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Implementing Lean Marketing: Basic Principles To Get Started

Nov 05, 2018 by Photo of 454 Creative454 Creative in Lean Marketing Framework & CEO Coaching

Implementing Lean Marketing: Basic Principles To Get Started

Congratulations on making the first steps to implement Lean Marketing at your organization. We’ve put together this guide as a way to bring clarity to the operating principles and job function for the marketing team. However, these principles have broad benefit to the entire organization and should be implemented cohesively with the leadership team. Learn the system and execute with diligence. Occasionally, omitting a single step can invalidate the entire system.


Create clarity over the specific problem and solve it.
In Lean Marketing, one of our objectives is to connect the dots between inputs (marketing) and outputs (organizational growth). One of the clearest complaints of the C-Suite is that marketing cannot deliver clear guidance on what a marketing investment will yield in return. We have the mandate, the tools and the technology to deliver that data.

We must focus on defining hard problems and solving the most important issues first. Issues need to be openly discussed, looked at from multiple angles and identified as the pressing priority to be solved at that point in time.


Break down huge tasks (EPICS) into bite sized chunks.
The hard thing about hard problems is that they require hard work and discipline to solve. Unfortunately, hard things rarely get solved as many organizations are diverted to fight urgent, non-critical issues that steal our time and attention from the truly important, game changing initiatives. We fight to break down hard, complex tasks into managable, bite sized chunks so that things get done. The primary tool for this is the marketing backlog, also referred to as the “roadmap."


Operate with constraints.
Open ended engagements are fraught with inefficiency and frustration. One of our best constraint inducing tools is the SPRINT. Setting a time constraint forces clarity on budget, scope and team priorities. 

The magic of a sprint is to define the finish line BEFORE we start. Bringing clarity on what needs to be accomplished allows the team to say “no” to every other initiative if it jeopardizes the completion of the defined priorities. Sprints force us to develop our skills in creating accurate time and cost estimates. Over time, we learn the capacity of our team and improve our production efficiency. Sprints help develop a regular rythmn to the discipline of finishing. Make a promise, keep it, rinse and repeat.

Sprints build momentum and momentum is critical to our success.


Everything goes into a system
Start every intiative with a defined team, defined scope, defined timelines, defined assumptions and defined success metrics. The primary tool for this is the project brief and the project management system. We must create visibility and prioritization that lives beyond our headspace or the whiteboard in our office.

  • Use project briefs for every initiative that define the scope, team, timeline, and success metrics.
  • Leverage a project management system to prioritize initiatives and set weekly sprints.

Alignment and optimization require systems. Systems require documentation. Start with the end in mind.


Eliminate waste.
Operate using a Minimal Viable Product (MVP approach). An MVP is a small investment that delivers data and learning back to the team. If the website is identified as the problem, can a new landing page delivered this week be sufficient to test assumptions instead of launching into a 3 month undefined project?

Following Pareto’s Principle, work to find 20% solutions that deliver 80% of the value. Do it over and over again. This iterative learning process yields exponentially quicker and better innovation.

Make it the responsibility of every person in the organization to interrupt the process if the outcome is in question (see Andon Cord). Part our job as a marketing team is to open up visibility on what we are doing and deliver data in real time (or close to it) so that everyone can have healthy, robust discussions and make appropriate decisions.


Kill the idea of “perfect.”
Look for the shortest path from idea to execution. In our environment, there is no perfect. Markets are continually in flux. Technology rapidly changes. Communication channels shift. Competitive environments and user behavior change. A perfect solution today is no longer preferable tomorrow.

Don’t focus on perfect; focus on solving the problem in the simplest way possible. The longer we spend on perfecting a creative deliverable, the longer it takes to validate whether our concept will work at all.

Good/early is preferable to great/on-time or perfect/late.


Let’s redefine GREAT.
Great marketing provides the highest return to our bottom line. Ideally, marketing would be hitting it’s mark when:

  • The organization has great positioning - identifying the right audience that gets the most value from the product offering so that you can charge more than the normal supply/demand pricing curve.
  • The intended target audience matches up with types of leads showing up in the sales cycle
  • A robust customer journey map is tracked and optimizations are being used to compress the sales cycle
  • Campaign costs are tracked and a system is in place that works to reduce Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and/or accelerate sales growth
  • Customer engagement teams and product teams are working together to increase Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are delivered to the team in real time.  This information enables the team to make quality decisions on how to steer the organization to profitable growth and success.

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