January 2015
Volume 6, Issue 1

The ABCs of Marketing

Conducting an effective program is not as complicated as it may seem

By Frank Manfre

Most dental laboratory owners and managers never attended business school. Consequently, marketing and its various components may be somewhat mystifying for some. Compounding that challenge are so-called experts who want to make marketing seem complex so that you will hire them. In truth, marketing is fairly straightforward to understand. This article is intended to cut through the clutter and break down marketing into its basic elements.

Pricing: Never Apologize

Here is how to handle price objections: “Dr. Smith, thank you for raising this issue. I know there are many other laboratories that sell at a lower price than we do. I also know that our best clients understand and value all of the things we do to help them and their patients such as (fill in the blank). These add value to the relationship. However, I understand that not everyone is interested in those things. We both know there is no free lunch; everything you do in your practice and everything we do in our laboratory has a cost associated with it. If the high-quality restorations (or dentures) we provide for you is not of value, I certainly won’t fault you for finding a different laboratory to meet your needs.”

Some would say that’s pretty bold. But why should a high-quality laboratory that goes above and beyond the call of duty accept less money for what it does? Do not devalue your products and services.


Nothing happens until someone sells something. Everyone’s paycheck depends on a customer buying from your company. This should be obvious. No matter if you have a sales department or not, the sales process is surely taking place. Two types of selling exist—business development and account maintenance.

Business Development

Business development is the acquisition of new customers. When making sales calls, your focus should be on the prospective new client, not you and your business. If you were single and went on a dinner date for the first time and the other person spent 2 hours talking about him or herself, how likely would you be to go on another date? Yet that’s precisely what most companies do in their marketing messages and sales pitches—discuss themselves.

Talk about the prospective client’s needs and challenges and how you might be able to help the client meet his or her goals. Use “outside in” thinking and don’t make it about you; focus on the client. The power is in asking good questions that will uncover that person’s needs. Sure, your laboratory can offer 10 additional services. But if the prospective client is interested in only four of them, why mention the other six? Ask questions and focus on what you are hearing before responding.

Rephrase what you heard to confirm you understand the pain points. “If I understand correctly, Dr. Jackson, your primary concerns are turnaround time, treatment planning, and enhancing productivity. Is that correct?” If he says yes, then address those specific issues and explain how you can solve them. If he focuses on things you can’t do, thank him for his time and end the conversation.

Account Maintenance

The easiest customer to sell is one you already have. It costs many times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep one. Even with long-term clients, how you interact with them will determine whether they stay with you or get wooed by another suitor. The analogy of courting and marrying someone comes to mind when comparing the process of acquiring and keeping clients. Do not take your current clients for granted. Present other products and services. What does your ideal customer most value? If you don’t know, ask him.


Promoting your business is how you let your market know who you are, what you have to offer, and why clients should choose you over other laboratories. Your unique selling proposition, or USP, is what sets you apart from your competition. An example would be: “Our goal is to be viewed as a trusted restorative dental advisor to our clinical clients. We act as their partner in planning, creating, and delivering optimal patient outcomes.”

Promoting your business also means creating a value proposition, which is what you do beyond the product and one for which your customers are willing to pay. Do they even know what those value-adds are? First, it is only a value-added service or feature if the customer believes it is. For example, you can communicate that you have 20 years of experience and are an expert in implant restorations. Then explain how this experience and expertise will benefit that customer. Everyone listening to an ad or pitch or reading a brochure is thinking, “What’s in it for me?” They really don’t care about how big or great your laboratory is unless it connects with one of their needs or hot buttons. Your job is to uncover those needs and demonstrate succinctly how you can and will meet them.

A marketing message conveys why someone should buy from you versus your competitor and explains why your products are better. You cannot be all things to all dentists; that is a setup for failure. Segmenting the market is how you prosper.

Devise a target market for delivering your message. Envision your best account. Go beyond the dollar value of that account and think about the reasons you love working with that client. Write these down. Now, if that client were asked why he or she works with your laboratory, what would that person say? Write these down, too. Now you have an ideal prospective client profile, that is, the type of dentist with whom you want to work and you have a defined, focused target market segment. You also have identified the keywords and messages that will attract that type of client.


Marketing need not be complex to be effective. It does, however, need to be an integral part of your business and viewed as an ongoing process, not an event. Keep reminding your entire team that together you have the passion, expertise, and commitment to serving dentists. Communicate this to your clients, and serve them with pride, delivering optimal patient outcomes and you will always be able to attract new clients.

Frank Manfre is Technical Key Account Manager for Ivoclar Vivadent, Inc.

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