How to Apply Kaizen Principles to Your Marketing Strategy
The key tenet of the Kaizen method is that making minute, painless and seemingly insignificant changes each day can lead up to spectacular growth and development over time. Kaizen can help you save money, increase your business potential and even grow your client or consumer base.
In the marketing world, Kaizen can be applied to help test, tweak and vastly improve marketing performance. In fact, the very nature of the Kaizen method is particularly applicable to marketing because of how slowly and methodically change is introduced.
The Kaizen Principle
The basic element of Kaizen is to make 1% improvement each day. The reason this is so applicable to marketing is that too often when marketing campaigns or efforts do not seem to be working well, they are scrapped entirely, or radical changes are introduced, but this
makes it harder to pinpoint the reason of why it didn’t work in the first place.
By introducing 1% increases or changes each day, you have the chance to get a better grasp of what is or is not working. On the one hand, 1% growth or increase is infinitely achievable, but on the other hand, waiting to see growth or progress based on a 1% daily growth can also require a good deal of patience that many do not have. Here is how Kaizen works:
- Choose an Area to Improve In – The success of Kaizen is dependent on not making too many drastic changes or improvements too quickly or in too many areas at once. Kaizen works best when you choose one or two areas that are the most in need of improvement and focus solely on them.
- Identify Opportunities for Improvement – Once you have chosen an area to focus on, you want to identify some specific ways in which you can improve in that area. For instance, if you want to increase a certain demographic, you may want to identify specific marketing avenues by which you can reach that demographic and develop a new campaign tailored for that outlet to reach that specific demographic.
- Set Up Priorities – Remember that a basic key of Kaizen is slow and steady – or 1% improvement each day. You will completely defeat the purpose if you try and make too many changes too quickly. To stop yourself from doing this, choose one or two priorities to focus on in your chosen area.
- Set Up A Timeline – In most cases, a timeline is a means of determining how quickly you can implement changes. In the case of Kaizen, however, your timeline is more a means of ensuring that you are not trying to implement change, growth or progress too quickly.
- Measure Performance and Progress – Measuring progress and performance is still critical with Kaizen. After a week or two, you want to test metrics after working on an area. Is there any improvement? If so, you can continue down this path. If not, you need a new strategy.
Brief History of Kaizen
The Kaizen method – or simply Kaizen – began as a means of improving production in the auto industry. Kaizen is one of the driving forces behind the Toyota Production System, which later became the base of lean manufacturing. Over time, the concepts and principles that Toyota used to increase production and become a leader in the auto industry spilled over to other manufacturing industries.
In the 50+ years since its implementation and development, it has become applicable to almost every area of business, not just manufacturing. Eventually, the principle that was used to eliminate processes that don’t have any value in car production found its way to the digital marketing sphere as well.
Applying Kaizen to Marketing
Another key tenet of Kaizen is focusing on improving processes that already exist rather than trying to find or develop new ones.
Many times, when current systems are not working, they don’t need to be scrapped, they just need to be fine-tuned.
This fine-tuning, however, can take time and if you try and do too much at once, you just create chaos. The beauty of Kaizen is the slow, gradual approach to change. Over time, it adds up to incredible performance with a minimal amount of growing pain. Not only does making small changes rather than large ones help you better track performance, but it is a far easier sell on employees as well.
In Marketing, you can begin evaluating your channels and their metrics. Find metrics that need improving and prioritize the ones that have the biggest impact.
Visual tools like drawing a funnel can help you determine where your problem areas are. Once you have identified your problem areas, you can set target goals based on 1% improvement and then A/B test to determine results.
Here are the 4 main action steps of Kaizen:
- Plan: Change is inevitable, so smart businesses look ahead and strategize how to navigate inevitable change, rather than trying to fight it.
- Do: Using small action steps, execute the plan.
- Study: Carefully observe results and make changes based on the feedback you receive.
- Act: Continue applying what is working and go back to the first step to move forward.
When to Stop Using Kaizen
The value of Kaizen is that changes are introduced so gradually that they are sustainable indefinitely. However, when you start seeing diminishing returns in your performance tests, it’s time to move on to another area. Once you see diminishing returns in all areas you wanted to improve, it’s time to analyze the whole process again and see where you can make more improvements.
Marketing is a delicate science. In many cases when marketing strategies are not working, a data analysis can show you the reason. Kaizen can help you introduce slow, incremental changes that can help you keep what is working and simply test and tweak what is not until it does.
Heather Redding is a part-time assistant manager, solopreneur and a writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is also an avid reader and a tech enthusiast. When Heather is not working or writing, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee. Reach out to her on Twitter.