Times are tough! Not in a bad way, in a challenging way. Advances in technology have our heads spinning. There are so many choices that need to be made and, often, one choice affects another. These days, making a bad choice can be extremely expensive.
Wasn't it only a decade ago that we asked one another if technology would ever get ahead of our ability to adapt to it? Understatement: I think we're there. The capabilities of the digital world far exceed our ability to utilize them to their fullest potential. There's too much to learn in too little time.
I remember hearing several large laboratory managers tell me their decision-making process was relatively simple when it comes to new equipment: in order to be prepared for requests from their clients, they pretty much always purchase all the newest high-end stuff. That was well over a decade ago. You know that couldn't happen today.
What do you do when technology changes your original business plan? How do you ensure your vision is a sustainable one? How do you define your niche in this constantly changing landscape?
The simple answer is: be flexible, be nimble, be quick. And, oh yeah, be willing to jump through hoops.
The longer answer is: make sure you fill a market need, know how to find the clients in that target market, become their trusted advisor and make sure your work lives up to the standards they expect.
As you will see from the laboratory owners we interviewed for Marketing Strategies: What Works... and What Doesn't, there's little agreement about what marketing methods work best. The reason, as always, is that one man's ceiling is another man's floor. We all prefer different vehicles so it depends on what kind of cars both you and your target market like to drive.
I had the opportunity to talk about emerging digital technologies with other dental magazine editors recently and we all noted that the key word is: emerging. The internet provides us with a vast array of additional opportunities--such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blog posts, etc., as you'll read about on page 18--but, for the most part so far, these vehicles are on the periphery of a well-defined marketing plan.
There will never be a substitute for the value of personal contact. The problem, many of you tell us, is putting yourself in the right place at the right time; dentists don't encourage contact and it's difficult to get past their gatekeepers. Fair enough; the difficulty here is noted and notorious which, of course, is why it's print-worthy to hear how some of you do manage to jump through that hoop.
Having something to say--something that your clients, not you, will benefit from--is a pretty compelling and attractive barrier breaker. There is so much the laboratory community knows these days--technology being what it is--that the rest of the dental community does not know, that now you are in the right place at the right time.
Think about the materials and techniques you research. Do you think you know more about them than do your clients? How does your choice of material or process affect the outcome of a case? Do you think it would benefit your clients to know how you arrived at your conclusions?
You can probably offer several time-saving tips just on the subject of taking accurate impressions, let alone discussing prep techniques for CAD/CAM restorations and planning for custom implant abutments.
Dentists generally start out wary of new materials and techniques because they haven't had the test of time and they haven't had the time to test their ability in using them. Here's where your experience with other clients and the materials themselves can help them overcome their reluctance.
Helping them find ways to improve their productivity or expertise is how you become a trusted advisor. Time-saving recommendations are especially valued in this decade of "too much information." Anything you can do to help cull the glut of stuff they have to be aware of and presenting it to them in an easier-to-digest manner would be welcome.
Do I sound like a broken record? For those of you who read this column regularly, you know I'm very excited about this new position of power you have within the dental community. The timing is perfect and ripe for you to take it to the max. Go to it! The market has never before been your oyster as completely as it is now.
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Jay Ji · Marketing at Progressive Smile Dental Lab
This is really good advice and well written, on how lab owners can position position themselves to capitalize on the changing landscape through education based marketing, which is more important now than ever.
The lab of the future is going to have to change from just doing production to becoming technical consultant, if they want to maximize their value and attract new clients.