Being a effective marketer today requires creativity, strategic thinking, and most importantly - focus. With thousands of channels and mediums available to market to prospects and customers, and hundreds of marketing tools to choose from when creating our tech stacks, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. All too often, as marketers we focus our efforts on the wrong things, chasing metrics that don’t serve us or following processes that don’t create value for our customers. Lean is a way of thinking about work that has been helping teams in all disciplines - including marketing - create more value and get more done. Read to learn the top 5 benefits of Lean for marketers and see if Lean is right for you.
In 2016, we surveyed over 3,000 people currently practicing Lean to learn how Lean impacted their habits, practices, and overall effectiveness. When asked to name the top five benefits of Lean, they listed the following:
- Manage Team/Process Complexity
- More Efficient Business Processes
- Better Management of Changing Priorities
- Better Project Visibility at the Team Level
- Increased Team Productivity
Let’s dive into each of these to learn how they can make you a better marketer.
Manage Team/Process Complexity
The top benefit of Lean cited by our survey participants was the ability to manage team and process complexity. This is especially important for marketing teams, for two reasons.
First, marketing is a discipline that blends highly technical and highly creative work. In order to be effective, marketing teams have to be able to manage and coordinate their efforts across a vast array of skills and process types. Technical, goal-oriented product marketers have to align their efforts with creative graphic designers and detail-oriented writers in order to execute their strategic objectives. The people in each of these roles have to communicate effectively and follow a defined team process that facilitates innovation and efficiency.
In addition to working together effectively within the team, marketers also need to be able to communicate with and incorporate information from other teams - such as sales, customer success, product development, and management. Marketers need to be flexible enough to be able to contribute to cross-departmental initiatives, while also having the discipline to complete their own projects. For these reasons, using Lean to define, follow, and refine processes and minimize complexity is especially helpful for marketing teams.
More Efficient Business Processes
Survey participants also cited more efficient business processes as a top benefit of Lean. Marketing teams do a mix of planned project work and unplanned work - and balancing both can be a challenge, especially without a structured way to balance your workflow (like Kanban). Lean marketing teams focus on streamlining and optimizing any repeatable process, so that they can focus their efforts and energy on unplanned work and strategic decision making. Optimizing the efficiency of the engine makes the whole car run better.
Better Management of Changing Priorities
Between short- and long-term project work, unplanned work, and maintenance work, marketers are having to constantly make decisions about the priority of different work items. All too easily, we fall into the habit of giving our attention to whatever is loudest, most urgent, or simply what’s in front of us - not what’s most important.
Lean helps us filter through the noise and make smarter decisions about prioritization. This ensure that we keep our actions aligned with our goals.
Better Project Visibility at the Team Level
Marketing is a team sport. Nearly every marketing activity requires the skills and expertise of several different people - a simple blog post might require product knowledge from a product marketer, writing chops and SEO know-how from a content marketer, and creative designs from a graphic designer. Most marketing teams rely on email, communication tools like Slack, and endless meetings to stay aligned in their efforts. Communicating about the work requires more time and energy than actually doing the work.
Lean marketing teams use visual management - namely, Kanban - to increase project visibility, improve communication, and reduce time spent in meetings.
Increased Team Productivity
With better communication, more efficient business processes, better management of changing priorities, and better project visibility, it’s no wonder that Lean teams cite increased team productivity as a benefit of Lean. Lean helps marketing teams focus on what matters: Delivering value to prospects and customers. Once teams decide to put customer satisfaction at the heart of everything they do and embrace continuous improvement, they become unstoppable - increasing not only productivity, but efficiency and effectiveness, too.