in the laboratory and thus become more loyal.
Develop Protocols and Open Lines of Communication
Regular communication builds strong client relationships. Stay in touch with clients through phone calls, social media, email newsletters, mailings, case stuffers, or a blog. These methods remind dentists that the laboratory is available to meet their needs and are a constant reminder that your business is a go-to for services and information.
Most dental offices have their own website and social media page. They are very appreciative when a laboratory “likes” and “shares” their pages and content, provides positive reviews, and engages by leaving friendly comments. This will encourage the dental office to reciprocate by “liking” and “sharing” your laboratory’s content.
Any client marketing campaign, whether by phone, web, mail, or email, should be tracked to gauge effectiveness. Analytical software can help gauge how dentists engage with your content and what piques their interest.
Inform and Educate
The dental laboratory industry is in a constant state of flux with new technologies, materials, and technical processes debuting routinely. Dentists rely on their laboratories for information on these new products, their indications, and applications. When the laboratory proactively provides dentists with valuable information about these new restorative offerings, dentists will feel more confident prescribing them. This strategy will also help establish the laboratory’s image as one of expertise, confidence, and reliability.
David H. Khalili is CEO of DentalLabSupport.com, Inc. in Los Angeles, California.