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August 28, 2014 // 8:00 AM

How a Digital Marketing Agency Can be Effective Working Remotely

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agency-productivityNear the end of 2013, I was facing a rather tough decision.

My agency had been in an office setting since 2009. However, I was finding myself more and more productive when I would work from home. I didn’t have the distractions, the office discussions, and the general water cooler talk that sapped hours out of my day without even realizing it.

I had a small team of seven in-house employees, and we were all pretty close and enjoyed working together. They were used to coming to work every day.\

But I was struggling because I wanted to be more productive.

It was November 2013, and our lease was up at the end of December 2013. I needed to let the property owner know if we were renewing.

I was leaning towards changing the work environment and having the entire team work from home.

I wanted to learn more about how I could handle this switch and ultimately determine if this was the right move for us. I picked up the book "REMOTE," and by the time I was finished, I decided to make the change.

We would go into 2013 with a completely new operating process. Scary times indeed, but I felt the benefits outweighed the concerns.

Benefits to Working Remote if You Are an Agency

  1. Happier and Healthier Employees – Your team will have a better work-life balance. We had one employee who drove 45 minutes one way to get to the office. This meant he was putting an hour and a half of time back into his day.
  2. One Standard Operating Procedure – We had our internal team, but we also had several contractors and freelancers who helped contribute to our success. We had to communicate with and hold separate meetings with them. Going remote allowed us to have one process in place to communicate with the entire team, and this made things more consistent.
  3. Recruit Talent From Anywhere – We weren’t limited to bringing on new employees from the local area. Instead, we could focus on bringing in the best talent, regardless of location.
  4. Lower Overhead – This was a nice boost to the bottom line but not necessarily a factor in our decision.
  5. Increased Productivity – I let the team work when they felt most productive. For me, I realized I felt most productive between 6 and 9:30 a.m. and then again from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. Having a set working schedule would not allow myself or my team to capitalize on when they were most productive.

Working Remotely Isn’t for Everyone

If you have an office location currently, you could try testing things before making the switch. During the month of December, we decided to rotate one week in the office and one week at home just to see how things would go.

Of course, you could also decide to keep an office, and allow your team members to work from home. This would be good for onboarding new employees, having a centralized location for meetings, etc.

We decided to go “cold turkey” so to speak — we went completely remote — but find what works for you, and run with it.

Communicate Daily

I can’t tell you how many times I got a text message or an email from someone on the team who was within 30 feet of me when we worked in an office.

As marketers, we are always using the latest technology. We have become more comfortable “pinging” someone on the team rather than actually getting up and speaking with him.

We communicate regularly over Skype. Some other tools that are picking up steam are HipChat and Slack. No matter what you use, team members are just a typed message away at all times.

In addition to the daily chatter over Skype, you should also try and organize reoccurring weekly or bi-weekly meetings when everyone on your team can jump on a conference call (we use join.me) or a Google Hangout.

This is a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page, brainstorm, check progress, and discuss any campaign concerns.

Keep Your Team and Campaigns Organized

A few years ago, we built out a system internally for us to manage all of our digital marketing campaigns. We could create tasks and assign them to other team members, and I could log in and see the overall progress of each campaign to make sure things were chugging along. It also sent clients an update every month letting them know the things that were completed in the previous 30 days.

We tried project management systems, but they don’t really work well for ongoing marketing campaigns. Ironically enough, it was around this same time when I was deciding whether to go remote or not that I decided I was finally going to take our internal system public and let other agencies use it.

This meant we had to completely rebuild it from the ground up, but I’m happy to report that Workado is now available to help you and your team remain organized whether you work remote or not.

Team Builders

The daily communication is important, but you also need to have a little face time when/if possible.

Scheduling a monthly or quarterly team builder is a great way to build camaraderie and improve moral.

Team builders don’t need to be extravagant. It might just be a day at the movies, taking everyone to an event (we’ve done golf events, spring training games, and more), or even taking your team to a conference for education purposes.

If your team is all over the map, this might be more difficult to pull off, but I would still recommend a yearly event where everyone is invited.

Give and Receive Feedback

When you don’t get to visually see your team, it’s more important than ever to be able to monitor their performance.

Employees want to be shown the right way to do things, and they want to know how they are doing. It is important that you continue to let your team know how they are doing, where they can improve, and when they are doing a great job.

You also want your team to have the opportunity to let you know how things are going from their perspective. A helpful tool to help facilitate this is 15Five.

Remote Could Be the Answer

While remote working might not work for some industries (such as transportation, manual labor, etc.), it is perfect for digital marketing teams.

Digital marketers are typically more “out of the box” types who challenge the old way of doing things. Having a different type of work environment can help feed their creative minds.

As long as you have the right tools in place, communicate regularly, and have a system that keeps your team on task, then you will find you can be more productive and have a happier team when working remote.

Topics: Marketing & Advertising

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