Oct 15, 2018
By Westley Dang
For PhDs, Science is Easy, Marketing is Hard.  
Guest post by Neil Cohen, IndieBio Mentor, Branding & Marketing Expert 
A PhD is perfect for a startup

If you’re a PhD, the lab is your happy place.   And if you’re persistent enough, you can create something that can change the world.   But when you do, reality hits.  For game changing concepts to become game changing science the world needs to know about it.   It’s time to shed the lab coat and become the last thing you’d ever thought you’d be – a marketer. 

Certainly, this short blog post won’t enable that transition.   That said, the goal here is to make you more comfortable to begin that transition and possibly, even embrace this new, unfamiliar role.   To be a marketer, you really just have to answer four simple, basic questions about your product/service to tell your story well.

1. What problem do you solve

The best marketers understand that whatever they are selling must solve a real problem.   Maybe you’ve heard the cliché, “be a pain killer, not a vitamin.” For example, there was a bio-remediation solution that was telling people they could save farmers money.   Nice. But what they really did is increase the yield of what the farmer was growing while also improving their margin. Saving money is nice, but more to sell at a higher profit is a pretty good pain killer.   It’s your job to frame your solution in a way that is simple, to the point and essential. Which gets me to my next point – focus exclusively on that singular value proposition. You’ve worked long and hard on your research and bringing your idea to life.   No one cares. What they do care about is what you can do for them, in simple, jargon-free, language, so get to the point. As I like to say, when someone asks you for the time, don’t describe how the watch works.

       No one cares about the details.  Get to your point quickly and clearly.

 2. Who do you solve it for and why they care

Knowing who your customer is and what they care about is essential to successfully marketing anything.   Often, companies oversimplify the audience using demographic information or simple job descriptions. That’s ok. I’m a fan of pairing that with psychographic information. Specifically, how does your audience think and feel. Often, psychographics will cut across most ages, genders, ethnicities, and cultures.   Regardless, psychographics hold the key to the most important thing about your audience, what will trigger an emotional response. Sure, there are components of your solution that make perfect rational sense  — but it is emotions that drive purchases. Is it making their family safer or healthier? Being a better version of themselves? Being a hero at work? Tap into that and you have a good chance of winning.

3. How do you solve it better or differently

Here’s  your chance to get into the weeds, but just a little.  In our first point, you tell people what pain it is you solve.   Here is where you tell them how you do it. Better if you are doing it in new way or better way than the status quo.    Like your core value proposition, these reasons to believe should be short, to the point and free of industry jargon. If they want the details, give them the science in a deeper piece of collateral or a white paper.  

4. How will your customer feel after they use your product/service

In many ways, this should be the first step.   Figure out what is it you want your customer to think and feel when you are done telling your story – then work backwards to make sure the story makes them feel that way.   

There you have it.  Four simple principles.   Now take off that lab coat and get out there and tell your story like a marketing pro.