Anyone who stops advertising, dies! Henry Ford was already aware of this. But what should I actually do as a laboratory to market myself, my products and services? What belongs to obligatory professional laboratory marketing and what is part of freestyle marketing?
Position your lab
With many laboratory owners, managers and heads of department these issues regularly trigger two reactions, which are or sound like this: “We urgently need a new website.” or “We need attractive advertising material that we can give to clients.” Laboratory marketing is readily equated with a successful corporate identity for approaching and providing information to customers or potential customers. These are correct approaches that must be integrated into an overall concept.
Priority must be given to putting the question of market positioning of the laboratory in the foreground and determining the correct marketing mix. How should the laboratory be perceived in the market? What are the core services of the laboratory? Which unique selling points are there? Identification of the strengths is generally the first step to successful laboratory marketing. Classical characteristics are, for example, innovation strength, service strength or price leadership, but also niche positioning such as strength of tradition/family business or biomaterials/certified materials can also transmit the right message.
Regardless of which positioning is assumed by a laboratory, it influences the marketing mix, i.e. the product/price policy and sales/ communication policy on which the focus is placed as a result.
The typical reactions mentioned are part of communication policy. How do I approach potential customers? How do I create trust? How do I retain customers in the long-term? The classical print area, including image brochures, invitations to events and product information is supplemented online today. Invitations sent by post are now also available to dentists on the laboratory website, complemented by an online registration form. Product information is generally more interactive on the web in as much as the laboratory sets up a web blog and offers the reader the opportunity of commenting. The entire website should be regarded as an image brochure, provided it includes the ideas of Web 2.0, i.e. not designed statically and is also seamlessly displayed on mobile devices. Individual communication, personal consultation with the dentist in the practice when product information is also passed over, is supplemented by communication in the web. All these aspects are obligatory laboratory Marketing.
Your lab identity
The corporate identity of the laboratory is a marginal aspect in the obligation to freestyle communication policy. How do I present myself to the outside world? Will my positioning be revived with the corporate identity? If, for example a laboratory decides to position itself as a family business, then the family with its different characters is the central focus of the message. Dentists should recognize at least one image of a family member on the web, their personal invitation and delivery vehicles. The corporate identity includes the core messages of a family such as warmth, security, reliability and trust. Accordingly, warm colors should be selected and messages formulated that take up and transport the core values. It is important that the corporate identity flow is guaranteed and flaws don’t arise in the corporate identity, for example an invoice in the “old” design.
Another element of freestyle communication is the creation of a brand. What Tempo accomplished in the paper tissue sector is certainly outstanding and not easy to achieve. Nevertheless a crown from “Smith Dental Laboratory”, which carries the special signature of the laboratory, must not simply remain a crown but can be awarded the accolade of a “Smith crown”.
Increase sales with communication
Communication policy has a direct effect on sales policy. How does a dental laboratory market its products and services? Here the gulf between dental laboratories is very wide. In the best case scenario a laboratory employs its own sales rep, who looks after existing customers and acquires new customers. In both cases the sales rep relies on a good communication policy. Can the sales rep refer to a webpage to provide the contact person with more in-depth information? Does the sales rep have product information ready to hand to use for concluding the personal discussion? If the sales rep does not have this communication material available, he may not be able to conclude the conversation successfully.
Direct and personal sales can, if necessary, be managed successfully without communication material. Customer contact, for example by telephone, certainly requires more complementary marketing strategies. A clearly structured webpage, a Facebook fan page or a XING company profile will encourage the dentist who was called (or the personnel) to follow up the phone call in order to obtain information about the caller and the company. Ideally, the laboratory had even announced the phone call in advance with a print mailing.
There are dental laboratories that manage without direct sales. The web is a further sales channel but »portal solutions” are more difficult to implement, as restorations have extremely individual components and producing and distributing web-based portals is difficult and expensive. Positioning as price leader with interregional focus can, however, be a practical alternative.
Direct, personal selling will be the most practical solution for the vast majority of laboratories and is therefore a part of obligatory laboratory marketing. Indirect selling (e.g. via the telephone) is in the gray zone between obligatory and freestyle; utilization of other sales channels (e.g. over the internet) is certainly freestyle laboratory marketing, with the exception of individual cases.
The typical reactions of dental laboratories mentioned at the beginning of the article usually only cover part of the actual measures required in laboratory marketing. Only a few companies include the whole marketing mix in their development strategy because the anticipated tasks are not generally in the comfort zone of a dental laboratory. In this case, it makes sense to develop a milestone plan with an adequate time scale and process identified elements of the marketing mix step-by-step, including product and pricing policy.