What the industry thought about 2009

Dec. 9, 2009

Editor’s Note … There’s no question that 2009 was a year that none of us will ever forget. I recently asked various people throughout the industry to look back on the year that was and give me their thoughts on where we’ve been, and where we’re going.

“I think the economic downturn has definitely had an impact on all of us in the dental industry. While I believe we will recover, I see 2010 continuing to be a bit soft. Now more than ever, it is and will be a game of market share gain rather than market growth. The biggest impact that I see occurring in 2010 is a change in the buying habits of the dental professional. I think there will be a shift to value-priced products as we have seen happening much through 2009. I believe that as dentists use these economically priced products and find they perform, are reliable, and of good quality, they will continue to stick with these choices even after the economy rebounds. As a result, we as manufacturers need to look at our product offerings and consider choices that are congruent with today’s economy as we plan to bring new products to market.” -- Randy Arner, VP of Marketing, DentalEZ

“2009 has been a tough year — no surprises there. We have seen shifts in the portfolio sales mix reflected in strong 3M ESPE direct restorative and preventive products sales, each boosted by successful new product launches and more direct procedures being completed. Despite this tough economic climate, Lava COS, our chairside digital impressioning system, has shown excellent growth with a record sales month in October 2009. Cash flow is king in this economy and we are doing our best to help our customers with appropriate promotional, educational, and value added programming. As an example, we have seen a significant increase in distance learning via www.espertiseinteractivelearning.com, which provides our customers free ADA CERP continuing education that may improve productivity in the dental office. For 2010, we are cautiously optimistic. Dental consumption is closely tied to the general population employment metric. If unemployment numbers improve, so will dental consumption.” -- Keith R. Haig, 3M ESPE Marketing and Professional Relations Operations Manager

“Septodont's attitude has been one of optimism. We have refused to participate in the recession and that message has been actualized with our increasing growth in both divisions — pain control and materials. We maintain a strong emphasis in both our sales and marketing efforts and found that this year has presented opportunities that may not have been present in the past.” -- Chris Corsette, Marketing Director, Septodont

“2009 was a year with many challenges, both for us and our customers. The economic condition that we find ourselves in has forced many or our competitors to become more aggressive with their pricing — a niche that Darby has long competed in without the major players’ participation. However, Darby Dental was able to increase sales, profits, and market share despite these challenges by adapting to the climate and becoming even more aggressive with our marketing programs and communications with dental offices. As more and more dentists looked for ways to save money, many discovered that Darby’s prices were still the most competitive (among the fully authorized distributors) due to our efficient 100% telesales business model and our gift program, which features the best gifts in the marketplace. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of new customers who made the switch this year. If the economy improves and more people return to work in 2010, I believe the dental industry as a whole will see some conservative growth.” -- Gary Rosenberg, President, Darby

“Unfortunately, many companies have pulled in the reins and cut their budgets this year. That certainly is not going to help their sales. Some companies have decided to offer unbelievable specials to get dentists to buy. How many companies are copying the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program that was used in the auto industry? Who has done anything really innovative?” -- Dental Sales Pro, DentalSalesPro.com

“‘Watch and wait’ is a term many dentists use when it comes to diagnosing suspected caries; yet in 2009 many manufacturers embraced the very same philosophy as budgets were either reduced or put on hold. As a director of marketing and a dental consultant I witnessed this firsthand. Companies put a halt on spending and took aggressive measures to cut expenses, in spite of knowing that someday the economic down trend would come to an end. There seemed to be a sense of fear, and it seemed to affect the entire industry. As each company reported sales results, there simply wasn't any positive news to help reverse the negative trend, and eventually everyone seemed to get caught up in the emotion of a downward spiral. Manufacturers, distributors, and publications all made changes in the way they conducted business. The industry started pointing to 2010 hoping it would provide indications of a recovering economy, and everyone surprisingly simultaneously accepted that 2009 would be a year of suffering. Having followed the stock market for many years, I remember Joe Granville (Wall Street maven) saying, ‘Now is the time to buy stocks’ after the stock market crash in October of 1987. At the time I thought Joe was out of his mind, but within days/months the recovery was in place and he was 100% correct. Sadly we didn't have anyone in the dental industry that took this stance, and fear grew and still exists today. Fortunately for all of us I believe that the worst is behind us, and indeed 2010 should prove to be less stressful. The manufacturers, distributors, publications, and salespeople that regain their confidence first will help lead the charge and benefit by being ‘early adopters’ of the recovery. In my humble opinion the time is NOW as products and promotions are aggressively priced, and it's an ideal environment to market your product or company. To quote Tug McGraw, ‘You gotta believe!’” – Scott Mahnken, dental marketer

“2009 will always be the year of change — a change in the way I did business, and a change in the way my customers ran their businesses. A lot of my customers are keeping less inventory on hand, and are purchasing in smaller quantities even if there is a ‘bulk pack special.’ Since I'm selling instruments, which every dentist uses no matter what the procedure, I didn't see as much of a drop in sales as, say, someone who was selling cone beam machines. However, it took everything I had to just stay out of the red. I've picked through my customers with a fine-toothed comb. I stopped calling on ones that weren't producing and started calling more on those that were producing. I tried to add product lines onto ones they were already purchasing from me. 2009 has been a year of networking. I've joined more study clubs, sponsored more speakers, and joined Twitter and DentalSalesPro.com just to stay connected and meet new people. I think 2010 will be the year to see the efforts pay off. We'll just have to wait and see what happens with health care reform in the meantime!” –- Ian Pryor, district manager, Brasseler USA