Yesterday I was talking to someone I met on a bike ride about the grant proposal writing tips that I teach here and in my online grant writing courses. I mentioned that I help people get more grants and less rejections by applying the principles of “Marketing” to grantwriting.

Her response?

“Grant writing isn’t like marketing! You have to be a lot more technical in a grant.”

We went back and forth for a while on this, me making points, and her making counterpoints about the nature of science grants, and whether “marketing” was relevant or not.

I pointed out to her that when I mention “Marketing,” I’m not talking about anything underhanded – I’m talking about having a great “product” and then effectively conveying to people – like your reviewers – that it is great. A lot of us have a great project but don’t do a very good job of selling it. Others do a great job of selling but don’t have a good project. You have to have both to really be successful at “marketing”.

Even this didn’t convince her.

Finally, I gently mentioned my track record on funding, and suddenly she got quiet, so we moved onto another topic.

What this conversation tells me is that there is major resistance to the notion of “marketing,” especially when it comes to technical/science projects.

But have you ever asked yourself why someone like Lee Hood or Craig Venter (both very successful modern scientists involved in systems biology and genomics) are where they are?

They are smart scientists. But are they really smarter than you or I? I’ll bet they are not smarter scientists than we are.

But they probably are smarter when it comes to marketing their science. They know how to get other people onboard and supporting their ambitious plans. They could not have done the work alone – they both have relied on huge amounts of help from other people. This includes everything from financial backing to creative new approaches to problems, contributed by others.

Along the way, I’ve heard some of the following objections to “marketing”:
1. “It is underhanded” – this misperception is based on bad experiences with the worst kind of marketers, such as siding salesmen, telemarketers, etc. But think about this – have you ever bought a product from a Fortune 500 company? If so, in all likelihood it was because of their marketing efforts. The best marketing is “invisible” to the consumer – a far cry from the “pushy salesman” that you might think of when the word “marketing” is used (in the video, I use the example of a Siding salesman). Apple is a great exemplar of this – they do very good marketing, but in a low key way. Without Marketing, they wouldn’t exist as a company, to continue producing the great products that they do. Marketing is vital to their survival – as it is to yours if you want to be a leader who is responsible for a lab or for large projects.

(To be Continued in Part II. I will provide one key action step that you can start taking immediately to improve your funding chances).



We all waste too much time on grant writing. If you want to stop wasting your time, double your funding, and halve your rejections, sign up for the free “8 concepts of grant writing success”report.

    1 Response to "The Conversation: Successful Grant Writing, part I"

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