Tell us about your organisation
We are a full-service marketing agency for companies working in the life sciences. Our clients could be companies of any size, so they range from start-ups to huge international companies, and they’re primarily in Europe and the US.
They are typically companies who develop lab equipment, lab reagents, materials, fine chemicals – either materials that pharmaceutical companies would use to develop their drugs, or raw materials for them, or the equipment that they might need to research and develop their drugs.
We also do a lot of work with companies to provide services for drug developers, so they might be clinical research organisations, or contract-manufacturing organisations.
So what we do with clients i starts with helping them think about their brand and the strategy. We do a lot of insight work, helping them to understand what is different about their brand or the products they’re selling.
How can we differentiate them from their competitors? That’s the foundation to then go ahead and develop the marketing plan and the tactics. Once you’ve got that, you can think: is the logo reflective of that? is the strapline positioning it well in the market, or do we need to change that or create a new one?
Then from there you go into your marketing planning, thinking about: who are we trying to target? who are we trying to reach? how are we trying to reach them? what do those targets read? what are their influences? how are we going to use those to get that message out there? and what is that message?
So we’re doing everything from the strategy to the logo design, website building, to a lot of content writing. This is why we have a lot of scientists on our workforce because we need to create messages that are going to appeal to our clients’ end-target customers, who are themselves scientists.
We do a bunch of other tactical things as well, like PR social media plans and lots of more traditional marketing as well (brochures, exhibition stands, etc.).
What type of roles do you employ?
Content writers would be a class of roles; strategists and planners and customer relationship managers (also known as account managers) – these are all roles where people with a scientific background would be at a big advantage. You don’t need to be an expert in marketing to become an account manager, as I discovered.
Those are some of the main ones, then there are creative roles such as social media design, the people who design things that are used in social media, would be more likely to come from a design and marketing background, but then the scientists are really important for writing all of the social media posts, because that social media content is being written for scientists to read.
Is there any specific language that you use in your sector?
One of the issues we have is that certain marketing job roles, like ‘account manager’ – firstly, I wouldn’t expect a postdoc to know what that is; and secondly, even if they do want to go into the marketing/PR industry, they’re not going to know to use that as a keyword. If they see a job with that role, they’re probably going to think “that’s not me”. And so that is a side issue with advertising for recruitment from academia into our industry.
I think ‘account manager’ is a key one, because so many jobs are going to have that as a job role wherever they’re looking if it’s in the advertising/marketing/PR industry. I can imagine a scientist would be completely turned off by that or would just disregard it because it doesn’t mean anything.
It’s really about managing the client relationship. The account manager is a hybrid between project management and stakeholder management. They’re the interface between all the people in the agency who are delivering things (whether that’s doing designs, writing the content, etc.) and the client themselves.
The account manager understands what the client needs, what the budgets are, and what the client is trying to achieve. So they write the briefs, they then assemble the resources internally, make sure what we actually create is right for the brief and then deliver that back to the client.
Could you describe your workplace culture?
It’s very collaborative and we try really hard to emphasise the creativity. A lot of scientists, non-scientists and people in general don’t think of science as creative, but it really is. That’s what we’re all about: trying to get across to other audiences the creativity behind our clients’ technologies and what they’re doing and so on.
So within our culture, a lot of the team are quite young and we try to give them the opportunities and the exposure really early on, so that they can develop as quickly as they want to and get into really senior roles. People who are very driven and motivated, and want fast rewards tend to do quite well with us. It’s a very open culture, with open plan offices. Quite sharing and team-based.
What are the key challenges for your organisation?
I suppose a common challenge for an agency is unexpected peaks in demand, so managing the workload, or demands in the workload. We have a network of trusted freelancers that we will use if we need to manage those extra peaks and troughs.
It can sometimes take a while for a new contract to get signed off and even though you know it’s coming, it’s hard to actually employ people until the thing’s been signed. So quite often we then need to staff up very quickly and that can be a challenge to bring in the right people. With it being very collaborative and team-based operation, it means that it’s very important that the personalities that we bring in are a good fit for the team – it’s not just about skills at all.