Are you tired of your marketing efforts not driving results?
We understand your frustration. What can you do when you’re not getting the most out of your marketing budget or seeing any tangible growth?
Imagine having a marketing approach that reduces waste and accelerates growth. It’s possible, and we have proof. Lean marketing might just be the solution you’re looking for.
But you have questions! Will it work? How will your team adapt? Can you get buy-in from everyone involved?
In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more. You’ll learn what Lean Marketing is, why it’s beneficial, how to do it, and the benefits and risks involved.
Plus, we’ll show you how we’ve used Lean Marketing to drive growth and success for our clients. By the end of this article, you’ll clearly understand how to execute Lean Marketing and see actual results for your business.
Alright, so that’s a solid definition. But, instead of just telling you what lean marketing is, I’ll show you how we at Lean Labs implement a lean marketing approach. You don’t need a sprawling 100-page business plan. But you do need a framework.
We love the saying, “If you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know your business.” But what does that really mean? Which numbers? How do you know the numbers you need to track and measure?
Understanding Lean Marketing
There are a couple of places we can look to find the word ‘lean’ when it comes to business methodology. First, we can look at ‘The Toyota Way.’
The Toyota Way is a set of guiding principles and behaviors that guide the way Toyota operates. The famous vehicle manufacturer uses their philosophy of continuous improvement (called Kaizen) to produce what is needed, when it’s needed, and in the amount it’s needed.
The two pillars of The Toyota Way are continuous improvement and respect for people.
- Continuous improvement: Ongoing improvement of all aspects of business operations, processes, products, and people.
- Respect for people: Treating employees, suppliers, and customers with respect by fostering a culture of teamwork and collaboration.
You might be familiar with these principles. But even if you’re not, can you see how they might guide your business and improve your operations?
The Lean Startup
Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup, embraced the principles of The Toyota Way and adapted them for the world of entrepreneurship and startups. The Lean Startup concept helps startups to develop and launch products more efficiently and effectively.
With minimal resources, startups have to find a way to maximize what they have. By embracing the lean methodology, startups can create a minimum viable product (MVP), test it with customers, and use customer feedback to refine and improve their products.
It allows startups to quickly iterate and pivot their business model in response to actual customer feedback and changing markets.
Is Lean Marketing Different from Traditional Marketing?
In short, yes.
Traditional marketing focuses on planning for a product launch and executing campaigns based on assumptions and past experiences. Teams plan campaigns months in advance, often with large budgets, and execute, hoping for success.
In contrast, lean marketing is iterative and data-driven. Instead of assuming or hoping that a campaign will be successful, lean marketing focuses on testing and validating assumptions through small campaigns that rely heavily on customer feedback.
What about other approaches? Many marketing approaches are similar, albeit with nuanced differences.
For example, growth, agile, and lean marketing prioritize growth and a customer-centric approach.
Flexibility and adaptability are essential, but agile marketing focuses more on pivoting when market conditions change, whereas lean marketing emphasizes continuous improvement and reducing waste over time.
Growth marketing focuses on experimentation and optimization to achieve growth. The goal is to identify what’s working and what isn’t. Then double down or pivot. Iterative marketing also emphasizes optimization and can be applied to traditional marketing campaigns.
You can see the similarities and differences. The big picture shows that data should inform decision-making, campaigns should deliver measurable results, and marketing teams must commit to ongoing optimization and improvement.
The Key Principles of Lean Marketing
Before we explore the elements of lean marketing and how we implement them at Lean Labs, here are some guiding principles.
#1: Focus on value for your customer: Your customers are your best marketers. You’re on the right track if you deliver massive value and create an exceptional customer experience. You’ll need to understand your customers’ needs, desires, and challenges to create products they want that you can easily market.
#2: Continuous experimentation and improvement: Commit to using data and not being afraid of testing or experimentation. Try different marketing strategies and identify what works and what doesn’t.
#3: Reducing waste in marketing processes: Reduce costs and increase ROI by eliminating waste and inefficiencies in your marketing efforts.
#4: Embracing data-driven decision-making: Use data to drive decision-making. You’ll collect and analyze data, decide on the metrics you need to track, and use insights to help test and validate your assumptions.
#5: Work in sprints: Work in short, focused bursts of activity. You’ll break down projects or campaigns, and cross-functional teams work to complete a specific set of tasks or deliverables.
#6: Launch and test MVP assets: Instead of spending six months building marketing assets that nobody wants, launch and test MVPs to quickly validate assumptions and get customer feedback before investing significant resources.
How We Implement Lean Marketing in Practice
Lean marketing puts the customer at the center of our marketing efforts. Our first question for all our clients is, how do you help your customers win? If their customers succeed, the business wins.
The best way to drive marketing ROI is to use real customer stories to show prospects that your product can solve their problems.
How do you know what your customers need? It takes a little bit of imagination and a lot of feedback. For example, you can create a buyer persona. Let’s say you want to help small businesses manage their payroll services more efficiently. Who would your ideal customer be?
- Small business owners struggling to manage payroll on their own
- Wants to ensure they’re compliant with tax laws
- Needs help managing Workers’ Compensation, Retirement Plans, and H.R. processes
Now you know who you’re marketing to, you can build a solution and market it effectively. You can come up with a solution that sets you apart from competitors. Maybe it’s that you focus on exceptional customer service because you know that’s what small business owners need.
Taking the Lead
Our clients rely on our expertise. We know what works, and we have proof. We leverage proven playbooks to drive consistent results. That doesn’t mean there won’t be pushback. Just like healthy disagreements that lead to improvements push your team forward, we welcome challenging thoughts and ideas from our clients.
We’re responsive to customer needs. But, we ensure that we focus on the one true metric that every business should work towards; Growth.
If you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know your business.
Think about that for a second. It’s not a flippant remark. If you don’t have a handle on and a good understanding of your numbers, how do you know what to do next?
Using data to guide your next move is the best way to know if it’s the right one. Here are a couple of examples we use depending on our goals:
- Conduct A/B testing:: Try two versions of the same marketing element, such as subject lines or ad copy, to determine which performs better. Make data-driven decisions based on the results.
- Utilizing customer data for personalized marketing: Using data such as purchase history, demographics, and behavior, you can target marketing campaigns to increase sales and engagement.
- Optimize website design and user experience: Use website analytics to identify which pages are performing well and which need improvement. Adapt the website design and user experience to improve engagement and conversion.
These are just some high-level examples. With a tool like HubSpot, we can go deeper.
To piggyback off the last section, collecting data because you think it’s the right thing to do is pointless. You have to use that data. It should inform your decisions. However, don’t just blindly follow the data. Dig into it and identify the high-impact actions you can take to improve.
It Takes a Mindset Shift
Traditional marketing sounds like this: “This is the campaign, this is how long it will take, and these are the results we think you’ll get.” We believe there needs to be a shift from campaigns to continuous optimization. Strategies are robust; they can be flexible.
Let’s say we’re building a website for a client. At Lean Labs, we use a Growth-Driven design methodology to create and optimize websites that convert. Without getting into the details (if you want the details, click here), we
- Develop a comprehensive website strategy that serves as a blueprint for the website design
- Create a ‘Launch Pad’ version of the website–so we can launch a website in 60-70 days instead of four to six months
- And then…
Continuous improvement. At this stage, we revisit the original wishlist of the client, dive into user data, and continuously iterate on the website until it’s a high-conversion growth tool instead of an online brochure.
Agile is a great word, don’t you think? It makes me think of a gymnast, able to adapt and change direction in midair. Able to move quickly and correct their course. And in marketing, we use the word agile to describe a method of project management that allows us to adapt rapidly and frequently.
It’s too easy to say, “the market is always changing.” I’m sure you’ve heard that many times in the last decade. But it’s true that the B2B SaaS industry is growing at an incredible rate, and to keep up; we need to constantly come up with new ways to market products and services.
At Lean Labs, speed is king. Not speed that sacrifices quality, but we can’t test without moving quickly. If we can’t test, we can’t improve. And if we can’t improve, we’re not agile.
An Agile Approach
At Lean Labs, we work in sprints. Our work is collaborative and built on communication, from the marketing team to designers and developers. We can manage complex projects and ensure everyone works towards the same goals.
We plan everything, from website redesigns to content marketing campaigns, based on data, communication with our clients, and a commitment to driving quarter-on-quarter growth. We huddle frequently, and we report on growth metrics to ensure we’re doing what we say we will.
Which metrics do we track? Check it out: The 6 Growth Marketing Metrics Every Business Needs to Track (& How to Track)
When you can do more with less, you can avoid waste. Lean marketers optimize their resources to achieve results, which leads to efficient operations and marketing ROI (the Holy Grail).
You’ve got to be ruthless and eliminate any activities that don’t add value to marketing efforts. There are various examples of marketing waste:
- Producing masses of content without first knowing exactly who you’re creating content for
- Using inefficient systems and processes to get work done
- Poor communication leads to duplicate efforts
- Spending too much on paid advertising and lead generation without having a watertight sales funnel and strategy
The list goes on. It’s too easy to waste resources without realizing it.
At Lean Labs, every task we complete has a time estimate. The more we stay within those time estimates, the easier it is to know what it costs to produce quality results and marketing ROI. Our clients know we hustle to get results, and our work speaks for itself.
If something isn’t working? We’re not afraid to pivot. We use rapid experiments (not hacks) to test a hypothesis; if it doesn’t work, we shift. Our commitment as a growth team is to help businesses scale growth profitably. A lean, agile approach is the cornerstone of that commitment.
Collaboration and Teamwork
You can’t be an agile team without collaboration and communication. Lack of collaboration only leads to silos. With a lack of communication, marketing, product development, sales, and customer service, gaps form between teams, and customers fall through the cracks.
In traditional business models, teams work entirely separately. Marketing hands leads to Sales without a second thought, and once they make a sale, it’s up to customer service to support customers.
At Lean Labs, our entire team is cross-functional. The team meets regularly to discuss goals, KPIs, and how campaigns are running. As a marketer, I know what the design team is working on because we closely align on projects.
Our CEO is in the trenches with us. Not ruling from afar. He’s in all the meetings and captains the ship to ensure we’re moving in the right direction.
The Tools We Use to Implement Lean Marketing
The Growth Grader
We use the Growth Grader, our diagnostic tool, to assess our marketing efforts. Where are our clients excelling? Where do they need to focus improvement efforts? Where are they vulnerable?
This tool allows us to identify what’s causing friction in the buyer journey and strategize to eliminate it. We identify the metrics we need to improve, track the right KPIs, and find opportunities to drive growth
P.S. this is a free tool that you can use, too! Here’s the link.
HubSpot is our CRM platform. But it’s so much more. It’s also a Content Management System, a sales platform, and customer service software that provides a full suite of tools to attract, engage, and delight customers.
We use it to manage campaigns, build websites, manage and communicate with customers, and execute powerful marketing strategies. It’s a complete solution that allows us to manage our sales pipeline and analyze all the metrics we track for clients.
Want to see if HubSpot is a good fit for your business? Book a no-obligation call to chat with us today.
Lean Marketing Challenges and Solutions
1. Resistance to Change
Anytime you look to change how your team is used to doing things, you’ll get some kickback. People are either stuck in their ways (“This is how we’ve always done it”) or afraid to change because it might not work. So you’ll have to manage change.
- Identify the need for change
- Develop a plan to bring about change
- Communicate every step of the way
When you get buy-in from stakeholders and your team, lean marketing can be successful. Without a team that collaborates and communicates effectively, a lean marketing approach won’t work.
2. Fear that Something Will Break
You’ll need to foster a culture of experimentation and testing. It might be difficult in organizations that are risk-averse or that have a rigid, hierarchical structure. To overcome this, support your teams to take risks and encourage agility.
For example, my CEO tasked me with actioning a strategy I wasn’t familiar with. I had the knowledge, but I was afraid to take action in case I broke something. Do you know what he did? He told me I had permission to break three things.
My fears of breaking something didn’t come to fruition but having the confidence of my CEO to experiment and pivot made all the difference.
3. Data Collection and Analysis
Another potential challenge to overcome is that you’ll need to collect and analyze data continuously. It might take considerable time and resources, but this investment is critical to making informed decisions and optimizing marketing efforts.
You can simplify data collection and analysis with tools and technologies, and you can work to create a data-driven culture that values data-driven decision-making.
4. Maintaining a Cohesive Brand
A final challenge is balancing the need for agility and flexibility with consistency and brand identity. A solution to this problem is to develop clear brand guidelines and messaging that you can adapt to different channels and audiences.
Also, you can develop processes and workflows that allow you to adapt quickly to market changes while maintaining brand consistency.
Lean Marketing Accelerates Results
You now know how to start transitioning to a lean marketing approach. You know what it is and how to execute it successfully. But as everyone knows, knowledge without action is useless.
To accelerate growth and reduce waste, you must continuously improve your marketing strategies, embrace data-driven decision-making, and rapidly experiment with new ideas. Lean marketing works. We see it every day.
Of course, you don’t have to do all of this in-house. Outsourcing your marketing efforts to an experienced Growth Team might be a safer, more profitable bet. What do you get when you work with Lean Labs?
- A Hybrid Growth Team that works alongside your growth leaders to fill strategic, technical, and creative gaps.
- Data-driven strategies. If your page or offer isn’t performing, we pivot to something that will.
- A full-funnel approach to marketing that thinks beyond traffic and leads and maximizes ROI.
I can go on. But instead of telling you, I’d love to show you!
Unlock the Growth Playbook today and discover how we do things for our clients. If you want to drive success, this is the playbook you need.