The manufacturing industry long ago embraced lean and continuous improvement principles in order to remain competitive by meeting demands for increased productivity, lower costs and less time to market. With physical products and manufacturing lines, it was relatively easy to measure how changes impacted the operation, and benefits of successful experiments became obvious.
Knowledge-based industries were slower to embrace Kaizen — which roughly translates to “change for the better.” In recent years, continuous improvement principles have been applied to many industries, especially healthcare and software development.
Marketers have much to gain from the practice of Kaizen, a culture of high engagement in which everyone is empowered to try new things and there is transparency with the goals, processes and outcomes. Perhaps the most valuable and sustainable aspect of the continuous improvement mindset is that it helps people successfully deal with uncertainty, which is when cultural agility is needed most. How well has your firm adjusted during the pandemic?
DEVELOP A METHODOLOGY FOR YOUR MARKETING
Successful companies share many traits. Among them:
- They are constantly looking for process breakthroughs and new technology.
- They focus on improving data collection and insights.
- They embrace continuous improvement at all levels of the organization and have a systematic approach to experimentation.
Building and implementing a system for experimentation does not need to be complicated or arduous. There are many methodologies in use for Kaizen; you can pick whatever best suits your organization. This methodology works well for marketers, including approaches to targeting, messaging and measuring:
- Build: this is your plan.
- Test: put the plan into action.
- Learn: analyze the outcomes and key metrics.
- Repeat: adjust accordingly by tweaking your plan.
Whether you are vetting a new tool for your tech stack or looking at ways to adjust your ad spend mid-campaign, this process helps bring discipline to your organization. It’s also essential to publicly share data for specific initiatives so everyone understands why adjustments are being made.
Kaizen also allows you to break down large projects into smaller tasks, which in turn presents opportunities for your team to celebrate successes.
TAKE A STRATEGIC APPROACH TO EXPERIMENTING WITH TACTICS
It’s important to remember that continuous improvement is about how small steps can create incremental change that eventually adds up to a significant impact. Think of this as adjusting the input variables of your marketing tactics. Small steps might look like:
- TARGETING: This could be implementing a new process for cleansing your email database. Other approaches might be:
- Adding media research tools. Seek out information from reputable sources to further refine the target audience by analyzing demographics, psychographics and behaviors to understand what they are more likely to be interested in.
- Creating “buckets.” Use data to narrowly define sub-groups and use different messaging and headlines to reach them across different channels.
- MESSAGING: The build-test-learn-repeat cycle helps you understand the role each channel plays in the funnel which, over time, makes it easier to align the message with that designation. Sample tactics include:
- Looking at different messaging scenarios by channel and target audience sub-groups (playing off of the idea outlined in Targeting above).
- A/B testing creative and content combinations, which allows for more refinement of the messaging.
- METRICS: Are you updating your systems to reflect changes in your marketing funnel? Great marketing tactics are only as powerful as the systems you put in place to measure them. Examples could include:
- Adding tracking links to an email campaign so you can see visitors from those emails on your site.
- Creating event triggers on form submissions for a new landing page.
- Adding dynamic phone numbers on your homepage that update based on the traffic source, so you can see which channels are driving calls.
COACHING IS KEY TO BUILDING A CULTURE OF CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
Agility is crucial amid uncertainty. How often have you seen social and search algorithms change within the duration of a recent campaign?
To become more agile, your marketing firm will have to speed up the build/test/learn/repeat cycle. For this mindset to become instinctive for everyone at your company, invest in regular coaching sessions. But this is not coaching about solutions, strategy or tactics; it is coaching about the process of continuous improvement. It’s about developing problem-solving skills.
The experimentation mindset for marketing is similar to fishing. If you are not catching any fish, you have many variables you can adjust – your location, the bait, depth of water. The build/test/learn/repeat mindset empowers your people to try things differently and share the results.
MARKETING SHOULD BE A CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT PROCESS
Marketing itself is an exercise in Kaizen. You target (build), message (test), measure the results (learn) and adjust (repeat). Bringing a continuous improvement mindset will provide a more disciplined approach to your work as marketers and help your people become better problem solvers. They will be better positioned to succeed amid uncertainty.
TAKE THAT FIRST STEP
We can help you develop a strategy for using the build-test-learn-repeat methodology in your marketing.