The 25-day Marketing Plan with the LIST Marketing Framework – How Lean, Insights and Scrum can make your marketing Thrive

During the last years, Philip van den Berg had the privilege to set up the marketing function at a number of startups with a similar challenge: Building a marketing machine that ‘produces’ from the beginning and brings growth. He used the LIST Marketing Framework, which addresses, how Lean, Insights and Scrum can make your marketing Thrive. At every case on which he worked, it took roughly 25 working days to agree on the marketing strategy, write the plan and start the first implementation. This article describes how LIST got the job done.

Introduction

The List Marketing Framework uses three building blocks: the ‘Build-Measure-Learn‘ continuous loop from Eric Ries’ well known Lean Startup methodology, the Insights-Based Marketing Method I developed and the Scrum Principles of transparency, inspection, & adaptation applied to marketing. This article discusses each in more detail with the use case of Apilio in Q1 2020.

Apilio is an international Startup in Home/Home Office Automation, that deploys an innovative SaaS solution. The product allows customers to set rules with their phone, tablet, or pc, to control smart devices for lighting, heating, home entertainment, etc., using both external sources (weather information, sunset/sunrise information, etc.) and internal sources, including people’s mobility data. See www.apilio.com.

read more about Lean Marketing

read more about Insights-Based Marketing

read more about Scrum in Marketing

LIST and the 25-day marketing plan

Apilio had a simple request: within three months, provide us with a plan to boost subscribers and start implementation, with a focus on Online & Social Media. Applying the LIST Marketing Framework enabled me to write a first Marketing MVP in 15 days and have it signed off in 25 days, while being completely new to the industry.

Insights

In order to determine the marketing strategy and write the marketing plan, I needed more insights about the market, about customers and about digital marketing. I was positively surprised about the amount of syndicated research that was available for free, both publicly and through a collaboration with an Educational Institute (the ZHAW). I could enrich this with free general social media reports (such as Google Trends) and tools (such as Neil Patel) as well as metrics on Apilio Social Media (Google Analytics, Google Search Console, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter metrics) and customer messaging (Intercom).

Marketing Strategy & Marketing Plan

The danger of any strategy is, that it is remote or even disconnected from ‘real-life’ implementation. Therefore I included the full marketing strategy in the marketing plan and made sure strategy parts had ‘building blocks’ part like personas, customer journeys and messaging that could be implemented immediately. Based on new insights that emerged both during the planning phase and during the first campaigns we run afterward, these parts were regularly updated and fine-tuned.

Part 1 – Marketing Strategy 2020 and beyond: Mission, Offering & Positioning; Business Objective & Marketing Goals; Market Opportunity: Definition, Market Size, Competitive Analysis, Target Segments; End-User Personas: Key Personas, General Persona Characteristics, Customer Journeys; Communication Strategy incl. Tactics, Mix, Demand Generation Framework, Messaging, Themes; Metrics; Risks; Glossary

Part 2 – Marketing Plan 2020: Timeline; Campaigns, Programs & Projects; Campaign Template; Budget

Using the collected market and customer insights, combined with knowledge from the team, the following components of Part 1 of the marketing plan were defined:

  • Target Segments: Acquisition Customers, Retention Customers & Advocacy Customers + Influencers (journalists, bloggers, forum posters and analysts) + Partners (Smart solution providers)
  • End-User Personas: End-users mapped using four dimensions and four use case related personas were defined for four customer journeys
  • Strategy: Inbound marketing, low cost, focus on social media marketing and knowledge sharing, around theme-based campaigns, and the three-stage customer journey 
  • Inbound marketing framework: a visualization of the customer journey through the external digital media and the Apilio digital media to the landing page
  • Tactics: theme-based modular text and video messaging with landing pages, quarterly virtual events, multi-channel communication
  • Demand generation framework: marketing channels and activities per stage of the RACE-funnel model + communication matrix with media and communication type per target audience segment and three campaign types: full campaign, mini-campaign, communication
  • Themes: five themes
  • Messaging: Strategic behavioral message, Customer Need messaging (why) incl. Sound Bites, Functional messaging (What) incl. Sound Bites, using Sven Hughes’ Verbalisation methodology
  • Metrics: per stage of the RACE funnel

The RACE Framework

The SmartInsights RACE framework divides the funnel into four parts or stages: Reach, Act, Convert, Engage. Each of these steps represents a different level of customer intimacy and therefore represents different marketing activities and often even different messaging. It is comparable to the XoFu-framework with ToFu/MoFu/BoFu to which I added a fourth state for customer up-sell, cross-sell and advocacy, that I call WoFu = Widening of the Funnel. This listed in the below table, to which I add the marriage analogy for ‘visualization’ reasons.

https://www.smartinsights.com/digital-marketing-strategy/race-a-practical-framework-to-improve-your-digital-marketing/

the RACE/XoFU Funnel Framework

In Part 2 of the plan, a first list of Campaigns, Programs & Projects was made, including a high level planning by quarter. As first Digital Projects were defined a SEO/Keyword plan and the website makeover. Part 2 was completed by sections on the budget, the risk and a glossary to make everyone speak the same language. 

Implementation readiness: Templates & Influencer List

The other things I did to make the plan ready for implementation were to deliver templates and an influencer list.

To ensure consistent, fast and full execution of marketing demand generation campaigns, I wanted a simple, one-page template. I took an existing one from SmartInsights with a checklist, that I slightly improved, a.o. by adding a ‘campaign metrics and learnings’ section. The value of the Marketing campaign template immediately paid off during the first campaigns we ran. Adding the results and conclusions not only forced us to analyze the campaign impact, learn from it and fine-tune the marketing plan, but also to document and make it available to the whole team.

To smoothen the execution of digital projects, like ‘SEO/Keyword research and plan’ and ‘Website Makeover’, I adopted and adapted another simple SmartInsights template.

In today’s connected digital economy, influencers are more important than ever. For Apilio this includes Journalists, Bloggers, Analysts and their websites, forums, pages and channels, as well as end-user forums, communities, groups, pages and channels on social media, and smart solution partners. From my first to my last week at Apilio, I built and maintained an influencer list with any person, portal or page I came across, including the number of views and subscribers, and contact details like personal LinkedIn profiles. Rather than leaving Apilio with just a direction to focus on influencers, this gave the company something to act on immediately.

Influencers: Customer Advocates; Press, Analysts, Bloggers; Portals, Magazines, Blogs; Software Review Sites

Partners: Smart Device & Connectivity Vendors; Resellers; Consultants

End Users: General Forums; Smart Home Communities & Forums; Facebook, Google, Linkedin YouTube etc. Groups, Pages, Channels

Execution

One of the good things at Apilio was that, besides allowing me to collect insights and write the marketing plan, the team involved me from day one in the operational execution of the existing communication. This way I got to know the marketing tools and could soon conduct first communication activities. Soon after ‘day 25’, I could run the first campaign, followed by new campaigns every one to two weeks. As already mentioned, the learnings from that implementation were immediately shared and integrated into the marketing plan. Developing a campaign always started with a draft that matured during the sprint.

Benefits

At the start of the marketing project, Apilio had a great product and several useful marketing components. There were a website, social media pages, a customer messaging platform and good but partly fragmented content. Several components for the marketing machine were there, while others were not yet in place.

The LIST Marketing Framework brought Apilio the following benefits:

  1. Structure in the marketing planning, marketing project and marketing campaign execution
  2. Direction, content and completeness in the marketing messaging, activities and metric
  3. Visibility on the market opportunities, the market segments and the marketing personas
  4. Operational building blocks that could be implemented immediately

Besides that two marketing projects could be completed, the first marketing campaigns could be executed and initial learnings could already be incorporated. Apilio got an MVP of the marketing machine in place, can now move its demand generation into a higher gear and is set-up to accelerate sales.

How about big companies?

Some years ago at a grill-evening, I asked a friend about his job. ‘I am a Scrum Master!’ he replied with a big smile. The rest of the evening he told me all about Scrum roles and rules, as well as being agile and lean, sprints and adaptation. 

I recognized a lot of what he mentioned from my own work approach, and I realized that being agile and lean works everywhere. Having worked many years at large ICT corporations, I was always able to build a marketing or sales practice, based on transparency, inspection and adaptation and using the LIST Marketing Framework. This resulted into objectives being met or exceeded, as well as into high adoption and appreciation among stakeholders and management.

In a VUCA environment, one of the key challenges for larger organizations is to be lean. On top of a solid foundation, it should develop flexible capabilities in, among others, insights, marketing, sales and customer service.

By defining the sprints and small enough incremental steps, also in big company, this is possible. And maybe even a 25-day marketing plan can be successfully written and implementation started.

About Philip van den Berg

Philip van den Berg is a Dutch international growth marketing and customer insights enthusiast living in Zurich, Switzerland. He has a Market Strategy Master from the University of Amsterdam and is Certified in Lean Management and Scrum. His expertise includes international and local marketing roles in corporations, SMB’s, and start-ups in IT and other industries.

By building successful marketing practices, he supports entrepreneurship in effectively targeting customers, building client relationships & partnerships, creating advocates and making revenue.

For inquiries about the LIST Marketing Framework, including a LIST scan, LIST consulting, LIST training and LIST implementation, he can be contacted at philipvandenberg.com.

Lean Marketing

While many Start-ups have a first idea of the market and of the marketing direction – a website and social media channels are easy to set up -, they might struggle to establish effective demand generation. Focus on product development, financing, building a company, delivering results and dealing with the unforeseen, prevent that time and budget are set aside for acquiring insights and building a real marketing machine. 

A good way to cope with these circumstances and restrictions might be to to hire a ‘neutral’ marketing consultant, who kick-starts marketing by appliying Lean and Scrum principles and implementing a modern, business result focused, customer centric, data driven marketing framework, such as the LIST Marketing Framework. Once done, the consultant can move out to only return for (semi)annual reviews.

For the marketing strategy and plan, being Lean means building a first Marketing MVP or Minimal Viable Plan and start implementing it immediately, while measuring the effects and learning from it on a daily basis. ‘Lean’ means that the MVP is made in a scientific yet pragmatic way and with the assumption, that everybody in the organization is an Entrepreneur with a view on the product and the market that matters. At Apilio this approach proved to be fruitfull from the beginning.

Blog about a practical implementation of the LIST Marketing Framework:

The 25-day Marketing Plan with the LIST Marketing Framework – How Lean, Insights and Scrum can make your marketing Thrive

Insights Based Marketing

Insights Based Marketing or ‘IBM’ stands for the four cogwheels of the marketing machine that should be turning together from the beginning without interruption: meaningful Insights, an agreed upon high-level Strategy, a signed-off Plan, and full Execution. IBM is part of the LIST Marketing Framework, so I could test it in depth at Apilio.

The value of market, customer and own company Insights is not only to learn and enable validated decision-making, but also to make everybody in the company’s ecosystem ‘move’ in the same direction. As today’s world is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA), insights needs to be generated continuously rather than once in a while.

A good marketing strategy not only uses those insights, but also represents inputs of every functional department and has their buy-in. An open dialogue between the marketer and the rest of the organization during the marketing strategy process, ensures marketing principles get a sanity check and are embedded into the organization.

The marketing plan is operational (it deals with the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of execution) and, depending on the length of the sales cycle, it has a shorter or a longer horizon. While its goals are to be derived from the business plan and from the marketing strategy, and should not change, the plan itself has to flexible, so that adoptions in the marketing measures, messaging and materials can be made during execution.

In order to succeed, execution not only has to be lean, but also be connected continuously to the other three cogwheels. A good consultant, strategist or planner has to understand both how the marketing execution works and what the feedback of customers, partners and colleagues on that execution is. To gain insights on these two aspects, daily metrics have to be built in and shared from the beginning.

Blog about a practical implementation of the LIST Marketing Framework:

The 25-day Marketing Plan with the LIST Marketing Framework – How Lean, Insights and Scrum can make your marketing Thrive

Scrum in Marketing

The Scrum principles add an agile framework, that provides the conditions for an organization to implement ‘Lean Marketing‘ and Insights Based Marketing. They include Inspection, Transparency, Adaptation, and having Iterative and Incremental processes and practices. The below sections review how Scrum fits in the LIST Marketing Framework as I applied it at Apilio and other companies. An advantage was, that Apilio was already well set up with regards to Lean and Scrum, which gave me a head start with implementing LIST. 

A definition of Scrum

The goal of Scrum is to to have teams address complex adaptive problems and delivering products of the highest possible value in a productive and creative way. Scrum is based on the theory of empirical process control, which relies on transparency, inspection, & adaptation and is both iterative and incremental. Sources: https://www.scrumalliance.org/about-scrum/definition and https://www.scrumalliance.org/about-scrum/theory.

Scrum in action

Transparency‘To make decisions, people need visibility into the process and the current state of the product.‘ Transparency is a principle to be supported and worked on by all. For every team member, it works both ways: toward the others and from the others. At Apilio the daily short stand-up meeting and the intranet availability of all company information created an excellent basis for that.

The Apilio team was very open about the product strengths and weaknesses, as well as the market opportunities and threats. We frequently used informal meetings and coffee/lunch breaks to exchange questions and answers. From my side I gave regular updates on the work I was doing and made my marketing deliverables accessible from two angles. Not only did I store my plans, documents and deliverables under the marketing and project sections of the internal collaboration tool (Apilio uses Atlassian Confluence), I also grouped everything on a personal page that all could access.

Inspection: ‘To prevent deviation from the desired process or end product, people need to inspect what is being created, and how, at regular intervals.’ To allow inspection of the marketing plan and of the marketing project and campaigns, we used a couple of tools.

Apilio has one Backlog board with the status of all tasks and sub-tasks, which is visible to all and is maintained by all. The tasks were organized by themes that often consisted of one or more sprints. Marketing examples include the Marketing Plan, the SEO/Keyword project, the Website Makeover project, and the individual Marketing Campaigns. A good online (cloud) collaboration platform like Confluence, that allows to cross-link, review, comment, share and see (proposed) changes, or to lookup older version of a document, is another great asset for transparency and inspection. At Apilio this resulted in a better and more balanced use of email (mainly for automated review messages with links instead of attachments) and chat (mainly to consult and inform each other).

Adaptation -‘When deviations occur, the process or product should be adjusted as soon as possible.’ To succeed in 2020, the ability to adapt immediately is crucial. Even if business and marketing objectives are carved in stone, the road to achieve them should be flexible.

Therefore the marketing process has to be IterativeThis includes experimenting and A/B testing, and leads to growing experience and expertise which bring better decision making and better results. As an organisation and as a team member, one needs to be aware of the value of experience and to be set-up accordingly. Experience has four dimensions to take into account: it needs to have a minimal critical mass, it needs to be gained fast, it needs to be built continuously and it needs to grow over time.

This leads to another imporant aspect of Scrum in Marketing. The marketing process and the company culture also have to be Incremental. Therefore the time horizon of the marketing plan needs to flexible. Where the business objectives and certain marketing goals and tactics justify a longer horizon, the marketing plan is best split up into subplans that can be easily adjusted, for example quarterly plans.

Another consequence is that every team member has to work insights based and is able to refresh those insights through accurate and actual metrics. At Apilio I spent relatively much time on finding internal and external intelligence, that could bring me those insights. I also set-up a number simple of business dashboards, and did regular deep dives into the results, to understand metrics and the immediate impact of marketing activities.

Cultural implications of Scrum

Being transparent, open to inspection and adaptive, requires, that one is not strict about a certain set-up, formulation or way of doing things, but is lead by the evolving insights from data sources and from team members. Both inside the organization and in the partner ecosystem, a culture that encourages to be vulnerable, to trust each other, and to with the Scrum principles, will bring optimal collaboration.

Blog about a practical implementation of the LIST Marketing Framework:

The 25-day Marketing Plan with the LIST Marketing Framework – How Lean, Insights and Scrum can make your marketing Thrive