Sales and marketing managers seeking to enhance performance have found that adopting a lean approach in business offers them an effective and appropriate set of tools and techniques to help in realizing their goals. When considered as part of a more comprehensive integrated lean transformation program, the benefits will be felt across the business. Lean thinking principles and techniques are used to develop a performance improvement plan (PIP) and maintaining customer focus – which includes, for instance, identifying the root cause of problems, removing bottlenecks, improving process flow, and gaining a better understanding of customer needs.

Lean Marketing Archetype

Most businesses are changing their business model to an iterative one where they identify their minimum viable product (MVP) and get it out into the market as quickly as possible, to start gathering feedback from customers as fast as possible. Wherever reasonable, campaigns should be worked on and launched, with minimum fuss. For instance, consider running an online ad campaign- typically, you would identify keywords, write some ad copies, create landing pages, and then go live with it. But creating landing pages can sometimes take a lot of time. Would you rather wait for a few weeks to get the landing pages up and running? Instead, why not start with running some experimental ads, leading to the relevant product page on your website. During those two weeks, you are working on the landing pages; you will also gain invaluable feedback by analyzing the conversion of your ad copies, and your keywords. You can then use this vital information you’ve obtained in creating even better-converting copies for your landing pages. The goal here is to effectively build a plan based on content and marketing activities that deliver the best marketing outcome. Lean marketing is an approach to marketing that is based on testing out a viable proposition, campaign, or idea and then building on its most responsive and successful elements.

Fundamental Principles of Lean

The real value is in the eyes of your customer. The central lean philosophy is that it’s the customers and not companies that determine what is valuable. Sales and marketing teams seeking to create a more customer-centric culture should use this concept to drive change throughout an organization.

Lean companies never stop striving for perfection. They continuously empower their employees and engage them in opening channels of communication, encouraging feedback, and fostering commitment.

Lean thinking functions counter to the traditional marketing and sales assumption that more is better- stay away from overproduction. The lean philosophy strives for just-in-time delivery to meet the demand. Research by SiriusDecisions shows that in some organizations, up to 90 percent of all leads passed onto sales from marketing are not followed up. Marketing teams develop sales portals with thousands of pieces of content, only to find out that sales use just a small percentage of it.

Holding on to un-nurtured leads, works in process (e.g., deals in the sales pipeline) can be wasteful- don’t hold on the inventory of deals.

Technology solutions, like improved integration of market automation, proposal automation or better CRMs, can reduce the unnecessary processing that includes continuously re-creating content like proposals or presentations, or re-keying the same information across various systems. Organizations should review their data management practices to identify any discrepancies in field nomenclature and aim at being consistent.

With how marketing is changing nowadays, it’s time that B2B marketers revisit the traditional approach to pipeline management and consider the lean principles of marketing and its value.

Over the last few years or so, B2B marketing has changed considerably, and the change, primarily, has been brought on by the evolving customer demands. Combined with the new tactics, tools, channels, and technology, B2B marketers have started tapping on the brakes and re-evaluate their marketing activities, looking to understand where to focus their time, energy, and resources. In 2020, B2B marketers are more concerned with actionable insights into their marketing activities and less interested in traditional vanity metrics. MarTech tools are more consolidated, as firms look for better integration and less waste. Lean principles such as iteration, testing, and continuous improvement have become the emphasis. As more businesses realize marketing’s value and what B2B marketers are looking to deliver, and its untapped potential for a more significant contribution to the bottom-line success, the strategic focus will be critical.

Strategic Focus

Every business requires a constant focus, and that’s what defines your area of strength. Around 40% to 50% of the B2B middle market and enterprise companies have marketing strategies focusing on cost leadership, differentiation, or niches. Most B2B companies operate within industry verticals, where their products or services have a definitive application. Within those markets, the company can decide to position itself as a cost leader, a brand of supreme quality, or a specialist player with a focus.

Develop Your B2B Branding

Developing your B2B branding is all about getting intentional about the experience you offer to your customers- which means thinking long and hard about who you are as a company and why you do what you do! And it’s about figuring out how to communicate that experience in a way your customers are most likely to relate to understanding- not just intellectually, but emotionally. A strong brand is one that grabs people by the heart and doesn’t let go. And that comes with how you effectively communicate with your potential customers.

Critical Elements of an Effective B2B Content Marketing Strategy

It’s great to see B2B companies jumping onto the content marketing bandwagon; however, the reality is that many of them still struggle to drive meaningful business results. Why? Because they often overlook a simple fact: to create and deliver content that attracts and retains customers. It’s best to have a strategic framework for conceptualizing, designing, and scaling your efforts.

1)  Definitive Targets

Effective content marketing is to stay acutely focused. Ideally, try and focus your content efforts on just one customer segment at a time — the section that includes your best customer. This customer can then serve as the model for your target buyer persona.

2)  A Contextual Grasp

The key is to thoroughly understand the unique context of your customer’s situation and then create content specific to their needs and pain points. Knowing who your buyers are and understanding what they care about and what their path to making a purchase looks like is what’s critical too. It would be best if you also got a deep understanding around which points through their buyer’s journey you need to influence to drive conversions and move them through the sales funnel.

3)  Definitive Conversion Goals

Since the goal of a B2B marketer is to convert their target buyers into paying customers, their content strategy should be centered around a set of smaller conversion goals that will collectively help propel them through the buyer’s journey. In addition to leading prospects toward the desired destination, these goals also serve as benchmarks to help track and measure the performance of the content along the way.

Final Thoughts

Lean thinking mandates that organizations look at their entire sales and marketing process. No change, large or small, can be made without first determining its impact on every other step in the process. The most successful B2B marketers know better how to systemize and prioritize their workflow, automate tasks, organize their calendars, and invest in marketing channels that pay dividends. Also, most importantly, they are always learning and iterating on their efforts. They need to understand their customers and keep tabs on the newest strategies and tactics for growing a business, and should know how to retain customers for the long-haul.

“Strategic Focus,” and its hypothesis needs a more comprehensive citation and space of its own, and we’ll carry this over in one of our next blogs.

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