Kanban has been around for several decades, but it was adapted for knowledge work several years ago. The methodology has been tried-and-tested in many industries and eagerly adopted by different departments such as IT and operations. So it’s no wonder other departments and teams, such as sales and marketing are increasingly interested in Kanban.

The instant benefits of using Kanban like the transparent overview of all ongoing projects, streamlined workflow, and clearly prioritized tasks seem to be just what marketing teams have been missing the most. So adopting Kanban in marketing might be just what marketing teams need to put their often chaotic workflow under control.

Let’s see how marketing teams can apply the Kanban methodology in their everyday work.

Transparency and Prioritization

The implementation of Kanban in marketing begins by creating a Kanban board that outlines the lifecycle of your process. But even though most marketing projects and campaigns have a similar process, creating one board that can show all different phases may be counter-productive. You’re most likely to end up with an unnecessarily complex board which instead of adding clarity and transparency, will make it nearly impossible to organize and manage your work.

Clear Overview of All Projects

So start by creating a portfolio board with three columns and populate it with cards that represent your bigger projects and campaigns, and other tasks that don’t require a work breakdown. That way you can understand all the big picture and prioritize projects more easily according to top-level objectives (or customer requests). However, depending on the nature of your work and how detailed you want the portfolio board to be you can add more columns to visualize your process more accurately.

kanban for marketing, sample Kanban board

Daily Work Breakdown

The next step is creating a daily work board. Take each card that represents a project or campaign, and turn it into a separate project-specific daily board. Then, organize the board with as many columns and swimlanes as you need to represent the process more accurately. And of course, break down the work into smaller tasks and populate the board.

You can add larger chunks of work that are comprised of a few related tasks and small tasks. Just make sure tasks are prioritized and linked correctly based on their specific [child/parent/relative] relationships. Next, ensure each task is assigned to the appropriate team member. As the cards traverse the board and moves to the next phase you can easily change the assignee. This creates clear ownership, making everyone accountable for their own work.

Also, digital Kanban boards allow you to give different viewing/editing permissions to different team members, managers and stakeholders depending on their role in the project. So make sure to adjust them accordingly.

Digital Kanban boards come equipped with another benefit. Digital Kanban cards can store a lot of data. So team members can use the cards as dedicated communication spots where they can add relevant information, create subtasks and checklists, attach and share docs, and even exchange comments. This helps them keep all relevant information in one place, and ensures everyone is kept in the loop. It also adds another layer of transparency to the board. And allows anyone with access to see the overall progress as well as the specifics of each task.

kanban for marketing, sample Kanban board

This setup of Kanban for marketing consisting of a portfolio board and daily boards will help you organize, manage, and track your work better. The portfolio board will provide you a bird’s eye view on the progress on all upcoming and ongoing work and help you prioritize projects. While the daily boards will allow you to see how close individual tasks are to completion, and when necessary reprioritize tasks. And the best part – anyone looking at the board gets real-time status updates. This saves everyone’s time and eliminates the need for frequent status update meetings, exchanging daily emails, or sending interruptive instant messages.

Creating a Steady Workflow

One thing that most teams love about Kanban for marketing is that it puts an end to the push-culture and introduces a pull-system instead. Moreover, setting precise Work-in-Progress (WIP) limits ensures there’s no multitasking and that one person can have only a few tasks in progress at a time (usually one or two). And pull in new work only after completing the tasks that were in progress. Yes, tasks can still get reprioritized when necessary. But the WIP limits stay the same and ensure no one is overworked.

The movement of the cards across the columns can be regulated by two more Kanban dimensions – process policies and Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Both of these, when defined and stated clearly for each phase (column) help team members have more successful and smoother task handoffs and no delays and provide an added degree of predictability.

Of course, having a clear idea of how long it takes to complete certain tasks and hand them over to the next step makes it easier for team members and managers to make more accurate estimates and plan ahead. These allow marketing teams to put the workflow under control and set a steady peace even in the most chaotic environments.

Track, Measure, Analyze, Improve

What makes Kanban different than other visualization tools is its ability to provide reliable actionable data. Kanban metrics such as lead and cycle times, throughput, and cumulative flow diagrams can be your best friends when it comes to measuring and analyzing your progress. More importantly, these metrics can help marketing teams identify blockers or impediments, and recognize opportunities for improvement. Taking advantage of these insights can help your team adjust and improve the flow, plan projects better, make more accurate estimations, and increase productivity.

Kanban for Marketing

Kanban is a great tool for marketing teams that want to improve their workflow as well as organize and manage their marketing projects more efficiently. It requires little preparation to get started. And can be easily applied on top of the existing marketing process. But at the same time, it provides tremendous benefits. From making all the work clear and transparent to proving the tools for better process management and analysis, to supporting continuous improvement. But most importantly, using Kanban for marketing to manage project executions helps teams to streamline various projects and stay responsive to unpredictable market changes. Thus, it becomes more efficient and significantly more productive and ultimately runs more successful campaigns.

Curious to apply Kanban for marketing in your team?

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About the Author: Ivana Sarandeska

Ivana Sarandeska is a digital marketer, creative writer and master procrastinator. An Agile enthusiast and a firm believer that thorough planning is key to good execution and even better improvisation. She has a soft spot for technology, so most of her full-time jobs were in IT companies where she was introduced to Agile and Scrum. After she got her Scrum Basics certification she started actively using these methodologies and their main principles. Learning how to organize her time and tasks better has motivated her to dive deeper into these methodologies. Now, she is an avid advocate of Agile and Scrum and happily shares her knowledge and experience to fellow procrastinators.

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