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Lean Content Marketing: A Viable Solution for Challenging Times

“Lean” is perhaps one of the more forgiving words which can be used to describe the global state of affairs in 2023. Thanks to tight budgets, an increasingly competitive landscape and the negative impacts of inflation, trimming the proverbial advertising “fat” has never been more of a reality. In fact, a recent study has found that nearly 25 per cent of all SMEs are concerned about how a lack of inbound revenue might impact their ongoing sales campaigns.

This is why scaling back could actually be a great way to move forward. However, such approaches are certainly nothing new to small- and medium-sized enterprises, and the notion of lean marketing has existed for some time. If you are looking to make ends meet while still obtaining much-needed digital exposure, read on…

Lean Marketing: A Definition

The easiest way to define lean marketing is embracing the ability to accomplish more with less. In this case, the use of an analogy can help. Imagine that you are finalising the plans for an upcoming hiking excursion. You have separated the equipment that will be brought along into two categories. One group contains essentials such as boots, extra socks, water, and a map. The other is associated with more luxurious items, including a high-definition digital camera, a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses and a cooler of your favourite beer. While both of these categories are relevant for the journey, which one is the most essential? This is similar to how lean content marketing functions.

Lean content marketing embraces a “ground-up” process in order to narrow down an ongoing advertising strategy so that it effectively reaches a target audience while maximising your return on investment (ROI). Portfolio management firm Planview defines lean marketing as:

“A mindset that helps you make smarter decisions about how to invest your time, energy, and money.”

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How to apply lean marketing concepts

If you wish to accomplish more when dealing with formidable limitations, it makes sense that you must streamline traditional content marketing approaches in order to centre your efforts without sacrificing quality. However, transforming this rather straightforward concept into an actionable reality can be difficult. This is why having a digital plan in place is critical.

It is first important to stress that there is a fundamental difference between lean marketing and preparatory strategies, such as developing a brand style guide. This is because lean campaigns tend to go live before they are perfected. To put it simply, specialists will learn as they go and make future changes as they are appropriate. Not only does this mentality save a significant amount of time, but it is ideal if you are dealing with a dearth of resources due to financial limitations.

1. Define your “pain points”

Some marketers will rely upon nothing more than previous experiences and prior sales campaigns to determine how they should move forward. On the contrary, lean marketing instead seeks to determine the needs of the customer at present. Clearly identifying your demographic’s pain points will help provide viable and relevant solutions. In other words, less guesswork is involved during the actual curation process.

2. Perform incremental content curation

The first flight taken by the Wright Brothers lasted a mere 12 seconds. However, this singular event nonetheless proved their hypotheses around aerodynamic principles. This mentality should be adopted when creating a lean marketing campaign. Assuming that you have identified the previously mentioned pain points, you should then create short-form content in order to appreciate how this material resonates with a target audience (think of a product bench test in this sense). This is a low-cost means to understand if any changes need to be made. Should your audience responds positively, the campaign can then be rolled out to a much larger demographic.

3. Assess how customers respond

Shares, likes, bounce rates, and retweets will all serve to measure how content is resonating with your readers. Take a look at successful material posted in the past and use these figures as benchmarks to better appreciate how your recent posts compare. This data will always illustrate whether your ongoing approaches are producing results or whether you have failed to meet the mark. You can thereafter make changes as may be required. Check out this Textbroker article discussing KPIs (key performance indicators) to appreciate other important variables.

4. Aim for engagement over conversion

This step is often overlooked by marketers, and yet, it is arguably the most critical. Let’s remember that there is a massive difference between engaging content and material that leads to conversions. In other words, not every post which goes viral will generate revenue. Although the surface value of a publication or blog may appear to be producing positive results or turning digital heads, is it driving in revenue or is it simply being shared amongst others? After all, why take the time to erect a billboard if the initial cost exceeds the revenue that it was intended to generate? Interested visitors are the bread and butter of sales. Be sure to churn that pot.

5. Create a social media “loop”

One of the paramount principles of lean content marketing is that the process never really ends. This is particularly relevant with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you have curated a valuable piece of material, create long-form content to determine how it resonates with your audience. When necessary, further changes can be enacted while still remaining one step ahead of the curve. In the same respect, discard old or outdated content that has already served its purpose. Not only can you dramatically increase the efficiency of ongoing advertising campaigns, but your strategies will be much easier to track and analyse.

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How to develop lean content from scratch

“Brands can only stand out if they know where they stand.”

Laura Busche

Now that we have taken a look at the core tenets of lean content marketing as well as some general suggestions, it is time to examine the finer points. In this sense, what does it take to curate lean content? Are there any professional tips to embrace? How can you keep abreast of what your audience desires? Each of these questions deserves closer attention.

1. Put yourself in the place of the customer

The marketing automation platform SALESmanago rightfully notes that you should strive to know your customers better than your closest friends (to a reasonable extent, of course). Simply because you may already be an industry expert does not necessarily signify that you innately appreciate what your audience desires. This is once again when surveys and feedback will come in handy, as you can then develop content that contains real value.

2. Be clear with your goals

What is your business trying to accomplish? What are the core benefits of the products and services that you are offering? Are these values being translated throughout the content, and how are they perceived by the end user? In other words, any material should be based on what customers expect from your business. If you can discover their desires as well as your game plan, it will be much easier to curate high-value content.

3. Leverage analytics

As always, no lean content marketing strategy will be effective if it fails to incorporate core SEO concepts. Here are some effective analytical techniques to perform on a regular basis:

  • Discover which platforms are producing the best results.
  • Identify keywords found in similarly popular and trending articles.
  • Research new keywords and long-tale key phrases.
  • Determine if your SERP rankings have benefited or suffered from your marketing campaign.

Always remember that there is no such thing as “static” within the world of lean content creation, much like how fish need to constantly swim to obtain oxygen while underwater. Remaining proactive will allow you to keep afloat within a digital sea rife with competition.

Top tips for lean marketing

1. Use social media sharing, but never in a vacuum

More than half of all social media users will employ these portals to research new products and services. However, never bootstrap your current campaigns to such platforms alone.

The main issue here is that a standalone website still offers a host of concrete benefits that are simply not possible when relying upon nothing more than a social media presence. While social channels are excellent solutions due to their cost-effective nature, here are some drawbacks:

  • Overall conversion rates can be unpredictable.
  • Some sites may limit your ability to create a call to action.
  • Others will take a percentage of any profits derived from a sale (pay-to-play).

After all, would you ever commit to purchasing a product or service if there was no website to provide an authoritative appeal? Even free hosting services such as WordPress-powered websites will help to establish your business over time. This Textbroker blog post will point you in the right direction.

2. Don’t confuse “lean” with “short”

Some businesses have associated lean content with extremely short and concise posts. This is not always the case. The main point of lean marketing is to constantly consider what your audience desires. Depending upon what it is that you are offering, conveying value to the reader may require 1,000 words or more. The last thing you want to do is to sell your business short simply because the content is not as robust as it should be.

3. Create a trusted team

The best marketing content will often arise from a collaborative effort. This is why it is wise to create an in-house team group of experts that can focus their efforts on a specific project. Delegating different responsibilities to its members will also help to ensure that checks and balances are put into place (grammar, editing, publication channels, and perspective). If this team fully understands the goals and guidelines associated with your brand, it will be much easier to create material that resonates with the end user.

The pros and cons of AI in content marketing

ChatGPT and OpenAI have recently entered the fray of content creation. Although these methods appear to represent cost-effective options, let us remember that they are far from perfect. Issues with duplicate text, grammatical abnormalities, and even links to pages that do not exist have plagued the industry.

To be clear, there is no doubt that AI-powered platforms have their merits. The simple and immutable fact is that they are far from capable of addressing the nuances of lean marketing within the current digital climate. To put it another way, there are many practical differences between cutting corners through the use of artificial intelligence and expert-curated lean marketing. The only question that remains is whether businesses are willing to sacrifice quality for quantity.

In conclusion, lean marketing is an ongoing process that needs to be approached with a great deal of flexibility. 2023 could very well represent a make-or-break year for businesses choosing to remain on the “digital fence”. Being able to mould your approaches around customer feedback will provide targeted solutions even if you have little money to spare. In this, as with all things content focused, it pays to work smart as opposed to hard.

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About our author

Ron is a prolific author who regularly contributes to on-site blog posts. His passion for creativity combined with a client-centred approach has brought him a significant amount of success within this competitive marketplace. Writing for Textbroker since 2012, his hobbies include martial arts and bodybuilding.

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