As a marketing professional, especially in the age of diversified attention, you need to know where to allocate your resources in order to hit your business goals. Should the company focus more on Twitter ads? Google Ads? influencer marketing? or will you ignore all of this and focus on sampling instead? The options are literally limitless!
The problem is that when we work on new marketing ideas, we usually do the following. We make a marketing plan for our eCommerce store that is usually based on dozens of untested assumptions at best, spend tremendous amounts of money, effort and time in building the perfect campaign or executing the perfect strategy, and wait till launch time to see if the campaign will make it or break it. The problem is that in today's innovation-driven market, this can cause the company to hemorrhage a lot of money in high-dollar failed campaigns until you accidentally hit a jackpot. So how do you minimize the odds of falling into false negatives or false negatives? That's where the lean model kicks in.
Going Lean in eCommerce Marketing
In his book The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, Eric Reis made the case for using a mindset of innovation, testing and continuous improvement to allocate resources based on what your audience actually wants. Not what you think, assume or believe they want.
Build, Measure and Learn. These are the three main steps of the lean methodology.
This methodology is mainly about creating a sandbox for your ideas before you invest heavily in them. You choose an idea, build a prototype or a small experiment (that doesn't cost much) to test the idea with a real audience and see how they react to it. Then from the feedback and results you get, you can now decide if you want to adopt this idea and scale it, make some tweaks to it and test again, or dismiss it altogether and start thinking in a completely different direction.
Taking it all to your marketing work
If you want to start implementing the lean methodology in your marketing work, here are some easy steps to follow:
1- State 2 or 3 key assumptions
Pick 2 or 3 key assumptions you're making that can make or break your idea. Ones that you want to test whether or not they are true. For example, you might be basing your new FB ads campaign (with the fancy FB checkout plugin) on the assumption that your audience is comfortable with shopping directly from FB, rather than being directed to your website to finalize their purchase.
2- Build a prototype for this phase
All that you have to do is build a prototype with basic features to validate your assumptions. For the previous example, you can post an ad featuring FB checkout. It can be with a basic design (that has the basic ad components and branding) and launch it with a small budget to see whether or not your previous assumption was true.
3- Measure Reactions
In this phase, it's important to decide on the metrics that you'll be looking for, and be very clear on a specific threshold that will prove/disprove your assumption. In short, be clear on what success and failure look like for your test. In our example, it can how many checkouts happened on the advertised product through the FB ad, in which people actually used the FB checkout feature. Let's say your threshold is that if more than 10 people used FB checkout, it's safe to consider the assumption true. (practically in this case it's better to use an A/B test to see which checkout channel converts better, but the example is just for the sake of delivering the concept)
4- Asses what you learn
Based on the audience's behavior and feedback you'll now know whether your assumption is correct. Now you have some actual data to decide if will follow through with it, or if it needs tweaking or even taking the assumption off your list altogether.
Usually, you won't reach the answers you want from the first time. So you'll need to tweak your assumption and test again and again till you reach an assumption that proves to be valid for your audience.