AI/ML

How Trello Uses Trello to Build Corporate Culture Through Communication Channels

STACK & FLOW with Stella Garber, Product Marketing Lead at Trello

STACK & FLOW: The Sales & Marketing Technology Cast

MarTech Series presents Stack & Flow, a podcast series hosted by MTS Expert – Infer’s Sean Zinsmeister and EventHero’s John Wall.

Stella Garber is Product Marketing Lead at Trello. Used by millions around the world, Trello is the visual collaboration tool that gives people perspective on projects. Stella built out Trello’s marketing team and scaled it from day one to Trello’s acquisition by Atlassian earlier this year.

Before Trello, Stella was CEO and co-founder of matchist, a marketplace for freelance developers which was acquired in 2015. Stella also ran marketing and was on the founding team of FeeFighters, a venture backed payments startup acquired by Groupon 2012.

In this episode, Stella tells us about the rise of Trello, including —

  • Being fully distributed and global
  • The challenges of selling a horizontal solution
  • How Trello uses Trello
  • Building corporate culture through communication channels

Key Excerpts from STACK & FLOW

As always, Sean Zinsmeister has eyes lit up at the mention of Artificial intelligence and machine learning. His insights on the future of automation and the expectations sets the tone for the interview with Stella. The interview takes off from the parting interview President Obama did, where he was talking about jobs in America– highlighting the relentless march of automation.

Trello Is a Blank Canvas for Your Team’s Processes

Trello is a visual collaboration platform that people all over the world use. Around 19 million, probably more than that at this point, use it to do everything from planning book clubs and weddings to launching startups, running giant Fortune 500 marketing teams.

If you market to everybody, you market to nobody!

As Stella puts it, “It (Trello) is the most flexible, visible collaboration tool that you’ll ever use and the ways and process and strategy and everything is really up to your imagination. The tool is designed to be a blank canvas for your team’s process to be put on the canvas.

Trello Doesn’t Force People to Learn Project Managing

One of the coolest thing about using Trello and why it’s grown so quickly is the fact that it doesn’t “force people into a process.” A really flexible tool, Trello is built on the concept of keeping the dashboard horizontal. Stella suggests why Trello is quite the opposite of what the conventional marketing books teach.

Trello is the tool that can be the glue or the tool of choice for organizing any need in their life.

About keeping the design horizontal, Stella explains —

“They say if you market to everybody, you market to nobody. You should choose your vertical and then you can speak to the customer. We deliberately said, no what we’d like to do is we would like to show people the potential of Trello and what they can do with it and let their imaginations take over. I think the way that this has sort of manifested itself is we understand that the consumer who is using Trello to plan their kid’s birthday party is the same human who turns around and uses it at work and spreads it within an IT team or a marketing team.”

Tackling Product Marketing Challenge

Trello seems to have developed persona-building very recently, maybe six months ago. The primary goal of the product design team at Trello was to keep the tool easy and universally acceptable. The idea of keeping Trello simple is to “make it stickier”  and viral, as a collaboration tool should be.

In different markets, we sort of localize to the use cases too, whatever is appropriate for that market, but that’s a whole other animal I can get into.

Stella points out, “On one hand, from our product marketing collateral, we do like to show a range of different use cases. So if you go on our home page now, I think you’ll see a handful from HR to Marketing to IT and Sales. Before that, maybe even six months ago, we had a kitchen redesign board, and it was such a funny thing to feature on a home page for a tool that’s used so broadly.”

Is Trello an Extension of the Kanban Board?

The real DNA of Trello is the effective visual paradigm of taking paste-it (post-it) notes. Almost everyone is familiar with working with post-it boards, and they are so visually attractive. Trello, too, offers something that people naturally understand.

Stella offers technical insights on Trello’s visual paradigm–

“I think that the technical term for it is kanban and agile sort of came out of … the agile processes and thinking came out of that basic concept. I think it’s something this is much more relatable to dev teams or people are already familiar with that terminology, but for everyone else, it’s like the post-it notes on the board and people understand that.”

Martech Stack Used by Trello as a Company

For a company that has a large sales team like Trello, Stella identifies the effectiveness of classic enterprise sales process supported by a range of marketing tools —

– Hubspot for marketing automation

– Engagio for Lead-to-Account matching

– Salesforce as CRM for sales team

– InsightSquared for sales analytics, Google Analytics for marketing

– Google Docs Suite, Trello, and Slack a for internal collaboration

– Zoom for video meetings

Marketing team at Trello

Stella answers, “We’ve got two people in product marketing. We have a community manager who focuses on social media, online communities and a few months ago we started a Slack community for the most zealous of Trello users, which has been going really, really well.”

Challenges Solved By Trello

– Democratization of distributed workforce, from management and standpoint

– Managing huge influx of information

– Provide same-page team collaboration with synchronous form of communication

ABM is the Talk of the Town

Stella is quick to report about the talk within Trello about Account-Based Marketing (ABM). She says —

“ABM is something that we talk a lot about at Trello and I think that anybody that works at a company that has the nontraditional sales model where it’s bottoms up instead of top down. We’re thinking a lot about … Trello is one of those tools that’s used by a lot of different teams at a company, so when we have someone in sales going in and trying to sell, one of the biggest challenges is knowing or even letting people know, especially at larger companies, people don’t know that there are a thousand people using Trello at that company and that they would be much better served by using our enterprise product. We’re thinking a lot about that.”

Interplay of Automation with Human Behavior

Stella feels that automation interplays with human behavior. According to her, there is a fine line between robots and humans, especially with chatbot interactions, replacing human communication in some cases.

From the marketing standpoint, we want to be really careful because Trello does have that sort of human touch, that fun, delightful, playful brand and that’s the thing that really connects people to us.

March of Jobs Leaving the US

In 2017, technology is on the cusp of taking human race into a magical era— where AI and Machine learning can solve any problem that we can’t do ourselves. However, the biggest impact of AI/ML will befall on the evolution of jobs in the future.

Sean says, “I think that when you sort of look at how we’re going to make this a balancing act, I do think there is an evolution of tools and when you think about it in a business sense, sales and marketing in particular just sort of bring it back home, is got to start thinking about what are the redundant tasks that are bogging us down and also trying to identify the impossible because I think that when people think about automation and they are thinking about AI, really it’s like at this point there’s so much data that you just cannot throw enough human bodies at stuff in order to make sense of it and so you have to have these new types of tools, machine learning being one of them, to sort of help process everything and help get after that productivity. As Eric Schmidt talks about, improving the quality of work.”

AI 101, Part I: What You Need to Know about Predictive Models

AI 101, Part II: How to Deal with Data Preparation

Stella replies, “I think that it’s a really interesting point that you brought up, Sean, about Obama mentioning the march of jobs that are leaving the US. It’s a lot easier to point fingers at large corporations and say they’re leaving, this is what’s causing unemployment to happen rather than point at robots and computer algorithms and things that people don’t understand. Whereas anyone who’s looked at data on the changing nature of work knows that AI is the future and it is replacing a lot of jobs that people have today, but like you’ve mentioned, I think that there are a lot of opportunities for people to do work that is much more strategic, much more thoughtful and it’s just different. All of this conversation smacks to me of just fear mongering because people don’t really understand what it actually is.

For more topics in Artificial Intelligence, keep an eye on AI 101 Series. AI 101 Series is a special edition authored by Infer’s Sean Zinsmeister exclusively for MarTech Series.

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