Just a short while back I was in my final stretch of a marathon 31 meetings at the annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting. It had been a frenzied meeting for me. It was the first time I have had that many meetings in the 19 years I had been coming to SOT. As I was winding down the meeting, I was having dinner with a couple of colleagues from another CRO. I started out the dinner with saying how much marketing people can really annoy me. Then the man across the table introduced himself as the Director of Marketing for his company…oops. After I awkwardly smoothed that over, he began to tell me what he thought about what was his first SOT meeting. “Everyone looks the same,” he said. “As a first timer to the meeting I can’t really tell the difference between companies, nor can I tell what they actually do or what their identity is…I see a bunch of cliché slogans and nice suits, but I can’t really tell as a consumer who’s who.” His feedback on the meeting was interesting to me. I reflected on the way booths are set up and how we represent ourselves as a community. Some small companies have large booths and some large companies have small booth. They all basically say the same thing. And in some cases, I get it. If I do everything known to the nonclinical space like the big multinational companies, how do they summarize all of it in a neat and tidy package? In some cases the CRO industry makes themselves generic so they can adapt to the changing needs of their clients, so pigeon holing themselves limits their options. This especially important when growth is your primary institutional driver.
For Lovelace Biomedical, we have been shackled for some time to the niche of respiratory drug development and also government contracts. We have been doing our best to market diversity from that legacy, and have in particular focused on our strengths and history in gene therapy and regenerative medicine (most often for rare diseases). So, certainly our identity is what we did and what we want to do, and in thinking about it, we could do a better job conveying that message (we kick butt in gene therapy toxicology/regenerative medicine and respiratory drug development), as we have tried instead to be the ‘we do everything’ approach. Then after that adjustment I also thought about how do we think about ourselves and who we are to a client. When asked that at the meeting I deferred back to first principles (for me anyways), classic movie references.
I told the inquisitor that we are sort of like Jerry Maguire meets Forrest Gump, except in our case when you open the box of chocolates you know what you are going to get. And once you get it, we aim to treat our clients with the enthusiasm and care that Jerry Gave Rod Tidwell as his lone client.
We are a single site with 250 employees. Once you visit the site you meet the team. You know them. They are the same folks you would work with for the next program, and the next. So I suppose if I had to create our booth for next year, one side will have the niche areas we excel in, and the other will have a picture of Tom Cruise (and Tom Hanks). Perhaps that will drive traffic to the booth better? At least it will help us define who we are.
-Jake McDonald, CSO