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Everything You Need to Know About Lean Advertising

Even for the fast-paced world of marketing, digital advertising moves incredibly fast. Errors, poorly performing campaigns, or opportunities can all arise quickly, and not taking advantage of them in the moment costs you money.

It’s no wonder Lean advertising has become a popular approach. By increasing the speed at which you test, learn, and implement learnings, this approach empowers you to do more with your ad budgets, quickly jump on opportunities, and feel more confident doing it. So let’s break down what Lean advertising is, what it looks like in practice, and how you can unlock its full potential.

What is Lean Advertising?

Lean is a way of approaching problems that focuses on creating value for end customers while minimizing waste. This is done through continuous experimentation and adaptation. So you often see Lean applied to running a company as a whole, marketing, or in this case advertising specifically.

lean advertising elements

Looking at what Lean advertising means in practice, it translates into:

  • Frequent delivery
  • Frequent but shorter meetings
  • Creating Minimum Viable Campaigns (MVCs) by beginning with small budgets and then directing resources when we see something working
  • Avoiding putting together detailed long-term plans

For us at Automagically, we don’t strictly align with the Lean framework. However, as an Agile marketing agency, we use many of the same principles to get the most out of our marketing. We mention this because it’s important to remember that you don’t need to be strictly locked into the Lean methodology to unlock its full value.

In fact, your clients might not even realize you’re using Lean advertising. What they will notice is your improved advertising performance and a greater focus on their needs. Like with many approaches to work, the point isn’t to tell everyone that you’re doing it, the point is to show by doing. Let your work speak for itself.

What are Some Common Lean Advertising Techniques?

Based on the elements we listed above, here are some practical techniques for implementing Lean in your advertising:

  • Ensuring you deliver frequently. In practice, this means avoiding taking a long time to get the “perfect” ad copy, image, etc. Considering how time-sensitive most advertising is, waiting an additional few days to get something from 80% perfect to 90% perfect just isn’t worth it. The additional reason is simply that the faster you can get an ad out there the sooner you can begin learning from its performance and incorporating those learnings into your overall strategy.
  • Frequent (but short) meetings. If you’re going to deliver frequent value to your end customer, you need to be on top of what’s going on. Otherwise, you risk spending a large amount of effort working towards a goal that’s no longer relevant or missing out on a new opportunity. However, these frequent meetings need to be short and to the point.
  • Starting with MVCs. This is closely related to the first point. When experimenting with a new ad, instead of thinking about how to make the best possible ad, think about how you can unlock the most value with the least amount of work. As “lazy” as this sounds, it’s critical to improving speed, ROI, and the delivery of value.
  • Lastly, avoiding long-term plans is vital. This doesn’t mean “no planning,” far from it. Instead, Lean advertising needs to be ready to adapt to ever-changing conditions. What you’re trying to avoid is not taking advantage of an opportunity simply because it doesn’t support the Q3 goals you developed 6 months ago.

Why Lean Advertising is Essential Today

With more and more marketing departments implementing Lean and Agile methodologies, sticking to the old way of doing things increasingly means falling behind. Considering the increasing competitiveness of the advertising space, you can’t afford to be outcompeted by marketers who are moving faster, utilizing data better, and focusing more on their clients.

In practice, this is because traditional advertisers spend a lot of time researching and planning without delivering anything. They will build a full-blown marketing funnel from top to bottom, often based on untested and incorrect assumptions. If that doesn’t work, all of that effort goes to waste and they’d start from scratch.

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An example of Lean advertising in action

To really understand how Lean principles can affect how you advertise, here’s an example from our experience.

We started advertising with a SaaS company developing software solutions for facilitating Agile retrospectives. Their goal was to show their advanced features to their audience to grow their client base. However, they also had a limited budget to start with so we had to be economical.

We began by creating content and a downloadable asset to promote with ads. Then, instead of building a long and wide ad funnel and spreading the budget thinly, we created and tested numerous small MVCs on multiple channels and targeting variations until we found what was working best. Then we started scaling that up.

This gave us good returns as well as room to breathe and experiment more. We managed to expand the whole funnel around that proven campaign making the sales process even more effective and with greater returns.

How to Implement Lean Advertising

Implementing Lean advertising starts with an understanding of the principles behind it. This is because there are different ways to approach Lean advertising, and you should find the way that works best for you, but all of them rest on the same principles.

So you may want to begin by reading up on Lean or even taking a course. Then you can look at the techniques and examples we’ve provided here and consider how to implement them in your own work.

Alternatively, if you’re a business owner interested in unlocking the power of Lean advertising then the fastest way by far is to hire experienced Lean and Agile marketing practitioners like us!

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