In some ways, it’s odd to even look at the statement, “managing an Internet marketing team,” as few companies actually had dedicated digital marketing departments prior to the last five to 10 years!
However, it’s a challenge that more and more businesses are facing, as a strong, vibrant Web presence is becoming a non-negotiable part of doing business in a digital world. If you find yourself tasked with the management of such a team, consider the following tips, as managing digital workers may present different challenges compared with workers in traditional sales and marketing fields.
Tip #1: Understand Team Roles
Before you even think about hiring or managing an Internet marketing team, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the different roles you’ll encounter. For example, do you know the difference between an on-site SEO analyst and a web developer? If you don’t yet understand how Internet marketing teams are structured, take a look at Rand Fishkin’s SEOMoz Whiteboard Friday video titled “Roles and Responsibilities of a Web Marketing Team.”
Tip #2: Set Your Marketing Strategy
In addition to understanding the various roles you’ll encounter while on the job, you’ll want to be quite clear on your organization’s preferred marketing strategy. If, for example, your company chooses to focus primarily on PPC advertising, the specific roles you’ll need to fill or manage will be significantly different than a business pursuing SEO as a digital marketing strategy.
Tip #3: Identify Key Performance Metrics
It’s also a good idea to determine how your organization measures Internet marketing success before undertaking team management. Are you undertaking Internet marketing campaigns in order to boost brand awareness or to increase sales? If your goal is brand awareness, focus your hiring resources on more content creators, who will be able to provide you with the marketing materials needed for dissemination across social media channels.
On the other hand, if you’re focusing strictly on digital sales, you’ll need talented SEO analysts who can carry out website split tests and measure Web data in order to improve your conversion rates.
Tip #4: Decide Whether to Hire Employees or Independent Contractors
Now that you know more about the type of roles your organization needs to fill, consider whether it makes more sense for your team to bring new members on as direct-hire employees or independent contractors. Specifically, you’ll want to think through whether you anticipate needing full-time workers for long-term projects (in which case, full-time employees may suit your needs better) or whether you’ll need specialized skills for shorter periods of time (where independent contractors may be a better fit).
Tip #5: Solicit referrals
If you do decide to add members to your Internet marketing team, you’ll likely see the best results from soliciting your existing employees or contractors for referrals. As an added bonus, hiring primarily from interpersonal recommendations can cut down on the hassle associated with widespread job postings and bulk resume submissions significantly.
Tip #6: Test Potential Hire Performance Before Making an Offer
Before adding any new members to your Internet marketing team, consider having qualified candidates carry out a small test project in order to demonstrate their skills. Remember, with a talented copywriter, anyone can be made to sound good on paper. However, you won’t know if your potential hires will be a good fit for your team until you actually test their unique skill sets.
Tip #7: Analyze Team Weaknesses
As you expand and mentor your team, keep a close eye on where the department’s weaknesses lie. For example, one Internet marketing team may be missing a strong link builder, while another lacks the creative workers needed to power content marketing campaigns. As a manager, being aware of these deficiencies will allow you to either make new hires that address these shortcomings or to add continuing education programs that train existing workers in important new skills.
Tip #8: Balance Vision and Technical Priorities
An effective SEO team requires both an overarching vision of what constitutes “success” online and the technical planning and follow-through to see these dreams brought to life. With this in mind, be careful to allocate your team’s resources to support both priorities. When hiring, look for both “big picture” and detail-oriented employees, and when assigning tasks, be sure that you account for both needs on an ongoing basis.
Tip #9: Construct an On-boarding Program
Too many startups and Internet marketing managers throw new employees into the mix without so much as a cursory explanation of the team’s overall objectives and workflows. The result is projects that aren’t carried out as effectively as possible, as well as team members who aren’t as satisfied with their work as they could be.
At Single Grain, on-boarding is a huge part of our team management process, as new employees are introduced to our preferred practices and projects over time. We’ve found that slowly integrating new hires into our team helps to keep our work quality high, while giving new members the solid base of understanding that enables them to contribute more to the company in the long run.
Tip #10: Set Employee Performance Deliverables
No matter what types of employees you’re working with or what specific projects they’re undertaking, setting specific deliverables is a must. When employees know what’s expected of them, they’re more likely to turn in high-quality work and less likely to waste time seeking unnecessary clarifications.
Clearly stating your expectations also enables you to implement “Results Only Work Environment” principles, which are frequently tied to higher levels of on-the-job satisfaction compared to workers in traditional settings without clearly defined objectives.
Tip #11: Implement Agile Marketing Practices
In addition to ROWE practices, consider adopting agile marketing principles within your department. Agile marketing—which relies on faster “sprint” developments, frequent roll-outs, and cross-functional work arrangements—is a great fit for Internet marketing teams, as it enables members to bring about stated objectives more quickly, without becoming tied down by the bureaucracy found in traditional management.
Tip #12: Choose the Right Project Management Tools
The specific project management tools needed to enable your team to work most efficiently will vary, depending on how large your office is and whether your workers are centralized or remote, but however your team is structured, you’ll want to be sure the following bases are covered:
- A project management system that will allow workers to share status updates and project files effectively (we’re partial to Trello, though Basecamp is another popular option).
- A centralized CRM system that tracks necessary client information (Salesforce and SugarCRM are two popular tools for this purpose).
- An internal chat tool for team communications (we like Hipchat, though free solutions like Google+ hangouts or traditional IRC clients work as well).
Tip #13: Learn to Speak “Developer”
As a manager, you won’t likely be expected to code Web development projects on your own. However, as you’ll be managing technical employees on your team, it’s worthwhile to learn the basics of a few popular programming languages in order to communicate more effectively with your team’s technical members.
Tip #14: Invest in Team Training
The world of Internet marketing is constantly changing, which means that ongoing education and team training events should be an important consideration for department managers. Encourage employees to take at least 20 minutes each day to scan industry headlines and read relevant articles, and support team members that desire further, more in-depth training within their areas of focus. Over time, this initial investment can pay off tremendously in terms of your team’s growth.
Tip #15: Plan for Scalability
Finally, as you’re building and developing your Internet marketing team, think long term. Instead of training one person on how to complete a particular set of tasks, create a centralized, repeatable process that can be easily scaled up across new employees. By focusing on developing internal systems that can grow as your company does, you’ll minimize the growing pains that are often experienced by Internet marketing teams and decrease the amount of time and effort needed to meet departmental goals.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Yuri Arcurs