Many small businesses struggle with establishing a detailed sales plan for growing their business. For many businesses, calling on potential customers is the start and finish of the sales plan. But if you spend just a few minutes thinking about how you make your own buying decisions, I suspect you will agree that few decisions are made on the spot and most of the time you take the time to really understand the details before making an major purchase. Below are the steps we believe you should be using in your sales and marketing plan to grow your dental lab business.
Your potential and existing customers are inundated with messages and sales pitches every day. In fact, most doctors have created a highly effective method for protecting their time – the receptionist. While the receptionist is a critical position for setting patient appointments and greeting patients as they arrive, they also prevent the doctor from being disturbed during the workday. Your goal is to find ways to get past the receptionist and to the doctor. Here are some recommended activities.
- Promotional mailings – postcards, flyers, and letters can be effective tools for getting the attention of your prospective clients. While certainly some of these items are sifted before arriving at the doctors desk, they can help to smooth the way for your other activities by creating name recognition. In fact, a self-addressed envelope to the doctor might be an effective means of getting past the receptionist. If the envelope contains a well-written letter to the doctor, you just might get him to schedule an appointment when you call.
- Social Media – If you aren’t using social media to promote your business, then you are missing an opportunity to establish a following and name recognition. Twitter, Facebook, and blogging can help establish you as an expert in the dental industry. Talking about local events can help confirm you are part of the community. You may want to consider utilizing a marketing services firm to help supplement your own tweeting and posting, but at least some of the messages should be local in nature.
- Local Sponsorships – The objective is name recognition and sponsoring a little league team, a local race, or local fundraiser can be an effective way to build local name recognition. Now you might think, my dentists won’t see this. Maybe not, but why not do some shameless self-promotion by taking pictures and posting them, or sending your existing and prospective clients a request that they too participate in the fundraiser. Not only will your local charitable event gain some much needed funding, but many customers appreciate that their vendors are community conscious, and it creates a common bond between local businesses.
- Create a brochure or introductory promotional piece – You will want to have something you can leave for the doctor after your call that provides him with information on your lab. This should include your services, any promotional pricing or specials, your rate card, and any other benefits your lab can offer customers. Promoting the values of ACDLA and your membership in the association can help strengthen your credibility as well.
- Offer Training Events – You have probably identified a number of common questions that your clients have regarding new technology, new materials, or marketing programs they could use to grow their business. ACDLA would be pleased to help you present information at a training event for your existing and prospectie clients. LEt us know how we can help you expand your position as a local expert.
Once you have launched your marketing activities, you can begin to reach out to new prospective clients. Here are a few recommended activities:
- Call for an appointment – Many dentists will see vendors during a few hours each month. If you are flexible and willing to accomodate the doctor’s, you should be able to get an appointment. Appointment setting services can be very effective, but you should expect a 1-2% appointment ratio to calls if you do not first mail materials to generate name recognition. Calls made as a follow-up to mailings should increase your ratio.
- Have a single sales objective – A meet and greet is okay, but you will be better off making a specific pitch. “I want to show you how my crowns can increase your patient satisfaction and reduce your costs.” or “I want to show you why my current doctors have raved about the fit of my dentures.” or maybe even, “We pride ourselves on personal attention to detail and I’d like to show you why our doctor’s love our fast service”. If you have sent a mailer, then use that as the single sales objective, “I am following up on the promotional piece we sent, and woudl like to meet with the doctor to show him samples of our high quality restoratives.” The more specific the purpose, the higher the probability of getting an appointment.
- Take Samples – There is nothing better to demonstrate your quality and workmanship than samples. Even if you don’t think the doctor will need them, having them out and available reinforces your message.
- Don’t forget the office staff – Bringing lunch, coffee, a snack or treat can go a long way toward building rapport with the office staff. While not always effective in establishing an appointment, it certainly can help strengthen your relationship with the dentist if you show kindness to the staff.
- Ask Questions – If you really want to build a customer that lasts beyond your promotional pricing period, you really need to understand the needs of your customer. In fact, price should NOT be the only reason why a doctor switches to your lab because if that is the only thing keeping them with you, they will switch as soon as they find a better price. Instead, you should work FIRST to understand what your prospective client believes they need. It might be better service, faster response time, higher quality, or a single source of products and services. As a member of ACDLA, we know you are committed to technology and perhaps that is exactly what they are looking for in a new lab partner.
If you make these basic steps part of your on-going marketing and sales efforts, you will see your lab grow.