When Is a Dentist Ready to Try a New Laboratory?
Identifying new client opportunities
For laboratories actively seeking new clients, it is no small feat to identify dentists who will consider using a new laboratory. At any given time, this may comprise only 10% of dentists, so it makes sense for you to focus on those opportunities rather than spending precious time and resources on the other 90%.
Many dentists get comfortable—some would even say complacent—with their long-standing laboratory partner. The most common response encountered when cold-calling dental offices is that the practice is “very happy with its current laboratory.” This is an understandable opinion, as dentists often develop a rapport with their laboratories. A familiar laboratory knows a dentist's case preferences, provides consistent shading, and has learned to interpret the dentist’s laboratory prescription instructions. This is what leads some dentists to use the same laboratory for 30 years or more.
However there are times dentists are triggered to try a new partnership due to a change in their laboratory or a change initiated by the dentist. Understanding these triggers can also help laboratories seek out the dentists most likely to engage with their advertising materials. When acquisition-focused laboratories can identify practices that are open to or actively seeking new partners, it can help them optimize their marketing efforts. Here we discuss the events or circumstances that can trigger a dentist’s willingness to try a new laboratory so you can better identify those acquisition opportunities.
New Dentist/New Practice
One of the first things a new dental practice must decide is where to order their restorations. Many new dentists start out using big corporate laboratories based on brand trust and recognition. After settling in, new dentists then look for a local dental laboratory to provide more customized service. Local laboratories are often better suited to support new dentists with custom shading and chairside services. They can also provide more reliable and flexible deliveries. These individualized services can help the new practice gain confidence and grow its patient base. In general, dentists work with a series of different laboratories in the first few years until they find a good fit.
A growing practice will increase its demand for laboratory services and may also expand its variety of service offerings. The demands of these dental offices often outpace the capacity of their preferred laboratory, so the practice may need additional laboratories to accommodate the new workload and provide any restoration types not offered by their regular laboratory. It’s also often at this time that the dentists quickly become aware of their business’s bottom line as even small changes to per-unit costs become magnified.
These practices are most easily swayed by quantity-based discounts and other promotional offers. Tolerance for errors also diminishes as the dentist’s chairtime becomes more valuable. Growing practices may turn to larger laboratories outside their local area to get greater service variety at a lower price.
Preferred Laboratory Not Available
When a dentist’s favorite laboratory closes, changes ownership, moves locations, or otherwise discontinues service, the dentist must look for a worthy replacement. Most of the time there will be a transition period while the dentist is working with their existing laboratory and looking for a new one at the same time. The prospective laboratory will be judged in comparison to the outgoing laboratory. The dentist’s preference is to maintain as many similarities as possible to avoid disruptions in the patient’s experience.
Dissatisfaction with Current Laboratory
Dentists can become dissatisfied with their current partner for a number of reasons, notably unreliable delivery timing, inconsistent quality, or ongoing miscommunication. The current laboratory’s price list can also play a role in prompting the dentist to consider an alternative laboratory. As many dentists go through cycles of fluctuating satisfaction with their laboratory’s performance, a well-timed advertisement by a competing laboratory will pique the dentist’s interest. A competing laboratory that specifically addresses the dentist’s pain points during a period of dissatisfaction will prompt the dentist to send a trial case.
Keeping Options Open
Some dentists are always willing to try a new laboratory. These dentists typically use three or more laboratories at a time to optimize available technology, quality, and cost of restorations. Such practices are often looking for a bargain to drive down their bottom lines. They pride themselves on their ability to shop around and find the best technicians and newest products. Having a variety of dental laboratory options also enables the dentist to match a customized treatment plan to each patient’s individual needs.
All of these factors determine when a dentist may be open to learning about a prospective laboratory. Dental laboratories must optimize their marketing strategies to identify these dentists. Effective marketing strategies reach out to as many dentists as possible in a given area, then apply filtration techniques to help winnow out the practices that are not currently in the market for a new laboratory. This allows the laboratory to funnel its time and resources more efficiently by engaging with those prospects that are more likely to become clients.
David H. Khalili is CEO of DentalLabSupport.com, Inc. in Los Angeles, California.