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Managing a Remote Marketing Team

Before (and after) joining the seedy world of business ownership I managed remote marketing specialists of one kind or another. I like remote workers because they offer a boundary-less talent pool and shorten recruitment time.

Your goal is to keep everyone on the same page, just like you would with a non-remote team.

Recently, the topic of remote work has headlined many tech and B2B media outlets. It’s even the focus of bestselling book “Remote” by the 37Signals crew. Like it or not, remote work is here to stay and on the rise.

Below are some ways to create and manage an effective team when they’re miles, states or countries apart.

Hire Doers

astronautHire employees that have a history of performance without constant hand holding. Ex-freelancers or business owners are an obvious good fit since they’re used to working on their own.

The goal is to find self-starting individuals that don’t need a constant presence to get something done. For marketing teams this is important since you’re always shipping something and can’t afford to have a weak link.

Hire Communicators

There is a writing test I administer to anyone who’ll put words to paper or screen (which is everyone). It’s simple and the participant has 30 minutes to complete.

The test asks the candidate to string 8 unrelated words together and make a short story. The finished piece tells me a couple of things

  1. Can this candidate creatively think
  2. Does the story they created make sense

The point; if someone can write a story that creatively communicates within the time constraint, then they’re likely to articulate a question, comment or answer well.

Get Used to a Webcam

Since you won’t be face-to-face, screen-to-screen will have to do. Get acquainted with Skype or Google Hangouts for meetings and standups. Just make sure you abide by a bit of webcam etiquette and put some clothes one.

Communicate Early & Often*

Since hallway conversations aren’t going to happen with your remote team, lowering communication barriers is important. If questions arise, your remote team needs access to non-remote teams and vice-versa. In other words, don’t keep your IM or Skype status to busy all day.

Also, morning and/or afternoon “standups” help keep a team apprised of any successes or speedbumps encountered. Your goal is to keep everyone on the same page, just like you would with a non-remote team.

*The same rules of face-to-face interruption apply for remote workers. For more on the subject, check out this WSJ article.

The Cloud is Your Friend

Luckily it’s 2014 and tools to aide in collaboration are plentiful. For your marketing team, there are a few tools that are no-brainers, here are a few:

  • Basecamp – Manage projects and get things done. I find the task management and ability to comment on anything help keep projects moving.
  • Google Drive – Docs, presentations, spreadsheets and files can all be shared and collaborated upon. Particularly useful for keeping files in a central location and working in tandem on documents.
  • Trello – A bit of feature overlap with Basecamp, but I like Trello for moving tasks along, especially for agile marketing teams.
  • Draft – I’ve become more and more fond of draft and have started using it exclusively for blog posts. It’s extremely easy to share the post with an editor, review and commit changes prior to publishing.

Get Facetime

stronaut-2Bring your remote employees to HQ every once and awhile. It will give the in-house team a chance to meet and build relationships. Including the remote team in major company events like holiday parties, quarterly meetings or picnics helps assimilate them into the company culture.

It’s also a good idea to go to them. Plan a visit to your remote for reviews or just because.

That about covers my tips on creating an effective, remote marketing team. Remember, just because they aren’t sitting in the office next to you, doesn’t mean you can’t create a high-functioning team of doers.

For more on the subject, I suggest reading the 37signals book “Remote”. There is a lot of insight and experience shared and it’s a great resource for anyone building dispersed teams.

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I'm a skier, hiker, biker and runner. In my free time I write about the world of marketing. I also started this company, but who cares.