With the Information Age in full swing, many marketing agencies and departments are now partially or fully remote. With employees scattered across the country or world, managing a remote marketing team can have its challenges―but also its rewards. We’ll take a look at some specific strategies for managing remote marketing teams, challenges, and ways to overcome them.
Why Go Remote?
Managing a marketing team provides several advantages to the team at large, as well as to your department budget. By going remote, you can save money in the following ways:
- Salary: Due to the convenience of remote work and the ability to hire workers in the Midwest or parts of the world with a lower cost of living, you can save an incredible amount of money on worker salaries. Since your workers do not have to worry about transportation, travel, and other commuting costs, many of them are willing to accept slightly lower compensation in exchange for this convenience.
- Overhead: Without an office to house all of your workers, you can save a massive amount of money for your business. Location-based insurance, utilities, office rental space, and office supplies are just some of the expenses you won’t have to worry about with a fully remote team.
A tip: remote workers do appreciate compensation in other ways. As home-based workers, they’ll likely use their cell phones and the internet for business purposes. Providing a monthly reimbursement towards these costs is helpful, respecting that doing business at home does still have some expenses.
Trust, Delegate, and Provide Flexibility
It takes trust to hire remote employees. Since you’re not in the same location, there’s no hovering over them to ensure they’re getting work done. However, if you focus on deadline-based project completion, there’s nothing wrong with giving them the freedom and flexibility they require as remote employees.
Generally, you should set clear expectations for your remote marketing team. Examples include:
- Be available on Skype at all times during business hours
- Answer the phone whenever you contact them
- Respond to all emails within one business day
- Complete specific daily tasks in time
These are examples of reasonable expectations. Flexible remote marketers should be able to conform to these expectations.
In addition to these specific obligations, you should delegate responsibilities just as you would with an in-house team. Managing a remote team requires a significant amount of trust―and it also means setting clear expectations as well as consequences for ignoring them.
Send Remote Workers to Local Events
If it’s covered in their contract and they’re willing to do it, your remote workers could be essential assets at local marketing events. Instead of sending yourself to events across the country or the world, you can save high costs by asking your remote employees to attend events locally. Always reimburse them for their expenses.
This is especially cost-saving if you have marketing employees located in or near major cities internationally. You can have business cards and other marketing collateral shipped to them.
While you’re at it, don’t forget about networking events. Depending on your business, it might be useful to send your remote employees to networking events of all sizes. This is especially true if you are a content marketing agency or SaaS (software as a service). Ask your remote marketing employees to collect and scan (or photograph) business cards so you can add them to your mailing list or database following the events.
Set Working Hours for All Employees, Individually or as a Team
What are your marketing department’s operating hours? Most businesses require their employees to be online during set operating hours. This could result in having your web designer from Dublin, Ireland, working late into the evening so they can conform to New York City work hours.
Alternatively, you can stagger shifts. This is useful if your department handles customer service inquiries or does business internationally. We recommend overlap, meaning all or most of your employees are online for the same few hours each day so that they can plan meetings and communicate with one another.
Overcome International and Regional Differences with a Remote Marketing Team
As you already know, if you’ve done business internationally, cultural miscommunications can result in conflicts. When you work on an international marketing team, the potential for cultural collision is high. For example, Russian culture requires more direct language, whereas American English speakers can come off as passive or noncommittal to Russian colleagues. In Japan, it’s essential to use proper openings and closings in business correspondence. These rules can make or break your international marketing efforts―and they’re also reasons to consider hiring remote, foreign workers.
Having an international team requires a bit of extra care. If you have a counterpart in another part of the world, make sure to have regular meetings to remain communicative and sort out any cultural miscommunications. Remain open to discussing cultural communications with members of your team and always do your best to help them solve any emerging issues before they get out of hand.
Establish Check-Ins and Other Weekly Events
Want to keep your team on track while increasing and maintaining morale? Check-ins and other weekly events are useful for that. Check-ins are chances for each team member to show progress, discuss KPIs (key performance indicators) and other marketing metrics, and to be creative together.
Weekly scheduled events help everyone stay on track, provide a firm deadline for metrics reporting, and create a sense of routine for team members who might find a lack of every day (or a mix of home and work life in a home office) challenging.
Evaluate Team Members Initially as Freelancers
Are you worried about whether your remote team members will stay on track without constant supervision? You can test marketing team members out before you hire them by offering a freelance or part-time position―intending to hire them full-time. You should know within 30-60 days whether your remote employee new hire is cut out for secluded work life.
Be sure to check in with your remote workers, provide feedback, and listen to any concerns they have, especially while they are in this evaluation period. Provide them with a specific date of full-time hire so that they have a goal to work towards, and so they know you aren’t teasing them with a full-time opportunity that will never materialize.
You can also utilize this opportunity to ask other team members for private feedback before entirely investing in the hire.
Hold Team Meetings―With Video
Holding video meetings helps your team see each other as people with real lives and goals, not just faceless entities on the other end of your communications software. These meetings make you feel like you’re in a virtual office, going around the table and reporting individually.
Consider Agile Management and Break Up Goals
Are you in an Agile work environment? If you work with software developers and similar technology, you’re probably already familiar with that term and process. Agile is a process and method that allows you and your team to break up significant goals into smaller tasks that you will accomplish via “sprints.” You and your team manage these tasks with tools like Trello in a process called scrum management.
While this makes sense for programmers and other tech developers, you may need to adapt some aspects of the process for marketing campaigns. Most Agile workflows allow members to complete their tasks and then assign the next part of the process to the person responsible for it. Here’s an example of how this might look:
Your marketing team wants to create and distribute digital marketing messages to announce a new feature in your existing software. The developers provide you with a projected date for the completion of the work and send you some details about this feature. Using those details, you can set up the digital marketing campaign for this feature addition.
- Step 1: Your team meets to discuss the marketing campaign, ideas for the language and imagery you’ll use, and to set deadlines for each component of the marketing campaign. You also decide who is responsible for which piece of the campaign, and what digital marketing methods you’ll employ. As a team leader, this meeting task will likely be assigned to you or a meeting planner.
- Step 2: On the digital kanban (doable in Trello or Asana), you’ll break the marketing campaign down into tasks such as social media campaigns, email marketing campaigns, PPC (pay per click ads), and engagement opportunities. Each of those tasks should get assigned to their respective process owners. For example, the PPC ad content should go to the PPC manager.
- Step 3: From there, you can break these processes down into smaller bits. The PPC manager might make sub-tasks. For example, they might assign a copywriter the task of writing the copy for the ad. Within the job, they can provide specific instructions, such as word count or information about the target audience.
- Step 4: As the tasks are completed, they move down the line. Let’s say the PPC manager has assigned a designer and copywriter tasks relating to the ad. After that’s done, it might go back to you, the chief marketing officer, for approval. A budget assignment for the ad may also be involved. Using this deadline-driven process, you can move the ad approval down the line until it’s ready to deploy.
As you can see, Agile processes allow you to keep an eye on who is responsible for each task and what work they’re doing. Instead of continually bugging your team, you can take a look at your Kanban board.
Agile task processes can encourage collaboration among your remote marketing team members. They’ll have to think in-depth about their operations, always remembering their coworkers even though they aren’t sitting one cubicle over.
Use Shared Files and Google Drive
When working with a remote team, it’s often useful to be able to access and share files. Using Google Drive (Google Business) is one of the most convenient ways to accomplish this. If your marketing processes involve updating spreadsheets, gathering data from various sources on the internet, and writing and publishing inbound content, Google Drive will be especially helpful.
Screen sharing is also essential for remote marketing teams. Programs like Skype, Google Hangouts, and Adobe Connect permit you to share meeting agendas or make collaborative notes as you run through your virtual meetings.
Ensure Marketing and Branding Materials Are Accessible
Going along with Google Drive―make sure you organize it properly or appoint someone to do so. If you want your remote marketing team to work in an organized fashion, it’s up to you to set the standard. That means holding your marketing collateral and shared documents in a way that makes sense―where your team members can quickly locate or search for all the records they need.
Lock Employees Out Before You Let Them Go
As with all types of teams, there will come a time when you have to let someone go, or when they’ll leave to go work at a competitor or another employer. Once you or the employee has made that decision, you’ll need to lock them out of electronic file access. Since remote workers don’t show up at an office and aren’t necessarily located near the home office, the temptation may be there to take out any lingering resentment on the team by deleting files or presenting inaccurate data within them. Minimize this risk with a procedural lockout.
Your IT team should be prepared to assist you with this process―as well as provide information on how to perform routine backups of your most valuable marketing information.
Plan an IRL Meetup
If it’s feasible concerning distance and budget, meeting your remote marketing team face to face can create a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie. Increase morale by hosting a meetup in real life. Consider planning a retreat during which your team collaborates consistently in one location for a week.
When you evaluate all the challenges and benefits of managing a remote team, the benefits far outweigh the difficulties. Overall, it requires a firm command of communication skills, trust in your company, and established routines.