Planning for success

August 2, 2012

As the current year starts to come to a close, many companies begin the process of planning and budgeting for the coming year. The fourth quarter often sets the sales momentum for the next year, and many companies alter their current plan to allow them to introduce new products and services to existing and prospective customers.

As the current year starts to come to a close, many companies begin the process of planning and budgeting for the coming year. The fourth quarter often sets the sales momentum for the next year, and many companies alter their current plan to allow them to introduce new products and services to existing and prospective customers.

Once you know what you are going to market, you will need to decide on the media you will be using. Will you use direct mail, journal advertising, Web-based marketing, direct sales or a combination of all? Each will require not only a different budget but also different types of support material for following up.

During the marketing planning process, you will define the collateral materials that will be used to promote your company’s products and services. Some of the material will be used to generate leads, and some will be used during the follow-up routine. The following are a few suggestions and different types of collateral and sales tools available to help you achieve your goals.

Direct mail letters: These can be very effective, especially if they are short and to the point. Direct mail letters also should have a “call to action,” or a reason for the recipient to respond.

Postcards: Postcards also can be an effective reminder about services or products. Because postal regulations make it difficult to design a one-piece postcard with an attached business reply card, gauging your response rate can be tricky. You should include a special offer for a limited time and direct respondents to a landing page on your website. Landing pages allow you to track results to help you determine your mailing’s effectiveness.

Statement stuffers: Invoice statement stuffers are an excellent means of keeping existing accounts focused on the key products you want to sell. These can be done affordably in four-color, personalized for your laboratory and used primarily to cross-sell or introduce new services to your existing customers.

Product brochures: These are similar to those provided by manufacturers but personalized for your company with the reasons dentists should consider your laboratory. Manufacturer-supplied literature tends to be generic and not personalized to your company. Product brochures should be used as leave-behind pieces during a sales visit, or when mailing a response to an inquiry.

Direct mail brochures: Direct mail brochures are an effective way of maintaining a source of leads through direct mail. Designed as self-mailers with an attached business reply card (BRC), they would promote a product and may be part of a promotional program, supported with articles in a newsletter, or follow-up postcards or direct mail letters. Direct mail brochures are designed to bring in cases, giving your laboratory a shot at developing new business. They should be sent to existing customers as well as prospective clients from your target list. Direct mail brochures may have messages similar to manufacturer-supplied materials, but they are personalized to your laboratory rather than just imprinted.

Manufacturer-supplied literature: These can be useful when responding to requests for additional information. As stated earlier, these are not tailor-made to your laboratory so they don’t do much to promote your individual image. If you do use them in your response literature, make sure to have them imprinted with your logo and company name, address and contact information. Often they become separated from the pocket folder and if the individual pages are not imprinted, the dentist may just ask his usual laboratory to supply the product or service mentioned.

Corporate image brochure: This is an image piece that states the laboratory’s capabilities, philosophy and services. It is more of a positioning piece than one that elicits a direct response about a particular product or service. Image brochures can be used as a response piece to a request for more information about the laboratory or as a handout at seminars, trade shows and as a tool during sales calls. In general, the corporate image brochure is the most expensive piece to produce and therefore should not be used in blind mailings to targeted prospects.

Direct mail lists: A successful direct mail campaign starts with a strong direct mail contact list. It should be up to date and current. If you use an older list or one that you have not scrubbed or updated, you will be sending out your direct mail pieces to addresses that are incorrect or to people who are no longer at that address. If you don’t have a good mail list you can purchase one from various vendors and publishers.

Web-based marketing: Your website is one of the most valuable tools you can use. All of your printed materials should contain your URL (your website address). Direct mail campaigns and promotions should have a call to action, and if you are offering a special promotion direct them to your website to register (where you can solicit their e-mail address) and print out a coupon for the special offer. Special landing pages also will provide you with information as to the effectiveness of your promotion.

If you are planning to market for this last quarter or for the New Year, think about using some or all of the materials and tools mentioned, and with proper planning, you’ll become more successful in achieving your goals.