Simon Boulton recently celebrated a year as marketing manager with the animal health company Virbac, following three years with the company in product management. In November, he will celebrate the two-year anniversary of the launch of Parvo-Alert – a social media initiative to warn of cases of parvovirus by postcode area to raise awareness of the disease.
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What inspired you to set up the Parvo-Alert service?
The inspiration behind the initiative was my experience in practice. How can you try to raise the profile of a disease a good proportion of the general public no longer fully understands, quickly and efficiently? The idea born from this was Parvo-Alert. To capture the audience we wanted to talk to we needed to go to somewhere we could get their attention and social media seemed the natural place. Parvo-Alert is a page on Facebook and an account on Twitter with over 9000 followers in total. The service acts as a community, and when parvo cases are reported to us the town and postcode area are shared to warn people in these communities. We then post out a pack to all the practices in this area with a warning letter alongside posters and leaflets for the practice.
How did you get to where you are today?
Following a number of years in small animal practice I moved into industry in 2007. What started as a technical role as a vet adviser moved into product management after a year, and I progressed from this role to a similar role at Virbac, looking after vaccines, antibiotics, diagnostics, Virbagen Omega and many other products. In June 2013, I took on the role of the marketing manager for the small animal team, although I have continued to do some direct product management of new products.
What activities does your job involve?
Where to start? Strategy, forecasting, analysis, key account liaison, sales and marketing coordination and interaction, product launches, new product preparation and agency management, as well as management of our great small animal marketing team consisting of product managers, support and telesales. It's actually quite difficult to describe but my involvement is at many levels of the business and with many departments, and encompasses all stages of product and business life cycles.
What do you like about your job?
The ability to make a difference, take ownership and drive things forward.
What do you not like?
There are never enough hours in the day.
Why is your job important?
Due to the size of product ranges, the number of products in the pipeline and the changing face of the veterinary market, businesses need to have people who can see the bigger picture and drive strategy and activity in the direction needed. Marketing in a veterinary company is not often what would be thought of as a traditional marketing job and is just the front face of a much deeper role.
The veterinary industry is a much more complex beast than 10 years ago with saturated markets, fierce generic competition and large buying groups and corporates. Companies must keep up to date and look at the road ahead to anticipate what clients will need now and moving forward.
What's the best piece of advice you were ever given?
‘You're only perceived to be as good as your last project’ is a mantra I continually repeat to myself, to keep the quality of my work as high as possible and keep ideas fresh.
What was your proudest moment?
Coming away from a launch or a project that is a success, knowing you have put your heart and soul into it, is hugely rewarding, and spurs you on to the next project, and the next.
What advice would you give to someone considering a similar career?
Go for it. High pressure isn't to everyone's taste but if you want to make a difference in industry you really can. Be committed, believe in yourself and you will surprise yourself in how quickly you will learn and develop.
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