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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guest Post: Lean Sales and Marketing – Not without a new Toolset!

Joe Dager, owner of Business901 specializes in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. Joe has owned and operated companies involved in retail, manufacturing and professional services that include several turnarounds and growth companies. He has authored the books The Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA.

Think of all the changes and improvements in the manufacturing world in the last 20 years. We manufacture off floors cleaner than many tables that we eat off. You open a box, turn a key, or press a button and it works. Even the batteries are included! Most products manuals and operating instructions are never used. In fact, we seldom include them anymore. Our machines are so smart that they are completely intuitive to work for the entire population. Products have come a long way! More specifically quality has been an amazing success story and manufacturers have led the way.

What about sales and marketing? Is your sales and marketing that much better? Has it advanced at the same rate of improvement that your manufacturing has? Why not?

What are some of the improvement methods? In the marketplace, this is some of the good “marketing” ideas:

  1. A recent blog headline summed said, Use Value-Added Sales to Boost Your Profit Margin. The blog post recommended extended warranties or guarantees, free shipping, consulting and more. I don’t know where value –added came into this. They are all delayed costs in my mind. I can go on but I felt the advice was like telling someone not to pay cash but put on your credit card. That way you don't have to pay for it, NOW!
  2. Accelerate innovation and broaden our product line. We add more features and more products but seldom does that add or equate to more benefits that a customer wants. 
  3. Create better websites, SEO, Social Media and send out more e-mails. There are so many things that we can do on the web that you need a marketing technologist, nice word for a geek to keep up. Many manufacturers are still struggling using the internet and more specifically social media in any other way besides a more sophisticated and sometime animated tool to deliver the old same marketing material, just in a little greener way. 

So I go back to my original question, do you think sales and marketing has improved at the same rate as manufacturing? If not, why not?

Most of us start our quality processes through the tool set of the methodology. I know that everyone likes to talk about Lean Culture and that tools are secondary and they are. But how many of us did not start there? The reason that sales and marketing has never become “Lean” is that they lack the proper tool set. I know the traditionalist Lean people will roll over with the comments forthcoming but bear with me.

With few exceptions, every time Lean is introduced to sales and marketing, it was through Value Stream Mapping with the sole purpose of removing waste in the process. Salespeople had every right to scream and ignore the conversation because all they were ever told to do was gather data. Than they were told what that data meant and as a result what they should stop doing. This resulted in neither an increase in sales nor an increase in value added time with the customer.

The toolset that is available is the one that has evolved from the Lean Software World of Agile and the world of Design Thinking. These worlds developed entirely from a different Lean format than the one found in U.S. manufacturing which is based on removing non-value added activities and waste. Lean Sales and Marketing needs to be based on customer value and PDCA (from a knowledge building platform). The funny thing is that both worlds of thought still reference the Toyota Production System and Lean Thinking by Womack and Jones as their basic guides.

The reason, I believe that these worlds are still so disconnected is how they think about customer value. Customer value cannot be an internal control point. It must be determined at the point of consumption. Only customer’s (customer defined as the user of the product) determine value and the non-customer when addressing markets. The funny thing is that Agile and Design Thinkers understand that value is not derived till the product is put into use and their efforts are not realized till that point. It puts an entirely different slant on looking at Lean and looking at the customer. Look at how the tools of Lean need to be presented to Sales and Marketing:

  1. Don’t think Value Stream Mapping think Journey Mapping
  2. Don’t think Future State think Concept Development
  3. Don’t think Build and Deliver think Prototype and Test
  4. Don’t think Product Benefits think Value in Use

If you want to bring sales and marketing into a continuous improvement mindset, change the tool set.

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  1. Fantastic post, Joe! Your experiences in sales and marketing are similar to mine in corporate communication (especially employee communication) and marketing communication. The concept of LEAN COMMUNICATIONS principles and practices often turns off professional communicators because it's so foreign. We communication folks shovel out stuff (SOS) while customers call Mayday! because they're drowning in useless information. Your suggested tools for sales and marketing are just right.

  2. Thanks Liz,
    I think Sales and Marketing will do anything to improve, it is just that they resist that project mentality of waste reduction that others try to bring to them. Using these tools and others allow for some common ground and future development.

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