In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking to Xenia Muntean, CEO and co-founder of Planable. Planable is a marketing collaboration tool and has been used by well-known brands such as Jaguar Land Rover and Viber. Before she started Planable, she built her own social media agency while still studying – and led social campaigns for companies like Coca-Cola.
It’s no surprise that her work has gotten her recognised on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Her insight into branding, digital marketing, how to get feedback, B2B outreach strategy, and other actionable tips make this episode one you can’t miss.
Hope you enjoy it. Remember to please rate and review, and share it with a founder who needs to hear it.
- Why Xenia started Planable [2:10]
- How to find your brand voice [08:47]
- Why you need to be embarrassed when you launch [22:28]
- Feedback is like going to the dentist [28:33]
- How Xenia uses LinkedIn to build her business [38:17]
- Cold reach online vs in person [41:16]
- Why being personal gets results [48:25]
Stuff We Mentioned
Introduction [00:00:02] Welcome to the All About Digital Marketing podcast. The show all about digital marketing, digital marketing, digital marketing, digital marketing brought to you by Social INK, a digital marketing agency specialising in social media and content marketing for brave brands and forward-thinking SMEs. I’m your host, Chris Bruno, and as always, we’re here to bring you the most actionable tips, tricks, tools and insights to help you achieve more when it comes to your digital marketing. Subscribe to the show and be sure to share with a friend if you found something useful or interesting. You can find all the show notes and more information on www.AllAboutDigitalMarketing.co.uk.
Chris Bruno [00:00:54] Xenia, thank you very much for joining me today.
Xenia Muntean [00:00:56] Thanks so much, Chris, for inviting me.
Chris Bruno [00:00:58] Xenia, listen. For those who don’t know you and don’t know anything about Planable, can you give them a little bit of an insight into who you are, how you’ve got to where you are and what you’re currently doing?
Xenia Muntean [00:01:07] Definitely so. Planable is a collaboration platform for marketers. And together with my co-founders, we started it because we worked in the industry, we worked in advertising agencies before Planable. And we were extremely frustrated with the way we were working on content. It was this mish mash of excels, PowerPoints for sharing work, spreadsheets for planning social media editorial calendars, email for just gathering feedback and approvals. And it was a very, very broken workflow. So I felt like I was wasting quite a lot of my time.
Xenia Muntean [00:01:46] And the reason why I got into the industry was because it’s a very creative and innovative industry. But then when I started working really with, you know, Google Drive Tools and Microsoft Office, it felt like the opposite of what I expected from the industry. I felt like, you know, all those PowerPoints and spreadsheets and emails were just killing my creativity.
Xenia Muntean [00:02:10] So I wanted something that would help me work and collaborate, you know, in a very seamless way with my team members and with my clients. So that’s kind of how we started Planable to do just that, to help marketers who are working on social media content. To find a way to collaborate very easily and very simple just to streamline their processes around the way they’re producing content for social media. That’s what Planable is in a nutshell.
Chris Bruno [00:02:39] That’s fantastic. And I kind of wish that we had been introduced and had this conversation probably about 18 months ago. We were working as a small agency with a regulated financial services business and everything had to go through an approvals process.
Xenia Muntean [00:02:55] Yeah. It’s even more complicated if you’re in these regulated industries. It’s just. Yeah. I assume you had legal involved from time to time?
Chris Bruno [00:03:03] Absolutely. Yes. You know, you know this well. So. Yes. So we used to have I think it was a three out of five people approval process. And we used to have to mock this stuff up in, I mean, again, you’ve just mentioned it, there, Google Drive. This kind of back and forth, kind of chasing and exactly what you said. It does kill the creativity side of things.
Xenia Muntean [00:03:23] Yeah, it’s a big turnoff.
Chris Bruno [00:03:25] So tell me a little bit about yourself. So before you started Planable, you said that you were running an agency as well.
Xenia Muntean [00:03:31] Yes. So, I mean, I started my my first formal business, I could say. So I have different small ventures. When I was in high school and then into university. But the agency was my first serious, solid business that I ever started. And we were focussed on social media creation for regional and local clients back then. And I had a team of six to seven people. In parallel, I was still studying at university. I was studying PR and mass communication. So you kind of I was in, you know, in the industry. And then, you know, while I was building my agency, I kinda discovered this problem and I wanted to first fix it for myself. But then when I when I didn’t find anything that would fit to what I wanted, that’s kind of when we started building Planable.
Chris Bruno [00:04:22] True entrepreneurial spirit, finding an issue or problem that hasn’t already been solved and actually solving that. I think that’s fantastic.
Xenia Muntean [00:04:30] Yes, I completely agree.
Xenia Muntean [00:04:31] I think that’s the best case scenario for, you know, building a company is just kind of scratching your own itch, trying to solve something for yourself, because then you’re you know, you have your ideal customer and maybe ideally, you know, other people like you. So it’s a good start.
Chris Bruno [00:04:48] Well, I think this brings me on really well into the next section, which would be, you know, from my side of things and from as an agency owner.
Chris Bruno [00:04:55] Obviously, it sometimes can be looked at as being a little bit self-serving when I say I genuinely believe things like social media are a huge opportunity for businesses, small businesses, mid-sized businesses all the way through. It’s not just for the big boys. And I wanted to get your sort of impressions from that. Obviously, having run an agency, now doing something like this that helps companies all sizes with their content creation and that process. What do you believe are the biggest opportunities currently in terms of digital and social media for businesses?
Xenia Muntean [00:05:26] I 100 percent agree that it’s, you know, the social as is is very big. But I think there are small, you know, upcoming opportunities that, you know, I would suggest people to look into like building a podcast.
Xenia Muntean [00:05:44] Podcasts. Yeah, I think they’re just going to be huge in one year or two.
Xenia Muntean [00:05:48] It’s just going to explode. I think it’s already very, very big. But, you know, brands are only now starting to get serious in podcasts. Either sponsoring other podcasts or creating their own podcast. I think that’s audio in general is going to become very huge. So I think that’s one opportunity to look into. Well, but there are so many other things you can do with social, right? Social is such a versatile landscape. You know, there’s… It’s, it’s just a blanket with. You can do so many things, so many things with this, you know, environment. So I think there’s definitely a lot of things with social. But the main point is. Not necessarily the type of channels we use, but the type of content that you’re producing. I think that’s the most important thing. Either. If it’s, you know, podcasts, social media newsletters, it’s really about what exactly you have to offer to your industry. I think you have to ask yourself, what’s the type of data inside? You know this has experience, knowledge, you know, experts that I can use to produce content and then figure out what the right channels are. Should you do it in a blog form? I did a podcast format, in a Twitter chat. But first of all, it all starts with the content. I think that’s where, you know, you should ask yourself a lot of questions around the content topic.
Chris Bruno [00:07:26] So I think that’s really interesting. Yesterday, I gave a talk to a small group of start-ups in WeWork Labs in Derbyshire Square.
Chris Bruno [00:07:35] Fantastic group of people. Really, really interesting ideas, completely different. All for the start-ups were 100 percent different. And the questions always kind of seem to come round in the same sort of way. And I think this probably is something that a lot of people struggle with is identifying content. What you’ve just mentioned there. And it’s something that when we talk to companies about, you know, it’s it’s always going to be dependent on who you are as a business. So, yes, there’s obviously going to be industry specifics. But, you know, the way that, for example, Tropicana or somebody like that would help to use to use social media compared to innocent, for example, is very, very different. And I think that comes down to the actual brand themselves and who they are and how they want to come across and how they want to engage with people. But I think the question from my side would be for from you, from your side of things, from your experience, how do you think is a good way for small businesses to actually identify that, to really help themselves kind of build up an idea of who they are and how they want to, how they want to express themselves?
Xenia Muntean [00:08:35] That’s a really, really good question. I think we’re struggling with this ourselves. Right. We’re a small business and it all starts, I think, with. There’s a few moving pieces.
Xenia Muntean [00:08:47] First of all, your audience. And I think you need to zoom in into what type of audience you are trying to reach and not you know, it’s was a good example. You know, of Tropicana and innocent. You could say it’s kind of like the same audience, people who go to the supermarket and want juice. But it’s really not. It’s really not the same audience. People who buy, you know, Tropicana might be different than those buy innocent. And they’re targeting different types of personalities. Different types of characters. Maybe different types of demographics. So it really comes to what niche in your market are you targeting and thinking, you know, about those people. Actually identifying them at the very detailed level is the first moving piece that you need to figure out, the first piece of the puzzle that you need to figure out in order to kind of build and establish that brand. And then a big part for small businesses is the founders really. What they like, what they identify with. That’s I think that’s very, very important. And not that many people talk about that. But I feel that the personalities of the founders, like their values and the way they see the world, plays a very important role in what brand their companies have.
Xenia Muntean [00:10:20] And I think that makes sense because, you know, you can incorporate your own tone of voice and your own view of the world when you’re a founder.
Xenia Muntean [00:10:29] And if you still have a very small team, then you might be doing marketing yourself early, in the beginning.
Xenia Muntean [00:10:35] So that’s I think, you know, you’ve done a successful job so far. Building that company, you know, growing it out of nothing. So you probably know your audience better than anyone else. And, you know, probably some of the things that some of the decisions that you’ve made, some of the, you know, some of the values that you’ve already incorporated in your business have brought to you where you are.
Xenia Muntean [00:11:00] So it makes sense to still have confidence in the type of, you know, in the way you view the world. And in the type of brand you want to build and incorporate some of your own style, some of your own personalities into that. I think if we look, you know, at other businesses that became successful, if you look at their early stages, we might see quite a lot of the personality of the founders incorporated in the brand of the company. And I think, you know, that’s one way to go about this.
Chris Bruno [00:11:30] So I couldn’t agree more. And especially for small business owners like you just mentioned, especially those early stages. You are the company. We all wish that we could start businesses with 100 million in funding and build out a team. But the reality is the branding, the voice, the morals, the decision making, everything comes down to one person. And it’s an interesting conversation I had with tons of small businesses where the founder, the business owner, who’s still doing 95 percent of running the business today. They’re actually a little bit worried about being that champion of the business. And I think that’s probably one of the biggest missed opportunities for so many people, because like you just said, it’s you. People are buying into you, even your first employees, they’re coming to you. Yes. You might have the most amazing idea in the world. And they can see the vision for the future. But the reality is, your first employees are buying into, “Yes. I will follow you into battle.”.
Chris Bruno [00:12:26] And I think the same is true for your clients, for. For suppliers, for anybody you’re going to work with. So really taking that step to champion your business, especially in those early stages, can be such a big asset. And it’s something that so many people don’t realize.
Xenia Muntean [00:12:40] Yeah, I 100 percent agree. I think not everyone is so comfortable with putting themselves out there.
Xenia Muntean [00:12:47] But, you know, some of the energy that you have as a founder because you’re obviously extremely driven and extremely ambitious. If you put some of that energy into the brand and the company, you know, it’s going to work out. It’s going to people are going to feel that. It’s going they’re going to feel, you know, that’s ambitious and that energy and that human side of the brand. So I think that’s extremely important.
Chris Bruno [00:13:13] It’s really interesting. I got a question yesterday from a new Start-Up.
Chris Bruno [00:13:18] They’re really working hard. And that question was, you know, how do we find our brand? How do we find our brand voice? How do we find, you know, who we are and how we kind of come across online? And my answer was exactly that. So have a look around the room. There’s only three of you working on this project. You are, you are the brand voice. You are the brand guidelines. And literally, you know, decide amongst yourselves.
Chris Bruno [00:13:41] Do you talk to each other in a super professional, really kind of corporate way or actually you’d like to have fun? Are you kind of voice full, do you have opinions that potentially divide and divide other people and divide your audience? And trying to make this clear to people and as much as I can, one, you can’t please everybody. So I loved when you said just then earlier on, you know, you need to niche down, you need to understand who your demographic is and actually understanding that it’s okay. That your content and what you’re doing is only good for those people. Because it’s going to be a lot of people that aren’t going to like it. In the same way that, you know, you still get people saying that innocent is overpriced fruit juice. And then you’ve got another group of people that think innocent is one of the most fun brands and they like buying their products because it’s interesting and it’s cool.
Xenia Muntean [00:14:30] Yeah. Yeah, I agree with that so much, I think. It’s really important to put yourself out there and to identify, you know, the type of tone of voice and the type of brand you want to sell.
Xenia Muntean [00:14:47] Very early stage, obviously, you need to look at the competition and you know what’s out there. And find something that is different, that is delightfully difference, that is but also unique to yourself, like true to yourself as a founder. That is going to be very hard. Even if you identify in that industry. Even if you identify a niche like a certain brand, certain tone of voice that’s not being used. But it’s not authentic to yourself as a founder. It’s not, you don’t resonate with it. It’s going to be extremely hard to keep up with it. To be able to implement it and to make it sound real and genuine. So, yeah, you’ve got to do what feels true to yourself, what resonates with you. Otherwise, people are going to notice that.
Chris Bruno [00:15:40] I couldn’t agree more.
Chris Bruno [00:15:42] And I think that’s something that’s that’s really, really big for a lot of people, you know, trying to fake it till you make kind of style. And unfortunately, we’ve all seen it. And actually it’s even worse as an agency owner. I’m sure you’ve had this in the past as well, where somebody is trying to give you this impression of who they are. But actually, everything they do screams the opposite. You kind of realize that very quickly. That inconsistency drives a wedge even within themselves, within their own organizations. And it’s a shame as well. As you mentioned earlier, you know, some founders aren’t necessarily comfortable with getting out there and being the kind of face or the champion for that business.
Chris Bruno [00:16:23] But I think nowadays there’s so many different ways of doing this that actually there isn’t any more excuses. So we put we try and push pretty much all of our clients towards the idea of, you know, Facebook live videos, for example. This is a tool that, you know, it’s a game changer. You can now have broadcast quality content that you’re creating for free, basically with with an iPhone. And as a small business, that is a huge opportunity to showcase really who you are, what you’re doing behind the scenes, what you’re all about and how you kind of come across to people. And when people say to us, you know, yeah, but I’m not comfortable on video. You say, OK, great. Well, in that case, start writing. If you’re not comfortable in writing, then start getting on people’s podcasts. Having a chat with people. There’s always a way to fit something in. Use photos only if you really want to. If you’re really kind of worried. But give people some insight into who you are and what you’re about.
Xenia Muntean [00:17:19] Yes, that’s it. Yes. 100 percent agree. I think it’s it’s very important to find out what you are comfortable with.
Xenia Muntean [00:17:28] And just go along with it. Yeah. Maybe you’re not a big fan of long, long format content. And maybe you know live videos are way too ad hoc for you to, you know, to use, you know, go. Maybe with short formats of content like stories, Instagram Stories or, you know, preplanned content like written content articles. But there’s just so many formats of content out there. It’s plenty to choose from. And, you know, I’m 100 percent sure that you can find something to fit to your style and to your personality.
Chris Bruno [00:18:07] And I think following on from that, you know, one size doesn’t fit all.
Chris Bruno [00:18:11] So because I like doing live videos and I like doing live basically because I don’t have to prepare and I can just talk naturally to a camera and just have a conversation with potentially an audience. For me, that works very well. For other people I understand that it doesn’t. Pre-recorded, but there’s so much out there like you just mentioned, from Stories to photos to video to podcasts to written to whatever you want to do. And there’s so many incredible tools out there. But what I would also say to everyone and I don’t know if you’d agree, but, you know, keep trying. You know, you’re in the business right now, Planable, that people can create all this content and then get the approval process and have this kind of conversation around it. But people should be doing this no matter how small, how early stage. Try everything. Try it once. If it doesn’t work. Don’t worry about it. You can delete a live video that didn’t go well.
Xenia Muntean [00:19:01] Yeah, it’s all about experiments like treat everything like an experiment, you know, approach it like really, you know, scientific experiment. Let’s try a Facebook live video and see if that works. It doesn’t. It was just an experiment. You learn something out of it for sure. And then, you know, move on to the next experiment, track and see if it works. And then, you know, never stop, never stop iterating and never stop playing around experimenting with stuff.
Chris Bruno [00:19:30] I couldn’t agree more. And if the one thing that everybody takes away from our conversation today is just that, I’d be so happy. Experiment, try.
Chris Bruno [00:19:40] It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t work out. And especially when you’re early stages. This came up in a conversation recently. And again, you know, we’re in the process of developing. So when we finished developing our app, when should we start our social media profiles? I was I thought, why haven’t you already started?
Xenia Muntean [00:19:55] Yes.
Chris Bruno [00:19:56] And they said they that question was very simple. But, you know, it’s based on this idea, but we’re not ready to launch. I said, who cares? You’ve got literally months, or potentially weeks, months, whatever it might be in front of you to generate interest and to get people involved and actually to learn. And this is something that loads of people forget. Social media has created the quickest feedback loop we have ever had to our disposal as business owners. It just never existed before. You know, back in the days where people had to call in a telephone sensor, you’d have to log all of that. You’d have to figure out what people were calling about or even worse, written letters complaining about things or whatever. Literally, you could launch something and within 10 minutes you’ll get feedback. And in fact we see it every couple of years or whatever, when Facebook does a massive overhaul and everyone starts complaining about the fact they don’t like where the Facebook button has gone and it’s moved, then it’s a different shade of blue or whatever it might be. But the truth is, that’s a huge asset when you’re building a business. So when people from your side of things would you say, you know, the feedback that you guys are getting for Planable, does that come into to decision making as well?
Xenia Muntean [00:21:01] 100 percent. It’s it’s just so crucially important for us. And we’ve built just so many ways of getting that feedback. Again. You know, people might be comfortable doing that in writing or, you know, giving us a star type of review. But we’re trying to make it as easy for people to give us feedback and reviews as possible, because that’s how we learn. You know, that’s how we wrote the product very early on. We had so many customer development calls with people so that we can understand the history that we can build, you know, products that people actually love. So we’re doing that in multiple ways.
Xenia Muntean [00:21:39] One way. You know, we have this board. We have different features that we’re planning to do or just suggestions or ideas for features. People are voting them and leaving us feedback or leaving us new ideas and suggestions for features. And then, you know, from time to time, we have a group of customers that are more we’re more close to them or they’re more active in giving us feedback. So we directly get in touch with them and ask them about a certain issue, a certain feature that we’re trying to build. And then they’re helping us with insights from their own work lives, from their own teamwork, so that we can learn and that we can actually, you know, build something meaningful for people. That’s absolutely, absolutely important for us.
Xenia Muntean [00:22:28] And regarding something that you mentioned, you know, before, there is this quote, you know, of, if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you know, you launched too late. So that applies. That applies not only to your product development, but for for so many other things here. Perfection is just the enemy. And I know that better than, you know, many other people, because I have this issue with, you know, trying to make everything perfect and then fighting it. And that’s, you know, this type of mentality of launching, you know, MVPs, minimum viable product. We’re trying to implement it not just in our own product development, but in the way we approach marketing as well. We know we’re iterating on the goal. We’re launching, you know, things and then we’re improving them on the goal of gathering feedback from people trying to make them as good as possible. Obviously, that’s not always possible in marketing. Like if you’re launching a BIG campaign, you know, once you launched it there, you know, it’s it’s really ghard to improve it on the go. But with many other things like a Web site, you don’t necessarily have to launch it, that it should be perfect. You can launch it then, you know, constantly improve the copy, the designs, A/B test a lot of things. So I think this type of mentality of launching things when they’re not, when you’re still a bit embarrassed. Not terrible work. Obviously. But still a bit, you know, uncomfortable with the fact that it’s not perfect. I think this type of mentality is very, very helpful with like shipping things fast. Then, you know, then iterating on them, breaking them, recomposing them. Just, you know, shipping things out there, putting them out there. Because this type of mentality of like leaving until things are perfect, you might never launch something. Because you might never feel 100 percent comfortable with the way things are, with the way your product or your marketing project is. So launch it as fast as you can.
Chris Bruno [00:24:41] I couldn’t agree more. So I think the way we’ve phrased this before to people is perfection is the enemy of productivity.
Chris Bruno [00:24:48] So, you know, you can read, read, read it, redraft a blog post a hundred and twenty two times.
Chris Bruno [00:24:55] You’re missing the point. The idea of this is, you know, add value to your audience, get it out there and people will tell you this is really good. But you didn’t actually give us any tools or tricks or where should I go to find out more or whatever it might be? And then that’s how you learn. And like you said, you can then interate. You can go back.
Chris Bruno [00:25:12] But I think that the nicest thing that I actually love that you said was the caveat that you added in going when we say be embarrassed about the work you do, that doesn’t mean literally throwing up a web site that says “buy here” and has a gif of a cat that you feel like that’s really a bad idea after you’ve launched it. But the idea being that there’s so many people out there that are trying to perfect something that hasn’t even had any kind of validation yet. And I think that’s been such a big issue for and I say this for even small businesses that aren’t necessarily online. We’re not talking about SaaS or anything like that. But even people I’d say I’ve got a very good bunch of friends that started a coffee shop. It was about three or four years ago now. And literally they are still iterating. They change the menus. They add new things. They ask people what they think, do they like this, do they not like this. And it’s constantly evolving. So instead of saying, oh, this is what I’m going to do, we’re going to work on this for six months to figure out how to get the exact perfect menu, blah, blah, blah. It’s literally a case of getting it out there. And again, not something that you’re embarrassed about to the point of you’re ashamed to try to sell. But the idea being that you can actually get that out there and then learn from the marketplace, learn from your customers, understand what they actually want, because ultimately they’re the people that you’re doing this for. Right? I mean, you don’t create Planable just for yourself, because now you’re running Planable. You’re not probably using it as an agency client like you would have when you first started looking at the problem.
Chris Bruno [00:26:39] But the reality is, you are making this now for a ton of other agencies, a ton of other brands, people to be able to use and collaborate. And literally, at the end of the day, they’re the people that matter most. They’re the ones that you want to make this product is as most the most amazing product for those people.
Xenia Muntean [00:26:55] What? I agree with that, though. I have to say that it’s very hard to collect feedback from people.
Xenia Muntean [00:27:02] You’re trying to make it as easy as possible. But, you know, honestly. Best case scenario, the best form of getting feedback from people is an interview like a conversation or call or a meeting or or anything anything else like surveys or written feedback. It’s not interactive. And you might not get to the bottom of the problem that way. Because you have limited space. And if it’s written, if they just send you an email, they might just focus, you know, on the type of solution that they imagine and they may not focus on really what the problem is. The survey again, has a limited number of questions and it’s not interactive again. Go back and ask. I mean, you can, but it takes a lot of time. So best case scenario, you want an interview or a call or a meeting where you can ping pong questions and answers and really investigate the issue and the problem the customer is having. If they’re willing to solve it, or willing to pay for it and so on. So I think it’s really hard, but it’s an investment worth making. Every time when you’re thinking about your product because it’s going to save so much time later on.
Chris Bruno [00:28:26] Would you agree that there’s a lot of small business owners or small to mid-sized companies that are afraid of feedback?
Xenia Muntean [00:28:33] Oh, yes, I, I think so. Especially if they’ve already started building something for a while. It’s terrifying to ask for feedback. Negative, maybe negative. And then you might discover that you’ve already worked on that for so long and it was for nothing. Feedback is, can be so many forms. When we, we’ve built the product for a while. Early on, but together with beta testers and together with multiple interviews with people in our industry. So we had a lot of feedback. But at the same time, when time came to actually start monetising the product, we were so scared because we’d worked on that. And people gave us, we’ve worked on that for a year, and people give us very good feedback. But when it comes to actually paying for something, that’s the moment of truth. And that’s, you know, the type of the most important feedback you can ever get. Do they buy? We launched our pricing plans and we were extremely scared. Is this going to work? Is this not going to work? So, yes, I think everyone is scared of the feedback in one form or another. Or other type of forms of feedback. But it’s you know, it’s necessary. It’s vital for your business. You just have to do it. It’s not always nice. It’s done. You know, sometimes it’s excruciating to hear some feedback, which you have to. It’s you know, it’s a sanity check. It’s just healthy for your business and you just have to do it. So like going to the dentist, you don’t like it, but you need to.
Chris Bruno [00:30:24] Yeah, I think it’s really cool to hear you say that. And I think a lot of people out that do struggle with this. And for me, it’s very much like when you first start a business and you’re doing sales and a lot of people don’t feel comfortable with sales. Because the truth is, you know, you have these conversations and you’re not going to be a right fit for everybody. So whether it’s an agency and you’re pitching, whether you’re an accountant and you want to offer yourself.
Chris Bruno [00:30:48] Exactly. It is a fear of rejection. And I think that that sort of multiplies and goes into this as well. And I think it’s a real shame because it’s something that we try and explain to people that are going to be involved in sales that it’s okay to hear, “No.” It’s not a problem. Learn from it. Learn from the experience. What were their objections? If you can find out and then move on to the next call or move on to the next meeting and try again. It’s not a problem. And I think from the feedback side, from my point of view as well, when I hear certain start-ups or small businesses talking about it. They’re so fixed with the vision of what they see as being the potential win or what they see as being this perfect platform, that they’re too scared. Like you mentioned, you know, you’ve been working on this for a while. You’re too scared to go into that phase of listening to somebody say, no, that’s not at all what we actually need. But the reality is picking that feedback and getting that feedback is crucial. From my point of view anyway, and it always has been. But it’s crucial to understanding what you’re doing well, what you’re doing badly. And I think from my side, even from a social media point of view. If you launch a product and one hundred and fifty people message and say this button doesn’t work. I include that as part of feedback. It’s this instantaneous loop whereby you notice things or you realize things on a much quicker way. You know, there’s no need to spend hours investigating. You’ve now been, you’ve had a problem identified. And when we were talking to, I think it was Travis Ketcham from Campaign Refinery and we were having this conversation. He basically took a huge amount of time to trawl through absolutely every single message they had ever received on social media where people were having difficulty or an issue. They took all their support tickets and basically categorized everything into what were the 20, 25 top problems that people were having. And some of them were super simple fixes. Literally, they built an overlay with a couple of tips and sort of links to videos that helped people to get through these things. And literally, it’s removed their customer support, their customer service for the platform. It’s now down to literally not even being a part time job for one person on a daily basis. And this is again, a platform that’s got tens of thousands of clients. But these things are a great way to learn and then to be able to take action. And again, it might not necessarily be in terms of where the product goes, but it can definitely be about just improving the product that you already have or what courses or training that you could offer to your clients to help them understand how to use it better. What would you agree with that?
Xenia Muntean [00:33:18] Yes, like there’s so, so many ways of improving the happiness of your customers. Something that we’re doing is building our help centre so that people can, you know, figure out their problems and their solutions by themselves faster than, you know, getting in touch with the customer support. And, you know, some some people might want to figure out the problems for themselves without speaking someone else. So we have that, too. Building a very strong help centre is is very important. But also, you know, the customer service you have. It’s not just fixing one problem at a time. It’s looking at all the other problems, figuring out the pattern, what problems are repeating themselves. You know, maybe there’s a UI/UX issue there. Maybe you know, it was, the work that was not built properly. Maybe we didn’t think to, you know, about the problem. So you need to dig deeper than the problems customers are reporting. For example, if someone, you know, report that a button, you know, something’s wrong with the button. It’s you know, it’s not where it should be. You need to think, you know, why that person said that. What’s what? What was the job it was trying to do? What was the challenge they had? How do they you know, why are they asking for that? So figuring out and getting through what the problem is, is very important.
Xenia Muntean [00:34:48] This customer support, that’s not, you know, just. Yes. Thank you for reading this. Fix it. It’s trying to understand why they need that, why they’re asking for that. What’s the deeper cause of this? And then, you know, establishing those patterns and solving, you know, those problems for not just for that customer, but for everyone else. Just improving the experience in the app. One ticket at a time. I think that’s the approach that we have.
Chris Bruno [00:35:19] Yes. I think that’s a huge piece of advice for anybody. If you know, if you hear something from from a client, take it on board as being an issue to solve there and then to look after your client. But also look at the bigger picture. Are there processes or systems you can put in place that would make things better. That would resolve those problems indefinitely. And also, like you said, for yourself, if it’s a UX UI issue, the underlying, you know, could fix and make things better. I think that’s always going to play a huge part. OK. So Xenia from your side of things. What’s your favourite social media platform or digital marketing platform and why?
Xenia Muntean [00:35:56] Yeah. So where to me would be SaaS. I would say LinkedIn. I think LinkedIn works very well for us in terms of know outreach and connecting and networking with people. That’s on a professional level. I think LinkedIn works very well for us, but for me personally, yeah. Instagram.
Chris Bruno [00:36:18] You almost sounded a little bit like your you’re upset with yourself because it’s Instagram.
Xenia Muntean [00:36:28] Yes, I know. I know. I should say something more, I don’t know, TikTok or something because, you know, we’re building a social media company. Then I say Instagram which is very mainstream. But, you know, Instagram is just got me so hooked up. Hooked up. It’s like just so it gives it just relaxes me so much to plan my grid. I know. That’s so silly.
Chris Bruno [00:36:55] Spoken like a true digital marketer. Planning your grid.
Xenia Muntean [00:36:59] Yes. Honestly, you know, tweaking my photos and applying filters and trying to make all of the other photos fit together in the grid. It’s just it’s what I do when I want to just relax myself and not think about anything. I know it’s very silly, but that’s one way.
Chris Bruno [00:37:20] So. So I have to ask the question. And for everybody listening as well, is your Instagram publicly available? And can people go in to see how you’ve been planning your grid?
Xenia Muntean [00:37:30] Yes, but it’s nothing fancy. It’s just, you know, travel snaps and just travel, travel stuff. That’s all of it. And I have like 700 followers so please.
Chris Bruno [00:37:42] It’s not the quantity that counts. It’s the, it’s the quality. So better of being connected with less people that actually care, than too many.
Xenia Muntean [00:37:51] I agree with that. Yes.
Chris Bruno [00:37:53] I think it’s really interesting when you mention that, again, a lot of people, B2B, so they believe that LinkedIn is the way forward.
Chris Bruno [00:37:59] And I think that’s. Well it plays a huge part in us as a business, as an agency, for obvious reasons. But I’d like to ask you again just for others listening. What’s your what sort of techniques or tools or ways do you use LinkedIn to help build some of those relationships?
Xenia Muntean [00:38:17] So I think we use LinkedIn most of the times before any events for conferences, industry conferences that we attend. It’s a great way. You know, you can see who’s attending the event usually. Every event has like an app where you can see people that are attending it. And that gives, you know, an overview of who you want to meet there. Who do you want to connect with? And then, you know, once we find someone that is super, super interesting to us, it’s like we see the type of company they’re building and we see that we can do something together, either a marketing partnership or they could really use Planable. Then, you know, where we’re reaching out to them or they’re like, hey, you know, I see that you’re attending this event would be great to connect there for five minutes, chat a bit, you know, exchange some industry insights. So that’s one way we’re using LinkedIn and then just for research. For a lot of research, LinkedIn is great at using them for research, not just for marketing. But when I was fundraising as well, that was extremely crucial for me, you know, doing research on investors, figuring out what kind of connections I have with them, you know, asking for intros for warm intros from people I knew. And those people knew the investors as well. So it’s very versatile. We’ve been using just so many, so many forums. It’s also very important for us when we’re recruiting. LinkedIn is basically the only platform we use for recruiting talent.
Xenia Muntean [00:39:51] So it just has so many ways of using it. Kind of happy it exists.
Chris Bruno [00:39:58] I think that’s that’s a really big thing that I wanted to ask a follow up on the outreach side of things.
Chris Bruno [00:40:03] So for anyone listening to this, quickly open up LinkedIn and start spamming people. This is something that’s really important. And Xenia said it really really well there in terms of you’re going to an event that somebody else is going to be, that you’re asking for a chance to meet, to have a chat, to have a conversation, talk about industry insights. And it’s not the idea of connecting and pitching. And this is something that frustrates the hell out of me. I won’t lie. The number of messages I get from somebody trying to connect and the pitch is sometimes even in the connection request. And I think, wow, I just have absolutely no interest.
Xenia Muntean [00:40:39] Yes, sometimes very rarely. But I do get it. Sometimes connection requests with, you know, like the notes that are personal and interesting to me and they seem useful. So if you do it this way, if you actually research and get to know that person before you reach out to them, you make it personal. If you make sure that what you’re reaching out with to them is, you know, potentially useful. That’s you know, that’s a human way of doing it, not just, you know, robotically spamming everyone.
Chris Bruno [00:41:15] But it’s really funny.
Chris Bruno [00:41:16] So, again, we talk about this a lot, but I often use the idea of a relationship. You know, when you first meet someone or you want to meet someone, the first thing you don’t do is walk up to talk to a girl or a guy at the bar and go, right, you, let’s go. We should get married, have two kids, buy a house and live happily ever after. And it’s amazing, though, because when it goes to online, people think that’s OK.
Chris Bruno [00:41:39] And, you know, you would never do that. And not even in a business situation, you know, you go into a shop and somebody walks over with a credit card machine goes, yet you’ve decided you’re going to have this, here’s a credit card machine. Give me details. Give me some money. It just wouldn’t work. So it’s really funny how that ends up going and going into the online side of things. And then people literally just say that, right? Copy paste. Here’s the offer. Click, click, click, click, click. I’ve sent that to one hundred and fifty people and I’d be amazed actually. So if anyone is listening and you have taken that approach and it’s worked to get you sales, please message us and we’d be happy to have a chat and get you on the show to understand how that works. But but but it is really interesting that a lot of people won’t take the time to do that. Or they won’t take the time to ask for the introduction or they won’t look at who’s already in their network that can help them to expand or to get onto the next level of the person they want to connect with. And I think that’s a real shame. I think it’s a huge missed opportunity and it basically ends up getting my back up quite quickly. In terms of, you know, if I’ve just connected with someone and I get a sales pitch, I’m like that. Right. Delete. There we go. Next move on, because I just don’t see any value in that relationship. I don’t want to have relationships like that. You know, I’ve met hundreds and thousands of people over 11 years of running an agency. The people I’ve kept in touch with are the ones where you can have real conversations where you actually you actually develop this relationship. And I think that’s so important for anyone who’s starting up. Again.
Chris Bruno [00:43:05] Think about it as being a human being. It doesn’t matter whether you to B2B, B2C, online, off line doesn’t matter. But every single person you interact with is a relationship and it should be treated that way.
Xenia Muntean [00:43:17] 100 percent agree on that. That being said, I’m not saying that cold outreach is dead. Then you shouldn’t do it. That’s OK. That’s like approaching people at events. You know, people you don’t know, you’re just approaching them. And that’s that’s OK. You would do that in real life. But the way you’re approaching them, that’s crucial. I think that’s that’s what you’re trying to say as well, right?
Chris Bruno [00:43:40] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, again, if you were at a conference, you wouldn’t run up to someone and start screaming at them. I got 10 percent off for you. Click here. So why would you do it in a message? It seems crazy to me.
Xenia Muntean [00:43:52] Very disconnected, but online life is so disconnected from real life. Sometimes it seems like a whole different universe.
Chris Bruno [00:44:00] But it’s a real shame as well. Because even when we talk about, you know, I gave the talk yesterday and it was literally titled putting social back into social media.
Chris Bruno [00:44:10] Literally, I keep repeating to people, you know, you’re all human beings, whether we do a B2B transaction or not, it’s going to be Chris on one side, Xenia on the other side of the table as human beings. And we’re social people like this is normal. But you’d have a conversation before you ever got to a sales pitch or before anything else happened. So why would that be any different online? But again, like you said, I think it’s just very, very disconnected from what we would do in real life and how we would talk to a human being in front of us. And then all of a sudden, when we get behind a keyboard, see, people seem to forget that or all etiquette goes out the window.
Xenia Muntean [00:44:45] Yes. I think there’s the other side of this. Not just about the people who cold outreach. But I want to say something about the people who receive cold outreaches. Because I think cold outreach has become just, you know, we’re used to this. And sometimes even. Like it happened to me once when I reach out to someone like genuinely, I just genuinely wanted to have a chat and it was like a personal e-mail.
Xenia Muntean [00:45:10] And I got a “please unsubscribe me email”. Because I spent time personally and write an e-mail to you was not part of a massive campaign. Same with people. And you know, you wouldn’t do that to someone in real life, someone approaching you, you know, you wouldn’t just walk away.
Xenia Muntean [00:45:37] So yeah the other side of it. You know, it’s not just the people doing cold reach. But also, you know, people who received those e-mails. The thinking it’s very different from real life. That’s kind of I think the conclusion.
Chris Bruno [00:45:47] I think that this it should it’s become really bad. It’s quite an interesting conversation. So for, for anyone who is looking at doing this cold outreach kind of thing.
Chris Bruno [00:45:55] But the amount of emails that we all receive on a daily basis and the amount of emails that are trying to pretend like they’re personalised and we’ve sent it just to you and you know, it doesn’t necessarily have any formatting or a template to make it look like that. So literally people do get it. But the problem with that is, like you said, the emails that get missed in between where people are like that, Jesus, like, please unsubscribe me. But I think it happens because, you know, we get so many of these and you end up in these loops, which really annoys me as well. So we get a lot of requests for people asking us to give them back links basically through our blogs and articles. And it’s interesting because, you know, literally they’ll put us into a system whereby we’ll get the first e-mail. Then the second one says, hey, it’s Rebecca following up. Did you see my first e-mail? And then there’ll be another one afterwards. And then you realize there is actually an unsubscribe button hidden somewhere. If you keep scrolling long enough underneath everything else and you sat there going like, this just doesn’t work for me. But I have to imagine that if they’re doing it, it’s a bit like the stories of the Nigerian scammers or whatever else on email.
Xenia Muntean [00:47:04] Someone replies.
Chris Bruno [00:47:05] Yeah, if they keep doing it, then there must be a reason, you know, somebody must be actually buying into this sort of stuff. But it’s a shame because like you said, you end up missing out on real opportunities or missing out real connections because of the fact that it’s it’s mixed in with so much fake or bad or just even a lot of people that just, you know, there’s no effort. Like actually they’re not putting any effort into it to try and make it better or to try and make it interesting or engaged or like you said, you know, you spend that little bit of extra time researching, understanding who the person is, identifying people you have in common. There’s a whole network out there that you can get involved with. And I think we unfortunately get a little bit lost because of the, excuse the expression, but the shit that certain that flies around too much and takes up too much of our inbo real estate.
Xenia Muntean [00:47:53] Yes. Did you did you ever get like a cold email that was actually interesting.
Chris Bruno [00:48:01] It’s a really tough one.
[00:48:02] So we’ve had recently, more than anything else, actually, we’ve had quite a few platforms message us to say, hey, you know, we’ve noticed that you you wrote an article about, you know, top video editing platforms that are super simple for people to use for social media and that you’ve missed us off. And literally we’re like that. Well, we haven’t missed you off. We haven’t come across you before. So that’s the first thing.
Chris Bruno [00:48:25] And again, it’s not, you know, even as part of as part of getting ready for this podcast, I was actually looking into just how many different platforms that there are that have some sort of a take on social media, scheduling, planning, approval processes, whatever it might be. But you know that there is it’s a very big world, as it were. And there are companies coming up every day and there’s new people one thing or the other. But what’s been interesting recently is we’ll go back and I’m quite good in terms of if somebody has taken the time to write a real email and they’ve researched who’s who, that is that they’re e-mailing. My email address is on the web site. So if somebody hasn’t bothered to look at our Web site and email me directly, then I know the chances are they’ve just literally gone onto a directory and they’ve stolen our sort of generic e-mail. But when we get that e-mail and I go back to them and I’m very honest with people, I say, look, we don’t often link back like that and we’ll only write about products and platforms that we actually use. And we’ve actually ended up having really interesting conversations with people because they do say, well, try it. Like give us your real thoughts and feedback. They’re not asking for anything fake. They’re not asking for crappy reviews or whatever else, but they’re literally genuinely saying like we’d be interested in knowing as an agency. How do you find this? What do you think? And if you do like it, then tell other people about it. And it happened to recently with I think it was Lumen5 for the video stuff. Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, they hadn’t come across our radar because, you know, we’ve been doing this so long, I guess, that we’ve kind of got stuck in our own ways and we use our own tools or the ones that we’ve liked more or the ones that we’ve kind of just always used.
Chris Bruno [00:50:00] So it’s nice to get those kind of e-mails and have that conversation. But I think there’s a way. If you can get somebody to interact with you.
Chris Bruno [00:50:08] And sometimes it’s more simple than that complicated, kind of thing. But if you can be open and honest and not try and sugar coat it and make it sound like it’s something that it’s not.
Chris Bruno [00:50:19] So, for example, you know, when you’re asking for a backlink one thing other and I get a request for an email that says, you know, all your readers are going to love this, you absolutely have the link to it. It’s literally like I’ll reply to them going, hey, can we have a backlink from your web site? Question mark. And that invariably kills the conversation. But The idea being, you know, why not take that little bit of time to say, well, what about this? Or having looked at something honestly or saying, look, I’m not asking you to put this in, but have a look what you think of our infographics or something like that. I’d be 10 times more likely to actually engage with that conversation, because at least I know somebody is not trying to hoodwink me or trying to sort of pull the wool over my eyes.
Xenia Muntean [00:50:58] Yeah. Yeah.
Xenia Muntean [00:50:59] I think the best ones for me are as well, the ones that are, you know, obviously well researched and they’re useful. I get a lot of outrage from outsourcing companies. But it’s just so easy to do a bit of research on Planable and see that, you know, our internal engineering team is in-house and our team. So there’s no need. We do not have the needs you’re trying to address. Just figuring out if it’s those people, if the people you do your outreach to have the need, have the problem or not. I think that’s just that’s important to do. You know, you can get something called outreach, but it needs to be bit more research, a bit more human.
Chris Bruno [00:51:43] I couldn’t agree more. So we get probably two requests a week from outsourcing for content. And we kind of sat there going. You know that that’s our biggest core service that we offer.
Chris Bruno [00:51:55] So. So literally, if we start outsourcing it all, what do we do? You know, there’s five people in a team that do this every day for clients. I don’t really understand. But again, people don’t take the time necessarily to look. And again, a lot of people are either just sort of scraping e-mail addresses or buying lists and banging this content out. But I think invariably, like you mentioned, it can happen every now and again that, you know, like the email where somebody goes, please unsubscribe. And it’s actually a genuine email. But I think if you look at it as a percentage of the overall, you know, if you had taken the time to research someone and you’ve taken the time to create an email, especially for them, most people can tell.
Chris Bruno [00:52:33] And I think, again, it’s it’s probably only. I don’t want to say bad or nasty people. I was going to say a roude word, but I’ve been told I need to swear less. But, you know, there’s very few people that are honestly going to just respond to that going. Yeah, whatever. Or unsubscribe me. And it’s a shame that that’s kind of the that the mentality that we have. But it’s because of how much crap and spam we do actually receive.
Xenia Muntean [00:52:56] Right. Yeah.
Chris Bruno [00:52:58] OK. Well, listen, this has been absolutely awesome, and I hope that we could do this again sometime because I’ve really enjoyed the conversation and I think we could probably carry on talking for another couple of hours on all these different subjects.
Xenia Muntean [00:53:08] And Xenia, where can people find you online? Not just yourself, but at the company as well. But what’s the best way to connect with you?
Xenia Muntean [00:53:15] Yes. So myself on LinkedIn and the company is Planable.io
Xenia Muntean [00:53:23] Planable.io.
Chris Bruno [00:53:24] And I have to ask as well, because everyone is gonna want to know what’s your Instagram username so that people can check out your your planned out. Great.
Xenia Muntean [00:53:32] Definitely. It’s @XeniaMoon. Oh, and don’t ask.
Chris Bruno [00:53:38] There you go. Everyone go check it out and make sure you comment and say you said that you planned this. I don’t understand what’s happening.
Chris Bruno [00:53:46] Xenia listen, thank you very much. I wish you the best of luck with everything. And we’ll be checking out Planable.io as well. We recommend anybody else, small agencies or if you’re working with clients, even freelancers, this is a great way to be able to create content and to get approvals. And I think that’s something that we’ve all struggled with if we’ve ever had to go through that process.
Xenia Muntean [00:54:07] Yes. Thank you so much, Chris, for taking the time to chat.
Chris Bruno [00:54:10] It’s been a pleasure. We will catch up very soon.
Xenia Muntean [00:54:13] Yes. Thank you.
Music by Hani Koi from Fugue