Once upon a time…

In an era a little more ‘analogue’ than today…

When you left school, you’d start working, and you’d likely stay in the same job right up until when you retired. It was the thing to do.

There was even a name for them – “Company Men” – and it wasn’t uncommon for these people to spend 30+ years in the same job.

Today, however, talented people have a lot more freedom to pick and choose the projects they want to work on.

According to social research firm McCrindle, in 2015 the average time spent in a job was just 3.5 years. That means, between the age of 18 and 75, the average Australian will have 17 jobs, dabbling in five different careers.

Today, it’s the freelancers, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and mumpreneurs who are making all the headlines. We’re also better educated than we once were – one in three Gen Y’s and one in four Gen X’s today have a university degree, compared to one in 10 people over the age of 70.

It’s an exciting and innovative world, full of change. And we’re seeing the effects of that in marketing.

How technology is changing marketing

The traditional marketing agency model still works – it just needs to adapt. The agencies that do evolve, and embrace remote marketing, can make a huge impact on behalf of their clients – especially when those clients are small to medium-sized businesses.

Clients themselves also have a lot more options available to them; not only for suppliers, but also for DIY tools.

Agencies and marketing suppliers have learned fast that they need to become more agile and more responsive to their client’s needs. If you don’t, you’ll get left behind and your business won’t survive.

Don’t get me wrong here though – I’m not talking about going cheap.

Anyone who is worth their knowledge won’t scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes to price and no agency or professional wants to win the title of “lowest price”. I know I certainly don’t.

What I’m talking about is being innovative in their approach to delivering projects – embracing that army of talented freelancers, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and mumpreneurs to deliver amazing projects without the big agency price tag.

The birth of remote marketing teams

One way to remain competitive as an agency is to work with a remote marketing team.

This can come in many formats, but the example I’m using here is the ‘outsourced marketing department’ model, where you’ll have one person (an employee or outsourced marketing manager) managing a team of suppliers from different marketing disciplines.

So, how do you go about it? I recommend you follow these five steps:

Select (and support) your team as you would an employee

You want to aim for long term relationships – that way the suppliers get to know your brand, style and business in detail. Invest the time in meeting with them and interview them via Skype so you can actually get to know the person you’re working with. Check their references and testimonials. And once you’ve chosen a team member, schedule in regular Skype meetings so you can maintain the relationship.

Don’t break the budget, but don’t expect something for nothing

There’s a guaranteed saying in business – you get what you pay for. And sure, you can get someone who is willing to charge you $5 per blog post or $5 for a logo or email campaign; but don’t expect more than $5 worth of value. That’s not to say you have to pay a fortune – outsourcing can certainly be cost effective if you choose carefully.

Run a small trial project

I’m always looking for fantastic marketing suppliers that I can bring into my team, but I’m careful to never ‘test’ anyone’s skills on my client’s work. I always run a small trial project first and that helps me check the following:

    • Can they do what they claim to be able to do within their discipline?
    • Do they communicate well and are the responsive?
    • Do I like working with them?
    • Do they like working with us?
    • Can I put them in a client facing role if needed?

If someone ticks all the boxes, then I generally have no problems in them being a long term team member.

Manage them as a team

You want to ensure everyone who is working for you knows each other, their roles in the business and ensure they can contact others on the team if necessary. Businesses that operate in silos don’t work – and it’s no different when it comes to managing an outsourced, virtual team.

Set up an easy to collaborate tool (such as DaPulse or Monday) that enables conversations to happen around projects that involve multiple people. That way you keep all the information in one, easy to access, place. Set up systems and processes just as you would for employees, and schedule regular meetings. It not only helps to keep your team on track, but also helps you stay updated.

Be flexible

This is imperative when it comes to outsourcing. The best person for the job might not even be in your time zone, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t suitable. Allow for this when you’re scoping projects. You also want to allow extra time for feedback and ensure employees are fine with calls and Skype chats outside normal office hours.

A team that’s spread around the world are going to have different working styles, and this could be of major benefit to your business. If the end result is good, accept distance and put the right systems in place to ensure everyone feels integrated. That’s when the best results are achieved.

What to remember

The key is to take your time and select the right people for the right job. Don’t always go for the cheapest options, but choose the options that provide quality work (without breaking the bank).

Trial them before you give them major jobs, otherwise you risk setting yourself up for failure. Manage them as a team, not individuals. And be flexible – don’t discount anyone because they are based overseas; they could end up being the star of the team.

If you follow these five steps, you’re on your way to successfully managing a remote marketing team – allowing you more time to focus on the aspects of the business that need you the most.

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