Scientists and Marketers: We Are Not So Different, You and I

While elucidating‡ a kinase’s mechanism of action may be completely different from branding a life science company, scientists and marketers are both, at their core, problem solvers. Here are three talents that I find abundant in both researchers and marketers who are great problem solvers: the ability to create, communicate and persevere.

1. Creativity: The use of the imagination or original ideas

Arriving at inspiration doesn’t come out of nowhere. Marketers conduct focus groups, analyze surveys and revisit notebooks. Scientists consult with collaborators, review literature and revisit notebooks.

The ability to brainstorm a sound experiment or clever campaign is the integration of all these elements mixed with experience, insight and intuition to create something new.

If anyone thinks scientists don’t have what it takes in the creativity department, watch two of my favorite science shorts: “Bad Project,” a Lady Gaga parody by the Hui Zheng lab of the Baylor College of Medicine, and the winner of Science magazine’s “Dance Your PhD” competition (watch for cool TAQ polymerase entering the scene @ 2:03). For balance, our portfolio gives some pretty darn good examples of life science marketing case studies.

2. Communication: the exchange of information between individuals, for example, by means of speaking or writing

One of the best writers I’ve ever known was my principal investigator at Purdue. His writing was concise, logical and impeccably structured. He approached writing with precision. Each project began with a black three-ringed binder organized by dividers listing each chapter (for books) or section (for peer-reviewed submissions or grants). It’s an approach I emulate today.

Scientists need to communicate if they’re to land grants, promote ideas, or publish papers. Specifically, take scientists’ ability to present. They’re trained early and often: intimate settings such as weekly group meetings and journal clubs are places where scientists can cut their teeth until they graduate to grander stages such as conferences and the ultimate test: the oral examination.

Marketers are in the business of communicating and must be masters of both content and delivery. For an email, copy must be written, then designed and finally delivered. Our ability to write and speak can in large part determine our fees. A well-written proposal will land more business. The ability to articulate an idea will sell a client on starting a new project. Communicating well is also essential when submitting for an award once you’ve already executed the project.

3. Diligence: persistent, smart and hard-working effort in doing something

Failure may not have been an option for the Apollo 13 crew, but it’s an inescapable fact of life. Salvador Dali said, “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”

At the lab bench, troubleshooting new protocols will require trial by much error. In developing a purification protocol, what percentage of ammonium sulfate is required to precipitate your protein? What combination of conditions will enable amplification of your amplicon via PCR?

At the dry erase board of marketing, there is no guarantee that your campaign game plan will succeed. There is no promise that a story you pitch to a reporter will secure your client a feature in New York Times Science section. Backup options, sometimes invented on the fly, are needed and often relied upon to attain satisfactory results.

What you can do – the “smart” part of diligence – is measure your results. Wired recently wrote about the power of positive feedback loops such as the speed limit signs which show a car’s speed and then influence drivers to slow down. By measuring what you do, you can adjust and optimize your strategy.

Science is driven by data, and the data tells scientists how to refine their models and derive new experiments to polish those models. Likewise, marketers have data at their fingertips they can apply for continuous feedback. Chempetitive Group connects campaign elements with leads or sales to develop a true ROI of our client’s marketing spend.

Marketers and scientists are not so different, you see. We crank up our brains and figure things out — and drink plenty of coffee in the morning. Although I must admit I’ve never seen a scientist fill out a timesheet, but we’ll leave that for another ChemUnity post: “Scientists & Marketers: Like Soap and Water.”

‡ “Elucidating” or some form of it has to rank near the top of a scientist’s lexicon. Another candidate for most frequently used scientific word is “putative,” as in “PTEN is a putative protein tyrosine phosphatase gene mutated in human brain, breast, and prostate cancer.” Any others? Tweet us @chempetitive