In my last article, I outlined three suggestions to help dental laboratories communicate with their customers and prospective clients. Let’s jump back into it with three additional tips to consider for your dental lab’s comprehensive communication plan.
4. Surveys: For many organizations customer surveys can unfortunately sometimes be an afterthought. By periodically issuing surveys to your customer base, you show that you care about their experiences and their businesses. Also, you provide them with a way to share honest feedback which they may feel uncomfortable sharing over the phone or face to face. By asking the right questions, you can gain valuable information on your dentist clients’ feelings about quality, service, and new products they would like to see your lab offer. You can also find out about trends in their businesses and use those insights to guide the services your laboratory offers. There are several companies which make creating, issuing, and analyzing surveys online very easy and affordable. Survey your dentist customers and use the results to help keep your laboratory a valued partner to their dental practices.
5. Newsletters: The concept of newsletters is not new. However, some of the same rules of social media communication apply to newsletters. Primarily, be consistent with frequency and provide valuable content. Once you decide to embark on a newsletter campaign, you must commit. However, here are a few words of caution. First, make sure your recipients opt in to receive the newsletter. And give them the choice to opt out. No one wants to feel like they’re being spammed. And make sure you always have something helpful to say (see valuable content comment above). If you find that you don’t have something meaningful or helpful to convey, then don’t send it and consider reducing your frequency. Thankfully, with the advent of various electronic services, newsletters can now be delivered easily and relatively inexpensively via email and social channels. Also, newsletters provide an excellent vehicle for integrating your other communication efforts. You can publish some of the same blog articles, news items, case photos, etc. in a periodic newsletter which you previously shared via social media. The newsletter can become a roundup of your communications over a given timeframe, neatly packaged in one place for your customers and prospects to enjoy.
6. Laboratory website: Whether your laboratory is actively seeking new dentist clients or not, a website is now a cornerstone of any successful communication plan. Think of your website as the hub of all your other communications. This is the place to tell who you are and what your lab is about. Even if you also employ print collateral, such as flyers, postcard mailers, statement stuffers, or brochures, the website is where many dentists will find your laboratory and go for more information about you. Your website and any print collateral should have the same visuals and branding elements. Keep the site up to date with news, case photos, and product offerings (including changes in fees if you decide to publish fee information). Ensure that if you are engaging in social media communication that your site has prominent buttons to your social channels displayed. Integrate your blog and newsletter into the site. Make sure your site and any contact forms make it easy for visitors to opt in to your newsletter and email communications. Employ responsive design as an increasing number of dentists will be perusing your site via phones and tablets. And last, but certainly not least, ensure contact information is always up to date. Dentists may find you on the web but make an initial contact via a phone call or email.
Communication is “king” for dental labs. However, setting up a communication plan is full of grey areas. There is definitely not one particular right or wrong way to do it. Important considerations are consistency and frequency, creation of valuable content for your audiences, and an appropriate mix of communication vehicles considering your audiences and your resources. In a busy dental laboratory, it can be easy to let the communication plan slip. It may be necessary, depending on available resources, to outsource some of the communication strategy and execution to a vendor with expertise in marketing and communication. However, whether you do it all yourself, outsource it completely, or a mix of both, implementing a communication plan will help your dental laboratory to be a successful partner to the dental practices you serve.
Author’s Note: I wrote the original version of this article for my friends at PlanetProto, and it was published there on August 20, 2013. This version has been edited to include a few additional tips.