What Lean Management Does for Digital Marketing
It isn’t easy to see the connecting fibres between a management methodology (one that originated in the manufacturing industry, no less) and a digital marketing strategy. And yet the concepts of lean business management can be easily adapted to digital marketing to help drive better results while limiting resources needed.
What is lean management? Lean management is an approach to running a business that seeks continuous improvement. Applied as a long-term method, lean management involves making incremental changes within an organization while monitoring the impact on the end-results. In lean thinking, changes that result in improved outcomes are kept while changes that fail to improve outcomes are rejected.
Lean thinking became a fully realized concept in the 1990s, and its origin is mostly attributed to the Japanese automotive company Toyota, where it was used to aid in the construction of their vehicles. Good ideas, however, are often versatile. Once broken down to its individual parts, it becomes easy to see how lean thinking can improve almost any kind of business, and the value that it holds in many scenarios. In this article, we will look at how lean management principles can be applied to online marketing.
A Lean Digital Marketing Course: Sports Edition
To illustrate the value of lean thinking in multiple aspects of business, imagine yourself as the head coach of a CFL team. Imagine that the team didn’t do well last season, and you’ve been reminded by shareholders and fans that your responsibility in this business is to ensure that your team is a top contender among its competition. In this analogy:
- Your team is the brand that you’re trying to represent in the best way possible, and
- Your players are the means by which you showcase that brand (i.e. each player represents a different marketing effort)
You might have noticed that these CFL team concepts are identical to the advertising needs of a business. Currently, you have a wide selection of players for the coming season, each of whom has their own talents, but you don’t have the time or budget to train and keep all of them, and there’s a very real risk that they may not work well with your play style at all. You can’t just have any players wearing your team’s colours; this is the big leagues, and the competition is brutal. You need to cut the chaff and make sure that your remaining players are at peak performance. This is where the lean process comes in. As a coach, you would apply lean thinking to select which players would get playing time and which players need to be cut.
You will find the steps of lean management to be identical to our lean marketing strategy in all but context. When lean thinking is applied to online marketing, you must select which marketing channels (whether that be which social media, PPC ads, or SEO) are most worth it for your business. When it comes to lean marketing, when deciding which marketing efforts to keep or cut, it is crucial to ask the question: which digital marketing efforts are adding value?
Step 1: Discover what creates value in your process
What is important to the end customer? To a coach, this is the easiest question imaginable. Thousands of screaming and cheering fans make it clear when value has been produced, and that comes from winning games and representing your region well. Those fans, of course, are your end customer, since their satisfaction leads to the financial success of the franchise. The thing that creates this value is your coaching and your player’s talent. Without a coach, a team stands no chance against its competition. And, without talented players that work cohesively, even the best of coaches may find it difficult to see results.
For a digital marketer, value is created by exposing your brand positively to a large audience. In digital marketing, the company and its shareholders are the end customer, and marketing is the process that creates value to the company through numerous marketing efforts. In this analogy, each marketing effort can be described as a different player with different skills that can help the team to success. It is the marketing agency, acting the part of a coach, that must coordinate all marketing efforts to promote the same core messaging and branding across all marketing platforms. This, in turn, will help with brand memorability, ultimately leading to more sales for your business!
What creates value for your business depends on your digital marketing goals. Do you want to increase website traffic? In-store sales? Followers on social media? For a marketing effort to add value, it needs to help you meet your end-goals. Asking whether a process creates value is foundational to lean thinking, because improving that process is how we help you succeed.
Step 2: Eliminate steps that don’t contribute to that value
Look over every part of the value-creating process. If something doesn’t aid in generating that value, remove it. As a coach, this is when the cuts are made. Players that don’t synergize well with the team, lack the talent for the big leagues, or don’t gel with your team’s style of play are going home. These cuts also include things that waste the team’s time and money, like expensive catering, media events, and unhelpful training methods. You want your coaching process to be as free of interference and unnecessary steps as possible. Of course, the emotional well-being of your team does contribute to value, which complicates this step quite a bit. Thankfully, we are digital marketers, not coaches. To us, this step usually involves things like removing a social media account or changing a keyword, which has no bearing on the other ads’ morale.
Step 3: Tighten up the contributing steps
As discussed in a previous article, the core of the lean process is the cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act, and this step exemplifies it. Through a careful process of implementing small changes and recording the results, the value creation process becomes continuously more streamlined. This is also the core of a coach’s job. You train your players to run their plays better and faster, you remove plays that are less efficient, and you test the usefulness of new plays, all while tweaking your methods in response to the results that you see on the field. Similarly, a digital marketer adds or changes content, measures the difference in views, retention or sales, and makes new decisions based on those results.
Applying Lean to Your Digital Marketing Strategy
The lean process is results-driven in the most literal sense. We do not simply produce a marketing campaign and leave it with a customer; like a coach, we field our ideas, observe the results, think of ways to fine-tune the process for maximum effect, and field them again with new ideas implemented. We keep doing this for as long as our client desires, with a steady increase in value and decrease in waste occurring the longer we work on a campaign. This patient and systematic approach means that, over time, we can produce the most suitable marketing campaign possible for our clients’ needs.
Interesting in applying lean marketing to your business? Contact us today! Based out of Edmonton, AB, Lean Marketing offers full SEO and online marketing services for small businesses located in Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan, St. Albert, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, and the greater Edmonton area. At Lean Marketing we are passionate about providing greater value for your business, at a price you can afford.
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