The 5 Big Questions for Lean Marketing

In the book, The Lean Strategy, the authors compare the 5 Key Questions of Michael Porters’ seminal work on strategy to Toyota’s strategy.

Michael Porter’s Strategy Model Shaped by 5 Key Questions


  1. How do you respond to the bargaining power of customers?
  2. How do you increase our bargaining power over suppliers?
  3. How do you counter the threat of substitute products/services?
  4. How do you deal with the threat of new entrants?
  5. How do you better position among current competitors?

The authors contend these questions focus on maximizing power and positioning. If we view these questions from a marketing perspective today, do they fit with your overall brand strategy? The Lean Strategy instead focuses on 5 different questions.

Toyota’s Five Questions from The Lean Strategy

  1. How do you increase customer satisfaction to build brand loyalty?The Lean Strategy
  2. How do you develop individual know-how to increase labor productivity?
  3. How do you improve collaboration across functions (and other partners) to boost organizational productivity?
  4. How do you encourage problem-solving and engage employees and grow human capital?
  5. How do you support an environment conducive to mutual trust and developing great teams to nurture social capital?

Marketing is becoming less and less about events and processes, it is evolving (if it is not already there) around agility, innovation, collaboration, and speed or in better Lean terms flow. This new thinking opens a new space outside of demographics and psychographics and segmentation. It is a space that is not intuitively obvious or structurally predictable. It is a space that strategy once resided.

“With tactics in the driver’s seat, everything changes: long-term vs. short-term becomes meaningless; prediction is still possible as an activity, but probably futile in its results; action beats analyzing-, correctable replaces dependable. The one thing that it’s in the learning rather than the deciding.” The Death of Strategy –

I have changed these five questions slightly to fit the sales and marketing discipline. When I think about moving from Porter’s focus to a present-day model, I believe The Lean Strategy questions are more appropriate. Of greater importance, when we try to answer them it encourages us, sales and marketing, to move from the always-be-closing, win-lose mentality into what we may call the “new normal”. It is about being there or participating in your customer’s success. 5 Question for marketing

Can you answer Porter’s questions easier than Toyota’s 5 Questions?

Where does your company fit?

How are you building your brand?

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