Bill Neal, CDT, president, Almaden Marketing Group and Nelson Rego, CDT, co-owner, Smile Designs by Rego, Downey, California, worked together to "make over" Rego's laboratory into a thriving, profitable business with above-average pricing. Their story illustrates how you can use basic marketing rules to get results. Neal refers to these rules as "marketing facts of life":
MARKETING WORKS. Marketing is more than just advertising or sales alone--it's defining your identity and making your products and services known to potential customers. "I have a waiting list, and I'm not that special," says Rego. "But we've learned to do high quality work and we make sure we get the word out there."
IT DOESN'T WORK OVERNIGHT. "You can't decide you're going to market and then just run one ad," says Neal. Keep in mind that it could take eight to nine months or longer to see a significant response; it depends on the name recognition that a product or laboratory already has.
PRESENT A CONSISTENT IDENTITY. Be sure all forms of communication reinforce your laboratory's identity--from the way you answer the phone to the appearance of your delivery vehicles. For example, Rego has beautiful, glossy case boxes. "If a patient is spending the equivalent of what he'd spend on a small car, you want the best possible presentation," says Rego. "Also, our models are so clean and polished, they look as though they've never been touched."
DIFFERENTIATE YOUR SERVICES. Fill the void of information about your company. For example, don't just send a folder of manufacturer literature to prospective customers; you have to let them know what makes you unique. "You can lead with a product, but be sure you follow it up with information on your services--seminars, custom shades, etc.," says Neal. "You can't rely on that product alone."
MARKETING MUST BE DONE REGULARLY. You'll get better results from a small, consistent campaign rather than a large, sporadic one. "You have to present existing and prospective customers with something every month that has your name on it. If you skip a few months, you're re-inventing the wheel," says Neal.
FOLLOW-UP IS VITAL TO SUCCESS. You should have an established protocol for lead follow-up, including a designated person and response time--ideally within 24 hours. "If you don't follow-up routinely and quickly, you're throwing money out the window," says Neal.
IT TAKES COMMITMENT. As part of your plan, set deadlines and stick to them. "It takes patience, but you have to hang in there," says Rego. "Just when I felt I was drowning, the phone started ringing."