Anyone who has read Eric Ries’ seminal work, The Lean Start-Up, will be fully accustomed with his Build-Measure-Learn (BML) methodology. The broad premise is for start-ups to evolve and grow through a constant cycle of testing, using data to influence every decision. While the methodology in Ries’ book specifically refers to technology start-ups, many (if not all) of his principles can, and should, be applied to all businesses, of whatever size.
Having worked in marketing for many years, I can vouch that the Build-Measure-Learn philosophy should be ignored at one’s peril. Learning and failing fast from campaigns is a prerequisite for success. Thanks to the digital age, it’s never been easier to make happen.
Nowadays, knowing whether a specific message or creative is effective can be learned within a couple of hours. Marketing channels like Google and Facebook make the BML process fast and cheap. They also help to inform how to structure wider (and often more expensive) marketing campaigns; Facebook will tell you who your target audience is; Google will tell you how much demand there is for your product.
The constant cycle of iteration drives long term success in marketing. Creative optimisation can happen weekly, placement optimisation and keyword bid management can happen hourly. Those who are rigorous with this process will build up actionable learnings about their customers.
The reliability of data and how it is measured can either hamper or speed up your progress; robust econometrics can make the difference between a failed or successful TV campaign. Those who use a measurement framework to test different hypotheses will not fall foul of assuming things are going well when they’re not. They will also understand all the key influencers of success and failure.
Gaining insight from your data and your customers on a very regular basis will ensure you never rest on your laurels. Accepting and learning from failure quickly is also fundamental to long term success.
It can be very difficult for creative people to accept that their visuals, writing or planning has not hit the spot, but this is an unfortunate part of a marketer’s job and essential for BML.
I’ve found through experience that companies who persevere with the BML methodology, have often failed but have ultimately gained more insight than their competitors, thus maintaining their competitive edge. It’s a case of Build, Measure, Earn.