Marketing has a New Lean Diet

Posted on October 5, 2012 by


Image via FlickrIn today’s economic climate, it’s not uncommon for organizations to drastically cut their marketing budgets in an effort to improve their bottom line. And yet, during this fiscal downturn, the need is even more prevalent to reach consumers, improve branding and broaden market shares. Marketing staff must find ways to identify opportunities in both new and existing markets by using resources in smarter ways; in other words, by applying Lean Thinking.

Many marketing professionals fail to realize that marketing is a ‘process’ and one that needs to be managed from beginning to end. Those familiar with Lean methodologies understand that the same framework used in IT and manufacturing can be applied to marketing as well.

Lean Application and Implications

Before any organization can use Lean strategies, the basic implications and methodology must be understood by all team members. Here are several of the key concepts for today’s Lean Marketer.

Lean Culture

A Lean culture understands the value of its customers. It continually strives to offer great value back to the customer through a creation and development process that has zero waste. Eliminating waste along all marketing channels, not just at isolated points, creates processes that require less capital and resources, and less time to develop fully-realized campaigns. Organizations are then able to respond to varying customer needs with high quality and low cost messaging.

Lean in the Big Picture

Contrary to popular belief, a Lean, customer-driven approach to marketing is not in direct opposition to bigger, innovative ideas. One need only look at some of the biggest entrepreneurs in the country to see just how effective incorporating Lean methods are in driving a big vision.

Start-ups would be wise to adopt this approach in their business. Instead of focusing on whether their big idea is big enough, new businesses should instead focus on what type of problem they’re trying to solve. Whether the problem is highly complex without aid of a precedent, or a recognizable problem with proof points, identifying it first means being better able to assess the tools and framework to be used in creating solutions.

The Lean Process

Unlike some business processes which have clearly defined beginning and end points, the Lean process is a never-ending cycle of constant communication and improvement of the message. Some key milestones in the Lean process as it relates to marketing are:

  • Offer training to provide new skills to the Sales & Marketing team
  • Conduct an in depth evaluation in order to understand the psychology behind customer buying habits
  • Provide a thorough analysis of competition, benchmarking and market trends
  • Develop compelling brand stories that convey organizational core messaging
  • Define and continually evaluate metrics and find ways of process improvement

Lean Customers

A critical concept in Lean strategies is being intimately involved with your customer’s needs – therefore any approach to a Lean process should start by defining value from the customer’s point of view. In terms of marketing, how best can you get your message across that aligns with buyer consciousness, and how can you deliver it with no resources wasted.

Here are some specific ways a sales and marketing team can apply Lean strategies in their campaigns:

Record the marketing & sales process. Every step of getting the marketing message across and eventually closing a sale should be fully documented. This written process can then be re-evaluated with the intent of refining creative conversions.

Create a playbook. From your initial documented sales & marketing process, build a road map for all team players to follow, yet continuously look for roadways that carry less risk and capital expenditure.

Implement Definable Metrics. Marketing & media campaigns aim at consumer awareness and the sharing of information. These are what some would call cognitive dimensions and they are by nature somewhat difficult to measure, but metrics must be defined in order to track impact per exposure.

While Lean’s application had its origins in manufacturing, the principals can be implemented successfully in a marketing space as well. The fundamentals of re-assessing all capabilities and resources from a customer standpoint while mapping a sales value stream can ensure an organization’s incremental gross margin on sales.

Ryan Sauer is a writer and editor for University Alliance in association with Bisk Education. He covers topics such as project management training, manufacturing methodologies, and software development. Through the University Alliance, Ryan strives to help professionals succeed in passing their PMP certification exam.