One of the great things about choosing digital marketing as a career is that it involves a lot of activities that can be done independently. This makes remote employees well-suited for many digital marketing jobs.
Employees can write new blogs or edit videos without needing to be in office, and many daily activities like link building, social media updates, and email outreach can also be done effectively by employees working remotely.
However, learning how to manage clients and employees for your digital marketing agency when everyone is in a different city, country, or time zone is a skill in itself. In this article, I’m going to be talking about the many ways you can successfully grow your agency and manage clients remotely.
Hire Remote Employees to Help Manage Clients
There’s no doubt that working with clients or employees that you don’t see on a consistent basis can be a challenge. That’s why digital marketing agencies that have experienced great success with remote employees have an elaborate process in place supported by tools that ease communication, collaboration, monitoring and tracking of their remote workers.
Hiring people from different geographies brings in a diversity of thoughts and ideas. When you hire someone from a different city, region or country, that employee comes in with a very different set of thoughts and beliefs, and that can be a huge asset to your growing agency.
Additionally, most online marketing agencies seem to agree that remote workers are more productive. There are many reasons why productivity seems to go hand-in-hand with remote working, from saving time on the commute to being in a more comfortable surrounding (home) and not being disturbed every few minutes by colleagues.
Another advantage of having a geographically distributed team is the ability to keep work going across different time zones, which enables your agency to provide support for customers who are not in the same time zone as the head office.
However, remote working is not for everyone. You need to put together a team of people who are motivated and independent, who will not require a lot of hand-holding and who are good at managing their work.
In order to ensure that you and your remote workers are on the same page, communication tools like Skype are essential. It may not be as good as being able to observe the person face to face, but it is a great tool nonetheless to facilitate conversation and build your working relationship.
Tip #1: Use video meetings as often as possible
Using video conferencing tools is a great way to solidify your partnerships with both your clients and your remote workers. With many of our clients, we have defaulted to weekly video meetings where we can discuss the project and any questions or concerns the client may have.
We’ve found that having the ability to pick up on the words, tone/pitch in voice, and body language of our colleagues is tremendously helpful when it comes to building client relationships, and understanding their true feelings surrounding the project.
Some great options for video meeting tools include Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Skype.
Tip #2: Define your ideal workflow with your remote team members
As you won’t be able to see your team members every day, it’s important to ensure that you’re all aligned on workflow and schedules. This is particularly important to productivity when colleagues are all in different locations and time-zone. Coordinating with your team is essential.
Deciding on when the best time is for your team members to complete or review work can be done on a case-by-case basis, but it’s always important to respect your team members’ working hours–nobody wants to join a meeting at 7 am PST!
Just as we’ve always found meeting recaps with our clients to be helpful, we find that similar recaps after internal meetings allows our internal team members to ensure that everyone is on the same page in each area of a project.
More often than not, we find that even shorthand notes or a quick five-minute video chat to catch your remote team members up on what is happening with the agency in general or a certain project in particular can be the difference between success and failure for a project.
Build Trust from the Start
When you’re working clients and managing a team remotely, it’s essential to establish a trusting relationship with clients and employees alike from the very start.
It can be hard to get to know a colleague if you never meet face-to-face, and this lack of familiarity can lead to miscommunication down the road. This is why you need to start building trust from the very start, beginning with when you onboard a new client.
During the onboarding process, you can set and manage expectations, discuss key project details and milestones, outline a communication plan, and simply get to know one another a bit more. You never want a client to feel out of the loop or as though their viewpoints haven’t been taken into account. Ensuring you have a smooth onboarding process opens the lines of communication from the get-go.
By sharing your thoughts about the project with your client and working through questions and concerns together, you can build the foundation for a strong relationship. It will also be helpful to schedule a weekly update to make sure you are regularly communicating progress. If you can, plan on having a short 5- to 10-minute phone call or video conference to check in.
If time zones are an issue, as they often can be when it comes to working remotely, a weekly update via email with a longer phone or Skype meeting once a month is another option.
Before you start work on the project, let your client know the best way to contact you and what your typical work hours are, and ask the same from them. Get to know a bit about their work habits and what expectations they have. Being conscientious of each other’s communication preferences will help avoid future frustration.
Set and Enforce Deadlines
Deadlines are a key factor in making sure that your agency runs smoothly. Setting and enforcing key deadlines will help to keep both your project and your client on track. Before you start work, discuss major deliverables, dates, and responsibilities and outline these in your contract.
Virtual Tools to Stay Organized
Managing a team remotely can be a little overwhelming and chaotic at times. That’s why project management tools are essential to keep everyone organized. The right project management tool can be a helpful way to maintain discussion boards, to-do lists, and a deliverable calendar that both you and your client can access.
Cloud-based storage systems such as Dropbox or Google Drive work great as a place to store project-related documents, while virtual meeting tools such as WebEx or GoToMeeting can help you make the most out of your meeting time when connecting with your client remotely.
Before deciding on which of these tools to use, talk with your client to make sure they are comfortable with your choices, and then make sure that your team knows how to use these tools.
Working and managing your digital marketing agency remotely can be incredibly productive, so long as you stay vigilant in keeping your team organized and your clients in the loops. Communication is crucial to being successful while doing remote work. By regularly setting and discussing expectations, proactively reaching out with an update on your progress, and making use of virtual tools, you can avoid potential roadblocks and develop a long-lasting relationship with your client and team members.
If you want to learn more about how to successfully run and manage a digital marketing agency, then enroll today in our online Digital Marketing School! For more helpful information on the daily, you can follow us on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, and check out our blog for more FREE training.