6 Steps for Building a Marketing Plan for Your Lab

Without a marketing plan to reach target customers, you lack perhaps the most important component to boosting your lab's revenue: new business. But where does a lab manager begin? Here are six steps to create an effective marketing plan for your lab.

  • Without a marketing plan in place, water labs may lose out on key business opportunities.
  • Every strategy should consider customer personas and the communication channels they prefer.
  • From there, lab managers or their team need to set realistic marketing goals that can be achieved and measured throughout the year.

1. Identify Your Lab's Place in the Industry

Start with some market research. According to HubSpot, your plan should include a SWOT analysis that details your business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Clearly define the top services your lab offers and identify any threats to your business growth. This could be anything from rising competitors, unfamiliarity regarding new regulations, a lack of key certifications, or even your community's unawareness of water testing's importance.

Take this chance to look objectively at where you stand within the marketplace and identify areas where you have a key advantage. Consider untapped opportunities within your location and industry by mapping out all the possible customers you could possibly reach.

2. Develop Personas for Your Target Customers

Once you have a good sense of your business strengths and opportunities, you can develop personas that represent the customers you want to serve.

These fictional profiles of ideal customers detail traits such as age, location, job title, and challenges. You may want to create different personas for residential customers and municipal customers — or even multiple personas for each of these arenas. These personas should answer questions like:

  • Where do they go for information?
  • Which social media platforms do they use?
  • What are their pain points and how can your lab address them?

3. Set Your Marketing Goals

Define your marketing objectives and what quantifiable outcomes you hope to achieve. Be as specific as possible so you can measure this success. Do you want to expand your business relationship with a current client? Are you hoping to upsell with a new test offering?

Chron suggests breaking down your goals using the SMART acronym approach—ensuring they're specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Don't attempt to achieve all your goals ASAP. Instead, make a realistic list of action items that will help you reach milestones throughout the year.

4. Determine Your Unique Positioning

Your lab's unique value should be highlighted in your marketing efforts. Narrow in on why clients choose you over competitors. Does your lab offer the fastest turnaround times? Or do you specialize in a specific water concern, such as agricultural runoff or recreational water testing? Be sure to emphasize these key differentiators in your messaging to sum up why your target customers should buy from you.

5. Choose Marketing Channels Thoughtfully

The main goal of marketing is to ensure your lab stays top of mind with prospective clients. But not all of your prospects will prefer the same communication channels. Here are a few to consider as you build brand awareness:

  • Website: Is your website optimized for search? When users find your site, are they able to easily navigate it? If your website doesn't follow search engine optimization best practices or offers a poor mobile experience, it can hurt your lab's reputation as a trusted resource. Take time to assess whether you need to perform a website overhaul as an annual marketing goal.
  • Social media: Plan for a consistent social media presence on the channels your audience actually uses. Consider your customer personas. If your target audience includes residential customers, try a paid Facebook ad that targets your ZIP code. If your customers are municipalities, ensure your lab's LinkedIn page is professional and up to date. Share helpful articles across social on topics like how to prevent waterborne diseases and testing for PFAS.
  • Events: Attend events where your target customers are likely to be. Consider trade shows and conferences, local meetings, and other opportunities to engage with prospects in person.
  • Direct outreach: This includes email campaigns, sending flyers in the mail, and calling clients periodically to build relationships. Lab Manager suggests leaving educational information like water safety pamphlets at libraries or schools. This is a chance to educate the public while establishing your lab as a go-to source for water testing.

6. Implement an Execution Strategy

Secure a budget, identify the team members who will execute the plan, and make a list of any tools that will help them with marketing, such as your LIMS and email software.

Be sure to carefully allocate all of your resources and determine how many hours you or your team will need to dedicate to marketing each month. Be realistic, but don't be discouraged if you discover you're both time- and budget-strapped. Even smaller, easy-to-execute marketing campaigns can make a big impact when chasing business goals.

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Kelly McSweeney
Science and Technology Writer
Armed with a master's degree in writing and a decade of professional work in scientific publishing, Kelly McSweeney writes about science and technology innovations. She translates complicated topics into stories that capture the curiosity of everyone from casual readers to technical experts. Kelly has degrees from Emerson College and the University of Vermont, and has worked on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics publications at Wiley, In Compliance magazine, and Pearson. Her articles about the latest research are published by ZDNet, Northrop Grumman, and Wiley.