5 Project Management Tips for Adrift Remote Marketing Teams

Remote island in ocean image.

“WILSON!”

“Wilson, I’m sorry!”

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Work, lately, feels a little like being a castaway.

Isolating yourself. Dreaming of the past. Trusting in technology — however advanced or primitive — to get us through.

And work could stay this way for a while.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought an unprecedented number of information workers, including marketers, home for work. In fact, 62% of American workers said they’ve worked from home at some point during this crisis. But many experts are estimating that this volume of distributed and remote work won’t decrease after the pandemic ends. They see that hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses are realizing they never really needed an office — they could have operated remotely all along.

As we all come to grips with what could become the new normal, I realized there are lessons to be learned from feeling like a castaway. So, I turned to the world’s most famous — and successful — castaway: Chuck Noland.

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His actions are actually great examples of how we should approach project management for remote marketers. Don’t believe me? Keep reading to learn my top project management tips for remote marketers with lessons from Cast Away.

Tip #1 – Over-communicate with your team and your clients.

There are a lot of iconic relationships shown in film. Bert and Ernie. Lucy and Ethel. And, of course, Chuck and Wilson.

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As the film progresses, Chuck talks to Wilson more and more. In a lot of ways, he helps Chuck stay sane and talk through challenges like making fire, building a raft, and more.

While we aren’t physically together, it’s still incredibly important to keep open lines of communication among your marketing team. Similar to Chuck and Wilson, communicating often will keep you sane and organized, as well as give you a sounding board. You may even feel that you’re over-communicating with your team, but this is natural and necessary. When we’re remote, it’s more likely we’ll skip over a message, misinterpret text, or a host of other things. Over-communicating helps ensure those details are less likely to be missed or misunderstood.

Over-communicating doesn’t just apply to your team, either. Over-communicating with clients reaps the same benefits — your messages are less likely to be missed or misunderstood. And in my experience, clients appreciate the update, even if it’s only a couple of sentences.

Tip #2 – Rely on technology for collaboration, communication, and more.

Chuck shows us just how resourceful he is: he fashioned a figure skate into a knife, a porta-potty into a sail, a volleyball into a companion, and more. And if there’s one thing you need to be when stranded on an island, it’s resourceful.

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That same holds true while we all work on our own remote “islands.” Physically separated, we need to rely on our technology resources to bring us closer together and closer to our goals. Here at TopRank Marketing, we use Slack for team communication, Google Drive to collaborate, Zoom to meet virtually at any time, and Mavenlink to organize our work. We used them while in the office, but we’ve become even more dependent on them outside of the office. We’ve also started to use these tools in new ways to help us adapt to the changing work environment. For example, we’re now using Slack for informal voice calls between teams since we can’t just stop by someone’s desk or stay in a meeting room together after a client meeting to discuss a plan of attack.

Tip #3 – Organize your projects and tasks often.

Once the time jump happens in Cast Away, Chuck has a plan. He’s getting off the island. But to stay on track, he has to organize his materials and plan out his actions carefully. He even makes a chart and counts down the days on the walls of his cave so he can stay organized and catch the trade winds in time.

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To help your team stay on track, you need to stay organized and regularly check in on your plans. Keeping a chart or countdown like Chuck isn’t a bad idea, either. It’ll help you stay up to date on your projects and tasks without having to chase down details or remind yourself of progress.

Tip #4 – Run and share reports on a more regular and frequent basis.

Early on in Chuck’s journey, he and Wilson realize they need more information to aid them in their survival. They need to know just how lost they really are. So, they crunch the numbers. And what they find out is harrowing: the search area they’re lost in is over 500,000 square miles. The chance of someone finding them is slim to none.

Realizing that a search party is unlikely to find them, Chuck and Wilson spur into action. It empowers them to make the life-saving decision of getting off the island.

Information is powerful and reporting helps surface insights that aid your team in their decision making. From a project management perspective, increasing the frequency of your reporting will also help illuminate how your efficiency has changed since shifting to remote work. Run and share reports often with your team and it will help your projects progress and your team adapt to remote work.

“From a project management perspective, increasing the frequency of your reporting will also help illuminate how your efficiency has changed since shifting to remote work.” — Anne Leuman @annieleuman Click To Tweet

Tip #5 – Escape with some time away.

Chuck Noland eventually made it off the island with a lot of hard work and a small miracle.

You, however, have the luxury of being able to leave the mental “island” of work at any time. Schedule a happy hour with the team. Call each other and go on a group walk. Have a Halloween in April party. We’ve done all of those things here at TopRank and it’s done wonders for our engagement with work. Taking breaks and giving yourself a mental escape is essential to staying motivated with and focused on your projects.

The Island Isn’t So Bad… With the Right Approach

It’s normal for us all to feel like we live on our own islands during this time. Because we do, we’re all separated by distance. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to come together and overcome the physical barriers between us.

Over-communicating, relying on technology, staying organized, sharing reports, and giving yourself and your team an escape are the best project management tips for overcoming these remote challenges.

And I’m sure this will be all of us once the crisis passes:

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A Well-Oiled Machine: Why Every B2B Marketing Team Needs Marketing Operations

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What makes a B2B marketing campaign great?

Is it a creative theme that catches your attention? Is it the insightful expertise featured within? Is it the number of leads it produced?

Answer: it’s all of those things and more. Great B2B marketing campaigns have great ideas and great execution.

But great execution is hard to achieve. It demands excellent resourcing, swift approvals, streamlined processes, and more. And as you may have noticed, these aren’t marketing functions. They’re operational functions.

For your B2B marketing campaigns to truly be successful, you need someone leading the operational side of things. You need marketing operations.

What Is Marketing Operations?

According to MarketingProfs, marketing operations is “an emerging discipline that increases efficiency and drives consistent results in marketing-focused organizations. It builds a foundation for excellence by reinforcing marketing strategy with metrics, infrastructure, business processes, best practices, budgeting and reporting.”

Our translation? Marketing operations is the act of creating and enforcing processes, regularly assessing scope, allocating team resources, and introducing new martech tools to increase team efficiency and campaign results. It is the umbrella under which B2B marketing campaigns become more efficient and effective.

“For your B2B marketing campaigns to truly be successful, you need someone leading the operational side of things. You need marketing operations.” @annieleuman Click To Tweet

Why Do You Need Marketing Operations?

Marketing Operations Increases Efficiency

From martech tools to processes to best practices, there are a handful of ways B2B marketing teams can improve efficiency. However, the owner of those responsibilities is often unclear. Instead, teams tend to divide and conquer. One person is responsible for campaign best practices, another owns martech, and a third might own business processes. Or worse, no owner has been set. As you may have guessed, this is an inefficient way to battle inefficiencies.

An efficient way to correct course is to set ownership of those responsibilities to a marketing operations role or department. This is a more focused approach that makes accountability clear. Plus, with increasing efficiency as a primary responsibility of marketing operations, instead of a secondary one, you can be certain that efficiency is a priority, not a nice-to-have.

Want to make your marketing more productive? Check out these marketing productivity tips.

Marketing Operations Improves Clarity

There’s a process for everything. For communicating internally or externally. For creating a social image. For drafting a blog post. How many of your processes are documented? How many of them are followed step by step? With so many processes to juggle in B2B marketing, it’s understandable that not every process is going to have 100% adoption.

That changes with marketing operations woven into your organization.

As a function that is dedicated to making sure processes are defined, documented, followed, and iterated on, marketing teams have increased clarity into what needs to happen, when it needs to happen, and who is responsible. This enables your team to move at faster speeds with confidence that the best, most optimized process is being followed.

Marketing Operations Enables Scalability

Take a look across your past marketing campaigns. Are they consistently executed upon? Or does each campaign have slight deviations from the norm? Save that mental picture. Now, imagine what happens to your consistency when you topple on another 10 to 20 campaigns or projects. It could get chaotic.

But if you can do it once, you can do it a thousand times.

Marketing operations allows your organization to quickly scale across campaigns and projects. With proven, documented approaches to each project and campaign type, your team can quickly kick off and launch their campaigns. Marketing operations does this by consistently assessing campaign scope, performance, and lift and using those findings to create the optimal campaign or project.

“Marketing operations allows your organization to quickly scale across campaigns and projects. With proven, documented approaches to each project and campaign type, your team can quickly kick off and launch their campaigns.” @annieleuman Click To Tweet

Marketing Operations Optimizes Campaigns

Optimization is nothing new to a marketer.

From on page content and SEO to social images and digital advertising campaigns, there’s always something to optimize in the realm of marketing. But what about the campaigns themselves? Are you optimizing your workflows? And what about your scopes?

Part of the marketing operations role is to track and analyze marketing campaign budgets, burn rate, workflows, and results to find opportunities for optimization. Powered with this information, they can then optimize campaign structure, resources, and scope for maximum impact in minimal time. The end result is a campaign or project that drives great results, reduces costs, and increases profits. Talk about a big benefit.

For actionable tips on how to optimize your B2B campaigns, read this guide on how to maximize your B2B content marketing campaign investments.

Execute. Execute. Execute.

B2B marketing greatness requires both creative ideas and efficient execution. Do your B2B marketing campaigns have both?

Marketing operations leads to better campaigns, better workflows, and, ultimately, better results. If you’re lacking great execution that is timely, transparent, and repeatable, you need to make marketing operations a priority within your organization. Ensure there is someone at the helm of process management, martech tools, and resourcing, and your marketing machine will run better than ever.

For more operational tips for B2B marketers, check out our project management tips for B2B marketers.

Step Right Up! 8 Content Promotion Showstoppers For 2019

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Welcome to the fifth installment in our “Collective Wisdom” series of content marketing strategy articles. In this issue, we’ll dig into the multifaceted and sometimes daunting world of promoting content, featuring wisdom and examples from some of the world’s top digital marketers.

Previously we’ve covered pre-planning for content marketing success, the art of crafting powerful content, along with enduring and often-overlooked content creation best practices. Now it’s time to move on and tackle show-stopping content promotion.

Below we explore eight helpful tactics used by some of the best in the business when it comes to the art of promoting your content, with methods that will make your audience stop, look, and engage.

Showstopper 1: Unleash the Influencer Marketing Kraken

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The most basic premise of influencer marketing is all about harnessing the power of people who hold real and relevant influence for your target audience. But when done smartly, influencer marketing can also be a strong content promotion tactic, which is why it’s become highly effective for both B2B and B2C brands of all sizes.

With global influencer marketing advertising spending forecast to double from $5 billion to $10 billion over the next five years (Mediakit, 2018), and 65% of global brands planning to increase their influencer marketing spending over the next year (World Federation of Advertisers), the time to release your influencer marketing Kraken could hardly be better.

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Numerous studies from Nielsen and others over the years have continued to show that our trust in our fellow real human beings is roughly twice that we generally have for brands or organizations — or, most certainly, the Kraken — and influencer marketing has grabbed hold and run with this natural preference for people.

Noted marketing speaker and author Jay Baer, founder of Convince and Convert, encourages thinking long-term when it comes to influencer marketing.

“At the heart of both paid and earned influencer campaigns is creating long-lasting relationships.” — Jay Baer @jaybaer Click To Tweet

How to nurture these relationships early and often is featured heavily in “Words of Wisdom: Lee Odden’s Top 9 Insights on How to Succeed at Influencer Marketing 2.0,” by TopRank Marketing senior content marketing manager Caitlin Burgess, a great resource for learning more about the specifics and nitty-gritty of developing your own smart and successful influencer marketing campaign.

One of our most popular annual collections of the very best content marketing influencers was recently released, and it offers a great way to find and easily follow many of the brightest professionals in the influencer marketing world: “50 B2B Marketing Influencers and Experts to Follow Into 2019.”

Influencer marketing’s use as a robust promotional tactic is explained further in the following six resources.

Six Kraken-Approved Influencer Marketing Resources For Your Toolkit

  1. Get your feet wet with our CEO Lee Odden’s “Just Getting Started with Influencer Marketing? 6 Things You Should Know,” which is a fine introduction to successfully working with influencers, including best practices and prime opportunities.
  2. Gaze into the far reaches of influencer marketing possibilities with our own content marketing manager Joshua Nite, as he goes “Beyond the Hype Cycle: It’s Time to Redefine Influencer Marketing,” with a selection of helpful methods to make the practice a trusted part of a newer and better integrated marketing strategy.
  3. It’s been a strong year for influencer marketing, and our content strategist Anne Leuman explores a fascinating array of trends for brands and beyond, in “7 Influencer Marketing Trends That Will Rule 2018.”
  4. Global enterprise B2B firms are reaping the benefits of influencer marketing as well, and our series of interviews by Lee with leading figures digs into the details, including expert marketers from IBM, Adobe, Cox Communications, SAS, Dun & Bradstreet, and others.
  5. A primer of some of the many specialty influencer marketing tools is laid out in infographic format by IZEA, which has also recently released a report showing influencer marketing near the top of the marketer effectiveness rating chart.

The B2B side of influencer marketing is the subject of Lee’s “What B2B CMOs Need to Know About Successful Influencer Marketing,” with special focus on how today’s chief marketing officers can benefit.

Showstopper 2: Invade Social Media with Hyper-Specific Promotion

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Every social media platform offers its own unique twist and flavor — which is a big part of what makes the social landscape so rewarding, thrilling, and at times challenging — and you should use these differences to your advantage by tailoring your own bespoke promotional messaging for each platform’s unique audience.

Author and speaker Guy Kawasaki suggests that smart marketers strive for a greater dose of the human factor in social promotion.

“Brands are built on what people are saying about you on social media, not what you’re saying about yourself.” — Guy Kawasaki @GuyKawasaki Click To Tweet

Making your social promotion hyper-focused with a human touch starts with the basics of ensuring that your textural messaging elements fit a social platform’s limits, and recognizes the differing user demographics of each when writing promotional copy for social media.

Keep track of the latest image and video sizing recommendations and create pixel-perfect visuals tailored specifically for each social media platform you plan to use for promotion. SproutSocial’s “Always Up-to-Date Guide to Social Media Image Sizes” is one of many similar guides, and a good jumping off point when trying to track down the latest Pinterest pin dimensions or Twitter in-stream photo sizes.

In addition, also make a point to stay informed on new promotional elements that platforms roll out, and incorporate them in a well-thought-out manner in your promotions.

Stay up on these by finding out where each social platform announces its new features and beta tests, whether it’s the platform’s blog, website newsroom, fan newsletters, or specific social profiles made to inform marketers and users of feature additions and changes. Twitter, for example, offers several media best practices guides.

There are more social media places than ever to promote your content, and Anne has a list of some you’ve likely used in past promotions, and several that may be new opportunities you’ll want to explore, in her look at “4 Significant Marketing Channels You Should Adopt in 2018.”

Showstopper 3: Go For the Win with Awards

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You’ve taken great care to craft enchanting and relevant content. Now it may be time to submit your finest works to one or more of the many marketing awards programs.

Winning a category or even being named as a short-list entry can both be fantastic ways to help promote your content, and although the competition can be strong, the potential boost you can achieve is well worth consideration.

Whether B2B or B2C and whatever your industry, chances are good that there’s at least one annual awards competition where you can showcase your best work, whether it’s the Interactive Marketing Awards, the Digiday Awards, or Cannes Lions.

Examples of how top-notch marketing work can garner awards is shown in one of our most popular posts of 2018, Lee’s “32 B2B Content Marketing Case Studies for 2018,” featuring our client Cherwell Software and its recognition at the 2018 Killer Content Awards.

The sky’s the limit when you start entering and winning marketing awards, so don’t overlook these opportunities in your own content promotion.

“Awards give recognition to great work and they also give us a look inside what’s really working in the industry.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden Click To Tweet

Showstopper 4: Practice Promotional Thankfulness

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Incorporating thanks to those who have helped you along the way within your social promotions offers a number of benefits, including reaching new audiences you may not have previously considered.

Who has helped you create the work you’re promoting?

There will be people, services, and companies who had a direct impact on the content you’re promoting, and thanking them by name as a part of your promotional campaigns can be rewarding both on a personal and professional level.

Think also of the people who, although probably not involved directly in your present campaigns, helped you grow into the stellar content crafter you are today. Whether it’s an old college marketing professor who instilled a sense of curiosity you’ve carried for years, a professional mentor whose help guided you, or a former associate who taught you something wonderful you use to this day, finding and thanking them is a win-win-win situation for you, the people who inspired you, and for the latest content you’re promoting if you choose to give them a shout-out in your social messaging.

Here at TopRank Marketing we recently honored a Thanksgiving tradition by taking the time to say thanks, which is always a worthwhile endeavor.

Scott Monty, neoclassical marketer and former head of social at Ford, regularly quotes Cicero in his keynote addresses, and one about thankfulness from the Roman statesman and philosopher comes to mind:

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others..” — Cicero Click To Tweet

Scott also sees value in expressing human emotions such as gratitude.

“We can teach machines how to learn, how to respond to questions, to perform mail merges, & to anticipate our needs, but we can’t teach them to do what it takes to be truly human: that is, to feel & express emotions.” @ScottMonty Click To Tweet

Showstopper 5: Crank Up Your Crew & Turn Up Your Team

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Whatever the size of your team, when used in the right ways, its members can be an invaluable resource in your promotional toolkit, whether through employee advocacy, engagement, or as a source of inspiration.

Some may be bona fide mega-influencers, others micro-or-nano-influencers, but all can help in their own way with your promotion efforts, so take the time to learn all you can about your team, and work with each of them as appropriate to help them best share and amplify your content.

Three Resources For Cranking Up Your Team For Content Promotion

  1. In “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: 6 Tips for Helping Your Marketing Team Work Better Together,” Caitlin dives into the power of teamwork and the importance of individual and team goals.
  2. What can Spider-Man and Captain America teach us about content promotion? Josh looks at how teams wield more power than simply the sum of the individuals they contain, in his insightful “Marketers, Assemble! The Super-Powered Team-Up of Content Marketing Confluence.”
  3. How employees can benefit marketing efforts is explored in detail in Caitlin’s “How Employee Engagement Helps Drive the Success of Your Marketing Efforts.”

By being open to and fostering the content promotion boost your team members can provide, you’ll have an advantage over those who forge ahead alone.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” — Helen Keller Click To Tweet

Showstopper 6: Use Paid Booster Rockets

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Even the most successful organic promotions can make gains by adding smartly-placed paid promotion to the mix. When combined as a part of traditional search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, paid promotions can be especially effective, as Anne explored in “SEO + Paid Search: An Aristotelian Lesson in Search Marketing Integration.”

Google digital marketing evangelist and noted author Avinash Kaushik has over the years cautioned against using the power of paid search advertising without first having stellar content, urging digital marketers to outsmart instead of trying to outspend.

“Never let ads write checks your website can’t cash.” — Avinash Kaushik @avinash Click To Tweet

Pay-per-click (PPC) and other varieties of paid advertising are quickly-changing and oftentimes walled communities, and knowing when and how to best use each is a bit of a digital art-form.

Matthew Gratt, digital marketing manager at Continuum Analytics, sees paid promotion as complementary to organic methods, noting that:

“People don’t find content by mistake, or by accident. Every content plan needs a complementary promotion plan that combines paid, owned, and earned media.” — Matthew Gratt Click To Tweet

Showstopper 7: Test Out Promotion on New Social Frontiers

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Whenever a new social media platform launches it opens the door to new promotional frontiers for those willing to dedicate the time and effort to learning its rules of road, and when done well you could find yourself with big promotion success.

CNN recently brought mainstream attention to Tik Tok, a video-heavy app launched in 2016 in China that’s been downloaded nearly 800 million times and which has attracted a growing number of marketers. This is just one example of the type of new digital marketing frontier to be on the lookout for, even if we can’t be certain which new platforms will eventually make the annual global social usage lists such as those Hootsuite releases annually.

Hootsuite graph of global social media usage.

Although not as new as Tik Tok, live-streaming video platform Twitch has increasingly caught the attention of savvy marketers, as our Senior Content Strategist Nick Nelson explored recently during Content Marketing World in “How Twitch is Breaking New Ground In Audience Engagement #CMWorld.”

“Beyond potential utility, #marketers can benefit from simply studying @Twitch’s highly effective audience #engagement methods and stellar use of customer insights.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelson Click To Tweet

Showstopper 8: Take It To The Next Level With Professional Promotion

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What else can you do once you’ve meticulously implemented all seven of our showstoppers? Or perhaps you don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to doing them all to the highest level — what then?

Working with a top-notch professional marketing agency that offers a full stack of digital marketing services is the most sure-fire way to make certain that your message gets out to the right people — making your solution the best answer to the needs of your target audiences.

For many reasons, sometimes it just makes sense to make use of an agency, as Alexis Hall, our vice president of client accounts, recent examined in “Want to Go Stress Free? Here Are 6 Reasons to Hire A Digital Marketing Agency.”

“An experienced digital marketing agency can give you the lay of the land and provide strategic guidance for how best to dip your toes into new waters.” — Alexis Hall @Alexis5484 Click To Tweet

Expanding With Further Tactics For Successful Content Promotion

By unleashing the influencer marketing Kraken, invading social media with hyper-specificity, going for the win with awards, practicing thankfulness, cranking up your crew, boosting with paid, testing new frontiers, and using professional help when appropriate, your content promotion campaigns will have a sizeable advantage.

Next up in our “Collective Wisdom” series we’ll explore even more proven  and relevant tactics for providing the best content promotion.

If you haven’t yet caught our previous episodes in this series, hop back and study up with “How to Boost Your Content Marketing Efforts By Planning Ahead,” “The Art Of Crafting More Powerful Content: 5 Top Tactics from the Experts,” “5 Powerful Messaging Tactics For 2019 And Beyond From Marketing Experts,” and finally “Don’t Blink: 3 Often-Overlooked Practices for Highly-Effective Content Creation.”