What is "Lean Marketing"?

While you're more likely to hear the term "lean marketing" in the startup world, every marketing campaign has a budget no matter if you're doing marketing for a colossal company like Google or you're promoting your services for the local pizzeria.

The term lean marketing is not just a catchy way to say cheap, affordable, on budget, practical and possible.

At its core, lean marketing means taking a data-driven approach to your marketing strategy. It focuses on iteration, testing and measuring results. Lean marketing helps optimize the marketing process to avoid costly, unnecessary mistakes.

Lean marketing relies on continuous improvement, customer feedback (usually in smaller batches) and a flexible marketing team.

When you work for a small company, deciding what's possible--financially speaking--will greatly influence the direction you take with your marketing strategies.

Small business owners rely on a lean marketing strategy to stretch their marketing budget and boost their marketing efforts. They implement marketing workflows and frameworks to get better results faster.

Is there a way to bring your marketing ideas to life with a lean approach? Absolutely! You don't need a huge budget to produce impactful ideas. You need a process that you've tested and know works.

Small businesses make magic with limited resources every single day.

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what is lean marketing

3 Principles of any lean marketing framework:

1. Lean Thinking:

This starts with the team lead and spreads to the rest of the marketing team. You want to instill core principles such as 80/20, impact over everything and a lean philosophy.If you can't measure it, you can't improve it. Lean organizations rely on data.

The vast majority of marketers bring with their bag of tricks; they tend to know how to do a lot with a little which is a valuable skill in a bootstrapped startup environment.The creation process should be based on lean principles: figure it out. Get creative. Use what you've got. Make it happen. Don't break the bank.

2. Creative marketing initiatives:

A lean organization understands the value of staying flexible. One main difference between traditional marketing and a lean methodology is conventional marketing campaigns start with the idea, follow a lengthy process and measure results at the end.

The lean startup methodology leans more heavily on insights during the campaign with the chance to adjust mid-campaign if it will eventually increase the success of the campaign.The lean startup movement doesn't need perfect ideas, it needs lean marketers who know how to adjust quickly based on customer insights.

3. Process efficiency:

Agile marketing allows for a change of plans using measurement tools to lead to the optimal solution. An efficient process means bringing the product to light as soon as possible to check feedback, eliminate waste, and make any shift in the right direction if necessary.

Small businesses cannot afford costly marketing campaigns that don't deliver. This may require more frequent status meetings, but if it boosts the ROI, it's worth it, right?

lean marketing strategy

What are the benefits of a lean marketing process?

Customer-tailored marketing messages:

Since lean marketing relies so heavily on customer insights not just at the beginning or the end of the campaign, but during, the marketing messages are tailored to the needs of the customer, reader or target audience.

Lean startups guess less and measure more:

One of the key elements throughout this whole philosophy is measuring data. Use app analytics to measure behaviors and constantly learn. You're not shooting blind when you go lean. Marketing teams who follow a lean-type of approach make data driven decisions.

Maximum impact in your lean startup:

Depending on your niche or sector you may have your go-to marketing channel. Small businesses who use a lean strategy encourage their marketing manager to test their ideas in small batches to see which would yield the best results.

Instead of throwing your entire budget on one marketing channel, you test across a variety of platforms, see which one performs the best, and then invest your team's energy and resources on value adding activities.

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Create a lean marketing strategy with these 3 things:

  1. Lifecycle tracking: a key part is understanding how long it takes to get from idea to data so that you can prevent bottlenecking.
  2. Customer avatars and personas: if you don't know who you're talking to, you run into unnecessary steps like wasteful communications that annoys your audience versus brings them in and making them want your products and services.
  3. Context switching: This is the latest way to say "pivot" or the process of stopping ine process that's flawed in favor of a new one with a potentially better outcome. if your blog articles are flopping, context switch. If your product development process keeps running into the same snags, context switch.


Lean marketing tactics prevent your company from wasting time. Its core tenants are flexibility, data tracking, and failing fast to ensure the success of a marketing plan.

You still get the lessons learned that you'd see from a conventional marketing initiative, but faster and more time to pivot if necessary. Deliver faster. Have a clear agenda at an earlier stage of the campaign because you've taken your small ideas and tested them in the relevant market.

If you're a small business, and you put all your proverbial eggs in one basket, the stakes are high, the data is limited and the risks may not even be worth the returns.

Many startups see better marketing results with this strategy for the simple fact that the cycle time is shorter.

Data allows them to eliminate anything that's not working early on in the campaign and only deliver what's relevant. Lean marketing principles allow you to  stay focused on what matters most (and stay on budget!)

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