The Pull in Lean Marketing: Edges(1 of 2)

A Lean Approach to Marketing

Lean processes have changed the way we think about manufacturing. It has become one of the most embedded practices of manufacturing and is based on these five core concepts:

  1. Specify value from the standpoint of the end customer by product family.
  2. Identify all the steps in the value stream for each product family, eliminating whenever possible those steps that do not create value.
  3. Make the value-creating steps occur in tight sequence so the product will flow smoothly toward the customer.
  4. As flow is introduced, let customers pull value from the next upstream activity. As value is specified, value streams are identified, wasted steps are removed, and flow and pull are introduced, begin the process again and continue it until a state of perfection is reached.

Many people are familiar with The Lean Startup, and something that I equate to the terminology of Explore-Do-Check-Act (EDCA is a term I learned from Graham Hill) versus the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) that is associated with Deming, Shewart, and the Toyota Production System (TPS).

My Lean Thinking is more about knowledge building and learning. The steps, I believe create the successful marketing practices of today. One of most misunderstood applications of Lean to Sales and Marketing is the application of pull. With pull in manufacturing, you think about building the process backwards and building from a standpoint of what the customer values.

You start with the end in mind, and then you build a production plan based on what the last operation needs, and then what the second to the last operation needs, and then what the third to the last. You start with the downstream milestone or the downstream end goal if you will, and then you figure out that downstream is pulling the upstream activities. That’s something very different than traditional sales and marketing efforts where you start at the beginning, and you push everything to the customer in some sequence that you think you need to close a sale.

The traditional sales and marketing funnel goes from left to right attracting a large number of prospects and qualifying them through an elimination process till we can find a likely candidate and eventually a buyer. It is a terrible process that not only wastes a great deal of money and time but also is getting more and more difficult to navigate. The reason is not that prospects are against being engaged but once they engage they become manipulated and worse led down a path that may or may not be a good alternative. Just because they were interested, organizations try to force them through a decision process that will ultimately lead to a sale of their product or service. Most ideas surrounding selling are nothing more than force fitting our product/service versus finding best fit with the customer.

I create personas and marketing segments from existing customers and prospects. This further relates to the concepts of edges that I discuss or what I may call the Funnel of Opportunity versus a Funnel of Depletion described in the paragraph above. We start with what is known and work outward, never making a cold call always making a warm call. Always building upon what we know, empower existing customers, engaging prospects, exploring new. Doing it this way we can quickly test new ideas, new methods in small groups and build upon the information we receive.

To find the edges of existing customers, market segments is again not an intuitive process. It requires a deep understanding of our customer’s markets, not ours. A little background on this may be the research that served as the material for the book, The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation. Skipping the details, in the book, they describe how the Challenger Salesperson creatively connects the suppliers existing capabilities to each customer’s unique environment and then presenting those capabilities to the customer through the specific lens of whatever customer obstacle is keeping that deal from closing.

What is happening in the world of sales is that we are on the edge (or maybe already there) of a collaborative way of selling. We no longer can just sell to a customer; we have to understand our customer’s business and our customer’s customers’ business. The only way that I believe possible is if we are participating at the point of use of our product or service.

Related Posts: Business Growth Opportunites

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