Interview with Ira Kalb, Author, the DNA of Marketing

Every so often I interview local authors who have written books of interest to entrepreneurs and others in the high tech community. I recently interviewed Ira Kalb, author of the DNA of Marketing from DNA Press (, a new marketing book targeting the biotechnology industry, part time professor at UCLA, and President of Kalb & Associates, a consulting and training firm. Ira's latest book just hit the presses.

BK: What is the DNA of Marketing about, and what topics does it cover?

IK: It's about the essential building blocks of Marketing. It covers creating a strategic marketing plan (including developing measurable goals and strategies to achieve them), the marketing cycle (or the sequential steps to execute the plan), it explores the the seven fundamental building blocks of marketing (corporate image, positioning, product, pricing, distribution, promotion and the marketing information system) in some detail, and discuses personal selling, direct marketing (including the Internet) international marketing and customer service for high-tech/bio-tech organizations.

BK: What's your background, and how did you decide to write the DNA of Marketing?

IK: I have a BS in Bio-Engineering Systems and an MBA both from UCLA. I have been teaching in universites around the world for over 18 years (including UCLA Extension, USC, Pepperdine, Helsinki School of Economics, Copenhagen Business School, and Cal State Northridge). I have written 10 published books on business subjects, and written over 20 published articles. My professional background includes 5 years with consulting firms, such as Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), 9 years as VP of Marketing and President of Compal Computer Systems (a microcomputer company that was 25% owned by Xerox, and for nearly 20 years I have run my own consulting/training practice, publishing company, and boutique marketing communications firm.

A publishing firm, named DNA Press whose managing editor had read some of my books asked me to right a book on marketing basics for their company. They have focused on books for the biotech industry and wanted to expand into more business subjects. Because of their name and focus, I came up with the DNA of Marketing, metaphorically relating the building blocks of marketing to the building blocks of life.

BK: Is marketing in the biotech industry any different than marketing in the technology industry?

IK: Every industry has differences that need to be taken into account, but the basic marketing fundamentals are the same. The biotech industry covers a wide spectrum of companies and sectors. The whole industry has suffered some corporate image damage in recent years from the pharmaceutical sector as a result of from the notion that patented drugs in the US are expensive. Some pharma companies are spending some of their marketing resources in an effort to repair this damage.

BK: As someone who frequently works with entrepreneurs and others, what would you say is the most important thing for entrepreneurs to know about how to market their companies?

IK: Communicate everything they do as a benefit to their target audience rather than focus on what is great and wonderful about themselves.

BK: Do you find biotech entrepreneurs understand marketing--and do they need to?

IK: I find that most biotech entrepreneurs do not properly understand marketing. As with too many entrepreneurs, they believe all you have to do is build a better mousetrap. Then they are surprised when their better mousetraps don't sell as well as the mousetraps made by better-known mousetrap makers. At least one of the top execs in their company has to understand marketing and be able to ³sell² the others on thinking outside-in rather than inside-out (that is taking a customer-driven rather than a product-driven approach).

BK: Aside from reading your book, what do you think is the best way for someone in the biotech industry to get a good grounding in marketing?

IK: Read as much as possible (including newspapers and magazines), notice the patterns of success and failure, and copy the successful patterns after understanding the reasons for success. While they probably don't have time, taking seminars and courses can also help.

BK: Finally, what do you think entrepreneurs will gain most from reading your book?

IK: A scientific approach to marketing that works. The key difference between my book and others on marketing is that I take a scientific and systematic approach to marketing, and I urge companies to build systems that collect, analyze, and take action on marketplace feedback so that will find and stay on the right course, because in biotech and high-tech industries, the marketplace is constantly changing. While entrepreneurial CEOs often have big egos and sometimes think they know everything, as Bill Gates and Michael Dell have acknowledged, none of us has a ³crystal ball² that enables us to predict the future. The best we can do is have good systems that sense changes in real time so we can react quickly and correctly.

BK: Thanks!


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