When marketers forget that they are not their own customers, Wayne Lashua has a secret weapon direct from Ashdown Forest. Lashua (MMR ’04), a market research director for Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer Therapeutics division, tells a story from a Winnie the Pooh-inspired television series when he feels his co-workers are straying from the Platinum Rule: Do unto others what others would like you to do unto them. The story begins with Pooh’s friend Eeyore, who loses his house to a windstorm.
“Eeyore’s friends Tigger, Rabbit, and Piglet want to help him rebuild a house that withstands the wind, but they try to convince Eeyore to replicate their individual choices for a home design,” says Lashua. He explains that Eeyore’s friends are behaving like marketers sometimes do whereas Eeyore, like most customers, wants a house that’s built specifically for him. “Marketers by nature have a far more intimate knowledge of the products and services than their customers. However, they can err by thinking about what they would want if they were in the customer’s condition. It’s very important for marketers to realize that they are developing solutions for customers — not for themselves.”
Lashua, a product of the Terry’s of Master of Marketing Research Program and a representative of its advisory board, believes that the lessons he learned in the MMR program provide him and other Terry graduates with an opportunity to help the industry on a broader scale. Lashua attributes the vast growth of Big Data and technology to a marketplace now flooded with IT professionals who often lack the underlying technical appreciation of the statistics and research analysis that MMR grads possess.
“Good market research takes that extra step to activate insights that show our business partners the things that customers really want,” says Lashua, who stair-stepped his way to becoming an effective market researcher.
Lashua began his career in pharmaceutical sales with Eli Lilly selling diabetes and depression products. Management recognized Lashua’s analytical talents and asked him to relocate to the corporate office in Indianapolis and consider a switch to market research. With a seat on Terry’s MMR Advisory Board, Lilly also encouraged Lashua to consider enrolling in the one-year Terry program, which has a sterling reputation.
“They saw an opportunity to send raw talent without the educational background to Athens as a way of leveraging the program to build out the tool set for a strong research career,” says Lashua, who explains how the MMR program also provided him with an opportunity to establish business relationships, which long-term have been as important as learning the fundamentals of the trade. “It was great to be in a tight-knit group of classmates and develop fantastic connections with alumni and executive advisory board members who are active in the industry.”
However, there is one connection Lashua made in the MMR program that trumped them all — meeting his future wife Patricia Grote (MMR ’04).
“While the degree and professional connections were important,” Lashua says, “meeting the future Tish Lashua was even more important.”
Upon graduation, Lashua and his wife returned to Indianapolis, where he has been Eli Lilly’s rep on the MMR Advisory Board for the past four years. He says that more than ever Eli Lilly values the return it gets with MMR graduates.
“We’ve hired five MMR alums in the past three years and each of those individuals has had very successful starts to their careers at Lilly,” says Lashua, who adds that in addition to the hires, the company has completed several corporate-sponsored, student-led projects. “Their work has had a significant impact on the standards development for our entire research organization. It will help us continue to improve the quality of research that we do.”
Lashua has found that the kind of students attracted to the Terry MMR program are curious by nature, but in need of developing a higher quality of practical application in the field of market research.
“I think the MMR student is often guilty of being cautious when it comes to transitioning from insights development to learning to use the information that you have in strategic way,” says Lashua. “I found that the program is quite good at driving students towards impact on marketing decisions.”