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6 Tips to Keep B2B Marketing Teams in Rhythm While Working Remotely

Remote Team Rhythm Image

In these unconventional times, many work teams are grappling with an unconventional dynamic: fully distributed personnel and remote collaboration. This setup presents a number of challenges, but thankfully we live in a time where technology makes it easier than ever to stay connected and tightly aligned on our work. For B2B agencies like TopRank Marketing, this has always been a point of emphasis. In servicing clients from around the globe, we’re accustomed to communicating across distances, borders, and time zones. We occasionally have our own team members work from home, and in fact, we have a few who do so full-time. While having everyone in the organization work remotely is uncharted territory for us, our built-in comfort with digital collaboration gives us a head-start, and has allowed us to hit the ground running with minimal disruption to our programs and workflows. To help other remote teams that might be trying to find the right rhythm and maximize their collective productivity, I thought I’d share a few practices and discoveries that are helping us stay close virtually, even as the circumstances of life push us apart.

How Team TopRank Maintains Tight Collaboration Remotely

Tailor Your Toolset to Your Team

As mentioned, there is a wide range of different tools and software available to power remote collaboration. Some of the common mainstays, like Slack* and Zoom, need no introduction. There are plenty of others out there with specific capabilities that might be suited to your team’s needs. Here’s a list from ProofHub arranged into several different functional categories. Above all, I encourage business leaders to solicit input and feedback in making these selections. The biggest key is identifying tools that people actually like using. Review the usage rates for your existing tech stack. If certain software isn’t being uniformly engaged with, or is surfacing a lot of frustration, there’s no better time to step back and reevaluate. Unsolicited plugs for a couple of our clients, whose offerings can be very useful at a time like this:

  • Sococo provides a “virtual office” platform that recreates the dynamic of happenstance workplace encounters and productive chats at the water cooler.
  • monday.com is a highly visual and intuitive work operating system, which employees tend to really enjoy using. As mentioned, that’s critical.
[bctt tweet=”“Review the usage rates for your existing tech stack. If certain software isn’t being uniformly engaged with, or is surfacing a lot of frustration, there’s no better time to step back and reevaluate.” @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

Focus on Details and Documentation

Not only is it important that your tools get used, but right now it’s vital they get used to the fullest. At TopRank, our work runs through a project management system, and I’ve noticed teammates making concerted efforts to attach client docs, source materials, and comprehensive information into the tasks themselves. As a content writer, it makes a big difference when I can find everything I need in one place, because it’s no longer as simple as walking to an account manager’s desk 10 feet away to ask a question.

Jump on the Phone Post-Meeting

While technology makes it easier to communicate and collaborate from afar, there are certain subtleties and productive habits that can be overlooked in the transition. As one example, when teammates and I hold a client meeting in the office, we’ll almost always stay in the room to debrief afterward, discussing takeaways and next steps. One way we’ve replicated this action remotely is by using the Slack Call functionality, which enables you to quickly spark an impromptu conference call straight out of the Slack app. Since we already have our client teams arranged into channels on Slack, all it takes is one click to get all relevant parties on the line for a quick post-meeting rundown.

Rely On One Another for Knowledge-Sharing and News Updates

If you find yourself constantly distracted by scanning headlines and refreshing your preferred news websites, you are not alone. Being in the midst of an ongoing global health crisis adds a unique disruption factor to the situation at hand. One way we’ve countered this at TopRank is by creating a #covid-news channel in Slack, where teammates can share updates they come across about the pandemic and its ripples that might impact our lives, our clients, or the business world at large. Knowing that I’ll get a notification whenever something new gets posted on that channel makes it easier for me to unplug from the Google News feed and stay focused on my work.

Get Faces On-Screen

It’s easy enough to hold conference calls when people are working remotely, but I highly recommend using apps like Zoom and Google Hangouts with video-conferencing capabilities, and urging everyone on the team to turn on their cameras. Seeing the faces of my coworkers really helps diminish feelings of isolation and disconnection that can be inherent in a scenario such as this.

Don’t Forget About Team-Building and Socialization

I’ve talked a lot here about ways we stay centered on our work, and that’s of course very important. But don’t let recreational team experiences fall by the wayside. Strengthening the overall cohesiveness of your various people through bonding exercises is maybe more essential than ever. Virtual happy hours are gaining a lot of popularity as a way for folks to ramp down and relax together after working all day. Consider also scheduling some fun and leisurely team activities during work hours here and there. There are plenty of games that can be played remotely while creating a feeling of togetherness. I recommend the Jackbox Party Pack series, which features all sorts of fun mini-games and allows everyone to participate from their own device. Our team delved into a round of Quiplash during a recent Friday meeting, and we all enjoyed several laughs while getting a chance to appreciate the creativity and cleverness our colleagues bring to the table.

Go the Distance with Remote Collaboration

It’s all too natural to get caught up in the stress, anxiety, and overall downside of what’s taking place in the world right now. Because of this, I find myself striving to find positives and silver linings. They really do exist. If we can all find ways to stay connected and collaborative during these challenging times, I know we’ll be able work together — with clients, colleagues, and peers — more effectively than ever once things return to a state of normalcy. We might even find ourselves with a few newfound efficiencies that stick. TopRank Marketing’s Social & Content Manager, Lane R. Ellis, is one of the aforementioned agency team members who works remote full-time, hailing from the northern reaches of Minnesota. He shared with me this sentiment that, I think, encapsulates the upside of a tough situation: “I think if we’re open to it, our shared pandemic experience offers up a sizable opportunity in our lives — to reflect on what is truly important to us and how we work, to make positive changes that may until now have been perennially postponed, and to grow both our capabilities and our compassion in business and in personal life. It’s also a time to listen, and to be especially sensitive to your professional associates, your business teammates, and most of all to your family and friends.” Well said, sir. For more insight about navigating this unprecedented event as a marketer, check out my recent post on how authentic content can build brand trust during uncertain times.

The post 6 Tips to Keep B2B Marketing Teams in Rhythm While Working Remotely appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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Break Free B2B Marketing: Julie Brown of Johnson Controls on Proving the EBIT of Your Marketing

Break Free B2B - Julie Brown Image

Break Free B2B - Julie Brown Image For decades, marketers have measured success differently than the rest of the organization. We raise awareness, increase share of voice, generate impressions, deliver MQLs to sales.  Meanwhile, the success of the business itself is measured in....well, money. Revenue. Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT).  But this disparity is changing as marketers are becoming more data-driven and being increasingly accountable for their direct contribution to revenue. It’s not enough to show a return on investment; it’s not enough for marketing to not be a cost center. The marketing department needs to be a powerful engine for generating revenue. Our latest episode of Break Free features a marketer who is exceptional at generating value for her company, and proving that value to the bottom line. Julie Brown, Institutional Market Leader at Johnson Controls, is using data to flip marketing upside down. Instead of creating demand for the company’s products, she’s measuring the existing demand in her target audiences. Then she uses that data to advise the company on how to develop products that best suit their audiences’ needs. With the right reporting in place, Julie’s team is able to show exactly how much its efforts are contributing to Johnson Controls’ EBIT.  This was a fascinating interview about a side of marketing you don’t hear much about, and I’m grateful that Julie shared her expertise with me. And with all of you, of course. You can watch the video and check out the podcast version below, or scroll down for some highlights.

B2B Marketing Interview with Julie Brown

:58 Institutional marketing defined 1:57 Upstream marketing where to play and how to win 5:08 Three big challenges in institutional marketing 7:18 Marketing as a revenue center 8:39 How do we get to the ‘why?’ 10:40 Staying centered on the customer 13:12 The next evolution of marketing 17:21 Can marketers predict revenue with certainty? 20:03 How leaders can reorganize teams around revenue 20:45 The revenue-focused marketing tech stack 22:04 Forming a “Voltron of Meeting Customer Needs” 24:00 Meeting the needs of the new B2B buying committee Josh:  So we were talking about upstream marketing. Can you explain that term for our listeners and what exactly that entails for your day-to-day? Julie: When we think of marketing at Johnson Controls, there's the old I believe it goes back to Procter & Gamble the concept of where to play and how to win. So upstream marketing is the “where to play.” Understanding customer needs, segmentation, targeting, product innovation. Once you've defined a new offering, then the “how to win” is how you connect with sales, whether you do account-based marketing, or you do content, lead generation. All of that is: Now I've got something, how do I get so the market is aware and purchases it or goes through their buying process? Josh:  So this is research to drive the right audience for our product or the right product for an audience, or a little bit of both? Julie: A little bit of both. It really starts with understanding what customer needs are, where are their pain points, and looking at what we do. And are there new and creative ways that we can help address those needs and pain points? Josh: It feels like in those verticals, you're in education and health care. You're going to have some pretty unique challenges to doing that research and to even executing on the marketing. What are you encountering? Julie: I'd say there's three big challenges that we're facing. One, the markets themselves are really in a state of flux. Healthcare continues to evolve and adjust, based on the outcomes for the Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare. We're watching demographic changes, so the youngest millennials might be a senior in college. So that's changing the demographics of who's in college, they're establishing families and so that's creating growth in K through 12. And you've got really persistent hard problems around security and active shooter that everyone's trying to figure out around a very, very hard problem. So that would be the first one. Probably not surprising to a lot of companies is how we use data and what the data is and how you align that around customer needs. There are lots of great opportunities, but some days, you work hard on what you've got and see how you can get it to come farther. And then the last one is this evolution of marketing from being something that participates as a function in a business to actually being a measured driver of growth that the business can count on. Julie: So, we look at our programs very much from a financial standpoint. So it's not good enough to just have ROI. I've got a couple of programs where we're looking for the EBIT, the actual earnings before interest and taxes that the program is going to contribute. It's not just how much revenue we track within marketing, things like clicks and opens and stuff like that, but the respect that comes to marketing comes when you can present the work you're doing in terms the CFO recognizes and understands. And those are the terms of business, not the terms of marketing. Josh: There's that whole idea historically that marketing is a cost center that you put money in and you get marketing out the other side. And that we're looking at trying to change that model to where you put marketing in and you get money out of the other side. Does that make sense? Julie: Absolutely, that's what we're driving towards and evolving towards every day. Julie: I think there's an evolution happening in marketing more broadly around, as you said, the validating what marketing's bringing to the table. And if you think about it, it creates a powerful opportunity for companies that are early movers, but we're not the first ones to go through this. If you think back to the late 1980s and early '90s and you looked at, manufacturing companies are like, you know what? We can probably do better. And brought in things like Six Sigma and Lean. And so now, companies if you look at manufacturing in a company they know pretty well, if they're going to expand a plant or if they're going to invest to build a new plant, the CEO of the company knows, how much it's going to cost, what the payoff is going to be and how long they have to wait for it. They know how much waste they can predict will come out of the system through continuous improvement every single year. You get to the late '90s and the early aughts they did the same thing with IT. The CFO sitting here going, it seems like I'm spending a whole lot of money with IT, not sure what I'm getting for it. Companies have gone through things with SAP and other IT transformation so that today they really have often a seat at the table as an engine for driving any B2B business. And again, the CEO and the CFO know, if we're going to invest in data centers, or roll out this new version of office, or new equipment. They know what productivity they're going to get. They know what risks they're avoiding by making that investment. What we see is that's coming to marketing. And what's encouraging about that is both from a manufacturing or an operational excellence standpoint, and IT they adapted. They figured out how to start talking about what they did in financial terms that the CFO understands. And on the flip side, every company is looking to grow. A lot of companies don't look to marketing because they don't trust and respect marketing enough to deliver that. It's financial terms, it's EBIT, it's operational ROI, it's revenue, it's earnings per share. Those are the things that they understand and when marketing can say, listen, if you give me this much within this period of time, I'll deliver this much back. [bctt tweet="“It's EBIT, operational ROI, revenue, & earnings per share. When marketing can say, if you give me this much within this period of time, I'll deliver this much back.” — Julie Brown of @johnsoncontrols" username="toprank"] When you're president of a business, if you hire 200 more sales reps, you know what you're going to get. You know, whatever your cycle is. In 18 months they will be productive 200 sales reps are going to drive this much revenue and this much profit. If for whatever reason you've got to take 50 out, you know it's going to be painful, but you understand what that pain is and you know about how big it's going to be. They don't know how to do that with marketing, and that's the opportunity. And doing that is what we're working really hard on. The flip side of it is, it's kind of the last function where you can get a big strategic competitive advantage. I mean, think about the companies who were early adopters of Six Sigma and manufacturing, they had huge systemic growth in the market and in their industry. Companies who are early adopters around that IT transformation got huge market share and transforming their business. The companies that can leverage marketing for growth have first-mover advantage available to them. It's just going to take marketing to explain in business terms financial terms how to be that player. Stay tuned to the TopRank Marketing Blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Break Free B2B interviews. Here are a few interviews to whet your appetite:    

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