Dena Lanier knows the important role marketing plays in the management of a successful dental laboratory. After all, that's how she convinced her husband, Dennis, to relinquish ownership of his lab, Dental Laboratory Associates, and agree to work for her as her lab manager.
"When I started working for Dennis in 1993 as the office manager and director of sales," explains Dena, "I would constantly tell him how I would run the business if it were mine." Exasperated, Dennis confronted Dena and challenged her to start her own company. If she doubled his business, he would give up ownership of his lab to work for her.
In 1995, Dena accepted the dare. She set up her own company and began soliciting business, which was then outsourced to Dennis. Within two years, Dena had doubled Dennis' business; however, it took another year (during which she tripled his business) before he finally agreed to uphold his end of the bargain. And that is how The Lab 2000, Inc. in Columbus, Georgia, was born.
The secret to Dena's success is simple: marketing, marketing and more marketing. Dena knew that Dennis' products were excellent. The problem was, not enough dentists had that information. So she started marketing campaigns that could not be ignored, which included hand-delivering everything from green balloons on St. Patrick's Day to chocolate bars and Valentine's Day cards to approximately 45 dentists in the area.
Recently, to promote the lab's new e.max restorations, Dena sent out packages containing bottles of Coke® and bags of peanuts with a brochure highlighting the services. "It's a southern thing. You put the peanuts in the Coke, drink the Coke and eat the peanuts when you're done, all while reading our brochure, of course. It's a snack I know people will appreciate," she explains.
Although Dena does use state-of-the-art marketing tools, she also knows the importance of using simple things to get ahead. "The telephone can be the best marketing tool you have if used correctly," says Dena, who has put mirrors with the word smile written on them in front of the company's telephones. "When you answer the phone with a smile on your face, it's reflected in your voice," she says.
She also takes an innovative approach to marketing with business cards. Dena has several card designs, custom-tailored to her dentist-clients interests. For example, Dena's cards show her flying a plane, fishing and on the beach with her husband. When she meets with a dentist, she quickly ascertains his interests and presents an appropriate card. Not only a topic for conversation, the unique cards also help Dena's lab to stand out in her dentist-clients' minds.
But Dena believes what really keeps her clients loyal is the personal attention each and every one receives from the Laniers. For instance, every phone call to The Lab 2000 is answered by either Dena or Dennis. "I recently had a client who was shocked to find out that we have 30 employees because she's only spoken to us. We built these relationships," she continues. "Our clients want to deal with us."
The Laniers agree that this approach to marketing is what has grown The Lab 2000, Inc. into, according to Dena, one of the largest female-owned laboratories in the country. "You can be the best dental technician, but if nobody knows about you, your business can't grow."
The Lab 2000, Inc. Columbus, GA
Founded in 1995, The Lab 2000, Inc., is a full service crown and bridge laboratory operated by the wife-and-husband team of Dena Lanier, owner, and Dennis, lab manager. Based in Columbus, Georgia, the 30-person lab is housed in an 8,000- sq.-ft. building and boasts gross sales of $2 million per year.
Dena, who attended Columbus College as a business major, credits the rapid growth of her laboratory to her unique and persistent marketing projects, promotions and personal contact with her dentist-clients. The Laniers, realizing how important marketing has become to running a successful lab, have formulated their own marketing and training courses that are available onsite at the Lab 2000 or across the country at seminars and lectures.
While participants walk away from the courses with marketing and training knowledge, the Laniers' reward is knowing that they are helping technicians grow their businesses. Says Dena: "There are so many technicians who need help on the business end and we wanted to be there for them. The payback is making a difference in someone's life."