Lean Marketing: What the fuss is all about.

by Jun 28, 2016Other, Strategy0 comments

“There is no reason to guestimate marketing campaign results with the technology that we have today.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: If you missed our Lean Marketing Seminars at Invest Ottawa, and were wondering what the fuss was all about, then this article is for you.

Lean marketing. Another buzzword? Perhaps. But it’s an emerging business rational, popularized by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup (2011), that’s certainly no fad. It’s here to stay.

Maybe you’re already familiar with Lean Marketing. You’ve probably put some of these ideas to good use. If so, great! But it’s important as small business owners (and members of large organizations) to embody this concept. I’ll get to “why” in a second, but first, let’s discuss the “what”:

What is lean marketing all about?

Lean marketing is all about being lean. It’s about doing more with less. In other words, being as efficient as possible with your resources to achieve the maximum effect.

To get more specific, lean marketing concerns itself with eliminating wasteful practices, or ones that aren’t providing you with certain returns. As such, lean marketing is very result-oriented. If you aren’t able to measure the success of a marketing activity, then the argument is that you shouldn’t waste your time, money or energy on it.

"If you aren’t able to measure the success of a marketing activity, then the argument is that you shouldn’t waste your time, money or energy on it."

As a small business owner, you should be very concerned about eliminating wasteful marketing practices because you might have the energy, but you don’t have the time or money to throw at on things that don’t work.

The lean start-up model is as follows: Build – Measure – Improve – Repeat and the same applies for lean marketing. You build your campaign, you measure it, then you improve your efforts based on the results. And this cycle repeats.

Executing vs. planning:

The lean model encourages businesses to just do it, as Nike would say, rather than spend precious time planning. Because lean marketing is very results-focused, it doesn’t support the idea of doing marketing research and writing plans. Instead, it recognizes that the only real data you can rely on is real data. And the only way to obtain real data (Measure) is to execute (Build) your campaign.

Although I might be partial to planning and strategizing (being the marketing strategist that I am), I totally get this idea of executing over planning. Far too often, entrepreneurs will get stuck in the planning phase. I was one of them.

The fact is that you learn far more concretely and actionably by doing than by preparing to do it. This is called “validated learning”. For example, through research you can learn everything there is to know about the semantics of discount offers, but you will never know how many customers will redeem them, until you give it a try. Just do it.

The minimum viable product:

Another key component of the lean model is the minimum viable product, or MVP. Basically, an MVP is a product or service that only includes the features that will enable you to learn whether your product is viable or not. Everything else is extraneous.

Let’s say I want to sell ties online. I could also very easily sell a number of similar accessories like bowties, cuff links, collar stays, etc. I could also have some neat features on the site that enable prospective buyers to preview how their tie looks with a given suit colour or shirt style before they make the purchase…

The fact is, I can think up a number of different things that my site COULD have, but this wouldn’t be MVP. Besides, if I were to include all of these features, I would need to do a lot of planning, which goes against what was said in the previous section.

First, I need to learn whether there is demand for ties online before going crazy adding all of these extraneous features and product lines. All I need for my business idea to be MVP is to build the bare minimum - the essentials that enable data collection, from which I can validate whether this idea is viable or not. This means only offering a few popular styles of ties initially and setting up a basic e-commerce store.

The MVP approach is especially important for startups and large companies that are launching a new product. Here’s why:

Why you too should be lean.

More and more established businesses are going lean, because traditional marketing can be wasteful or uncertain. For example, it’s very difficult to measure the success of a radio ad. E-mail marketing reports, on the other hand, can tell you if your efforts are worth your while. The fact is, that marketing should no longer be hit or miss. In fact, it is quickly becoming the most accountable business function.

Naturally, being lean requires data-driven marketing. There is no reason to guestimate marketing campaign results with the technology that we have today. We can target niche segments of an already targeted audience, test the effect that changing one component of an ad has on the conversion rate… All this without a laboratory and market research specialists in white lab coats!

The advantages of adopting a lean marketing approach:

It's less expensive.
It’s far less expensive to build a product or service that has minimal features. Consider the example of the ties. The difference between a minimal solution and one with a few more bells and whistles can be thousands of dollars.
You minimize risk.
Because lean marketing is far more cost-effective and results-oriented than traditional approaches, it is also far less risky. Losing the $2000 to learn that an idea is not viable isn’t a big deal. On the other hand, losing $200,000 to learn the same thing is. You see this all the time on shows like Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank. “...I’ve spent my life savings on this idea. I’ve remortgaged my house!” They certainly didn’t take a lean approach and usually don’t get the investment they came looking for.
You speed up time the to market.
It takes far less time to launch a product that has the fewest features possible. Being the first to market can be a great advantage for startups with great ideas.
Only invest in what works.
When you adopt a lean marketing focus, you stop wasting resources on marketing that isn’t measurable and doesn’t provide results. This way, you’re only investing in what works.

So, really… Why wouldn’t you go lean?

To recap

Lean marketing is about doing more with less. It’s about maximizing your investment and eliminating wasteful marketing practices that don’t provide measurable results.

Don’t over plan, rather execute your idea and use this validated learning to refine your marketing approach.

Remember the MVP. Launch the most barebones version of your business and only add bells and whistles over time when its proven to be viable.

The reasons why you should go lean:

  1. Less expensive
  2. Minimize risk
  3. Speed up time to market
  4. Only invest in what works

Meet the author.

Taro Abarbanel-Uemura

Marketing Strategist

Meet Fortified Marketing's founder and lead marketing consultant. Taro loves reading fascinating articles on various marketing-related subjects, just as much as he enjoys writing about them. When he isn’t savouring a latte while working on his newest blog post, he can be found at a coffee shop in Ottawa's Little Italy, or marathoning shows and documentaries on Netflix.

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