The Lean Online Marketing Methodology

Would you like more creative ideas with greater impact for your online marketing plan than the standard SEO-SEA combination? In this blog we will present you with a method based on the Lean thinking framework for how you can feed your plan with strong, validated ideas.

Do you recognise yourself in this working method?

The old waterfall method for developing software also applies to online marketing. This involves dividing everything up neatly into stages, and only starting with the following stage once the previous one has been neatly rounded off. (End) customer feedback or testing only takes place later in the process.

Do you also only evaluate the effectiveness of your campaign at the end? Although this often (unjustifiably) happens in brand communications, with performance marketing (e.g. lead generation) you must validate whether a message-channel-target group is successful much earlier.

This is where Lean Methodology comes in, where the company aims to optimise all the elements that the customer experiences as valuable by. Testing hypotheses is therefore an essential component of this. This concept of validated learning not only applies to product/website development, but also to marketing initiatives.

It goes without saying that we thoroughly test messages and channels before expanding them, optimising them or increasing the budgets for them.

scientific method lean

Limited choice of channels leads to reduced ROI

In the purchasing cycle, there are marketing channels supporting purchasing that are the final step before purchase. On Google's you can find the division of the channels for a number of major sectors.

marketing channels

These channels offer a foundation, but

  1. They are not exhaustive. There are more channels than the eight in the screenshot above.
  2. They are often narrowly interpreted. Paid search then becomes Google AdWords, Referrals potentially advertorials, and Display a banner campaign.

By looking narrowly at the playing field and with little creative interpretation a ‘me too’ effect (red ocean) occurs with a reduction of ROI as a result. Furthermore, the often blind faith in these channels results in ineffective marketing communications.

Tangible proofs of this are the increasing costs per click on the Google AdWords platform and the decreasing conversion ratios on the Google AdWords bidding platform.

From 8 to 18 Growth Channels

There is thus an urgent need for a broader view of online marketing channels and their creative interpretation.

The 8 channels offered by Google can therefore be further refined and expanded.

In his book Traction, Gabriel Wienberg clusters all marketing channels. Below you can find a slightly reworked division indicating whether the channels fall under online, offline, or are applicable in both worlds.



On Weinberg provides specific examples with each of these clusters.

Brainstorming Marketing Initiatives

This clustering provides an exceptionally good context for incorporating marketing initiatives during a morning of brainstorming.

This brainstorming session should ideally include product, marketing and sales managers (preferably a maximum of eight attendees, including yourself). Using their broad vision and market expertise, this diverging (expanding) brainstorming session aims to create a list of as many marketing initiatives as positive.

The brainstorm session:

  1. Has a facilitator who records, summarises and concludes. He or she keeps track of time and briefly discusses the clusters during the introduction.
  2. Then follows a 30-minute preparatory stage in which everyone can write down their initial ideas irrespective of budget, time and manpower. Everyone has his or her preferred clusters, but it is important to collect at least three ideas per cluster.
  3. A session lasting no longer than two hours for discussing the ideas, in which three Post-it notes per cluster remain at the end. Do not aim for a consensus (risk of red ocean).
  4. Has a concluding stage of half an hour, during which the follow-up steps are explained.


Assessing Marketing Initiatives

A range of initiatives come from the brainstorming session, so list at least three ideas per cluster.

Once back at the office we plot them on two axes:

  1. What is the (expected) cost/visitor?
  2. What is the (expected) reach?

A third variable looks at whether the right visitors are being reached. This can be measured using conversion ratios, for example. This is only verifiable after the test, of course.

In concrete terms, for the launch of an app in the food sector, a completed framework for marketing initiatives after a brainstorming session could be as follows. (Only one idea per cluster has been written down to keep the example clear.)

raamwerk app

Testing Marketing Initiatives

Each marketing idea carries a message with a goal. It goes without saying that not all marketing channels and ideas lend themselves to performance (active evaluation stage and purchasing stage). Some are purely inspirational or only carry brand messages. The important thing is to evaluate these correctly. In any event, look at which marketing initiatives fit in which phase of McKinsey's consumer decision journey.

 customer decision journey

Starting by thesting three ideas

Once they have been divided up, it is time to start testing these ideas with limited resources and time. We want to validate them before doing any further work on them. Start by testing three ideas that cannot conflict with one another. The choice of KPI does not have to be difficult; it is often about reach, conversion ratio and cost per lead.

Following up, scheduling and communicating marketing initiatives

In order to follow up on the initiatives, you can organise yourself and your team as follows:
Create a Trello-board. 1 column per cluster. Each cluster contains the ideas added as cards..


If you use Sprint / Kanban / ... boards for development, for example, then a fantastic tool such as can directly import the Trello tickets. The advantage is that tickets with their status are assigned to releases.

If you want to go a step further, then you can connect StoriesOnBoard with Slack so that the status and results can be discussed. As the manager, you then see every change that is made to the tickets.

status & resultaten


Via the Lean Online Marketing methodology from The Reference

  1. Your marketing has more impact, generates a better ROI and you have more knowledge about what does and does not work. This is because your marketing initiatives are not limited to traditional channels such as SEO, SEA and display advertising,
  2. Quick brainstorming sessions with experts feed the marketing plan.
  3. You can validate your ideas more quickly and more cheaply; a substantial competitive advantage.
  4. You make your marketing initiatives clearer and more transparent for the whole company.
Would you like to breathe new life into your online marketing plan? We’re just an e-mail or phone call away.

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The Reference is nothing without its customers. Melexis is the stock market-listed global player in the semi-conductor and sensors industry for whom we facilitated future company growth by updating the brand, building the completely new corporate website and giving shape to the use of online channels. Read more about this client.