A few years ago, everything had to be lean and the word was as ubiquitous as artificial intelligence and crypto currency are now. Although some of the hype around lean management, lean marketing and lean startups has died off, the idea of lean was by no means a passing trend. Nowadays it’s just assumed that companies have adopted the lean principle.
Lean as it’s meant to be
All my career I have done marketing in fields where projects were carried through using the lean methodology or lean startup model. Any which way you toss these words around, the core idea remains the same:
- Make things as efficiently and productively as possible,
- learn quickly what works and what doesn’t
- and adapt with agility.
A method for the entire company – not just for one operation
I learned this method from other industries and applied it to everything our company does. Not just marketing but everything. Minimizing waste, maximizing results and making sure that everyone can effortlessly do what is most important.
In other words, removing obstacles and not just concentrating on making everyone a high-performance part of the machine. This means processes, automation, people-centered thinking and ways of doing.
Not cheap or expensive but productive
Lean is often described as cost-efficient, and that it is. However, cost-effectiveness doesn’t mean it’s cheap or expensive; it means that you will get more out of what you invest – so, more bang for your buck, as they say.
Lean marketing as Aboad and its clients use it
There are various definitions for lean marketing. Therefore, I will rather describe the approach that we have transitioned from theory to practice in a way that suits us.
The process has a heavy focus on planning that generates action. The first round concentrates on the end customer and how they are communicated with and encountered in the digital world.
This means first forming ways of targeting the customer and creating a customer journey map, and only after that thinking about suitable channels. In addition, we need to decide what to measure and how.
Later we will adapt and tweak the approach as we learn from the results.
Planning is what companies usually do well, although it doesn’t always carry over into the actual doing. It is something that people often want to rush, and even though getting things done efficiently is recommended, there’s no point in sacrificing quality for speed.
This usually involves most work but rarely more than 60% of the entire workload. Well-considered planning helps the execution phase whether we’re dealing with an ongoing process or a one-off job.
While the execution phase follows the plan, adjustments are possible if we are faced with surprises. It’s hard to account for everything in advance on the first round. Therefore, marketing needs to be more like leather pants than jeans – designed to be sturdy but offer flexibility when needed without breaking.
Especially with Finnish companies, execution is often strong. After all, we are a nation of doers. However, it’s a good thing to keep in mind that execution in marketing is constant development, not just a one-time deal.
When we are doing something, we also need to get real quantitative data about it. Measuring is often conducted using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are chosen according to your business. Usually 3–5 KPIs are enough; for management reporting even fewer are needed.
The aim is to follow how things develop, in general, and concentrate on deviations, in particular, if encountered. This will then give numerical data for reporting.
It seems to vary a lot how companies utilize measuring. Often different things are being measured or the measurement software is there, but no one follows the KPIs or they have not been defined in detail.
Analysis is often just asking the right questions based on received numbers. This is the phase when we search the measured data and earlier operations for causes and effects and, based on them, try to find ways to further develop the marketing operations so that we can continue moving on the circle.
The purpose of the analysis is not only to get information to support marketing but the entire business, too.
Analysis is often neglected in companies, and this is because they haven’t defined what they want to know and how to measure it.
And then what?
The picture really tells it all – the aim is that the process continues to go through these phases. The plan is updated based on what is learned, the changes are executed, meters are fine-tuned or measuring is just continued as it is and then everything is analyzed once more.
The hardest part might be the non-lean world
Once you have adopted lean thinking as part of your marketing, it can easily spread to other parts of your business. That would be a desirable outcome. After all, the idea is very intuitive and simple:
- plan what to do
- do it
- see what happens
- examine why and what can be made of it
You are likely to face challenges when working with companies or businesses that are not very lean. At least you will need patience, but, luckily, lean processes can adapt to ensure that your profitability won’t suffer.
Lean marketing contributes to profitable business
While other marketing methodologies have borrowed ideas from software development, lean marketing has an undisputed advantage over them. As a form of marketing, it has all the possibilities to contribute to the success of your business as it works in harmony with it. The same logic goes for business in general, and this is where the model has its origins.
In marketing, this model aims at being the backbone of all operations from individual ads to long-term strategies.
Do you want to know more about lean marketing and how to get your marketing operations lean? Send me a message and we’ll talk more.