The state of the industry, according to Proofs readers

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By Kevin Henry, Editor

When we first came up with the idea for the "State of the Industry" article that would go in the final issue of 2010 Proofs, we had two goals in mind: To ask you for a look back and a look ahead.

We've certainly all heard the doom and gloom of the past year ... but was it really that bad? And how do you feel about 2011? We asked, and you told us. Thanks to each of you who participated in this survey.

On this page, you can see that our respondents covered a wide range of industry experience. I've often heard that, "once you get into the dental industry, you never leave." More than 31% of respondents have been in the industry 15 years or more, but they certainly weren't the overwhelming majority that I guessed they might be.

Not surprisingly, promotions still seem to make the most impact for companies when it comes to products, but the industry seems pretty "blah" when it comes to product launches. Very few of you thought a company's product launch was a marketing success, and "brand launches" tied with "the inability to be innovative" for the biggest marketing downfall of dental companies, in your opinions.

It's clear from your answers that it's very important to your business to have innovative products.

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There's no question that you believed the economy played a pivotal role in your business in 2010. When we asked what was the biggest factor impacing your business during the past year, 80.4% of you said it was the economic situations experienced by your customers.

Looking ahead, the economy doesn't seem to be the prime concern heading into 2011. Competition (which ranked a distant second in your 2010 answers) had the most answers (31.3%) when we asked, "What do you think will be the biggest factor to impact your business in 2011?" Certainly many of you thought the economy would still play a role, as 20.8% of respondents said "fewer resources" would be the second-biggest factor next year.

Not surprisingly, product launch was the favored time to sell a product, but the other three answers almost evenly split the remaining 50%.

So what's more important in having a "sellable" product? This question seems like a takeoff of the chicken or the egg conundrum, and your answers were close to split down the middle. However, "the product" held a 56.5 to 43.5 edge over "the ability to sell it." That answer leads back to the charts on the previous page, and seems to make it even more important for companies to be innovative.

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As stated earlier, there's no question that you believe the economy played a pivotal role in your business in 2010 — but maybe it wasn't as bad as we thought it might be. Granted, 46.8% of respondents said their business decreased in 2010, but that still leaves 53.2% who had their business stay the same or improve last year. Call it making lemonade out of lemons or looking for the silver lining amongst the clouds, but I take these as good signs that one of two things happened last year — the dental industry wasn't rocked as hard by the economy as other sectors, or we have some pretty darn good salespeople in the industry. I'll say it was a combination of the two.

Looking ahead, half of you believe that the marketing budgets for your products will stay about the same in 2011 as they did in 2010, while 21% believe they will increase. Here's hoping the companies spend the right amount of dollars in the right amount of ways that will help you sell your products.

Again, thanks to each of you who responded to this survey. If you'd like to drop me a line with your thoughts or questions, feel free to e-mail me at kevinh@pennwell.com. I'll be using this data for upcoming e-newsletter and print articles, so I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Here's to a great 2011...

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