It’s amazing how much technology has changed in the last 10 years and as far as I’m concerned (and as Randy Bachman once sang) – we ain’t seen nothing yet! Without a doubt, when you look at how much has changed, we can safely assume that the biggest changes when it comes to technology are yet to come.
Once upon a time, a time long ago before technology was raring (which, in actual fact, was not so long ago) 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 and 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. According to social research firm McCrindle though, 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.
And today, it’s the freelancers, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and mumpreneurs who are making all the headlines. Not to mention 1 in 3 Gen Y’s and 1 in 4 Gen X’s today have a university degree, compared to 1 in 10 people over the age of 70. It’s an exciting an innovative world and it’s full of change.
When it comes to marketing, while the traditional marketing agency model still works, this change that we’ve come to expect can actually have a huge impact, particularly when it comes to those agencies that have a focus on small to medium size businesses as clients. And it’s not only for agencies.
Clients themselves 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 adapt, become more agile and more responsive to their client’s needs. If you don’t, you’ll get left behind and essentially, 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.
Innovation leads the market
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 basing my advice on is the outsourced marketing department model: this 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) 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.
So the key is, 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 internationally based; they could end up being the star of the team.
And if you follow these five steps, you’re on your way to successfully managing a team – allowing you more time to focus on the aspects of the business that need you the most.