Why the Enterprise Should Take a Lean, Process-Based Approach to Marketing

by John McTigue

Date

November 20, 2012 at 2:00 PM

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Inbound marketing has reached a tipping point. Today, large organizations are increasing their investments in content-driven lead generation and nurturing activities. While that doesn’t mean the basic concepts are changing, it is pushing these strategies and tactics into a new phase, something we’re calling “enterprise inbound marketing.”

Enterprise inbound marketing addresses the needs of larger companies. While smaller businesses are primarily focused on brand awareness and search visibility, most enterprises have been building their brand for years and are looking instead to improve the ROI of their marketing efforts. They see content as a key driver of both their lead generation campaigns and their lead nurturing campaigns so they can deliver more -- and better qualified -- leads to their sales teams.

A second differentiator of enterprise inbound marketing is an increased level of review required for an equally increased content production schedule. Legal, sales, product management, and support, all have an interest in marketing activities and a share of the approval process. To meet the challenges of producing quality content quickly and improving ROI, enterprise marketing departments need a new approach to their activities: Lean digital marketing.

What is Lean? 

Lean processes involve continuous improvement over time, or “kaizen,” which helps an operation perform more efficiently and instills a sense of ownership by all stakeholders. This philosophy has been applied to process in everything from manufacturing to psychotherapy, so why not marketing?

Traditionally, marketing departments have faced two challenges that prevent them from being lean:

1) The lead generation tools at their disposal -- trade shows, video production, direct mail -- are ripe with both inefficiency and inefficacy.

2) Because they appeared to waste both time and money, these tactics often operated in a vacuum with little engagement from other departments, including sales.

All of this has changed in recent years with the introduction of inbound marketing strategies and state-of-the-art marketing automation tools for lead management. The development of lean processes to deploy and monitor inbound marketing activities is the next step in making marketing both productive and transparent.

How to Make Marketing Lean

Marketing teams have access to the strategies and tools they need to be lean. What most marketing teams lack is a disciplined process for launching campaigns, and a plan for responding to problems when they arise.

Following the principles of lean, your marketing team needs to focus on:

  • Developing a repeatable process for planning, executing, evaluating, and adjusting content creation, lead generation, and lead nurturing campaigns. This follows the classic kaizen principle Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA), which allows for incremental improvement over time.
  • Holding periodic kaizen meetings in which all stakeholders are in the room. This allows Marketing and other departments to openly discuss problems and walk away with solutions that enable continuous improvement.

Impacts of Lean Marketing

Lean marketing can help large enterprises produce a positive ROI from their marketing activities, often for the first time. The obvious impacts, however, will be visible in increased efficiency:

  • State-of-the-art marketing automation software helps avoid wasted time by putting all necessary data into one package for monitoring.
  • A repeatable process for lead nurturing enables companies to launch campaigns quickly and efficiently, with less wasted time on process steps and a faster time-to-market.
  • Kaizen meetings resolve problems effectively so that process improvements can be enacted with buy-in from all stakeholders.

Making the process more efficient allows the marketing department to actively monitor several key performance indicators and quickly adjust tactics when KPI goals are not being met. The nature of enterprise-level inbound marketing, with multiple-stakeholders and various moving parts, requires such a process-based approach to make those adjustments and report progress to the management team. Any enterprise that embraces inbound marketing, lead nurturing, and marketing automation can only benefit from equally embracing lean processes that improve those strategies, tactics, and tools over time.

This post was written by John McTigue and Dan Stasiewski at Kuno Creative, an enterprise inbound marketing agency. John McTigue is the executive vice president and co-owner of Kuno Creative, and Dan Stasiewski is their enterprise data analyst.

Image credit: HeavyWeightGeek

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