It’s Right to Unite: Why Cross-functional Collaboration will Drive the Future of Engagement

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby


This article has been written in the build-up to the eyeforpharma Marketing Disruption Summit USA (Philadelphia, October 2-3, 2019) where leaders from the Marketing, Digital and Commercial space will join to learn how to deliver a blueprint to revitalize customer relationships.

Much has been written about the value of patient- and customer-centricity in pharma but achieving this in the marketing mix typically entails a fundamentally different way of working. In fact, it demands nothing less than a revolution.
Eli Lilly is now several years into just such a transformation, moving from the old advertising and sales model towards integrated and personalized customer engagement.
The aim of the transformation is to serve consumers and health care providers with the right blend of content in the manner of their choosing and at the right time. Rather than telling a single story the same way to everyone, the new emphasis is on telling stories in different ways to different audiences that resonate better with them.
The ideal is being relevant at every stage of the customer journey and integrating the experience, says Kirk Keaffaber, senior marketing director at Lilly. He says: “That is a huge organizational transformation that we are pretty far down the path on now. Obviously, you can’t pull that off without really good data moving really fast through technologies that orchestrate automated campaigns.”
Achieving this has entailed a root-and-branch re-examination of how Lilly handles customer data, marketing processes, content management, automation tools and how it approached new technologies such as advanced analytics.
The model of driving traffic to its own website and of mass marketing in general has been replaced by far more tailored marketing activity. The focus has also shifted from individual brands towards a centralized view of customer data and insights and to new KPIs reflecting the actual business impact of engagements and away from measures such as metrics such as the volume of impressions.
Partnership and cross-collaboration
Pivotal to the success of this transformation has been a close cross-team partnership across marketing and IT, says Keaffaber. “There were loads of things that we had to figure out in the partnership across marketing and in the IT group as well,” he says.
“The chairs of our capabilities team are actually co-chaired across marketing and IT so any new capability that’s coming through the marketing organization is co-chaired by those two people and defined and prioritized.
“This has been a great partnership over a lot of years to really build capabilities to do something significantly different. I think we’ve come to a really good place in a really good operating model. Without that partnership I really don’t think we could have gotten there.”
Designing for the customer 
In order to achieve this new way of working it was also essential to move away from multiple manual, independent processes in the marketing mix and create new automated, integrated and data-driven processes capable of responding and adapting, depending on what customers did.
Defining a process and a framework to capture all the activities that would need to be co-ordinated and automated was absolutely fundamental to the process, says Trish Myers, Senior Director Lilly USA IT, Eli Lilly and Company. She says: “That sounds very simple but it actually wasn’t. We had many different brands and we were not even aligned on the most basic fundamental things like a definition of an engagement.”
The Lilly team manually created an eight-step framework, via a simple Excel sheet initially. “That may not sound very innovative but it began to help people think through the process because we didn’t do marketing that way in the past,” says Myers.
Getting the architecture right
Being able to take a customer on a deliberate journey as part of an integrated campaign required an architecture that did not yet exist, says Keaffaber. “We’ve built a proprietary campaign management architecture that now automates the delivery of these campaigns through the data, through our partnership with IT.”
It is a complex undertaking, says Keaffaber. “This is not just an email and web campaign. It is understanding at a doctor level their movements across everything to be able to adjust content. So it’s been quite a journey to create a machine that can automate a campaign to do all that.”
“You can’t personalize something if you can’t segment and so moving from this historical, research-based model to a behavioral data model to understand your segmentation and to make it dynamic and able to adjust over time was the major thing.”
Part of the process of building this architecture was defining the range of possible inputs and setting the business rules to define, for example, what segment the customer is in, what content they just consumed, in what channel and then defining a category to what action they took afterwards.
“Did they just write a prescription or not? Now what do we do? All those inputs then defined business rules and on a brand campaign and we now have hundreds of business rules that are processing based on what the customer does when,” says Keaffaber
Done properly such an architecture need not be expensive, he adds. “First year all in build cost was in the three three to four million dollar range.”
The right talent
The temptation for other companies may have been to play it safe and bring in outside consultancy expertise to create a solution but Lilly made a deliberate decision to create its own architecture in house. Doing so in genuine partnership between marketing and IT was vital. “We needed to be partners with it from the beginning, co-creating not just delivering to the other side of the house and having shared accountability,” says Myers.
Creating a team capable of building and effectively using this new architecture also required hiring in some top talent for both IT and marketing. Myers and Keaffaber’s view was that a team of generalist IT folk would not have been able to achieve what was required since building a system like this is such a niche skill.
Just as importantly, they also recruited professionals who brought much needed skills and experience with them especially of running modern automated marketing campaigns. “We hired in a lot of new talent in the central marketing group that I was leading. Around 80% of our people were from outside. We deliberately hired people from Google and Amazon and others to help us think differently within the IT organization,” says Keaffaber.
Working agile
The new capabilities were and are developed using agile work practices but the pace of adoption has not been imposed on brands, says Myers. “I am responsible to get the code base into production, but the pace at which the brands choose to adopt that is really up to marketing and that’s worked out really well.”
“We started with one brand and then we started to grow that across all business units. As new capabilities arise we also start with a couple of brands and then scale that as we go. Our newest capability, which is a proprietary automated campaign delivery type of environment, is only with three brands right now, but the plan is to scale that through all brands.”
A focus on data, not technology
Lilly created what it believes is a competitive advantage in its architecture by making it ‘plug and play’, enabling components from the likes of Veeva, Salesforce and others to be integrated. It enabled the business to use proven applications without needing to make new investments, which would have increased cost, complexity and dependence on new partners.
After some failed efforts building capabilities around tools, the strategy of focusing first on data and understanding how to manage it rather than fixating on the technology has proven to be a good strategy, says Myers. “It’s better if you understand your customers and all the things that lead to rules, how you’re using data to then deliver as opposed to thinking ‘what tool am I going to use?’”
Staying ahead with content
Lining up enough content to support these more dynamic and personalized engagements has proven important too, adds Myers. “It is easy to say but not easy to do. Early on we ran an experiment and we were so excited to run this automated campaign. We thought we had really cool stuff but we ran out of content in the middle of the campaign.
“When we went to the agency to say ‘when can we have that next email?’ They said ‘in four to six weeks’. So we’ve had to take a completely different approach to how you build and approve content.”
Writing and approving piecemeal won’t work so the new approach is to create and approve enough content to supply downstream campaigns in full, says Keaffaber. “When the customer hits that node in the business, they’re ready for that content and we’re going to let the customer move through the campaign at their pace as opposed to scheduling them through and so that was another capability that we had to build as well.”