COVID-19 has catapulted Agile Marketing to the top of the to-do list for marketers in life sciences. The dramatic shift to virtual living and working has exposed weaknesses in their companies’ abilities to engage customers effectively. Patients and healthcare professionals are demanding more digital experiences, and they expect those experiences to meet their needs quickly. These expectations are putting pressure on marketers to accelerate the process of creating experiences, which is prompting them to examine that process. Agile Marketing is rooted in optimizing the way that teams work towards a common goal, so an increasing number of life sciences marketers are looking to its principles for answers.

While commitment to catching the “Agile Wave” is rising, many are struggling to build the momentum needed to take advantage of the value it can offer. When asked what marketers hear from their colleagues when they consider adopting Agile, we hear:

  • Confusion over the terminology: “I am agile — we move fast every day!”
  • Belief that the practice of Agile won’t work in regulated industries: This is not retail — we have rules!”
  • Concerns that the organization doesn’t have the right skills and expertise to take full advantage of Agile’s potential: “Our organization is too matrixed and we don’t have enough people with the skills to institute (yet) another change.”

These challenges point to the fact that most life sciences organizations are not “digitally native” — their current systems and ways of working are built on top of legacy systems and manual processes that were not developed with Agile principles in mind. It is only natural that marketers are struggling to get the support they need to initiate meaningful change.

Here’s the good news: Some life sciences organizations are experiencing success riding the Agile wave. Through our work, we have found that the keys to success are to forget about the word “Agile” and instead 1) focus on the value that Agile Marketing provides, and 2) establish the core building blocks that will enable that value to be realized.

The building blocks of Agile Marketing

The core of Agile Marketing rests on three value principles:

  • Relevance — delivering experiences that meet the customer’s individual needs according to their preferences
  • Speed — creating and delivering those experiences quickly
  • Optimization — improving the process of delivering experiences every day

To put these principles into practice, life sciences organizations need to use three key “building blocks,” each of which supports a specific value principle:

1. The building block for relevance: Modular content

Traditional ways of creating content no longer apply because they were put in place in the pre-digital era, when a much slower pace was the norm and messaging was more general. Then, less content was needed. Now, organizations are expected to address the needs of individual patients and healthcare professionals, which increases the demand for unique sets of content. This means that more versions of content must be created at a faster pace, while remaining compliant.

Modular content supercharges the ability to meet customer needs quickly by facilitating the assembly of pre-approved content fragments into the channel the customer is using — practically in real time. The act of developing these pre-approved fragments has an added benefit of reducing duplicative content creation across the organization, which offers a substantial reduction in creative development costs.

2. Building block for speed: Restack your teams for greater focus

If you need to design, produce, deliver, and measure customer interactions faster than ever, consider forming teams with the singular purpose of shepherding the end-to-end process. Their ability to see across the process will allow them to identify and solve for antiquated activities and slow handoffs that can be redesigned and accelerated.

Furthermore, opportunities for innovation will emerge by bringing people together from different parts of the organization, who previously were not aligned. Their different skillsets and experiences will foster new perspectives and encourage ideas to improve the process.

One way to organize diverse yet focused teams is to set up Pods. A Pod is a small group of people who work together towards a goal for a given amount of time. Successful Pods combine the traditional roles found in any Enterprise Marketing organization with new roles, such as content strategy, creative assembly, and marketing analytics, conventionally provided by third parties. This multidisciplinary model enables accelerated knowledge sharing, transparency, and rapid solutioning. It also allows the business units represented, such as Medical Legal Review, to provide more frequent input, which will alleviate compliance concerns.

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Transitioning from ways of working modeled after a pre-existing organizational hierarchy towards cross-functional “Pod” teams.

3. Building block for optimization: Measuring small

When Pods integrate modular content into their quest to create more relevant experiences, marketing organizations become more intelligent. By tracking the performance of each content fragment within a digital interaction (for example web, email, advertisements), a deeper level of analytics beyond traditional click-tracking is achieved.

Now marketers can test the performance of numerous content fragments in a digital interaction. This means that a campaign can improve in minutes by learning quickly from those tests and by optimizing messaging for the next interaction. Furthermore, measuring the components of an interaction allows marketers to understand customer preferences more deeply, which leads to much richer customer segment data.

When a deeper understanding of individual customer preferences influences the interactions, customers will receive more value from the experience and will be more likely to change their behavior. The result for the marketer is a greater return on investment (ROI).

Catch the wave — and ride it!

By forgetting about Agile and focusing on developing these three building blocks, companies will be able to understand their customers better and offer them experiences they value more than ever. The result will be loyalty and all of its benefits.

To catch the Agile Wave, start by putting these three principles into practice:

  • Relevance – Start with a brand or product team. Assess the potential of modular content to reduce waste and deliver customer relevance.
  • Speed – Assemble a test-pod to walk through the end-to-end process of creating and delivering a customer interaction. Use that to identify skill and capability gaps.
  • Optimization – Define the data you need and simulate your workflow to capture performance data and to deliver insights back to decision makers.

Marketing transformation can feel challenging at times. There will be highs, there will be lows. But the sense of accomplishment you will feel when you own the wave — there’s no better ride!

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Jake Beesley

Managing Director – Song, Experience Innovation

Lukasz Kowalczyk

Digital Marketing Senior Manager – Song

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