Movin’ On Up—From Labs To Offices

May 16, 2008

Welcome to my little corner of the Rady Marketing Blog. There are hundreds if not thousands of blogs out in cyberspace on marketing. So, how will my posts be any different and of interest to you?

Well, prior to becoming what I now call myself — a “marketing professional,” I was a scientist at the bench in a laboratory of a pharmaceutical company. I knew very little about marketing. My perception of marketing was that it was a ‘fluff’ job. After my first course in marketing — Introductory Marketing for MBA’s — I was sold on the topic and decided to focus on marketing as a future career goal. Nearing graduation and in search of a job in a marketing capacity, I searched the web to better understand my options and how my current skill set would best fit in within a particular marketing role, especially at a start-up. I was not able to find any particular blog with such a focus.

With that said, my blog posts will be geared towards the current scientist/engineer/techy-type person seeking to make a transition from the “bench/lab/technician world” to the marketing world and focus on ‘behind-the-scenes’ activities of a marketing department in a start-up company.
Let’s start with first things first. One group of this readership is the current student, either first or second year, looking for an internship or a ‘real’ job. Assuming you would like to pursue a career in marketing, you’re wondering ‘what are my options’ and ‘where do I start’? Let’s discuss various roles in marketing. The next assumption is that you have some technical expertise in a particular field or area. For example, if you’re an engineer, you might have several years of experience writing software code, outlining specs for a hardware product, or whatever that an engineer does at the technical level. If you’re a scientist in the life sciences, it’s likely that you’ve drudged your days away in the lab running gels, cloning, maybe doing animal work, high-throughput screening, and the like. But, whether an engineer or a life scientist, you have some level of knowledge of the world you’ve worked in. You know the vernacular; you can comfortably converse in that ‘language’.

You can take that knowledge and transition into the marketing world with titles such as Field Applications Scientist, Technical Support, Customer Support, Product Marketing Manager, Product Manager, Product Operations Engineer, Marketing Analyst, Market Research Analyst/Manager, and the like. Domain knowledge in your field is imperative to making a transition into such functions of marketing. Assuming you’re seeking a position in a start-up environment, such titles have multiple roles and responsibilities. For example, a Field Applications Scientist is the point person for troubleshooting issues that the Sales’ Account Managers’ customers might encounter. You, as the FAS with your deep technical understanding, interface with the customer to troubleshoot and address the issue. You would take that one step further and write a case report and add the solution to your company’s knowledge database, so if such an inquiry were to occur again, a solution exists. You would also be responsible for writing user manuals for customers, perhaps technical white papers that also double up as “marketing collateral”. It is at this juncture that you begin to transition from hardcore technical activities to more customer-focused and sales’-focused activities. One key Marketing function is to generate leads for sales. Another key function is to ensure development, training, launch, advertisement, “marketing of,” and support of the product in question. The Field Applications Scientist is the external facing technical bridge between Sales and Marketing. Typically, in a smaller company, the FAS can transition into a Product Manager or Product Marketing Manager position. In a small / start-up company, a PM/PMM is responsible for a particular product or product line end to end. That means, the PMM is responsible for developing the business case for the development o f a new product, based on market needs and market research results, creating the marketing requirements document (MRD), starting and co-managing the development of the new product with the corresponding product manager on the technical side, and then working through the “4P” and “3C” analysis to correctly and strategically position the product in the marketplace and ultimately launch the product, which involves planning and executing activities around advertising, communications such as press releases, collateral, training of sales’ staff, field support, and such.

In larger companies, various functions of a PMM are parsed out into departments such as “Market Research” or “Marketing Communications” or “Product Strategy” or “Product Pricing”. Depending on your level of expertise, experience, interest, and personality type, you may seek a position as a PMM in a start-up or a more focused role in a larger company. If you don’t have deep domain technical knowledge, you can seek more general roles in marketing and transition forward by starting out as a Marketing Coordinator or working in Marketing Communications or Market Research.

Next time, we’ll take a closer look at a PMM’s role and activities in context of new product development and product launch. Stay tuned. And, if there are any particular topics you’d like me to address, let me know. Yours truly — ‘startupmarketingdiva’.

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