Anthony Franchini: Thinking about Marketing.

The PhD/Postdoc blog series features scientists at different stages of career development as they explore and plan for their next steps. Over the course of six months, Yeonwoo Lebovitz, Anthony Franchini, Megan Duffy, and Celia Fernandez will give monthly updates on their progress. Check back every Wednesday  for new posts.

Current position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow studying Microbial Disease, Immunology, and Toxicology; Fellow at Kerafast, Lead Consultant @CBETHNK
Program start date: July 2014
Institution: University of Rochester

I’m sitting here in my lab, waiting for a PCR gel to run so I can finish up genotyping mice and finalize experimental plans for the next couple of weeks. So while that finishes up, I figured I would turn my attention towards my blogging duties and fill everyone in on what’s been going on with me lately. It’s been quite the week: I won a fellowship award (yeah, money!), won second place at a poster session (Yeah, more money!), found out a pilot grant I spearheaded got funded (Yeah!, reagent money!). That’s one hell of a week for Anthony the research scientist. Tack on two conference calls, three in-person informal coffee chats, and a working lunch to map out the next few months of our consulting group and Anthony the businessman is also having quite the week. So while reflecting on these events, there was a general underlying theme that kept popping up. That theme is marketing: 1) Marketing the importance of one’s work, 2) marketing the global mission of your company, and 3) marketing yourself as a reliable and objective scientist. It’s an area I don’t hear many scientists think about, BUT THEY SHOULD.

The majority of my work as a part-time fellow with KeraFAST is marketing. Marketing to the community here at UR to inform everyone as to the company’s mission. Marketing the business plan and how potential providing labs can benefit. Like I mentioned in my first blog, I have the good fortune of working with trained professionals in this area who are happy to share their expertise. Things like how to highlight the novelty of the work, how joining the list of providing labs can increase your exposure around the world, not just in your field, how grant money is tight and every little bit helps when you are trying to keep the lights on. It takes a consistent effort convince others to trust your company, show positive results, and make everyone happy. That usually starts with a cold email or knock on an office door, or walking up to someone at a poster session here on campus.  

The same goes for our consulting group, CBETHNK, only on a much more amateur stage. We have a vision for what the group can become, but that won’t happen without the ability to market ourselves beyond the doors of UR and Rochester. We have a few great connections to the investment world. We want more and need more to keep going. There is only so much of that can be generated internally from UR, so expansion is necessary to our success. But how? And do we have the chops to do it?  I’m not selling a specific physical product they can test out. I’m selling brainpower, trust, and a budding business acumen. We can legitimately say our work has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in early stage seed money for clients. That’s no mountain of money that will get us in the room with Warren Buffett, but it’s not small potatoes, either. For another client, we turned him on to using his latest instrument to tackle a new disease state. That instrument is going to be very competitive for investment by the university and being spun out into its own company. Based on the feedback, we beat expectations by a wide margin. We’re now gonna take some of that work, develop it further, and expand on it further in the long term.  Might just get a physical project worthy of showing off or selling in the near term.  Out of our own pockets, we’re going to the Tech Startup Expo here in town this week to meet other tech entrepreneurs (happening after the submission of this post). Some of those introductions and relationships will be fruitful down the road. We have to be seen as unique, passionate, and effective. The next time around, we’re gonna shorten up the deadlines and turn it out faster. That would be a challenge to ourselves to prove we can do it, and to show our clients we are seriously engaged in this.  I’ve even generated a list of angel investment groups that we can pitch our services to start contacting. It’s all shoestring at the moment. But if cheesy 80’s action adventure shows are any indication, a group this size should be able to turn a shoestring, some gum, and leftover pizza boxes into a valuable resource in not time (Yes, that was a MacGyver reference). Part of our group is working at building a proper face to the group.  Another is searching out opportunities for us to shine, whether in open competitions or closed awards.  

The last aspect I want to touch on is marketing oneself as a scientist. Looking back at my CV, I’m proud of it. But I’m sure it pales compared to others. Yet I have no fear now when it comes to meeting new people and building as diverse a network as possible. For example, two of the informal chats I had this past week came on different ends of the spectrum: One was focused on a clinical fellowship I’ve had a very long interest in applying for, the other was making a connection with a new venture here at UR which could be very fruitful in the near term (I won’t say more so as to not jinx it). Both conversations revolved around different topics (obviously) but my goal was the same: Impress and relate to the other person within their sphere of influence. I didn’t bother boring the one with consulting talk, or the other with the minutiae of my daily work. But prepping for these two encounters did force me to think about how I wanted to present myself and what my goals were.  Ended up completely re-doing my CV for both in the past week, each tailored to the skill sets of each. I’ve followed up with both, because one or both of these paths could literally end up as my future.  Let’s hope all this mental energy put into marketing myself pays off.  

Ok, back to my gel, experiment prep, and future planning.  Back next month!

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