Lean Insights To Fuel Lean Marketing

Lean marketing is based on the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, which promotes the concept of iterative product design, development and launch. While originally focused on startups, the ideas around lean marketing (also sometimes referred to as agile marketing) have been applied to established businesses as well.

A key aspect of lean marketing is CONTINUOUS INNOVATION BY ACCELERATING BOTH SUCCESS AND FAILURE. Lean marketing is based on an iterative cycle of continuous feedback from customers.

Adapt, Ask, Listen

Lean insights fuel lean marketing, and with planning, they do so at a fraction of the cost of traditional research. A system for gathering lean insights can be scaled to any business allowing the agile marketer to adapt and tweak marketing strategy and tactics.

Lean insights help brands quickly adapt to consumer trends, market changes and competitive threats. Many of the tenants of lean insights are also applied to new product development and optimization.

Here are some tips and tools for lean insights to power your lean marketing and innovation. These can be applied to both qualitative and quantitative lean insights methods.



    There is a big speed component to lean insights and lean marketing but just like a NASCAR or Formula 1 race car driver, there is a race strategy. Before you dive in, think through your lean insights strategy. It is important to plan around who, what, why, where, when and how.


    Lean insights are based on REALLY LISTENING TO CUSTOMERS who are often your most engaged or extreme customers and pulling out those rich insights that will drive your business forward. Let’s face it, our egos and biases are tied up in brands, products and services. If you are going to be a lean insights researcher you need to learn to check your biases at the door and really listen to your customers.


    Rich lean insights will not be gleaned from customers in artificial environments with one-way mirrors, audio recorders and video cameras. (By the way … if anyone asks you did not hear this from me.)  Some of the best lean insights will be gleaned from putting on your Jane Goodall hat and observing, participating and asking questions in the environment in which your customers are interacting with your brand.


    There are three ways to think about quality over quantity:
  • Quality over quantity of the CUSTOMERS with whom we are having in-depth conversations. Speaking with the most engaged and ardent customers yields rich insights very quickly. They already know your product or service and given their involvement with your brand, most are quick to tell you what is working, what is not working and why.
  • Quality over quantity of the NUMBER OF INTERVIEWS. A smaller number of interviews with the right people, the right questions and really listening trumps large scale studies.
  • Quality over quantity of FINDINGS. A program of lean insights is based on going for key insights that allow you to adapt quickly and move on. Listen carefully and learn how to tap into those “aha” moments of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition or comprehension.


    This is sometimes referred to as probing or asking lots of why questions. Regardless of how you think about it the dig deep approach is all about getting well beyond superficial, rational answers from your customers.  There are lots of techniques that will help you dig deep to uncover those rich insights – storytelling or projective techniques for example. The end game is pushing beyond the superficial rational answers to get to emotional and meaningful experiences with your product or service.


    While it is important to plan your lean insights strategy, once the funnel is in place it is important to cycle rapidly through the “ask, listen, adapt continuum.” The adapt part of the cycle is often the most difficult, particularly for established brands that are accustomed to waiting for approvals and making decisions by committee. The lean insights cycle must be based on empowering marketers to engage in experimentation and make successive approximation decisions quickly.



    The key to any program of lean insights is having one or more people on the team dedicated to the process of ask, learn, adapt as well as someone to implement. If this is something the brand thinks they can do “when they have time” then failure is imminent. If the brand does not have someone to dedicate to the cause, they might consider a knowledgeable third party to assist.


    Access to customers is a critical element for gathering lean insights. To have access to your customers it is well worth the investment to have one or both of the following:
  • A customer database in the form of a customer relationship management (CRM) system that can be used for marketing and communications as well
  • A panel of your most frequent and passionate customersA CRM database not only gives brands inexpensive access to customers for marketing and communications but it is also a useful tool for recruiting customers for deep digital, in-person or telephonic conversations and or quick turnaround surveys to evaluate and adapt products, services or messaging.Some brands set up panels with the sole purpose of gathering lean insights. The panels typically include a representative group of customers including a booster sample of engaged and passionate customers. The panel is refreshed regularly to ensure that ideas are fresh and continue to reflect trends, market changes and competitive actions. These panels are very useful for digital diaries, digital storytelling, click mapping and quick polls. They can also be used to recruit people for deep dive conversations.


    Most do it yourself survey platforms (e.g., SurveyMonkey) allow you to review and react to survey data in real time. As the results flow in, marketers and innovators can adapt what they are testing. Similarly digital tools for qualitative research (e.g., digital bulletin boards) allow marketers to see the responses in real time and quickly adapt.

It is not true that traditional research is dead and lean insights are taking over. There is a need for both. This said, a system of lean insights is a very important part of the marketing and product development toolbox. Marketing and product / service innovation is key to brand growth and lean insights will help fuel the funnel.



KIRSTY NUNEZ is President and Chief Research Strategist at Q2 Insights, Inc., a research and innovation consulting firm with offices in San Diego and New Orleans. She can be reached at (760) 230-2950 ext. 1 or kirsty.nunez@q2insights.com.

This entry was posted in Game Changing Research Methodologies and Concepts and tagged on November 11, 2016 by Q2 Insights