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    Marketing Magic: Lean Methods for Small and Large Businesses

    Seemingly every company has the difficult task of optimizing resources and spending less, while still producing more and more. At first, this kind of efficiency might sound impossible, but sticking to budgets and growing quickly without overusing resources is achievable (I promise). How does this magical process work? What genie-in-a-bottle offers this, and can they connect with me on LinkedIn? Well, the good news is that there’s no magic genie necessary, unless of course we’re talking about Ellie Mirman, Chief Marketing Officer for, a market and competitive intelligence platform focused on helping businesses capture and utilize intelligence data available to act on business insights and opportunities. Prior to Crayon, Mirman led marketing functions as VP of Marketing at Toast, worked with various startups, and held leadership positions at HubSpot during its growth from 100 customers to IPO. Small companies, large companies, she’s seen it all. So, what does Mirman say is the one wish we should all be asking for from our marketing genies? Lean integrated project delivery, or Lean IPD for short.

    Lean methods have been shown to make teams three times more likely to finish on time and within budget, and are easily implementable. This fast-moving approach is highly adaptable and allows teams to be agile, stay focused, waste less, and get a lot more done. I sat down with Ellie to ask her about her upcoming presentation on Championing Lean in Marketing and Communications, a method that she feels anyone can benefit from. “Whether it’s for personal improvement or for business improvement, both large or small businesses can be positively impacted by the Lean process. In essence, it’s really about how you approach problems, projects or initiatives, so it can be adapted to all sorts of different scenarios.”

    Say for instance your company is a startup or is working with limited resources and demanding timelines. How can Lean practices be accessible for your teams?

    Mirman says, “I’ve worked in quite a few startups and some of those startups have grown into quite large enterprises. I’ve used Lean marketing at each of the different stages from small to large. In the small or early stages, one of the biggest benefits I’ve seen from Lean marketing is being able to provide a company with the ability to stay focused on the things that matter. In the cases of small firms with limited resources, it is especially important to allocate those resources in productive ways. In every role you get numerous requests and it can be hard to say no, so things pile up and as a result you end up having three or four or five times as many projects as you can handle at a given time, all going in parallel.”

    She further explains, “When that happens, it’s hard to actually get things done because you’re trying to push them all forward at the same time. The reality is that some of those initiatives aren’t critical to your current priorities or can stay on your plate out of inertia instead of actual impact.”

    One example Mirman mentions comes from a startup she worked with that held monthly webinars along with its sales team.

    “The sales team was happy to keep the webinars going, and so it became a recurring activity. Because we were taking a Lean approach, every single initiative on the marketing team’s list was analyzed to make sure they each had a goal and success criteria. At the end of our cycle, we looked back and made sure that each initiative met the success criteria. It turned out that this monthly webinar that we anecdotally thought was great, wasn’t meeting the success criteria.”

    With the data that her team collected on how the webinars weren’t making a big enough impact, they were able to cut the program and better allocate the marketing and sales teams’ time towards more impactful programs.

    “It’s very possible that if we hadn’t taken a critical eye to it, that program would have stayed there just out of inertia.” When resources are limited, it’s crucial to keep an eye on where they are going and have them be used to their best effect.

    What about when resources are unlimited, and you are operating from an enterprise firm?

    “All the same benefits that play a role for smaller firms apply here too, but their issues might be different. For example, one of the issues that can arise from working at a larger company is that there’s a lot more coordination that needs to happen across a lot of different groups, and it can slow things down. One of the ways I have seen a Lean approach used is by splitting your teams into more concrete, self-contained groups that are set up to succeed on a particular project,” says Mirman.

    This approach can work for any number of large groups. By breaking down the teams into smaller, cross-functional groups within a larger team, each group is better able to accomplish their initiatives without having to rely on other groups. “This allows you to move a lot faster,” Mirman notes. Having all the resources needed within a mini-team allows groups to get a lot more done, within a shorter period without excessive coordination slowing you down.

    Using a Lean cycle also gives teams, both large and small, the ability to track and measure program success. This means each time you start a new initiative, you have a better forecast of what might work better for your programs based on past results, so that you’re much more likely to be successful. While implementing changes may be challenging, Mirman says “If your team is open to taking a Lean approach to how Lean marketing can work for the team, you can find success. If you find what works for your situation, you can adapt the Lean methodologies to fit your team’s process. Lean marketing should not be thought of as a cookie cutter approach.”

    While the benefits from Lean marketing will be relatively the same between large enterprises and small companies, the importance of those benefits to their teams will be different.

    Mirman says, “When you’re a smaller team, using your resources to their best ability might be more important, whereas at larger enterprises it might be more about the speed of completing projects that you get with this approach. I’ve seen it work in a variety of circumstances, so I definitely believe anyone can benefit from it.” Sounds like magic to me.

    If you’d like to learn more about Lean IDP for marketing, please register for SMPS’ event here.

    Ellie Mirman is CMO at Crayon, the market and competitive intelligence company that helps businesses track, analyze, and act on everything outside their four walls. Prior to Crayon, she was VP Marketing at Toast, where she built and led the marketing function across demand gen, content marketing, product marketing, branding, and customer advocacy. Previously, she held multiple marketing leadership positions at HubSpot during its growth from 100 customers to IPO. She is a frequent speaker and blogger on the topic of lead generation, inbound marketing, marketing analytics, lean marketing, and more. Ellie loves working at the intersection between Marketing, Sales, and Product, and building marketing from startup to scale-up.

    Rachel Stainton is the Content Marketing Specialist for Northland Controls, a global physical security integrator. She writes for SMPS SFBAC Shortlist and is a member of the Communications Committee. Visit Northland’s blog.

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