Terse but True


I’ve spent the vast majority of my career marketing the life sciences practices of professional services firms. I can’t split a gene and I have rarely been in a lab, but I know enough to be dangerous. And I know how to explain technical issues to a lay audience.

So when I set out on my own, I targeted life sciences companies. It seemed natural. The industry was becoming commercialized, there would be a need to communicate with customers and stakeholders effectively and small growing companies may not want to invest in a full-time marcomm professional.

Turns out I was dead wrong. While investors and service providers agreed with me and referred me to companies they worked with, the actual management of the companies were unmoved by my pitch. Actually, they were mostly baffled as to why I was there at all. I did pick up a device or biotech client here or there, but service firms were the core of my business.

However, I wasn’t ready to give up on the life sciences companies. Every year or so I would re-boot my effort. The last time around, I was encouraged to talk to a headhunter who works exclusively with the life sciences. She would know which companies were growing and might need help, even if it wasn’t full time.

It took forever to reach her, although I knew her fairly well. She had been dealing with some family issues and was under a lot of stress. She finally returned my call while she was in the car. I explained my objective, and she snapped at me, “You just aren’t qualified to work for a life sciences company” and promptly ended the call.

I was incensed. How dare she scoff at my liberal arts degree? It’s not like I’m looking for a job in the lab. I was just proposing building a web site or writing a press release. And, frankly, she was unnecessarily rude.

So I moved on. A new client kept me very busy for a year or so, but now it’s time to expand the client roster again. This time round, the recruiter’s words were haunting me. As were the dozens of life sciences firms I had met with over the years. It finally occurred to me, it’s not that I’m not qualified to do a marcomm job for a biotech, it’s that the biotechs don’t think I’m qualified to do any job if I don’t have scientific training. As Sheldon told Howard on the Big Bang, it’s not that you aren’t good at your job, it’s that your job is not worth doing.” I still beg to differ, but it’s their playpen.

So I’ve narrowed my client prospects to service firms related to the life sciences industry, and my BD efforts have been much more productive. While I’d like to say I’m working for companies that are working to cure cancer, I will have to suffice with working for the firms that are helping the companies that are curing cancer. And every time I read description of a life sciences company that makes me cringe, I’ll know it was written by a bona fide scientist.


Subscribe for notifications of new posts, and occasional other news from KMA & Company.