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Talking Science and Strategy

Jezz Leckenby shares over 40 years of experience working within sales, marketing and public relations of analytical instrument manufacturers.

What are the most common problems that clients ask you to solve?

I work mostly with SME clients who tend to have small marketing departments; often one person doing it all. When I am approached by a company, it is usually with a question about what I can do for them.

Many do not specifically think about brand or position. Often it comes down to wanting qualified sales leads. Nothing new in this request but nowadays there are so many possible tools to use to promote a company, its products & services.

The Marketing Wheel

There is usually no integrated marketing plan which considers the total sales process. I address this with a concept called the Marketing Wheel™, a tool I have developed & employed since my days at DuPont.

The Marketing Wheel - Strategic Development, Product development, Internal Communications and Marketing Communications

Are there any principles which have remained unchanged over your 40+ years within the industry?

The principles have not changed because good sales & marketing methods are based on common sense. Two variables that have changed however are firstly, marketing budgets, measured as a percentage of sales. These have dropped from 6-8% in the 1980s to as little as 1-2% today.

"As a percentage of sales, marketing budgets have dropped from 6-8% in the 1980s to as little as 1-2% today."

Secondly, the choice of marketing tools has rocketed, driven by the Internet and associated technology. Perhaps the main question is “which is right for my business?” There is no simple answer.

You may ask what has been tried; did it work; how do you measure success? Unfortunately, getting these answers is not readily forthcoming. Not for the lack of good intentions, the smaller companies often forget the basics of tracking responses; measuring the good and the not so good; where did a lead come from? How did it proceed in the sales process?

Like building a house, good foundations are essential and a company committed to using their CRM system is vital to measuring marketing success.

How do the most successful companies venture into new markets?

Returning to the Marketing Wheel™, strategy should be driven by a simple question: What does the customer want?

Strategic Development - Listening to the marketplace

Too often with scientific instrument companies, the drive is by the technology and the inventions of the founders of the company. Yes, some of these will enjoy success because of peer recognition but the key to long term success is the investment in talking to users and asking what their new challenges are? What problems do they have? What features should be added to the existing product offerings?  Those who ask the right questions and listen to the answers will enjoy success and growth.

As noted in the classic marketing book, Crossing the Chasm, new ideas accepted by the early adopters will show excellent growth but it is the ability of the company to introduce new products ahead of reaching the peak of the growth of the previous one will “cross the chasm” and sustain growth.

How do you advise clients who are developing and launching new products into the market place?

The key to product development is answering the question “how do we make it?” How do we translate user needs into a product that may be manufactured and sold at a cost whereby we make money AND the user sees value and is happy to pay the asking price?

Product Development - How do we make it?

The successful company will understand all aspects of materials sourcing, cost control, scale up of manufacturing, beta site testing of products during the development and manufacturing process. Checking back to users that the product(s) being made are what was required.

How important is consistency of messaging when launching a new product?

Internal communication is under-rated. It is important that every member of the company is responsible for the success of the company.

Internal Communication - Do we all understand it?

Everyone should understand the goals of the company; the products, the services; the message that promotes this. Call it the 30 second elevator speech, everyone should have the same story.

I will never forget a story from my early days when a late evening phone call came in at Stanton. One from the packing bay whose job also included cleaning picked up the phone. He apologised for no one being about but took the caller’s details and assured the caller would be called back in business hours. It led to a sale but more importantly, all 100 employees heard what Bill had done and that each was empowered to act similarly.

Also, the sale does not end with installation and payment. Once products are being installed and used, it is vital to listen to user reactions.

The most likely person to hear about this feedback is the service engineer. It is important to empower employees to bring back reactions, good and bad, into the company. That way tweaks are made and the leadership position of the company reinforced.

What have been the biggest changes in terms of Marketing Communications over that time?

The biggest individual change has been the Internet. It has rewritten the rules of doing business and communicating both externally and internally. It has given immediacy to what was a rather sedate business environment. Once, a company speaks on the Internet, whether from their web site, a blog or a simple Tweet, the world listens and expects instant gratification.

External Communication - How do we tell the world about it?

Remember that computers were not in use in the 70-80s when I started my career. Paperwork was the bane of the salesman’s life. Instruments used strip chart recorders with pens that needed cleaning each day, filling with ink just to enable recording of output. Leap forward to today. Visiting the newly opened Francis Crick Laboratory in London, the visitor will see laboratories packed with the latest instrumentation.

What is missing are the users. The days when many technicians were employed by laboratories, more automation has led to less need for staff. Now, instrumentation may be controlled and monitored remotely. More data is collated than ever before and computers have become incredibly powerful.

It is great for the user but also the marketing manager. Lots of materials may now be streamed live; videos are posted on YouTube; graphic interpretations and animations make results more accessible to a wider audience than ever before.

What are the most effective tools that the modern marketer has at their disposal today?

I have yet to mention public relations communications, a traditional tool which has as much use today as it did 40 years ago.

Whether reading the declining print magazines or searching the web to read specific postings, users like to read about what their peers are achieving within the industry. Rather than having products pushed on them, many scientists employ a more timid, indirect approach. They prefer reading, digesting and contacting companies in their own time.

Public Relations

My clients use Talking Science to communicate user messages. The process is simple. Ask a scientist to describe their research; its motivation and impact on society.

Ask about why they select & use the technique/instrument of the company. The challenge is sometimes to control the flow of answers. From there, three processes come into play.

Press Release

First, a press release is written around the interview. Ask any editor of their job challenges, the answer will be to find new, refreshing content. Enter the PR writer. Talking Science works with a database of more than 400 editorial contacts worldwide; working in print and online publications, a typical client will have a list of around 200 editors to contact.

Extended Articles

Secondly, the measurement of unique openings are monitored. A typical open rate is between 20-30% depending on topic. This helps develop patterns about which editors/publications like the stories from which clients. That enables me to approach them with specific extended stories which might be written by end users or a Talking Science ghost writer. A 4-6 page-equivalent article is so much more powerful than a single page of paid advertising. It is free and it is placed to meet the needs of the editor and more importantly, the readership.

Targeted Mailings

The third use coming from the initial interview is the use of client eNewsletters. End-users, website visitors and web-sites require fresh content. Effective clients build their contact base steadily but are not able to have regular face-to-face meetings as often as they might like. So regular interesting material needs to be delivered.

Expanding the experiences of users in short articles together with the sharing of applications and product tips together with user bibliographies and events to visit to see the company all make good short newsletter content that gets positive opening rates and another means to gain qualified sales contacts.

What role do you see native advertising playing in the industry?

Placed articles deliver in terms of being able to tell a more complete story. They have more chance of visual impact than a single page of print advertising. The quality of online content is becoming increasingly important. With more and more competitive sites offering similar materials, it is very important to differentiate one’s offering.

What cultural challenges face multi-national companies in the Analytical Science space?

Whether this is strictly a cultural challenge or not, one of the biggest changes in analytical science has been the use of the scientific instrument exhibition. Many countries have seen a very large drop in footfall.

In my experience, the national shows in Europe, e.g. the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands have shrunk. The odd one out is the biennial show in Munich – Analytica. It is still attracting big attendances and grows in part because it has a dual focus – analytical and life sciences instrumentation.

It isn't just the fact that laboratories no longer have the numbers of staff. I think exhibition and meeting organisers have maybe lost a trick or two. Perhaps they should remember the Marketing Wheel? Do they actually ask their visitors what they want from a visit to their shows?

Selling to Scientists

Related Content - Selling to Scientists

Many companies have seen these winds of change. Most successful of the last ten years is perhaps the use of webinars. Commercial packages attracting large registration numbers appear to be giving way to companies running and promoting their own events. It will be interesting to follow how this trends in the coming 2-3 years.

How do you see the future of the Industry?

I am relatively optimistic. Change will continue with the larger multi-national corporations acquiring more companies. While some may feel aggrieved, I think it makes more space for new start-up businesses that offer unique products and services.

In recent years, I have watched many takeovers. In some ways, my own goal in working with an SME is to put myself out of business either as the company grows and builds its own marketing department or its success is recognised and the company is acquired.

I was fortunate to start working with NanoSight in its early days. CEO Jeremy Warren asked me to help build the company’s approach to marketing. For six years, growth was excellent and led to the acquisition by Malvern. It is funny how the world turns; networks build, both personal and in business.

So it came as no surprise to hear from Jeremy Warren again. Now as chairman of Oxford University spinout company, Oxford Nanoimaging. He was building the company name through sharing the excitement of new technology and how it would be applied by users.

The Marketing Wheel™ is proven to work: It helps with something which has nothing to do with marketing. It gives me job satisfaction. Just look at my job. I get to talk to top scientists about their ground-breaking research; I get to write about it on behalf of clients’ whose instrumentation is being used; and it has given me a career. Marvellous!


Posted by Jezz Leckenby

Jezz graduated with a degree in Chemistry (1976) working as an applications scientist in a small UK manufacturer of thermal analysis instrumentation. Having naturally excelled in sales, he was approached by DuPont where he added to his technical background with marketing. Jezz used his natural problem solving ability in many roles across Europe within the group before moving to the U.S. to head up marketing for DuPont's TA business. He ran his own instrument reseller business in the U.K. before being taken over by Topometrix. He soon found his niche when he founded Talking Science, the PR-led marketing firm in the U.K.

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