Lean “marketing” methodology: why your team needs to adopt it

It’s time for your marketing team to get lean! No, I’m not talking about a new fitness routine or diet regimen. I’m referring to an approach to marketing that will save you time, money, and deliver proven results at scale.

Today, it seems like so many marketing teams are running different versions of the same old strategies. Although new ideas are always exciting, they can quickly be risky and expensive. So, I see lots of marketers playing it safe instead.

Don’t get me wrong; there are definitely plenty of marketing teams out there that are taking risks. Sometimes those decisions pay off, many other times they don’t.

But not every business has the budget to take chances on a new campaign or strategy that might be a dud. That’s why you should try out the lean marketing methodology. It can help you get creative and try new ideas while limiting risk.

What is lean marketing?

You might be familiar with the lean startup methodology, developed by Eric Ries. His concept was my inspiration for lean marketing.

Think about the way a tech startup company validates its business. They start with an MVP (minimum viable product) to test an idea, product, or service. Then they get users to provide feedback for those tests and use the information to improve their products before going to market.

This helps reduce risk and limits the exposure for startups during the early stages of development.

You can apply this same concept to your marketing strategy. Instead of diving headfirst into a costly and time-consuming campaign, you should run tests and validate your hypothesis before you get started.

Simply put, lean marketing is basically the same concept as the lean startup methodology but applied to your marketing department.

Sure, most of you are already running extensive tests on your campaigns. However, the lean approach is a more cost-effective and low-risk way to test and scale more campaigns.

Why does this approach work?

The structure of your marketing department obviously needs an organizational hierarchy, but that doesn’t mean the head of the marketing department should be the only one coming up with new ideas and deciding which ones to execute.

Lean marketing is effective because it allows you to empower your marketing team by encouraging your employees to come up with new ideas. However, lean marketing takes generating ideas one step further.

In addition to their regular tasks, your employees test these ideas on their own. As long as it doesn’t interfere with their daily assignments, they can do this while they’re working. Companies such as HubSpot have been successful implementing this methodology in their company culture.

Validation with real numbers is the key to lean marketing. Does your staff really want to do extra work on top of their current responsibilities?

From my experience, they are happy to as long as you let them work on their own ideas. Research shows that giving employees added responsibility and decision ownership increases their motivation and productivity.

Basically, people who execute their own ideas are going to be much more enthusiastic compared to those who work on someone else’s ideas.

Get more new ideas to market faster

Traditionally, marketing departments take one idea, then test it as a team before deciding whether to scale it. If you think about it, that’s a huge bottleneck.

Rather than having 10 people test one idea, each person can independently focus on their own ideas (that they are more passionate about). Will everyone’s ideas be validated? Probably not.

That’s the beauty of lean marketing. You can afford to test hypotheses that might not work because you’re not allocating all of your resources to fund that idea, costing you nothing outside of the regular wages for each employee.

If your entire marketing department spends six months running tests that ultimately reject the initial hypothesis, it can be a crushing blow to your company. If you’re testing 10 ideas simultaneously in addition to your main marketing department initiatives, it’s no big deal if half of them don’t work out.

You can even create a small team around the working strategies that can scale and let the employee who came up with the initial idea lead the project moving forward.

Final thoughts

There are so many up-and-comers who are eager to shine. They have great ideas but often aren’t being given the opportunity to turn them into campaigns or initiatives that are carried through to fruition.

Give the lean marketing methodology a try. Let your employees test their ideas in the way they want to, so you can focus on higher level decision making. Worst case scenario, if their ideas don’t work, you’ll lose nothing.

And if they do prove results, you can simply allocate more resources to those strategies knowing that you’ll have higher chance of getting an ROI.

Neil Patel is cofounder of Neil Patel Digital and coauthor of Hustle


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