As pharma marketing organizations start implementing customer-centric capabilities, we start to see two key issues surface. First, the need for marketers to shift their focus to understanding customer preferences to drive personalization strategies. Second, the need for marketers to leverage cloud-based computing and adopt the right business processes to deploy personalization strategies into the marketplace. Pharma companies struggle with these customer centricity shifts due to departmental silos, hand offs between teams and stakeholders, and a shared lack of objectives. An Agile model—which helps organizations solve complex business and technology problems in order to deliver iterative value to customers—is being tested in the marketplace in order to address these issues, but there’s more to it than just speed.


With an Agile model, teams need the right people, technology and culture to be successful. Without the right end-to-end process—planning, building, deploying, learning and monitoring—partnered with a common vision, marketing organizations won’t be able to adapt to a changing market landscape, leading to flat results and an unchanged customer experience. In order to find success with an Agile model, organizations need to first understand how it differs from traditional marketing, which focuses on the creation of linear campaigns based on what the brand feels is most important for the customer to hear.


The Agile model’s iterative, data-driven framework often conflicts with a linear marketing approach across the life cycle of a campaign. Here’s how:


Developing the marketing plan:

The traditional marketing approach relies on allocating promotion dollars by channel. The decision is typically made based upon channel performance from the prior year. This leads to a focus on channel experience and little focus on customer experience. 

Brands can create an integrated cross-channel customer experience by linking key decision-making back to the customer data. Planning starts with goals as well as customer needs that lead to budget allocations based on segment-level strategy. Marketers shift from creating a “perfect” product after months of research to refining and learning from iterative, personalized in-market solutions.

Building the tactical marketing plan:

In the traditional model, content is often developed for each channel separately. Prioritization of content is often driven from internal deadlines/pressures and not from customer preferences. Additionally, the marketing tech stack is developed and operated as independent components, not in an integrated/automated approach. 

Campaigns are now designed with a holistic customer strategy in mind, along with a clear road map that connects tools from implementation to adoption. The team subsequently only prioritizes projects with the highest value to customers that involve an appropriate level of effort.

Deploying the marketing plan:

The traditional marketing approach focuses on a data-driven deployment model, meaning that each tactic is deployed in the marketplace based upon an internally identified date and not based upon customer preferences or needs for that content. Additionally, this approach is very manual, meaning that few marketers understand all the steps needed to deploy a marketing tactic on time. This lack of visibility into the process leads to unexpected delays in the deployment schedule.

An Agile model shifts the brand team’s focus on rapid execution and learning from in-market tests. Brand teams are then able to shift marketing execution and operational decisions to occur in real-time, informed by in-market data. Executional bottlenecks are reduced or mitigated after reshaping the organization to be customer-centric.

Measure and learn:

Almost all measurement in the traditional approach is focused on tactic measurements (such as email open rates relative to benchmarks; time on website; etc.). And these reports are typically packed with numbers, making it difficult for the brand teams to understand/take action based upon these insights. 

Agile teams focus on delivering customer value based on data-driven insights to help marketers keep their eyes on the actual goal: to learn from customer behaviors and truly address their needs.


Channel-specific reports, delivered in a format that contains many numbers and is difficult to understand, likely lead to the marketing team not understanding the key takeaways or how to further optimize channel investments. This leads to brand teams following the same promotion plan year after year, with minor changes. 

Marketers are connected to customers in real time through on-demand market research/analytics through an Agile team. This enables teams to directly connect brand strategy to digital execution to real-time optimization via Agile workflows.

How Agile can help you align with your customer-centric vision

  • Transparency: Agile brings cross-functional teams together to connect the dots across verticals. Marketing organizations can utilize recurring meetings like “sprint reviews” to provide visibility into the team’s progress toward a predefined goal and the key learnings after that goal is reached. These ceremonies establish an ongoing two-way dialogue about maintaining momentum while keeping the goal of customer value in mind.
  • Inspection: Agile helps marketing teams build customer experiences with concrete learning/measurement goals in mind, especially during the brand planning process. Marketing organizations can shift planning from an annual, month-long activity of strategizing based on gut feeling to an iterative, strategic approach that leverages real-time data. Said another way, data-driven decisions will need to be at the center of all planning activities.
  • Adaptation: Marketing organizations will need to restructure processes to react to insights in real time via a “test and learn” mindset. In order to execute on their learnings, teams will need the right tools to rapidly adjust content and leverage the right capabilities to execute against market insights.

In short, marketing leaders setting up Agile organizations for success will need to cultivate a customer-centric mindset within the teams and give them the right connected tools to execute in this way. This will prevent pharma organizations from using solutions that can hinder progress.


In future blog posts, we’ll talk about the tools and technology helping Agile marketing organizations reach their goal of delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.