I recently had the pleasure of conducting a class on Marketing Tech Transfer at the KCA Best Practice Course on 9-10 March in St Kilda. The slides for this presentation can be downloaded here.

I began the class with asking “What is Marketing?” Once the class got over their shock of being asked a question by their presenter in the first two minutes of the presentation we had a variety of responses ranging from promotions, advertising, selling to the one that seems to epitomise the technology push approach by many research organisations “Getting someone to buy something they don’t need or want!”

As a person who went into science on purpose to better the world and stayed as far away from business and marketing degree options with the view that marketing was a push approach I can understand both points of view on the topic and now work across them both.

Tech transfer professionals have many challenges in their day. One is that researchers apply for grants, invent amazing things and there is not always thought until the end that we have now developed something of potential value and university administrators want you to go and sell it to bring back $$ to the organisation and provide government with value for their R&D spend. This is effectively push marketing where the focus is now on the tech transfer professional to go out and ‘sell’ this technology…. How you might ask?

Well this leads us back to the original question of ‘What is Marketing?’ There are lots of definitions but basically it is understanding your customer so well that you are satisfying their needs profitably. The words ‘marketing’ and ‘promotion’ are often incorrectly used interchangeably as promotion (ie advertising, selling, PR, advertising, social media) is only a small subset of marketing, much like chemistry is a small subset of science.

Great marketing relies heavily on solid ‘marketing intelligence’ to get the elements of marketing (product, price, place and promotion) right. Ie a great product with the relevant features and benefits a customer needs at a price that they are willing to pay, promoted to them in the most efficient way (based on customer preferences) and available in a place (whether online or instore) where you can buy rather than purchasing from a competitor.

Use marketing intelligence to find the customers who are looking for solutions that your technology can provide, price it sensibly for them to buy, use marketing messages that hit on the benefits that they need and work out how to best get in contact with them.

Over the 15 years I’ve been marketing technologies  I’ve come across a number of misconceptions that need addressing and dispelling right away.

1)      This technology is so good – it will sell itself. There’s no need to do any marketing!
Absolute rubbish – The BETA video was a great example of marketing failure. BETA was a superior quality product to VHS, but it could only record for an hour. VHS could record a whole movie and VHS video players were cheaper. VHS listened to its customer’s needs and gave them a product that they wanted (ie great marketing!)

2)      We don’t need someone to help us with our marketing as we can do it ourselves.
Are you doing your own legals, plumbing, automotive repairs, health diagnosis? Hopefully not unless you are a qualified professional.
Would you put on a plumbing apprentice, legal student or first year med student instead of a professional to get the best results? No, so why are you putting on a marketing intern to run your marketing when you need a marketing expert? The success and failure on businesses is frequently due to lack of good marketing (not just the promotional part!).

3)      Everyone is my customer!
While the potential may be there, your budget isn’t! You can’t promote you product to everyone from childcare centres to retirement homes in one way on limited budgets so don’t try. Use  market research to choose your most profitable segment to target and then move into other large and profitable segments.

4)      It doesn’t matter if my promotional material is too technical because the person who will be interested in it will understand it.
In today’s world of information overload you want to convey your information simply to as many people in your target organisation so they understand the value of your technology and pass it onto the right people. Many of these people facilitate commercial deals across many areas and do not have the in-depth knowledge of your niche area. Make it easy for people to find you and connect you to your target customer. The harder it is to find you the less chance you have of doing a deal in a reasonable timeframe.

My reflections on marketing and marketing intelligence

Coming from a science background and learning the ‘dark art’ of marketing as my science colleagues would joke has been an eye opener for me. In my youth I would have considered ‘marketing intelligence’ to be an oxymoron. With 20 years experience in this area and having seen what it can do in terms of winning a $100m tender, significant awards and funding grants, doubling business revenues year on year twice, bringing in deals with multinationals and signing licensing deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for public research agency technologies. Marketing backed by marketing intelligence works! Try it sometime.

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