Top Three Ways to Waste Your Marketing Dollars
Learn what not to do
Jonathan Hill, BS
No matter what industry, whether a big business or a small business, marketing is everything. Where do you start? This is the question many laboratory managers ask themselves daily. The author's father owned a dental laboratory for over 40 years, and like most technician-owners, he never learned how to market, nor did he have an employee devoted to marketing the business. He did not go to dental laboratory school to learn how to become a marketer; he went to school to become the best technician he could be. While this served him well for the restorations he made, it left him at a loss for marketing and growing his laboratory.
Many laboratories hire a full-time salesperson but forget about the marketing aspect of the business—and sales cannot exist without marketing. For example, if a salesperson approaches a potential client "cold," to make a the sale without building the relationship first, they are going to get the door shut in their face. That is where marketing comes in; it opens the door. Marketing efforts make the introduction, and then you or your salesperson builds and nurtures that relationship. Next, the laboratory delivers as much value as possible so that the prospective client will be eager to do more business with your laboratory. Only then does the sale come.
Once laboratory owners grasp this concept, the next hurdle is knowing where to begin. Trying just anything/everything tends to lead to failure and frustration, wasting time and money. There are three main ways that the majority of laboratories typically waste their marketing dollars. It is a list of what not to do, along with some guidance toward the right steps.
Marketing Without a Strategy
Trying to market a laboratory without first developing a strategy will only waste time and money, with minimal results, if any. The best way to develop a strategy is to set goals. Where do you want the laboratory to be at the end of this year? What are your revenue goals, how many dentist clients do you want to have, or is there a specific product or service you want to grow? Answering questions like these should be a requirement before you can determine the best route to meet those goals. Once you know where you want to go, follow these steps to develop an effective strategy.
First, determine your target audience. Whom do you serve? You do not—or should not—serve all dentists. You want to avoid high-maintenance, "nightmare" clients. Are you looking for dentists who specialize in implants, ones who send only digital impressions, or maybe those who send digital denture cases? Determine what types of clients you want to attract before developing the marketing tactics to reach them.
Next, make sure your message is crystal clear. This is where most people make mistakes: either they use big words to impress their audience, or they use a lot of meaningless "fluff" words that say nothing. If your marketing message is unclear, the prospective clients will find a laboratory whose message they understand. All you need to do is find out, and communicate, what problem you are solving for your dentist clients, and make that front and center in the laboratory's communication. Don't be too clever or cute. Make it so simple and concise so there are no doubts as to what your laboratory does and what value it offers.
Finally, start developing a content calendar, where you and your entire team understand each month what content is going out and on what mediums they are being deployed (email, social media, mailers, box stuffers, etc). Creating content is not as difficult as it sounds. An example would be to leverage the national holidays—there is a holiday almost every month—when you can offer a promotion, raffle, or giveaway.
No Designated Marketer
Like the author's father, most laboratory owners do not have someone devoted to marketing unless they own a larger-sized operation. Without someone to market the laboratory, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the owner. And if that person does not know how to market, they could easily drop the ball, and the competition will take the clients that could have been theirs.
Laboratory owners have three choices: do nothing, hire a full-time employee, or hire an external marketing consultant to help. It is pretty clear what will happen if nothing is done. However, hiring a full-time employee can be problematic for a few reasons. First, it costs a lot of money to hire someone who actually knows what they're doing. Also, there is little chance that they have both dental knowledge and marketing expertise. If they don't have knowledge of the dental industry, their steep learning curve will be paid for by the laboratory, when they are really being paid to produce results. The third option, to find someone whom you can contract on a project-by-project basis or on a monthly retainer, is the most practical option. Hire someone to become an extension of your team, instead of hiring another full-time employee in your laboratory or missing out on opportunities driven by marketing.
No Marketing Budget
Does the laboratory have a monthly marketing budget? It is critical to start allocating funds toward a marketing budget so that you can create various marketing initiatives and campaigns. Remember, not all marketing vehicles cost large amounts of money. For the do-it-yourself owner/marketers, digital options such as email, social media, and Google can be inexpensive. You can begin marketing immediately without breaking the bank.
This is why creating a marketing strategy is the most important step. Once you know your goals and your ideal clients, then you can determine what marketing tactics to use to get their attention. The biggest mistake that most small businesses make is that they try to market and advertise everywhere to everyone. They waste so much time posting content in places where their ideal dentist is not. Those who take this approach often quit before long from frustration and lack of results.
All of us, including your dentists, are exposed to hundreds of advertisements on a daily basis. There is so much noise and chatter that is competing for the attention of your dentist clients, so you need to stand out and be consistent in your efforts. Marketing is a long game, as no consumer will buy anything after seeing an advertisement just one time. Patience and commitment to ongoing, continuous marketing efforts will pay off. Small changes can make big impacts, so you just need to start. Take a few hours off (yes, your laboratory will survive); set goals; develop your strategy; and you will start to see the benefits take shape before your eyes. Commit to the process, find help where you need it, and, above all, make it happen.
About the Author
Jonathan Hill, BS, is the owner of EXCELerate, LLC, in Charlotte, North Carolina.