Lean Startup next step is Lean Marketing

The #LeanStartup popularized by @EricRies has jettison Lean into an entirely different market segment. In a short time, it has become one of the leading methods for entrepreneurs to find their holy grail. What is exciting about the Lean StartupTM is that it has taken traditional Lean based on a foundation of value and flow to a much more customer-centric understanding. As Steve Blank’s words exclaim, “Get out of the Office.” Those words have become the battle cry of the Lean Startup Republic.

Often, you will see the term Lean Marketing expressed that it is based on the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. There is a certain amount of “product market fit” but from my view The Lean Startup is only a small part of what I would call Lean Marketing.

Lean is a total approach to marketing. It handles all areas of marketing whereas Lean Startup concentrates on innovation, customer development and launch. It is about finding product market fit. If 75% of your business is out there trying to find product market fit, you are an entrepreneurial company, not an established company.

On the other hand, if you are an established company and feel the buzzwords of clarity, discipline and organizational structure should be your only thoughts, you are also wrong. You need a certain amount of chaos to create a culture of innovation or something closer to the Lean Startup. When I discuss Lean Marketing, I talk about the concept of the Marketing Gateway of SDCA-PDCA-EDCA. What is required is balance between all three or a balance along the path from clarity to chaos. What separates Lean Marketing from typical marketing is how this blends together.

You are going to have a certain amount of Standard Work that is doing the things needed to get done to satisfy your current market and product/service needs. It is managing the customer experience, the user experience, customer relationship management, support to sales channels, product brochures, etc. They are all still needed and must be done efficiently. Within existing markets, standard work needs to take place. It is the bread and butter of your operations. It is what puts food on the table. It is not something that can be neglected. In fact, it is the most important thing that you do every day and what takes the vast majority of your time.

We improve on this through PDCA and create what is called the little i of innovation. The little i of innovation is equally as important as the big I (EDCA), maybe, even more. It is how we improve standard processes and how we make them better. Practicing PDCA allows us to see opportunities for improvement and leverage the resources that we have. Developing this type of culture is imperative for an established company if we want to become innovative or practice the big I of innovation or as some may call it, The Lean Startup.

I like to use the term EDCA learned from Graham Hill to designate the Explore aspect of Lean. I view it as more of Design Type thinking content that allows for that collaborative learning cycle with a customer. Companies need innovative practices. We look to the fringes of our markets where chaos exists. It is where development and the Big I of innovation (EDCA) occur and the Lean Startup principles apply. Companies need all three.

If you are a successful Lean Startup at some point in-time, you will have to apply the principles of PDCA and SDCA to be successful or to mature as a company. You must transverse the Marketing Gateway in reverse, EDCA-PDCA-SDCA.

Marketing Gateway

If you have ever watched the Shark Tank, they laugh when someone has not done their homework or in more proper terms their business model. When you view Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas you see exactly the line of questioning that these investors follow. Having a successful canvas is, in essence, the hypothesis you need to form your PDCA cycle. If you have a decent business model one of the sharks might jump in. Typically, he/she has certain amount of experience in that particular area. When you have proven the hypothesis (PDCA) and are ready for SDCA, they all jump at the opportunity to invest. It is where the real money is made.

If you are a successful Lean Startup, your next step is traversing the Gateway of Lean Marketing.

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