Focus on Growth
Don't let these seven things distract you from your goals
By Jonathan Hill, BS
"If you're opening a hot dog stand, you could worry about the condiments, the cart, the name, and the decoration. But the first thing you should worry about is the hot dog. The hot dogs are the epicenter. Everything else is secondary."
- Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
One of the author's favorite quotes from Fried and Hansson's business management book Rework demonstrates how we as business owners often really need less than we think. In fact, to be successful, we don't need to be workaholics or especially even need to staff up. By focusing on what will directly grow our laboratories, we improve efficiency, performance, and, ultimately, our chance for success.
The author has seen his own father—a dental technician for over 40 years and recently retired—wear the many hats required in this industry. Being an owner and/or manager of an independent dental laboratory requires multiple skill sets. You become an expert at your trade, and then you realize it doesn't stop there. Now you're the marketer, too, and the salesperson. You have to oversee the accounting, payroll, and sales, all while ensuring quality control and overseeing every single unit that leaves your laboratory. You also must be looking ahead for business sustainability and growth, perhaps adding technology into the mix and trying to adjust to how it's infiltrated dentistry.
The dental laboratory landscape has changed drastically over the past few decades. On top of that, the marketing landscape has changed, too. It can be confusing and overwhelming, even for those who are marketers by trade. It can be hard to determine which things are truly important and what things simply do not matter for your dental laboratory's future.
These days, business does not grow without active marketing efforts and an online presence. With so many aspects of operating a business vying for your focus and attention, it's important not to lose sight of what really matters—that "hot dog," dental restoration. At the end of the day, how many crowns, bridges, dentures, and other appliances you are selling determines if your lights stay on and your employees get paid. Don't let those secondary concerns like those listed below distract your attention from the laboratory's key offering.
1. The number of likes on your business's Facebook page.
Facebook represents an enormous potential market for your social media efforts, but it's getting more difficult to stand out. Did you know there are over 2 billion monthly active Facebook users? That's over 25% of the global population. It doesn't matter what industry you're in; almost every target audience is on this platform. But, even if you have a business page (which you should), it doesn't matter how many "likes" you have; a Facebook business page alone won't drum up new business. The next point expands further on this concept.
2. Needing to post content "x" days per week on social media.
Most dental laboratory owners, managers, or marketing professionals think, "I have to post every day on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc," which can feel quite burdensome. In actuality, the number of days you post content may be irrelevant. Why? Facebook has evolved into a "pay to play" system. Laboratories need to learn how to leverage this so that everyone can see your content.
3. Creating a business logo.
At the end of the day, a logo can look nice and is necessary, but it is not going to generate sales. Logos are good for brand and business identity. When designed by the laboratory owners or with the help of professional logo services, an ideal business logo should convey the laboratory's mission statement, culture, philosophy, and individual identity. It can be helpful for creating coveted brand recognition down the line, but no company ever jump-started its acquisitions with a logo alone.
4. Creating business cards.
This is one of the most common misconceptions often heard by the author: "I need business cards." The evolution of cellphones, smartphones, and texting has potentially eliminated the need for business cards, since people can simply be added to the contact list on any phone. While professionally designed business cards can be a nice add-on, they're not something that will generate growth for your laboratory's future.
5. Having a large customer base.
If 100 clients send 10 cases per month, or 10 clients send 100 cases per month, how many cases in total are you getting? It's the same. The point is that having a large customer base does not matter. In fact, it can be better to nurture a handful of active clients instead of having a large number of clients who rarely send cases. A laboratory has to build a direct relationship with a customer, or you're just a commodity. If you're not talking to them regularly, be prepared to lose them eventually.
6. Saying "yes" to every client.
We all have had clients that seem to be more trouble than they're worth. Saying "yes" to everyone is not helping you. When a business is just starting out, it takes whatever clients it can and often bends over backwards to accommodate their unreasonable requests just to keep them as customers. As the business grows, however, it's recommended to let go of the clients that cause undue frustration. It can be one of the most freeing things you ever do.
7. Marketing through the mail.
Recently the author gave a proposal for one client to leverage a digital marketing strategy to generate new clients for his business, but the client was adamant on sending out a postcard mailer to his local prospects instead. He spent $6,000 to buy a list and mail out a postcard—but ultimately he generated no new business. This may have worked in the past, but with the Internet prospects can easily find such information on their own. It's often more efficient and effective to target exactly the kind of clients you want with digital marketing, which can yield better return on your marketing investment.
As a business owner managing various efforts for success, you must decide which activities to focus on and put your energies into by asking yourself a very important question: Will it directly increase business or produce sales? If it does neither, then take your focus elsewhere. It's that simple.
About the Author
Jonathan Hill, BS, is the owner of EXCELerate, LLC, in Charlotte, NC.