Lean has been a hype word for manufacturing and startups for years now. It’s not just a hype, it works. Lean marketing is a way to achieve sustainable growth in your business rather than just a one-off good campaign. It reaches all the way from your business goals to a single ad. That’s right, it is the link from you boardroom decisions all the way to an everyday tactical decision.

It allows fast learning while producing results, putting the customer first and eliminating waste of resources. It has been inspired by the lean startup framework and lean management principles. Still, it’s a framework of its own. Taking the best and leaving the rest from both methodologies.

The carrying principle is learning what works and investing in it, as well as cutting out what doesn’t work. This is how you can find the most “bang for your buck” whilst learning about your customers.

Over the last 3 years, this framework has been perfected and has had its acid test when used with international growth companies and enterprises. Now it’s time you get to know all about it as well.

Your business goal guides everything in lean marketing

Everything starts with your business goals since the framework is completely business-driven. Your goal can be to grow revenue on a certain market, to get better profitability in another, to find a new customer segment or something else. This has to be known when starting out. Everything that you do after this will be reflected back to this main goal at that moment.

Planning from the top down from your business goals all the way down through the marketing function, strategy, tactics, campaigns, and marketing assets such as content makes sure that everything is linked and reflect the main goals of the business.

Nothing gets done without asking: “How does this benefit our main goal?”. Learning flows from the small scale to bigger scale. You get micro learnings from a single blog post or an ad and it’s fed up the chain bringing bigger picture macro learnings. The learnings fuel future planning.

The lean marketing process

The process is the same on each level: planning, execution, measurement, analysis and then planning based on the analysis.

No sprinting! But are we there yet?

Lean and agile are often seen as similar. Agile processes have sprints and people often want to bring those to marketing. Sprints are quick pushes for results. They are a great way to create but challenging when you want to interact and learn. There’s no point of deciding that we will have results in two weeks when the people you’re interacting with, with your marketing, have no idea of this schedule.

Instead of sprint meetings, it’s important to have “are we there yet” moments. In these, you are looking at what has happened in the metrics and whether we can make decisions to improve based on this. If not, we continue until the next checkup.

When to check, when to report and when to react?

On an ad or campaign level, you may in the beginning, review performance daily and do micro adjustments whereas on a tactical level the review can be weekly, reporting may be biweekly and reacting to the results may be monthly. You will find the way that fits for you by trying.

Depending on whether the process is being utilized on a strategy level or on an ad testing level, the speed of a full cycle will be different.

The point isn’t to just move as fast as possible but as fast as possible with confidence. Micro adjustments happen rapidly on a channel or ad level (marketing assets) and macro adjustments, such as strategy, should happen less often. This why, as seen above, the micro level process goes faster.

Working with a marketing funnel

Whether you think the sales and marketing funnel is old school or not, many use it and it works. Here’s a representation of lean marketing in practice at a tactical level with regards to the marketing funnel.

In practice, the idea is to learn and optimize in the same order as the recipient experiences your marketing.

Getting started

More than a strategy, lean marketing is a mindset that gets you saying: “Whatever we do, I want to know how we can make it better in the future”. If you’re starting from scratch you can implement this framework to your business’ marketing right away. If you already have marketing functions that you want to improve, I recommend testing this with a single campaign to get the feel for it. Then expand from there.

About the Author

Juha Pihkakoski is a marketer, an entrepreneur and an adventurer. He works on creating new ways of doing business-driven marketing and innovating the ways client-provider-relationships are built in the field of marketing. His background consists of almost a decade of tactical and strategic marketing in and with growth companies expanding to international markets.