Guest post by Jon Terry.
The planning for any strong marketing campaign should acknowledge one essential fact: change is inevitable. In business-to-business marketing strategy, the ability to constantly adapt on the fly is vital to your company’s success.
So how do you approach a market that’s in a constant state of flux and manage to successfully develop a campaign that will carve out a place for your business? Surprisingly, the greatest marketing triumphs come from failing early and failing often. That probably sounds a bit counterintuitive, right?
This process is one of the cornerstone outcomes of utilizing lean tools in your marketing campaign. Lean principles rely not on a perceived end goal, but rather reality-based prioritization to create marketing initiatives that conform to customer needs and requirements. The Lean process is designed to break up long-term deliverables into smaller, more manageable projects that can be assessed and filtered as they move through the production chain.
Lean processes have no set determined way of being delivered. Instead, there are a number of Lean tools that can be implemented within your marketing department to help achieve your outcomes by working smarter and setting limits. Here are three Lean tools you should consider applying to your marketing strategy.
#1: Continuous Improvement Methodology
This is the overarching philosophy to guide your Lean approach to marketing. Continuous Improvement is a tool that can apply both as a generalized way to think about your marketing as well as an actualized measurable strategy.
When applied informally, this strategy is meant to ideologically guide your marketing team away from a rigid approach to their workflow and towards a more flexible outlook on how to create and coordinate campaigns. This tool can also be applied in a more formalized manner to measure how well marketing campaigns are succeeding. In this approach, the Continuous Improvement cycle has four general steps.
The first step is to identify, which is to analyze your marketing campaign from various angles (whether it’s a struggle with workflow or achieving desired SEO results) and determine where the process requires improvement. If workflow is the issue, maybe certain bottlenecks are slowing down content creation? If your results are suffering, look at each step in your process so and try to pinpoint what’s slowing things down. You may not nail it down right away, but that’s okay; the point is to actively address stagnation.
The second step is to plan. This step involves meeting with team members to discuss the identified problem and develop measurable ways of resolving it. You want to facilitate clear communications between team members that are productive; avoid assigning blame at all costs!
Once you’ve devised a plan with your team, it’s time to execute that strategy. It may take some time to see results, and it’s a great idea to take an active role in overseeing this phase.
It’s vital that the strategy is executed in the precise way that it was planned so that step four, review, can be done in an accurate manner. Determine a set schedule to review how the plan is performing. Meet with your team to discuss outcomes and troubles along the way. Make sure that your team knows to not feel too much pressure from the results; it’s more of an experimentation process, and so long as the experiment is being conducted as determined, they’re doing their jobs.
All done? Not even close. Nothing is perfect, and Continuous Improvement is a strategy that embraces this fact. Once you’ve reached the final step, it’s time to take what you’ve learned and start back at step one all over again. The strategy is continuous, but with each cycle your marketing team will get closer and closer to achieving their goals.
#2: Kanban Boards
Kanban boards are the most widely used tool by Lean teams. The Kanban board is designed to harness the brain’s natural preference for visual information, something with which marketing teams are very familiar.
The board itself can be represented physically in the center of where your marketing team operates, or digitally using an online board. The Kanban board uses cards and columns to represent the workflow process. In the simplest form, a Kanban board demonstrates left-to-right movement through value chains; it might be as simple as “To-do/Doing/Done”.
The entire premise of the board is to ensure the completion of tasks and move away from a “push” method of marketing campaigns, whereby work is pushed into the left side of the chain and employee roles are limited to individual duties. The Kanban Board emphasizes teamwork by allowing teams to pick up workflow and carry it themselves to the next column.
Of course, Kanban Boards won’t properly work without our final Lean tool…
#3: Work-in-Progress Limits
Work-in-Progress (WIP) limits are what transforms your Kanban Board from a visual to-do list to a workplace methodology. The idea behind WIP limits is that each column in your Kanban board is capped on the number of items that it can hold at any given time. This ensures that work items do not simply stagnate, and that projects are being completed.
For example, let’s say you’ve got a small marketing department using a simple “To-Do/Doing/Done” Kanban board with a WIP limit of three items. What this means is that at any given time, your department will only allow three projects active, and will only have three projects in waiting. In order to take on more work, you must complete the work-in-progress first. If there’s a constant trouble with flow, it signals that either your Continuous Improvement cycle should be revisited, or that it’s time for your marketing team to grow!
With marketing groups needing to produce faster than ever, Lean strategies are an ideal solution to the pace of digital workflow. These tools can be the impetus for your marketing team to turn the corner and acheive previously-unrealized gains.
As chief evangelist, Lean-Agile strategy at Planview and former co-founder of LeanKit, Jon Terry helps enterprises around the globe discover how to increase effectiveness, optimize processes, and deliver value faster with Lean-Agile principles. Jon actively seeks to raise awareness of the benefits of Kanban and visual project management, and is a highly sought-after presenter within the Lean-Agile community. Connect with Jon on LinkedIn.