Life Sciences, Platforms, Strategy

Omnichannel Marketing: Keys to Supercharging Your CRM Program (Part 6)

Part Six of MERGE’s seven-part series on omnichannel marketing examines the must-dos for empowering an effective CRM program as part of an overall omnichannel ecosystem

PUBLISHED: 11/21/2023

In today's digital age, organizations in the field of life sciences find themselves at the intersection of cutting-edge research, evolving healthcare ecosystems, and the ever-increasing demand for personalized engagement with patients. And within this dynamic landscape, a well-crafted Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program more or less serves as a cornerstone of a comprehensive omnichannel ecosystem. In many ways, it's the compass that guides an organization’s interactions, enabling teams to not only meet customer needs, but exceed expectations. 

In this article, the MERGE team delves into the pivotal role that an effective CRM program plays in life science marketing and provides actionable insights on how organizations can begin implementing, optimizing, and supercharging this essential customer centric strategy.

Defining CRM and Assessing Maturity

Similar to the overarching idea of an omnichannel marketing ecosystem, everyone seemingly has a different definition of what CRM is and how it should be considered within an overall omnichannel strategy. From our perspective, we see CRM as the system that extends the access of all of your channels, using data as the fiber to enhance audience experience and fuel growth based on your organization's needs.

“It's really the notion of connecting the different platforms and using data in the right way to accomplish your objectives, providing meaningful and personalized content to extend the conversation and move audiences forward,” says Niki Stone, Vice President and Strategy Leader at MERGE.

Assessing maturity level is really the first step when it comes to installing a CRM program that connects all channels and leverages data to support personalized experiences in every interaction. 

At the most basic level, Stone asks, “Are the channels connecting? Is email connecting to the site, or is email connecting to an app in order to extend conversations with customers?” Leading-edge brands such as Netflix, Starbucks, and Amazon have somewhat paved the way for consumer expectations in this regard. In pharma, there are higher regulation and compliance issues that make those expectations more difficult to meet. However, in the consumer's mind, as long as their privacy isn’t at risk, they still expect that connection to be made so they can be led and educated through their  journey seamlessly and without having to repeat steps unnecessarily. 

The next level up, per Stone, is how organizations make the journey for the user simpler and more personalized? Is the organization adding value from the consumer's perspective because they're inferring logic based on the data they're receiving to personalize and enhance the experience for the consumer? If so, a fully integrated CRM program isn’t far from realization.

Stone cites CVS as a case of a brand with an advanced CRM program. According to her, the ability to consistently pull shoppers into the experience in a relevant way - stitching online and digital to offline experiences to extend the conversation is an example of “doing it right.”

“They are not making it hard for me to save on a package,” says Stone. “They're prompting me to use their tool at the right moment as I walk into the store. Whether that's a little bit onerous, I think that comes down to knowing your consumer audience and how far you can push personalized data and experiences. But regardless, they are doing a great job of connecting the dots and making it easy to use all of their applications.”

Understanding Priorities, Identifying Gaps, and Prescribing Solutions

Understanding priorities from a business perspective and pinpointing where the biggest gaps are from the consumer target audience perspective sounds simple enough in practice. For many organizations, however, the process is easier said than done.

“We see a lot of organizations are sort of paralyzed because of all of the competing agendas internally,” says Stone. “That really is often our biggest challenge. Everybody has a different priority because they are often organized in silos.” With this in mind, MERGE invests a lot of energy in building consensus. 

Deriving insights from owned, 1st party data and painting a holistic "current state" picture unified around the consumer is often a starting point to stitch together how competing agendas can have common goals. We’re able to help teams understand how target audiences are engaging throughout the lifecycle of their relationship and across channels to reveal gaps and opportunities in the experience. This helps to lay a foundation to operate as one team, in sync with continuity around the goal to enhance the customer experience. 


A customer centric model becomes the unifying strategy.  

“For several clients, we've taken a proof-of-concept approach, where we understand there are different challenges in place and with knowing those challenges and knowing the mix of priorities across those stakeholders, the proof of concept can help us establish a precedent to show the enterprise, ‘This is how we can take a step forward in a low risk way to demonstrate impact and solve a clear problem.’”

According to Stone, the proof-of-concept approach is effective because it’s agile and customizable based on organizational pain points. It’s not about “boiling the ocean,” but rather prescribing solutions based on needs. For example, if an organization wants to achieve personalization at scale, the proof of concept might be to adapt the newsletter to be more personalized as a minimum viable product (MVP) to test.

“From there, we might even change up the actual asset so that it's modular and iterable based on different segments within our first party data, but at the end of the day, we're testing this approach for a more personalized experience within an MVP space.”

"We may say, ‘Let's take a target segment that we know is going to engage and is statistically valid enough to show us the scale we need.’ And then based on performance with that MVP, we might say, ‘Okay, the concept works and here's how maybe we'll optimize a little bit - let's version to other segments and expand!’ That's just one example, within a proof-of-concept approach, where it's not boiling the ocean. We are simply taking one concept that will show impact and execute it within a short period of time.”

As part of this approach, we also establish getting past the notion of “perfect” knowing that consumer needs are ever evolving. We help clients embrace “progress” when prioritizing.


Helping design experiences that recognize and reinforce that we are working within a dynamic business landscape and that customers are not merely passive recipients of products; they are dynamic individuals with ever-evolving needs and aspirations. With this, we nurture more lasting and meaningful relationships.


The complete omnichannel marketing series is below:

Part One: An Intro to Omnichannel Marketing
Part Two: Mastering the Art of Journey Mapping in Pharma
Part Three: Captivating Customers with Creative Content
Part Four: Making the Most Out Of Media Activation
Part Five: A Deep Dive On Data Capture and Analytics
Part Six: Keys to Supercharging Your CRM Program
Part Seven: Optimizing Your Omnichannel Strategy With Data and Look-alike Models