The modern office has changed dramatically over the past decade or so. One of the most important aspects of this change is the fact that more and more people are working remotely, especially in companies that mainly sell their products or services online.
This also means that a growing number of marketing teams are distributed, which can become a problem if the challenges are not recognized and addressed properly.
So, how do you do that? How do you manage a distributed marketing team so that it is as successful (perhaps even more) as a collocated one?
Set up structured processes
The processes that we are talking about here do not entail setting up a step-by-step procedure for every little thing that a member of a distributed marketing team will be doing. However, a distributed marketing team does need to employ certain templates, checklists and guidelines to establish a certain way of doing things.
This is not because marketers on distributed teams are bad at their jobs. This is because it can be tiresome to chase around for a certain piece of information on Slack, waiting until someone finally answers to your email, or having to spend hours scouring the team’s Google Drive.
Setting up structured processes saves time and prevents miscommunication that is more likely in distributed teams.
Be smart about technology
One of the factors that contributed to the widespread practice of remote work is the availability of affordable and truly useful technology that makes it possible to even try to manage a team distributed around the world.
Unfortunately, this has opened up a whole other can of worms as badly managed distributed teams are told to use a dozen tools just for their day-to-day work.
If you want to manage your distributed marketing team the right way, you will make sure to do your research into different kinds of tools your team might need, keeping the number to a minimum and getting feedback from your team.
In case you are managing an agile marketing team, you will have to take this into consideration and review agile tools that will support your team in its efforts.
In addition to software, you might want to think about investing in some hardware, or more precisely quality cameras, headphones and microphones which brings us to our next piece of advice.
Communication. Communication. Communication
Sure, email is great for getting a piece of information across to another member of them and okay, Slack is a nifty piece of software. However, no matter how well you use chat and other forms of text communication, something will be lacking. Nothing can come close to audio and especially video, which is why you should seriously consider these options.
For example, you should at least do a quick daily video meeting at a time that suits everyone. People can call in and share what they have been doing and what they are planning to do in the period until the next meeting. This is an Agile practice that can do wonders for coordinating the team and keeping things transparent.
Some remote teams also practice pairing up two random people via audio for the day, as if they were sitting at the same desk. This can go a long way toward building a team that is more than just employees who work on the same projects.
Regardless of the way in which your distributed marketing team communicates, it is essential that you do not curb casual talk, personal stories, jokes and everything else that is a part of a traditional office.
Simply put, you have to encourage constant feedback from your team and consult them for ways in which you can promote communication even more. You have to be proactive about this and do not count on this just happening.
Meet in person
Depending on how dispersed your remote marketing team is and how big your budget is, you will be able to organize meetups where the entire team will get together in person and get to know each other better. Some teams may afford to meet every month or two, while others might only afford a single, yearly meetup.
The important thing is that you do it.
There is absolutely nothing that can replace face-to-face interaction and a single day that your team spends together at the same location will be more conducive to team building than spending a month together on Slack.
You can decide how formal to keep things, whether you want to have a structured team building meetup or whether you want to keep things casual. Both options will work and you will want to feel out your team what they would prefer.
One very important thing to remember here – either everyone meets or no one meets.
Trust your team
Some managers find it difficult to trust remote team members and they adopt an overbearing approach. They demand that everyone is at their computers not a second too late and they track every second of their time. These managers also often demand constant updates about every little thing their team members do.
This is not the way to manage a remote marketing team. You are working with adults who take pride in what they do and who want to do their best. You are working with people who want their team and their company to benefit from their work. As long as the team collaborates on planning the projects and pulls in the same direction, you can let go of the micromanagement.
Not only are you disrespecting them by demanding constant updates, but you are also wasting their time which can be spent on doing actual work instead of reporting.
Trust your team. Of course, you will want to track the progress of your projects and communicate on what can be improved. But, please, do not treat them like you would a remote team of five-year-olds.
Hire and onboard smartly
It can be quite difficult to do proper hiring and onboarding for a distributed marketing team. Adding new people to any kind of a marketing team can be challenging, let alone one that is distributed and faces additional obstacles.
For example, you will have to put more emphasis on certain skills and characteristics, such as:
- Assertiveness and directness in communication
- Ability to autonomously solve problems
- High level of self-organization and self-discipline
- Openness to giving and receiving feedback
Onboarding is also extremely important when adding new people to remote marketing teams since there is very little of that organic onboarding that happens in a traditional office. You will want to have a structured onboarding process in place to ensure that the bureaucratic stuff is handled with ease. This will enable the team to provide a personal, informal welcome to the new member, giving them an insight into the culture of the team.
If it can be done logistically, it would also be a good idea to hire new people shortly before meetups in person so that they can meet their new colleagues face-to-face.
Managing a distributed marketing team is not easy. It requires a lot of trust, even more communication and the ability to be realistic about how the team will grow organically and what has to be actively supported.
The good news is that it can be done and done well.
AUTHOR: Jug Babic works at VivifyScrum. He is a member of an agile marketing team with remote members. You can find him on Twitter.