April 2015
Volume 6, Issue 4

A Muddle or a Message?

Managing your marketing communications

By Terry Fine

Nearly 7,000 dental laboratories are in the United States, and you’re probably making investments in marketing to help yours stand out from the pack. That’s a good start. But are you marketing with a vision? A marketing campaign without a comprehensive plan is a lot like a ship without a rudder. It’ll get you somewhere, but not where you want to go.

To maximize your marketing investment, develop a long-range plan—and stick to it. Laboratories that jump from message to message and offer to offer fail to create long-term impact with their advertising efforts.

Your Laboratory, Your Brand

Before you create marketing collateral, define your laboratory’s brand. The more planning you do on building your identity and refining your message, the stronger your brand will be. Don’t dwell on this foundational material if you’re pressed for time or money. Merely identify what your laboratory does and does better than your competitors—that’s your laboratory’s primary benefit, or differentiator, which should help your laboratory stand out from your competition.

Depending upon your laboratory’s strengths and business model, your primary differentiator could be low prices, superior customer service, premium-quality restorations, or cutting-edge technology. A good differentiator communicates the value of your laboratory, as well as intuitively explains why a dentist should choose your facility over other laboratories.

Resist the temptation to try to be all things to all dentists. The more concepts your central brand tries to embrace, the more difficult it will be to remain on message, and harder it will be for dentists to form a firm impression of your laboratory.

Build From Your Foundation

Once you construct a brand and identify a differentiator you think provides an advantage in your market, you have the foundation from which all successful future communications will build. Your brand and differentiator are the key to all future messaging because it takes time and exposure to numerous messages for a dentist to internalize your brand. This number, which is known as effective frequency, varies between campaigns. You’ll eventually need multiple viewings of your marketing materials before dentists even start to have a grasp on your brand.

Because of this, it’s essential you make a conscious effort to tie every communication to messages that directly support your brand. This seems simple from the outside. Once you begin a campaign, it’s tempting to branch out and start promoting other aspects of your business. That decision is usually to the detriment of your long-term branding goals.

Be yourself. Your laboratory’s business model isn’t going to appeal to every dentist. Don’t waste your time—and advertising dollars—chasing dentists who aren’t likely to become long-term clients.

One Message, All Media

Your brand extends across all media in which you advertise. A strong campaign coordinates all platforms—print, direct mail, web, social media, and tradeshows—and keeps your messages consistent. If your print materials promote your low price point and your website stresses your new technology, you’re not just sending conflicting messages to your customers. You’re undermining your own messaging and essentially wasting your advertising investment.

Keep an eye on long-term scheduling, and maintain a master communications calendar that integrates all your campaigns into an easy-to-read roadmap. Because of production cycles, it’s easy to forget about print and direct-mail pieces produced months ago and wade into an online campaign with messaging that conflicts with previously scheduled communications.

Don’t Water Down Your Message

One communication and one message work best. While you can slip in multiple call-out boxes and partition ads into different areas to promote offers, it’s rarely a good idea. Not only are you likely to broadcast a message that strays from your brand’s goals, but you drastically reduce each message’s impact.

Stay the Course

Don’t expect overnight results from a marketing campaign. Commit to your message long enough for it to gain traction with dentists. Consumers need reinforcement of your message to pique their curiosity about your brand, become aware of its presence, and ultimately be familiar with it when it’s time to make a purchasing decision. Three or four communications often don't cover the span needed to take dentists from curiosity to purchase.

Value Your Brand

Developing a brand is not merely a capital investment; it’s an investment of time, thought, and discipline to shepherd your brand from the creative room to reality. Isn’t your company worth it?

Terry Fine is president of AMG Creative in Fort Collins, CO.

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