Innovative product marketing

March 21, 2012

For more than 50 years dental laboratories have worked hard to differentiate their individual laboratory from the masses. In the early 1960s porcelain fused to metal restorations were just beginning to “come of age” and a few smart dental laboratories took advantage of this new technique to try to stand out from the crowd. There have been other techniques, materials and product/service innovations that laboratories have used over the years to try and gain a competitive advantage in an industry where everyone offers the same types of products and services.

For more than 50 years dental laboratories have worked hard to differentiate their individual laboratory from the masses. In the early 1960s porcelain fused to metal restorations were just beginning to “come of age” and a few smart dental laboratories took advantage of this new technique to try to stand out from the crowd. There have been other techniques, materials and product/service innovations that laboratories have used over the years to try and gain a competitive advantage in an industry where everyone offers the same types of products and services.

When asked, “What is unique about your laboratory?” many laboratory owners have a difficult time providing an answer. Many laboratories struggle to find a “niche” or a product or service that will help them maintain or grow their business…difficult tasks in a difficult economy. Economics aside, the proliferation of technological changes in materials and equipment have added to the difficulty. Mix in the explosion in the number of CAD/CAM companies, implant companies as well as outsourcing companies, various mergers and acquisitions of dental companies around the world, and the question becomes, “Where do I start?”

Start with development

Most dental laboratories don’t have an R&D department or the funds to develop new products, techniques or materials; this is what the manufacturers do for our industry. The challenge is in taking these new developments and applying them to your laboratory. Now the question evolves: Is it a product or a service and how will it be marketed to potential dentists? Keep in mind that in today’s market, many laboratories are pushing the same type of product, e.g. full coverage Zirconia.
While that isn’t a bad idea, there is considerable competition. You may want to think about a rarely advertised product or service that could give you an advantage in opening a prospective customer’s door, which may eventually lead to sales of other products and services. Whatever type of product or service you decide to market, you will need to develop a simple strategy or plan for implementation that will help you become more successful.

Prior to developing your plan or strategy, you might want to take a look at your laboratory operations. A simple analysis of your laboratory’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT Analysis) will go a long way in helping you and your team decide which product or service to promote. It also will help you understand the personnel and financial resources that will be required. Quality control, customer service, staff training and facility requirements as well as equipment and materials also should be addressed.

If your laboratory has developed a different technique that results in a one-of-a-kind restoration that is offered exclusively by your laboratory you really have something you could promote under your own name. If you decide to come up with your own product name, you will need to do some investigating to make sure no other companies are using the same name. A patent/trademark attorney should be contacted to ensure you are not infringing on someone else’s trademark name.
Once that has been accomplished, you will need to work with a graphic artist to develop a “look” for the name, which involves determining a font style and possibly the use of a color or even a logo or service mark.

Next, you are ready to start branding (marketing) your product. Everything you do from this point on will determine the success of your efforts. Direct mail brochures, newsletters, journal advertising, social media campaigns, e-newsletters, e-blasts and postcards will help expose the marketplace to your product. You will need to create a company website or update your current one to allow for e-marketing and landing pages. This will take time and money, but will yield positive results in the long run.

Branding 101

If you decide to brand your own product, there are several things you can do to begin introducing the product to the market. These suggestions also will help to keep you on track and should be included in your marketing plan and strategy.

  • Develop a unique name and logo or service mark and consider applying a “trademark.”

  • Write a press release: Many dental publications will print a press release on your product. Keep the release brief and to the point and provide a photo of the product.

  • Update your website to include the new product or service.

  • Consider running an advertisement in dental publications. To maximize the ad’s impact, run it in color rather than black and white.

  • Send a new product information piece to existing and potential customers.

  • Include statement stuffers on your product when you mail end-of-the-month statements.

  • Provide new product information along with cases being returned to your existing customers.

  • Make sure all phone personnel are informed about the new product and are able to provide information to dental offices.

  • Hold seminars on your product and/or technique.

  • Inform your target audience about your new product or service via the marketing methods mentioned earlier.

Rules to remember

Marketing your specialty product or service is similar to branding a laboratory. You may want to get more business on a national level. Whether you do this by running with a new or unique product offered exclusively by your laboratory, it will take time and money to get the job done. Your market may never have heard of your company or its product, so you will need continual exposure to succeed.

Remember, selling a product requires a carefully planned strategy and proper finances. If you start to market a new product only to run out of funds and pull the plug too soon, you will have spent not only your organization’s time but a great deal of money. To ensure the best return on your investment-growth and sales-you first have to make sure you have a proper strategy in place.