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Marketing Without Money
The Internet has expanded the universe for the small-laboratory owner
Marketing is simply the action of promoting or selling products or services. So who handles the marketing in your laboratory and maintains that budget? Sales and marketing go hand-in-hand and are critical for the life of your laboratory; one cannot live without the other. Throughout the years, marketing tactics have changed drastically, specifically with regard to online advertising, tactics, and social-media opportunities. Whatever vehicle you choose, the definition of marketing always will remain the same, and you should develop a plan for success.
Being the son of a 35-plus-year certified dental technician and having worked directly in the dental laboratory industry for almost 10 years, I have worked with many laboratories. I’ve seen those with strategic marketing plans, those that slowly begin on their efforts, and those that have never marketed. Don’t worry if you’ve never marketed before or don’t know where to begin. Seeing areas where my father needed help in his laboratory created my strong passion to help laboratories succeed. My father was also in charge of his company’s sales and marketing because no one else was available to do that for him.
Your laboratory is full of technicians who are great at their trades; however, few, if any, are dedicated to the task of marketing the business. So, like my father, you’ve probably been thrown into that role on top of already being a technician, laboratory manager, accountant, customer support person, and salesperson. Some fundamental strategies of marketing are available to start obtaining recognition for your laboratory and generating new leads.
The beauty and fun with marketing, in my opinion, is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. We are all customers in some capacity, and certain messages grab our attention. Take the mail, for example. I read mine over the trash can. Which pieces I don’t throw away so often depends on the style or catchiness of the envelope, flyer, or newsletter. What are the triggers—whether words, promotions, or images—that catch your eye? This is the first suggestion I have for you when starting to work on a marketing plan—begin by thinking creatively. First, jot your ideas on paper or a mobile device; don’t worry about writing something silly.
You can start implementing a number of ideas immediately for little or no cost. Approach networking groups and study clubs to build and nurture relationships. If this is out of your comfort zone, then you’re on the right track. You want to get your face and name out there, and then you can start defining your target market. You can be selective in your business relationships, which means you don’t have to settle for subpar work. So pick and choose the entities that you want to do business with, not the other way around. (We will discuss this in more detail at a later date.) During the event, exchange contact information, and then connect on social-media platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Later, after the relationships are built, you can start marketing to these contacts.
Starting to experiment with online advertisements on Google and Facebook would be a great next step. Google is the No. 1 search engine on the Internet globally, and Facebook has more than 1 billion members, making these ideal places to start. Remember to be creative. Start with a clean, simple image and a few words of text, for example. That’s all you need. If this overwhelms you, don’t let it. If you need help, you could easily search “how to create an online ad,” and you will find resources to assist you. Plus, you can read or watch tutorials online. Many of the “experts” don’t have any special tools. Sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google have made it incredibly easy to generate ads at minimal costs. You could spend a few bucks a day, even $25 daily for a few days, to test a few ads, watch them closely, and see what works. It’s like fishing; once you find a lure on which the fish are biting, you’re going to keep using that bait until they lose interest. If a few prospects respond to your ads, you can then tweak those ads to get more leads, dial it in, and then start promoting more often and in more places. It sounds simple because it is.
So regardless of what you choose to do, don’t put your eggs in one basket. Use various methods, and track your results. See what works and what doesn’t, and put your efforts and energies into the activities that generate feedback, interest, and overall leads. Now that you’ve learned what is creating interest, you can start working on your marketing strategy and plan. Start now, and most importantly, have fun!
About the author
Jonathan W. Hill is the owner of EXCELerate Events & Marketing.