Marketing for scientists – adapting marketing and sales strategies to the management of science

A young researcher experimenting with basic social media tools

I recently was told to read Leveraging the psychology of the salesperson, what seems to be an important insight into sales strategies widespread today. There it is argued that salespersons are more successful if companies manage them as addicted gamblers that are after the thrill of the sale. This is an ‘archetype’ or type of personality called ‘happy loser’ that finds fails rewarding too, as a reminder of the chance to succeed. It seems that this strategy has been adopted thoroughly and intensely by most corporations in the last decade. It was published by Harvard business review in 2006. I dislike this strategy for several reasons, although I can see how it can work in some scenarios.

Anyway, reading that paper had me thinking if this had any use or could be adapted to the marketing of science, the marketing activity of research groups and companies. This idea or ‘archetypes’, new to me, is interesting. What should be the best way to present ourselves to a new research partner? or to a funding body? Surely others have already thought about it. Exactly, there’s a lot of knowledge out there about adapting marketing and sales strategies that work in classical business management situations to the management of science and innovation, an also based around archetypes. For innovative companies there are plenty of documented models and strategies to choose from but it’s more difficult to say what applies to research teams in academia. The starting point or need is that researchers have to explain their ideas and results to colleagues, partners, and funding bodies, actually spending quite a lot of effort on it over the years, so it makes sense to have at least a basic understanding of what drives this activity and how to improve it.

These below are my ongoing notes and links about sales and marketing concepts applied to science, about relationship building, branding, visibility, storytelling, use of general and social media, and so on:

  • Archetypes and diffentiation. Archetypes help create differentiation in the minds of the audience. Differentiation is very valuable in a crowded situation, like most scientific research fields. This video and this post in Nature by March Kuchner about archetypes and common archetypes in the academic workplace. More about archetypes and their use in the life sciences industry by David Chapin here in  this blog post.
  • Design of figures for papers. Scientist also make decisions driven by emotion. The use of particular types of figures in proposals can impact the chance of success. There are three types of figures that appeal to the right parts of your colleagues’ emotional brains.
  • Structure and storytelling in case studies. Case studies are usually used in teaching and also used as a powerful marketing tool. In this latter case they have to be designed for engagement. If used to promote our lab or company, they can’t have the same structures of peer-reviewed papers that are designed for completeness and accuracy. A good structure for a case study with this goal has seven components. More on the topic by same author here.
  • Social media and digital advertising. A innovative biomedical company and even an academic lab, can and should have a social media strategy, even if simple.  Digital advertising can be paid for maximum impact, but organic (free) activity can also bring results. There are three main types of digital advertising tools: (1) search advertising, which is focused around matching ads to user search queries on search engines like Google, (2) display advertising, which is focused around serving ads on websites, and (3) social advertising (paid and organic), which is advertising on social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and others. (1) and (2) are not very important for academic labs, but (3) can be useful. Having curated social media profiles can be useful to reach new audiences, create new opportunities, target specific types of partners, and in general build relationships and networks. This can increase citations for our papers, invitations to join multi-partner proposals, and build a stronger standing in our communities of interest.