One of the most popular books circulating around HubSpot this fall is Eric Ries’ New York Times best seller, The Lean Startup.

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The Lean Startup's most fervent evangelists tend to be product teams at technology startups, but it includes a series of important lessons for inbound marketers.

Lean What?

A lean startup is a team using The Lean Startup methodology to build and launch a product as quickly and efficiently as possible. Traditional companies build a product at scale, then launch and sell it at scale. If customers don’t like the product when it’s launched, the company’s huge upfront investment of time and money will be wasted.

A lean startup takes a different approach: It builds the minimum viable product, tests it with real customers, measures the success, iterates until there’s clear customer adoption, then scales production. By identifying a "product-market fit" before scaling production, lean product release cycles are cheaper and more efficient.

What's Lean Got to Do With Inbound Marketing?

Lots! In the traditional outbound marketing world, 'marketing' meant creating a message and blasting it out at scale. In today’s inbound marketing world, you need to be smarter. You need to find your customers, then attract them to your website with the right blend of content, social media, and SEO. The Lean Startup methodology can help marketers identify the blend that's right for their business.

Here are five specific ways marketers can leverage The Lean Startup methodology:

describe the image(1) Create a Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop for Marketing: Many inbound marketers focus exclusively on building (creating) content. The Lean Startup highlights the importance of following content creation with measurement, learning, and iteration. Don’t bang your head against the wall creating the same content over and over again. Measure the success of your content, learn from your mistakes, and produce new, better content.

(2) Make Sure You’re Measuring the Right Things: Don’t become a director of "success theater." It’s easy for marketers to find vanity metrics that make them look successful but have little meaning for their business. (Twitter followers and blog subscribers, for example, are popular vanity metrics.) Instead, focus on numbers that measure the progress of your core business. For B2B marketers, leads and customer are often good numbers to track. Leads and customers by campaign are even better!

(3) Learn From Your Experiments: Make sure your experiments with new content and social media channels result in documented learning. If your team isn't deliberate and disciplined about learning, you’ll repeat your mistakes. One way to document learning is via the Five Whys system, a collaborative process for teams to assess past mistakes and take steps to prevent repeating them.

(4) Expect to Pivot: Don’t expect to figure out the right mix of blogging, social media, SEO, email marketing, etc. right away. It will take your team a few pivots to figure out what kind of blog articles work for your target customers, where they hang out online, and which keywords you need to rank for. Nobody gets this right the first time. Successful companies are the ones diligent enough to keep pivoting until they get it right.

(5) Be Entrepreneurial, Even if You’re Not a Startup: So you work at a big company and think you can't innovate? WRONG! "Innovation is a bottoms-up, decentralized and unpredictable thing, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed," Ries writes. "It can, but to do so requires a new management discipline, one that needs to be mastered not just by practicing entrepreneurs seeking to build the next big thing but also by the people who support them, nurture them, and hold them accountable." Translation? It's up to you, the manager of your mature big company to cultivate entrepreneurs.

Does your marketing team have the characteristics of The Lean Startup methodology? How could you improve your team's strategy to be more lean, agile, and ultimately, more successful?

How to Run an Inbound Marketing Campaign
 How to Run an Inbound Marketing Campaign

Originally published Nov 28, 2011 9:00:00 AM, updated December 19 2017


Inbound Marketing