Lean Marketing Principles to Become an Unstoppable Marketer

Lean Marketing Principles to Become an Unstoppable Marketer

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Using lean marketing principles can help you to become a more productive digital marketer. In this episode, I’m talking to Monica Georgieff, Marketing Director of Kanbanize, a lean management platform that combines principles of Lean and Kanban. It is like Trello on steroids with the addition of portfolio management, flow analytics, and automated business rules.

We discuss how to apply Kanban to marketing and make the entire process more lean and efficient. Monica shares highly practical steps to applying the principles, and she shares a mind-blowing marketing metric that most marketers aren’t using. This is a fun and interesting episode that will help you take your marketing to the next level.

Topics Discussed in this Episode:

  • Bus drivers in Malta are professional race car drivers
  • The effect of capitalism and startups in Bulgaria
  • Creating value and a relationship that is positive
  • Being mindful of your audience and targeting correctly
  • Creating value in the digital media space based on data
  • Structuring Kanban for marketing especially team communication
  • Creating a more predictable flow of content planning
  • Work in progress limits create efficiency
  • Interlinking Kanban cards on different boards for enterprise situations
  • Using data tracking to make sure resources aren’t wasted
  • Kanbanize has tracking analytics for measuring process efficiency
  • Using a Monte Carlo simulation to predict  when tasks are completed


Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour, bonjour! Welcome to everyonehatesmarketers.com. I’m your host, Louis Grenier. everyonehatesmarketers.com is a podcast for digital marketers who are sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I interview no nonsense marketers who are not afraid to cut through the bullshit and say things as they are. During this show, we’ll learn how to get more visitors, more leads, more customers, more long-term profit by using good marketing, by treating people the way we like to be treated.

Head over to everyonehatesmarketers.com to subscribe to the email list. We’ll notify you before anybody else of our future guests. You’ll also help us to come up with great questions for the future guests. You’ll also get access to the numbers in terms of number of listens and downloads of the podcast. Also quite simply, to have great one to one conversation if you need any help.

In episode 15 of everyonehatesmarketers.com, I’m talking to Monica Georgieff. Monica is the marketing director for Kanbanize. Kanbanize is a very interesting piece of software that uses the Kanban methodology. If you’re not familiar with Kanban, it’s a highly visual way to organize yourself and your team and to manage projects and execute on stuff. It has been invented by Toyota.

The way I would describe the software is basically Trello on steroids. They do things in a little bit more powerful manner, tracking things that Trello doesn’t do and plenty of other features that Trello doesn’t have.

In this episode, we’re going to go through how to apply Kanban to marketing, how to make your marketing more lean, how to make your marketing more efficient. It’s a highly practical episode with a lot of takeaway. I would suggest you to take notes during this episode because there’s a lot to take in.

Monica is going to go through how to apply Kanban to marketing. She’s going to give you examples on how to do that in your team or if you’re on your own. Finally, there’s one thing in this episode that is really mind-blowing, is a metric that marketing teams and marketers haven’t really measured ever. It’s a metric that she’s going to go through and explain how to actually measure to make your team more efficient. That’s actually really powerful as well. As usual, have a listen and let me know what you think.

Hi Monica, welcome to the show.

Monica: Hi Louis, thanks for the invitation.

Louis: You’re very welcome. To prepare this interview with you, I did take a look at your Twitter profile and LinkedIn profile and get to know you a little bit better. We had few conversations before but I wanted to know a little bit about you. I’ve noticed that one thing that you really love doing is to travel quite a lot.

Instead of talking about marketing straight away, what I like to ask you is is there something really weird that happened to you while you were traveling or a very good story that you like to tell others about your travels?

Monica: Oh, boy. I’m glad that my Twitter profile is giving that impression to people. I do travel quite a lot. I wish I could do even more. Recently, the last place I was was Malta.

One story that I will never forget because it was really high adrenaline, it was really unexpected was the bus drivers there, they wish they were in Formula 1. Somehow, I don’t know how these young men, professional drivers that turned out because I was speaking to one of them, started driving buses in Malta. They drive twice the limit, all of them. Because it’s an island, you always have the feeling that you’re going to actually go off of the edge at some point into the water but this is sort of part of their culture I think.

Our Airbnb host when I was there told us that Maltese people like adrenaline, which I didn’t know. We’re driving with the bus driver. He spoke very little English and he said, “I’m a former Formula1 driver. I like adrenaline. This is why we’re driving so fast.” I had to get off the bus but yeah. At the end of the day, this is a takeaway from Malta if anyone’s going to get on a bus.

Louis: How long did you last in the bus?

Monica: It took about five minutes for me to realize that I would be walking. I don’t think there’s Uber in Malta so we ended up having to take a cab. It’s strange that cars somehow drive quite slowly on the roads because the buses have their own lanes. They can be quite reckless that way. But the cars are constantly in traffic. It’s impossible to actually go above 50.

Louis: Were there more people in the bus other than you?

Monica: The bus was actually full of tourists. Everyone was pretty much at the end of their wits and was about to get off with me. I started a little bit of a trend. I think a group of people came off, they were French actually, I think the French are quite adventurous but it turns out no.

Louis: They like their life as well. They enjoy life a little bit more. You started a trend there, people started to leave the bus. Did you walk together or did you just leave?

Monica: We had a quick exchange of looks about why we were all off the bus. We were a bit lost because we understood that now we were off the bus, we felt safe. But we were also in the middle of nowhere. It became a little bit of a pilgrimage. We were going to Medina, which is the old capital of Malta. It’s a little bit of a fortress on a hill. There was a community element there. A new community was formed, of people afraid for their life.

Louis: Wow. I knew you had a good story. This is why I asked you. Let’s go back a little bit about you and talk about who you are as a person. Is there any particular event in your childhood or in your life that made you who you are today? Something that really summarizes very well your personality.

Monica: Yeah, absolutely. I’m originally from Bulgaria. My parents ended up immigrating to Canada in 2001 when I was six. I haven’t been to a Bulgarian school at all. I ended up being educated in Canada. I have a very different bi-cultural mindsets or multi-cultural mindsets, so to speak.

When I came back to Bulgaria two years ago, this immigration that happened so long ago, I hardly remember it very much, I wasn’t quite an adult then, turned into this really definitive story. It ended up being part of the career path I chose. It ended up being part of the community I created around myself, my friends, and everyone that’s close to me. Now, turns out has been living elsewhere for most of their life and then returned back to Bulgaria. But they’re all originally from here.

I think they were just a mass exodus at some point because of economic reasons. The country wasn’t doing very well. I think a lot of people ended up immigrating to the States and Canada and then coming back right around 2014 or after Bulgaria became part of the European Union. I think that’s something that definitely made me who I am today I guess.

Louis: That was my next question, the reason why you came back. I guess you answered it. Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2014.

Monica: No. It actually joined in 2007. That’s when people started coming back. I came back in 2014 with a lot of people around me. By that point, I think a lot of institutions and organizations have come into play that created a really nice startup environment for new companies to grow. I think that’s one of the reasons that people started coming back.

Louis: Do you go back to Canada often?

Monica: My family still lives there so I do at least once a year. The difference is striking.

Louis: What do you mean?

Monica: I find that in Canada, there are a lot of examples of success, whereas in Bulgaria people weren’t really allowed to have their own private businesses for a very long time because it was Socialist. Everything was government-owned. People are just now here discovering that they can have private business and develop on their own terms whereas in Canada, this has always been the case. It’s always been very tolerant of initiatives and goals that people had: personal goals and professional goals. I think that’s part of the difference between the two countries that really shocks me every time.

Louis: More concretely, let’s say you bring a Canadian who doesn’t know anything about Bulgaria. What do you think is going to be the most surprising thing when he or she goes to Bulgaria for the first time?

Monica: I’ve actually done that. Several of my friends from Canada have actually come to Bulgaria on vacation. In the beginning, they were asking, “Do you guys have toilets there?” Which is a really weird question because obviously we do. And all sorts of questions that were really sort of uninformed because Bulgaria was so closed off for such a long time.

When a Canadian comes here, they’re really surprised by how much the startup community has grown, how well aware people are of global trends in all industries, and how much grit they have I think is something that really surprises people.

Louis: Do you think this grit is coming from the fact that their parents at least were unable to do that? Like to live in a capitalist world, they had to live by the rule of the government. When they were able to be free per se, they already took this opportunity with both hands.

Monica: Yeah. I absolutely think that. There’s this quote I really like. I always forget who said it but it says that children develop the qualities that could’ve saved their parents. I think the next generation, the generation that is now growing new business and taking on different initiatives that are more international is developing qualities that they seem to think their parents never had the opportunity to cultivate. I think it’s an exciting time. I think a lot of interesting innovations are happening because of that, that people are carpe diem-ing all over the place.

Louis: I actually came across quite a lot of Bulgarian stuff up recently. One of them is Enhancv, another one is yours, the Kanbanize. Also come across one the Trello, which is a marketing software like sort of marketing software.

Monica: Yup, we know each other.

Louis: I suppose the startup community in Bulgaria must be quite vibrant. It’s probably quite nice to be there at this time, to develop the country already.

Monica: Yeah. I think companies like these that are becoming more visible in the global market are really sort of changing the narrative when it comes to Bulgaria. Different audiences are becoming more aware of the types of companies that are growing here. They’re changing the way that they look at the country.

I’ve heard Bulgaria called the Silicon Valley of the Balkans. I’m not sure I agree quite yet but I think we’re well on our way. I think that will continue to happen exponentially as time goes on.

Louis: There’s a rule any way. Every single city, country and region will call themselves a Silicon Valley of something. Like in Dublin they call themselves the Silicon Valley of Europe or whatever. It happens everywhere. There’s only one Silicon Valley but it’s true.

We’re not talking about prejudice or anything like this. I didn’t know a lot about Bulgaria until two years ago where I basically never really met any Bulgarians before. When I got involved in startup a little bit more and marketing way more than before, I started to meet more and more people from Bulgaria.

One thing that struck me that I didn’t even think about was the actual level of English that they had compared to the French, for example. Whereby, almost all the people I talked to had perfect English, almost perfect English compared to mine or compared to what I’m used to in France. That was nice as well.

Monica: I think your English is quite well. But here because the language is Bulgarian and it’s not French or Spanish or English, it’s not one of the more common languages that can be found in a lot of different countries or that people typically learn or know at all, in order to be competitive or communicate with different people, English is something that gets learned very early on in order to have a bit more opportunities, I guess, in our respect.

Louis: That’s a good point. That’s probably the reason why.

Let’s move on to marketing and the subject of this episode. You’re the head of marketing for Kanbanize. We’re going to talk about this product a little bit more during the call and how it can help marketers.

But first of all, I’d like to come back to the subject of the podcast itself which is marketers are sick of marketing bullshit. They fear that marketers have a bad reputation. They want to fix that. They want to improve marketers’ reputation and impacting the world. From your perspective based on your experience, why do you think marketers still have a bad reputation?

Monica: Having seen this from the third perspective, because I wasn’t always a marketer. I actually graduated Literature. I thought I was going to be a writer or journalist or something like that. Marketing was intriguing because it was so controversial. There was high-quality marketing that made a really great impression on me. There was also, as you said, BS marketing which ended up being under the hat of brand awareness. Very vague concepts that didn’t really make sense to business owners who were working with marketers in order to improve the results of their business that were very measurable.

I think marketers started offering these very vague viewpoints of what they could do without the metrics and the data behind. This made people very distrustful of what results marketers could actually get. Marketing is expensive. There are a lot of different paths that you can go and a lot of different things that you can create that are under the umbrella of marketing, so to speak. Many of them can’t be measured as much as someone who’s hired a marketer whose working with a marketing team or a marketing agency would like.

I think that’s what ended up happening. If people were getting data back and results, they were happy and marketing got a good reputation. But then when someone had occasion to work with marketers who said, “This billboard cost half of your marketing budget. What was the result, I can’t really say.” I think people were left with a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to marketers.

I think people tend to be more vocal about negative experiences than they are about positive experiences. When you start working with marketers who can’t give you data, you become a non-believer.

Louis: For let’s say, the general public, people that are not involved in business or marketing per se. Why do you think they don’t really like advertisers or marketers or people in this type of industry?

Monica: I think people don’t like to be sold to blatantly. They prefer to gain value first and then give you permission to give them more of that value that’s relevant to them personally. They want you to be consistent with that. If you blast an ad off in any direction, in a non-targeted way, then you’re hitting a public that is not interested and is really allergic to spam now. If marketers or advertisers are spammy, and a lot of them are, I think people get really turned off. They don’t want to participate.

On the other hand, if you’re able to create value for that person, I think they’re going to give value back. This will create a type of relationship that is positive as opposed to negative. But it’s a bit more difficult, it takes more time and I think it takes a lot more customization at the end of the marketers. I don’t think a lot of people in that field are ready to sort of put that time in, the time that it takes to create value for many different target groups.

Louis: You mentioned two or three bad practices already in this question. But I wanted to ask you in more detail. Have you heard of so-called best practices in marketing that you think are just plain wrong?

Monica: I pretty much heard it all. I am a head of a content marketing team. For us, best practices in brackets, we’ve been sold a lot of those that don’t work. One of them, it turns out blackhat SEO, buying domains and then PBNs and all that stuff. In the beginning, because our team is quite young so we were learning, everyone saw this as the best way to boost your results really quickly. It turns out that there’s no one size fits all solution. There is no one of this that will catapult you into your best results yet and your best traffic. There is no such thing.

We never ended up pursuing it but people in the SEO world, particularly when it comes to marketing, were offering a lot of services like that and link building that would disappear after a couple of months just the public blog network would collapse and then all of the links that you’ve built and paid for, which is the way they were working back then, would eventually just disappear. These are very specific examples.

Louis: SEO is an industry of marketing that is quite known to have a lot of so-called best practices that are not best practices. Outside of SEO, is there anything more related to marketing itself that you’ve heard that kind of boils your blood, that annoys you?

Monica: We were getting a lot of tips in the beginning about widening the reach of our channels, not really targeting particular potential customers. Just sort of creating more awareness about who we were anywhere. Four years ago, we were relatively unknown and Kanban, which is the field that we’re in, is not really popular in a local level. They were just saying shout at the top of your lungs about what you do everywhere wherever you go and hope for the best.

I think that’s not a good tactic for a startup and it’s not a good tactic for a large company or an enterprise, either. Because that means that you’re wasting so much of your resources on people that might not be your target at all and might not care and might even be annoyed that you’re taking that approach to them that is not personal and is not really addressing their particular needs.

I’m not a fan of the elevator pitch, whatever elevator you’re in. If you’re in the right elevator, then it’s fine, it’s great. But if you’re in the wrong elevator, then you’re actually damaging your reputation. I think you have to be very mindful of the audience that you’re talking to and the types of people you’re with. I think that’s in brackets of best practice that really boils my blood because I think a lot of companies end up stumbling that way or even tripping.

Louis: It’s tough because it’s never about you, it’s never about your solution, it’s always about your customers. That’s one of the most difficult parts as a marketer is to be able to really empathize and ask yourself a question, would they even care in the first place.

In a normal daily life conversation, I don’t know where I heard that but I found that very interesting, when you talk to somebody in real life about them and you get to know them better, you never start by giving them the solution straight away. You never start by talking about what they should be doing before listening to their problems. We’d always say how are you, what’s keeping you up at night, is there anything I can help you with; that kind of question. After listening, you start to actually give them the advice that they need or that you think that they need.

In marketing, in business in general, it seems like we forget this very simple rule.

Monica: Yeah. I think people tend to come across. They’re trying to push their own goals but they’re not really listening about the goals of the person in front of you.

Recently, we’re talking about service-level agreements and whether one should include weekends in their metrics for that. For example, if a customer requests it on Friday and you get it done on Monday, you did it the next day but that’s not true. Because if you’re coming from the perspective of the customer, it actually took 2 ½ days for example for them and they’ve been waiting on the other end. In that respect, you have to count the weekends because if you’re really coming from the perspective of the customer, then you need to be aware that they’re counting.

Louis: Yeah. Especially if you find out that those people work weekends or use your products weekends. You have to personalize the experience and making sure that they get the best out of it. It’s a very well-known software company, Basecamp. They provide support. You send them an email any time of the day or night and I think it’s everyday of the week including weekends, you send them an email and they’ll answer within five minutes.

Monica: Wow.

Louis: It’s absolutely insane that they’re able to do it but they do it smartly. They categorize the request, first of all. They ask you a few questions to categorize what you’re asking. Then they probably have a lot of pre-written answers to each question but still manually, there’s somebody behind that actually sends this email. That takes it to the next level. It’s really they’ve listened to their customers and they want to provide the best in class customer service which is quite amazing to see.

We talked about marketing, we talked about the impact that it has on people and how people perceive it. We are mostly digital marketers. You worked for a SaaS business therefore, most of your marketing is online. I do the same. Internet is really a big thing at the minute obviously.

How do you think marketers could make the internet a better place? We saw a lot of things recently about the internet and privacy and a lot of big companies trying to own some part of it. What can we do on our site?

Monica: Yeah. I think that’s a really interesting question because I’ve noticed more and more marketers are calling themselves digital marketers because there’s really no choice. The internet is such source of potential engagement and potential customers if that’s your business. I think that marketers aren’t really in a unique position when it comes to the internet and any digital media that they use because they’re the people that are creating the content.

I’m not sure that journalists, even though they do play a big role, I think there are a lot of marketers that are joining conversations that they weren’t part of before and changing them. I think if marketers are able to position themselves as value creators when it comes to digital and the digital space, that I think that’s a really powerful position to be in. I think that marketers are even more involved directly in their customers’ lives more than before. I think they still exist like madman style agencies, the types that I’m thinking of. They create an ad based on a customer request and put it out there and they have no idea what happens.

We’re actually getting feedback now and really specific feedback about what people are interested in. We can respond to that based on all the data that we now have and make more of what people want and what they need. I think that that’s going to create really strong relationships between marketers and the people that they’re working for, or with, and creating content for. I think that can be positive but it’s also a really dangerous thing because with great power comes great responsibility. I think marketers have a responsibility to the digital space to keep it clean of fake news and spam.

I’ve read about the fake news on Facebook a lot and seen a lot of it, for example, because everyone is really in touch with their feeds on all social media and I think people are getting a lot of information that way so marketers can actually clean that space. I think that’s a lot of responsibility to take on. But I believe that the space has evolved enough that we can take on that and commit to sort of being the guardians of the internet, which sounds really weird. But digital marketers sort of do fit into that space very well.

Louis: As soon as you said that, I was thinking of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which is an amazing movie by the way, I don’t know if you saw it. It’s really good. It’s really funny.

Monica: I have seen it.

Louis: I’m going to be a raccoon. I don’t know its name. Rocket, that’s his name. I’m going to be Rocket, I just decided.

That’s an interesting thing, closing the feedback loop basically. Internet allows us to get feedback from people much quicker. Therefore, we can create the things that they’re looking for not the things we think that they’re looking for.

I want to go back to marketing 101, if I can say that. I want to try to give the listeners a sort of a step by step guide to help them in certain ways in their daily life. You mentioned before in this episode that you guys are using Kanban as a methodology and Kanban as the main way to organize your products. You’re using Kanban as the core of your product.

Let’s say I’m a single marketer working for a small business. I’m the only marketer there. I want to improve the way I work in my daily life. Why should I use Kanban first of all?

Monica: Just to take a step back a little bit, Kanban is a Lean method that started in manufacturing at Toyota, if people are not familiar with the history. It moved to IT about 10 years ago probably. Right now, it’s a method that’s expanding to other industries. I think this happened organically. The reasons that I think it happened is because Kanban is really suitable to work processes that are the type that marketing is doing at the moment because it’s become more digital. There are ways to structure a Kanban workflow for marketing that is really conducive to digital marketers’ processes.

Even if you are a single marketer, there are ways you can use Kanban to be first of all, more efficient because that’s one of the reasons that the method was created based on the Lean principles of the Lean methodology. But I think it works even better for teams because I think there are more miscommunications when it comes to marketing teams or teams in general. When you’re working with a lot of different people, there’s the topic if visibility that you need to talk about. When you’re working by yourself, you have an opportunity to structure your process any way you want to. You can see that you can do it on a physical Kanban board if you want in a space that you’re always in like your office or behind your SEO whiteboard, maybe you can do it on that. It will always be visible to you.

The point is that a Kanban helps entire teams collaborate on it. I think that’s what it’s good for. I think if you’re looking for a personal Kanban board, you can use absolutely anything. That’s why I said the physical board. You can just make it in the back wall of your office or something and have access to it. But when you’re a team with for example remote team members, a digital Kanban board like the kind we have in Kanbanize will be a lot more useful to you. The point of Kanban in general, whether it’s physical or digital, is to boost the efficiency of any member or any part of any process. The idea is to have a more predictable flow of value towards your customer or the end receiver of whatever you’re creating or building.

For example, if you’re a lone content creator, planning and breaking down a project for content would mean having different Kanban cards with different priorities linked to different external links, for example. If you’re creating them for different medias and you would map that on a Kanban board and start pulling cards to different stages of the process. For example, you’ve got a large project that requires 10 articles, each article would be a Kanban card that will begin in the request column of the Kanban board. Then in order to have a very visual process, you will pull a Kanban card into in-progress when you’re working on it.

One of the main principles of Kanban is that you have work-in-progress limits. You can’t be working on 10 items at a time. If you’ve got 10 articles that you’re working on at the same time, you won’t be as efficient. You’ll end up wasting a lot of your time context switching between them. The idea of Kanban is to not multitask on the things that you’re working on in-progress and only begin something new when you’ve completed the first item that you’ve began working on.

It’s a very custom approach. It’s really flexible, which is why I can’t give a one size fits all solution for marketing teams. But what we’ve seen is anything from a very basic approach which is one person working on one Kanban board and working on a single project to 50 people marketing teams collaborating with their web developers on several boards that are linked to each other in hierarchies. Cards can be linked to each other with different relationships which creates a portfolio of scenario for marketers. For example, a CMO would be looking at their own board with portfolio cards that are linked to smaller task cards throughout an entire project that are assigned to different members of the team.

Louis: Okay. Let’s go back one step. How does a basic Kanban board look like from left to right?

Monica: A basic Kanban, the way that it started in the factories of Toyota was just a board on the wall with three columns which were requested, in-progress and done and color-coded cards that would represent various tasks that needed to be done. The cards would all begin taped to the wall in the requested column and then you would start moving them across the board. When all the cards ended up in the done column, you would know that those tasks were completed. If they were linked together they would represent an entire project.

In their case, it was a car so the cards represented different parts of the car. When all the parts were installed for example, they would end up in the done column and you would know that that one car was ready for shipping. The way that you can expand that is by adding various columns to that board that represent different parts of your work process.

Louis: Let’s take an example. To write a blog post, you would have ideas for blog posts in the far left, you would have then draft the first version, find out source images or videos. What else would you have?

Monica: I can actually just really quickly go over the way that our marketing board looks because it’s very similar to this work content team mostly so it is quite similar.

Louis: Sure.

Monica: The way that our board is structured is we have three swim lanes which are the horizontal sections of the board. We have the main swim lane, which is just anything that sort of needs to be expedited and is really urgent. Then we have a content swim lane, which is where cards that are related to content initiatives are. And a social swim lane, which is where all our social media initiatives are. All of these swim lanes share the same columns.

Our cards usually begin in the ideas column, which is in the requested section. Then when we decide that we want to undertake that task or write that blog post for example, it goes to ready to start which is also in the requested section. Work hasn’t been begun. We’ve just been planning at this point.

The next section is in-progress, which is where you’re actively working on something. For example, writing or doing research. We usually label our cards if we’re researching.

Then we have a column that’s called waiting on relative. We usually create cards for our designer in the board as well. We link the designer card to the content marketer card. If the design is ready, the card for the design will go into waiting on relative until the content is completed. Then both will go into ready for review which is a section where content gets edited and formatted as well.

Then there’s review-in-progress and review complete, which is when you know that you can go on to for example the publication stage. It depends on what the task is.

We also have a follow up column, which is that’s in-progress. Those are for if you get edits back for an article and then you have to go back and implement those edits, that card will go back to in-progress after review because then you need to do some extra work on it.

We have a column that’s called tracking others as well which is where our communication with external members of the team are. Maybe they are remote members or a marketing agency or they’re authors for other media outlets that we’re collaborating with.

We also have a column that’s experiment-in-progress, which is where we try new things. These are things that are actively being tracked at the moment and we’re testing to see if it works and if we want to validate an approach. If it goes off the Kanban board, then it won’t be visible to the team and they won’t have sort of the motivation to check up on that. That’s how we differentiate between what is completed and what is an experiment that’s ongoing.

Then the done column is the final one. That’s where a content has been published and it’s been promoted and gets archived basically at the end.

What’s important to note about different types of Kanban boards is that you would usually label columns based on whether they’re activity or queue columns. The difference would be whether a card is actively being worked on there, whether a task is being completed, or that the task is waiting. For example, ready for review of an article would be a queue column because that card is just waiting for somebody to review it and waiting for somebody to take action. Whereas in-progress is you’re actively working on this today.When I look at the board right now I can say who is working on what because everything is in the in-progress column. I can do a status check on all of these cards at the same time.   

Louis: What I think will be really interesting is that we add a few examples of those both in actions in the show notes of this episode whereby you can give real life examples without necessarily showing all the tasks and actual templates that people could use in their daily work. I think that could be very valuable.

Monica: Absolutely, yeah. I think at the core, Kanban is a really visual method. It’s what it’s good for. That it’s accessible and it’s present when people work on it. That’s a sure fire way that you won’t forget stuff and things won’t be ignored just because they’re not in front of your eyes because the idea is that the Kanban board is visible and it’s there. I think yeah, absolutely.

Louis: Let’s talk briefly about one thing you mentioned during your explanation which was really interesting. Basically, if I understand it right, a card can actually be a board as well. You can have a Kanban board for the company on its own with like big projects that are in-progress. You can have each project to actually be a board on its own, right?

Monica: Yeah, absolutely. Kanban has progressed from what it used to be at Toyota because it went digital, it’s online. You can get analytics from this process because it’s being tracked while you work whereas manually from a physical board you can’t do that unless you’re really dedicated and want to spend time tracking time on every card. But the idea is that in an ideal scenario in a big marketing team, you can have a portfolio board which tracks all large initiatives and campaigns which makes sense for marketers.

Each of those cards that represent a big project might have different children cards that are linked to it. But those cards are hosted on other boards. For example, you might have a content board, a web development board, a public speaking or public engagements board, a workshops board, or design boards as well. All of those cards that are on those sub-boards can be linked to the main board so that someone who is not directly associated with the day-to-day work process can take one brief glance and get a full idea and a full picture of what the status is.

We recently released a feature that actually shows you how many of the children cards are done so that you can get a sense. For example, if there are 20 children cards, there are two in-progress and most of them are done. You get an idea that that larger project and that larger card will soon go into done itself because all of the affiliate cards will be done.

Louis: Yeah. That’s something I’ve never been able to do myself. I’ve used Trello before. I’ve used other stuff. For some reason, I was never able to keep using this visual way of organizing stuff because I was getting lost in the boards and I think I probably didn’t have the right methodology. I might give it a shot again.

What we use in the team and what I use with everything I do is simple to-do list that are linked to each other. We do use brackets of where are the to-dos. If they are in-progress, are they done, are they waiting for something. It’s kind of perhaps the same idea but I guess we are missing sometimes the visual element. We need to look into that again.

Thanks for that wondrous explanation. I know it’s a very visual thing and it might be a bit difficult to explain like this in a podcast episode. But as I said, we will add more details in the podcast notes.

Monica: Sure.

Louis: Let’s talk about the future a little bit. Marketers are here to stay. It’s getting more and more difficult to understand people and to collect data. There’s many more data points and data sources we can use almost everyday. Marketers struggle to make sense out of it all. What do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next 10 years or 20 years or even 50 years?

Monica: I think you made a really good point about the loads of data that are accessible to marketers these days and how to make sense of it all. I think it’s very important that they focus on one piece of data that they often don’t, the marketing teams don’t at least. It’s the data of their own efficiency internally. I think if you can create a team that is working at its optimal on very sophisticated projects, because marketers are working on more and more integrated projects, they’re working with more technology these days, they have access to developers and designers and they’re sort of coordinating all of those efforts. Marketing projects I think have gotten more complex with time and are very complex now and very digital.

In order to be able to track the way that they work and actually get data from their own process, we’ll let them know if they’re improving in-house and whether they’re improving within their team or wasting the resources of their company or their external customers.

I think that’s super valuable and will become more valuable as time goes on. You mentioned 50 years. I’m not sure what we’ll be doing in 50 years, probably flying around. But in the context of the industry and what types of services marketers are offering, I think it’s absolutely essential to know whether they’re working at the best of their ability and working optimally and not wasting resources which are time and money and whether they can do more with the number of members that they have in their team.

I think marketers are really creative people and they get lost in that a lot. But they can focus their resources in a lot of different directions and being able to make a data-driven decision about where to focus your resources is essential.

Louis: How does one measure efficiency of their team? For example, briefly what type of metrics should they use?

Monica: The main reason that Kanbanize basically exists is to solve this problem. Because measuring efficiency is what everyone has been wanting to do and figure out how. We offer a couple of ways. We actually have a super powerful analytics module behind. The visual board is really simple to use and really simple to set up. What’s going on behind is everything that you’re doing there is getting tracked in different ways. Depending on what your team is doing and how you’re working, you might benefit from a lot of different data about your process.

One of the things that we measure in our team is the ratio between how long our task cards spend waiting for someone to take action versus how long they spend being actively worked on. That can tell us a lot about the way that our process is working. Because if our cards are spending super long on just waiting on a designer or waiting on the head of the marketing to review an article or something before it goes out, then that means that we need either more people, or we need more time for articles, or we’re taking on too much.

There are a lot of different things. You can track the cycle time of cards in many different ways. For example, if a customer comes to you and says, “When will it be done?” It’s really difficult to answer that question if you can’t predict. In Kanban, there’s a Monte Carlo simulation. It sounds like a really complex analytic but at the end of the day, it’s just based on the way that you’ve been working so far. If you can get data about how you’re going to work in one month and how much you’re going to be done in one month based on how much you did last month, you can rule the world I think.

Louis: You’re telling that Monte Carlo simulation, yeah?

Monica: Yeah. Actually, I think there are a lot of different versions of it but the way that it exists in our analytics is it’s a graph that basically measures the way that you’ve been working as a historical collection of data. It makes a prediction about when you might be completing as many tasks and what the percentage of those tasks being completed in some time is. When we’re talking about the future we have to be super probabilistic. Because you can’t say it will absolutely be done in 10 days because you need to stand behind that with some data. I think that’s what Monte Carlo simulation’s trying to do. Are you not a fan?

Louis: No, I am. It’s just a funny word. I like funny words. It just surprised me but it’s perfectly fine. The point you are making about the efficiency is actually a very good point and this is true. I don’t think I ever come across a company measuring that or at least I wasn’t aware that they were measuring that so that’s a very good point. We certainly don’t do it as scientifically as you were mentioning in your explanations. That’s something I’m definitely learning today.

Outside of Kanban, outside of the Lean marketing methodology, are there any resources that made you a better marketer that you would recommend to people?

Monica: Do you mean maybe softwares or thought leadership resources?

Louis: Actually, both. If you can pick let’s say three. It could be books, it could be podcasts, it could be softwares, anything at all.

Monica: I recently read a book that I do recommend. It’s called Hooked. It’s a big yellow cover. I think it’s gotten really popular. The author I think was Nir Eyal. That book really changed the way that I was approaching how to get traction with different products. I think every marketer should read it. It’s not very in-depth but it’s such a good start and actually unlocks your curiosity about a lot of different ways of promoting different types of products. There are a lot of case studies in there that I would recommend getting to know, depending on your business, obviously.

I really like the HubSpot blog. I don’t know if that’s an advertisement for them or their service which is very different than ours. But I think it taught me a lot about combining creativity with analytical thinking, which I think being a Literature major I could do more of because that was a very subjective environment but I think marketing can essentially be very objective if you want it to.

Third one. Oh, I just love SEMRush. It’s a software that can measure a lot of stuff about Google traffic and analytics and stuff like that and your keywords. It’s basically for SEO, which is something we’ve gotten really good at but it’s the one software that never fails. I do recommend it.

Louis: Excellent. I’ve learned a lot from this episode and from talking to you. I genuinely mean that. That was a really nice conversation. Where can people connect with you, learn more from you, learn more from Kanbanize? Where can they connect with you, send you emails, etc.?

Monica: You can always head to our blog which at kanabanize.com/blog but for even more day-to-day stuff, you can find us on Twitter, @kanbanizeinc. You can find me @MonGeorgieff as well. I don’t always post about Kanbanize but when I’m posting about Kanbanize it’s cool stuff. When I’m posting about my travels as you saw, I think it’s also sort of cool. I’d love it if people could connect and give us feedback about what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong. We love to learn and improve.

Louis: Did you release any new features recently in Kanbanize?

Monica: Yes. I was speaking about the very cool analytics options that you have on your board. We recently integrated with Actionable Agile, which is a company that makes really powerful analytics that you can hook to different softwares and they chose us. What you can do now is get a lot more different options and with extreme accuracy about your process, which is what I’ve been sort of an evangelist of. Having more information about how you work because one of the principles of Lean is continuous improvement. I really like that.

I think that our new integration and our new analytics options can give you so many ways of improving with your team. I think you can find more information on the site. I can tell you all about them if anyone’s interested out there.

Louis: That’s definitely something that I’m actually interested in. I definitely should check it out because that’s something we’re not measuring very well at the minute.

Monica, you’ve been a pleasure to talk to. Thank you so much for all of your insights.

Monica: You too, Louis.

Louis: I would share all of the notes, all of the stuff we mentioned, screenshots of Kanban boards, examples and all of that to the listeners. They can check that out. Once again Monica, thank you so much for your time.

Monica: Thank you, Louis.

Louis: Bye.

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