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Marketing Your Clinical Lab

by | May 24, 2024 | Essential, Inside the Lab Industry-lir, Lab Industry Advisor

Outreach and advertising can be tricky prospects for the clinical lab—but the right questions and strategies can help guide your efforts

What’s your top priority when planning next steps for your lab’s development? Many labs look to expand their test menus, train their staff in new skills, or even open new sites—but fewer focus on the marketing that drives these possibilities. How do you attract new patients and providers to your laboratory? How do you communicate the services you offer? And how can you ensure that your outreach is delivering the best “bang for your buck?”

To establish a strong marketing plan for your lab, ask yourself these key questions—and be prepared to act on what you discover.

Who are your clients?

The laboratory’s first and most obvious clients are the patients themselves. Patients may choose a lab based on the testing they need—or because of factors like speed, affordability, convenience, or customer-friendliness.1 But they aren’t the only clients a laboratory serves; labs must also consider the needs of providers (who may refer patients for testing or even form partnerships with laboratories), payers (who may determine which labs patients can use, as well as which tests and services they can access), and other collaborators such as hospitals or clinics.

“Targeting patients with your outreach is key,” explains marketing and international relations expert Derick Cursino. “This can help you acquire a large and loyal customer pool, which is attractive to payers and providers who may want to work with your lab.”

Identifying your clients can help you decide what approach to take with your marketing and what aspects of your services to highlight so that you can maximize the benefits of your efforts.

What do your clients need?

The list of considerations here can be extensive. Patients may have medical needs that involve specialist testing or wish to monitor their health for other reasons, such as environmental exposure to potential toxins. They may need labs that offer out-of-hours testing options, convenient collection sites, or patient-friendly plain-language reporting. Some patients may even seek out labs that offer options such as mobile or at-home sample collection, state-of-the-art testing technologies, or the opportunity to discuss their test results with experts in the lab.

Providers have an equally broad range of needs. Primary care providers may value labs that return results quickly, work collaboratively, and communicate clearly. Common frustrations these physicians encounter include confusing test names and ordering systems, variable reference ranges and report formats, and difficulties accessing patients’ result histories.2 Test utilization also presents challenges, with many physicians uncertain about which tests to order, how frequently, and how to interpret and act on the results received.3 Labs that can alleviate these difficulties should focus on communicating their advantages to providers and clinics who may become clients.

“Your target audience should always be front and center,” says Aleksandra Jones, content editor at life sciences and medicine marketing agency ramarketing. “If you can express your activities as solutions addressing their pain points, you’ll have more impact than if you simply list those activities. Show your clients how your services can make their lives better.”

Who are your competitors—and what sets you apart?

For most clinical labs, the competition is obvious: other labs that operate in the same disciplines or geographic areas. As technology advances, though, the field is widening. Centralization (and better, faster transportation options) means that large diagnostic hubs can capture business that previously went to local laboratories,4 remote consultations are increasingly bringing niche expertise to smaller labs,5 and tools like automation and artificial intelligence are reducing staffing requirements and speeding up turnaround times across lab medicine.6

Against this backdrop of growing competition, labs must ask themselves: what makes you stand out from the crowd? Do you offer specialty testing other labs can’t? Do you work with insurance providers or payment systems other labs don’t? Do you operate after hours, provide rush testing, perform collections on-site, or offer patient consultations? These unique selling points should be incorporated into your marketing so that clients know what you have to offer.

How do you reach your audiences?

Many labs fall short in marketing themselves proactively, notes Jones, who recommends a multichannel approach with online and offline components. “Begin by identifying thought leaders in your laboratory—people with specific desirable expertise,” she says. “Once you’ve done that, you can create content for your website and social media channels, secure speaking arrangements at industry events, and contribute to leading industry publications.” Many publications offer editorial calendars or media kits that outline themes or topics of interest; Jones suggests using these to identify areas where your lab’s thought leaders can add value—but also proactively reaching out to publications with article proposals when you have news to share.

Events, both virtual and in-person, are another valuable marketing tool. “Research audiences thoroughly to identify the events that are most relevant to your work and your target populations,” says Jones. “Don’t discount smaller or more niche events; it’s easy to get lost in the crowd at larger events, whereas smaller ones allow you to reach a select audience and can open up speaking or networking opportunities that might not otherwise be available.”

Jones also advises building a presence on social media by posting frequently—she recommends two to three times a week—and sharing news about awards, publications, event attendance, or even awareness days relevant to your work. “Profile your team members, things you do in the lab, and any changes (such as new tests or technologies) you introduce. If you incorporate all of that into your monthly social media calendar, you should have plenty of material.” For busy labs, she recommends a “waterfall” strategy whereby existing content is repurposed into smaller, more digestible assets. “For instance, if you produce an article or a whitepaper, you can repurpose that text into blog entries or news releases and then break it down even further into social media posts.”

Where should your clients find you online? Payers and providers can often be found on LinkedIn—but Cursino emphasizes the value of broadening your reach to include as many people as possible. “Use everything that is available,” he says. “Younger generations of patients—and laboratory medicine professionals—are accustomed to social media and spend less time on traditional web and email content. How can you make your lab more attractive to these groups? Meet them where they are: on X (Twitter), Instagram, TikTok… the virtual world is your oyster!”

Interested in working with publications? Check out Lab Industry Advisor’s media kit here.


    1. Dijkman Dulkes E. What the Patient Considers When Choosing a Laboratory. Mayo Clinic Laboratories. October 23, 2023. https://news.mayocliniclabs.com/2023/10/23/what-the-patient-considers-when-choosing-a-laboratory.

    1. Marques MB et al. Primary care physicians and the laboratory: now and the future. Am J Clin Pathol. 2014;142(6):738–740. doi:10.1309/AJCP56OUNZKXZPTD.

    1. Hickner J et al. Primary care physicians’ challenges in ordering clinical laboratory tests and interpreting results. J Am Board Fam Med. 2014;27(2):268–274. doi:10.3122/jabfm.2014.02.130104.

    1. Laczin JA. The shift to a centralized lab approach. Appl Clin Trials. 2013;22(9):6.

    1. Meyer J, Paré G. Telepathology impacts and implementation challenges: a scoping review. Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2015;139(12):1550–1557. doi:10.5858/arpa.2014-0606-RA.

    1. Mencacci A et al. Laboratory automation, informatics, and artificial intelligence: current and future perspectives in clinical microbiology. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2023;13:1188684. doi:10.3389/fcimb.2023.1188684.

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