Michael Jordan, six time NBA Champion and NBA Finals MVP, once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” Jordan obviously knows a thing or two about basketball championships and playing sports, but what about business? Does that quote really apply?
Yes, yes it does.
You see, up until this point, you’ve been handling things yourself and that hasn’t been too bad. Whatever your strengths and deficiencies are, you’re best informed and equipped to accommodate those traits yourself.
But your time and experience and resources aren’t infinite. If you want to continue to grow your agency, you must find ways to scale your marketing efforts. Throughout this episode we’re going to throw a ton of information at you – not in an attempt to completely educate you on everything you need to know about employing others (there are entire books about that) – but rather, our goal here is to give you specific points and options to consider. This will help you determine what form your team should take, how it should be comprised, and what tools and processes you may need to put into place.
From there, you’ll be better equipped to do additional research or even obtain professional consulting on the areas you need more information.
For instance, we’ll be talking about whether to hire employees or contractors, or whether to outsource to an agency entirely. What we won’t be talking about is tax considerations and employment benefits as it pertains to direct hires.
Welcome back to a special episode of Agency Accelerated, the podcast where we explore ways to grow & scale your agency with some of the most trusted brands and experts in the industry.
I’m Stephanie Liu and we’re live every other Wednesday at 2pm Eastern Time, 11am Pacific Time on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. But in today’s episode, it’s just me! I’m going to be sharing some of my own expertise when it comes to building up your agency.
What you are going to come out of this episode armed with is an understanding of your options to help you scale your marketing agency team, and our best advice and recommendations on how you can accomplish that.
Let’s dive in.
Marketing Agency Team Roles
The first consideration when it comes to putting together your marketing agency team – that group of superheroes who are going to stay on top of your messaging and online conversations day and night – is whether or not you want that team to be internal to your business or an external agency.
If it’s an internal team, that’s an opportunity for you to completely control the narrative. Your team comes up with every post, every message, every piece of dialogue, and can craft that to meet your needs accordingly. If you’re using an external team, more time has to be spent communicating your brand message and reviewing what the agency comes up with.
If it’s an external team, they’re likely comprised of individuals with very specific skillsets and experience working on similar projects. This is one way to avoid the very real problem of assigning unfamiliar tasks to employees who lack that skill or experience.
If it’s an internal team, that team reports to you and no one else. They do not have other clients competing for their time or creative energy. If you need them to spend more time on a particular campaign or project, you can direct that. An external team will likely have a negotiated budget of time and resources that are allocated to you each month.
If it’s an external team, you gain the benefit of that team’s industry experience beyond your own business. They may have worked for many other clients in your vertical or geographic region and be able to tap that knowledge in a way that is beyond the grasp of an internal team.
As a result, there are benefits and challenges facing either approach. From a cost perspective, there are affordable options for both internal or external teams. Internally, you can choose to use part-time help or contractors, or hire one full-time employee who can handle multiple roles. Externally, you can contract an inexpensive solopreneur or small firm at first. Your team doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive.
One important note here about that expense. If you haven’t already done an exercise like this in your business, you may be due for an eye-opening experience.
How much do you bill per hour if you’re invoicing your own time? If you sell services, consider just how much work you can accomplish in an hour for a client and get paid for it.
Got that figure in mind? Great. Now take careful note of how much time you spend every day, week and month on specific tasks. Write them down on a piece of paper divided in half where, on one side are the things that directly tie into you making that hourly rate, on the other side is everything else.
What’s on that other side? What are those tasks costing you? Whether it’s doing the accounting or cleaning the office or mowing the lawn, it’s likely you can delegate that task to someone else (who won’t charge as much per hour as you) and free up that time for yourself.
Your client servicing efforts can be viewed the same way. If you can delegate some or all of the business marketing to one or more people who can do at least as good as you, or better, and cost you less per hour, you’ll get ahead!
Put another way, if marketing isn’t in your creative zone of genius, hire someone else to do it!
Now, whether you choose to go with an internal or an external team, it’s going to be critical that you over-communicate everything. Your agency plans and initiatives are now happening outside of your own head and your staff cannot know what you’re thinking unless you make it clear.
As long as you have your strategy in place, that’s your North Star. It’s what you and your team are always working towards.
Every good team needs to have roles. The basketball teams that Michael Jordan played on were always structured the same. There was a point guard, a shooting guard, a small forward, a power forward, and a center. Successful startups follow the model of Visionary, Engineer and Salesperson.
Similarly, your marketing agency team needs to assume a number of critical roles. It is possible for one person to assume some or even all of these roles though, as we’ll demonstrate in a moment. That will largely depend on expertise and availability.
The Social Media Strategist is very complementary to the Entrepreneur or Visionary role outlined in certain business models. They are responsible for determining the direction and message for all social media efforts, and are typically in charge of the team.
She will determine which platforms are focused on, what tactics are going to employed, and what the overall goals and expectations for the team and initiatives are going to be.
The Community Manager is responsible for monitoring and engaging with all incoming communication from your brand’s audience, regardless of network or platform or medium. Comments on posts, direct messages, live videos or conversations with chatbots.
She will likely be responsible for all outgoing posts and activity as well, though that responsibility may be shared with the Strategist depending on the tactic involved.
The Analyst is responsible for reviewing and reporting on all available metrics, as well as determining what can be measured and what steps have to be taken to ensure solid metrics are available.
She may, for instance, provide the Community Manager with specific tracking links to use in certain campaigns so that the back-end reporting is able to successfully attribute all mediums and initiatives.
The Advertising Manager is responsible for all paid advertising, typically Facebook and Google, and Microsoft ads.
In conjunction with the Strategist, she will create ad campaigns designed to deliver very specific results. She’ll create the assets, audiences and campaigns and then monitor their performance on a daily basis. She may also work with the Community Manager to potentially boost organic social posts that are already performing well.
The Social Media Manager is all of these roles rolled up into one. She has the experience, skills and time to create strategy, implement tactics, monitor channels, handle paid advertising and monitor results.
And for many small to medium businesses, this is how you begin to build a team. You hire a Social Media Manager first and then as activities and results warrant, additional team members are added, bringing separation to the roles. Again, you may not want or need to hire individuals for each specific role.
Depending on the needs of your business, specific individuals may assume some of these roles alongside their other responsibilities. An Email and Outbound marketing specialist might also handle your paid advertising. A Data Analyst who is running your business analytics may also help with social media marketing metrics.
As long as someone has been assigned these roles and understands how they fit into your overall marketing and brand-building teams, you will have assembled the team you need.
As we said at the outset, covering topics like employee handbooks and health benefits is more than we can cover in a podcast about marketing agencies. However, there are some differences between hiring contractors or full time employees, or bringing on a different kind of agency or even virtual assistants, that we should cover here.
If you’re prepared to hire someone internally to fill one or more of the above roles, you will need to publish a job description and opening, interview and then ultimately select a candidate. You will need to research comparable pay in your specific region to understand what a fair offer for that role would be.
A contractor is someone who charges you a set fee for the work they are doing and has a contract that states deliverables, timing, requirements and fees. A contractor has their own business, whether an LLC or sole proprietorship, and is paid via invoice.
Using a contractor for some of your services may be an attractive solution, particularly if you’re able to find someone with the right fit, as there are typically higher costs and additional administrative requirements with hiring someone.
Do note though that every State – particularly California – has laws and regulations with regard to contract work. Check with applicable websites, organizations and your accountant to make sure you accomplish all required tasks.
Is your business seasonal? Are your requirements less than part-time? If so, hiring a contractor may be an excellent solution.
Another option to consider is utilizing a Virtual Assistant (VA) for some of your client efforts. Depending on the VA, they may be able to help with content curation, transcription, scheduling and publishing, and other repetitive tasks.
VAs are most commonly found outside the United States which leads to less expensive costs, fewer regulations, and the added benefit of being able to cover a much wider range of timezones.
If there are Community Colleges or Universities nearby, inquire about a potential intern! A marketing student could be a perfect fit for a Social Media Manager or Strategist who needs help covering some of the other tasks and can take the time to train interns accordingly.
Whether you’re hiring internally or contracting externally, be prepared to create a formal contract along with a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) which stipulates that they may not discuss any of your internal plans or information. If you’re providing training, you may want to include a Non Compete Clause so that they cannot leverage your training to obtain a higher paying position elsewhere. And you should definitely include within the contract stipulations regarding what is and is not Intellectual Property.
For instance, if your Community Manager writes an eBook for a client lead generation tactic, he shouldn’t be free to republish that work after he has left the company.
Consult your attorney when crafting these documents to ensure full protection and clarity for all involved.
If, however, you plan to employ an additional agency or other outside vendors for any aspect of your client work, someone on your team needs to have the added role of Account Manager.
The Account Manager is responsible for determining a vendor’s deliverables, cost and timeframe, for communicating all requirements to that vendor, and for regularly checking in with that vendor to receive updates on progress.
Without a dedicated account manager in charge of monitoring a vendor relationship, weeks or even months could go by without you realizing that there’s a growing issue which needs to be addressed.
Marketing Agency Team Documentation
But before you get into any of that… before you hire an employee or contractor, VA or intern, or start working with an outside agency, you need to amp up your own documentation.
It’s quite possible that documentation is my favorite word, rivaled only by Dim Sum.
With complete documentation, you create a mechanism to teach and onboard new team members, communicate plans and expectations, and give everyone the grace to read and comprehend those important instructions at their own pace. As well as reference later!
This documentation is critical, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. A set of shared Google Docs will work just fine. And it’s OK to create initial documentation that then changes and evolves over time.
This documentation can include, but is not limited to:
Style Guide – The Style Guide or Brand Kit as some call it, collects all design requirements and restrictions and elements into one place for easy reference. This should include your logo and all specified treatments (i.e. color vs. white, square vs. rectangle), your fonts, and your specific brand colors. As we discussed in Chapter 6, your team can utilize PhotoShop or Canva or Easil to create graphics and these specifications can often be included within the apps or templates.
Branding Guide – A better name for this might be Messaging, as this includes elements of your brand and business that aren’t in the Style Guide, such as Mission, Vision, and Voice. How you talk to your audience is often as important as what you say.
Day To Day Schedule – This helps outline your daily tasks, particularly for the Community Manager and Advertising Manager who will have daily responsibilities that cannot be neglected.
Expectations – Often incorporated into a document unique to each hire and role, this makes crystal clear what the business expects of an individual and should give them the courtesy of being able to discuss and help shape those expectations.
Expenses & Reimbursement – Make it clear from the outset what expenses are expected and what will be reimbursed. Will you cover your community manager’s data plan so she can continue monitoring your social media activity from mobile? Will you cover travel and meals to requested events? Determine that as well as a method for reporting and reimbursement so there are no surprised and bruised feelings (and wallets).
Onboarding Guide – Whether you’re hiring internally or outsourcing externally, you need to have a documented process of onboarding so that every necessary step cannot be overlooked. And as you walk through this process with a new team member, make a note of any changes or corrections or omissions since the last time so that each iteration can be improved.
This should include access to tools and networks. In fact, consideration should be made for using a tool like LastPass which can facilitate the sharing of access information easily. As part of this process, make a note of how each tool or network allows shared access. Facebook, for instance, has you give an existing Facebook user administrative access to your Page, whereas Twitter has no such capability and requires you to simply share usernames and passwords.
This Onboarding Guide should also be used or duplicated as an Offboarding Guide. Whether an employee is leaving or an agency’s contract isn’t being renewed, access needs to be revoked and other tasks will need to be completed accordingly. Having a checklist for everything you need to do provides business efficiency and transferability of marketing agency team operations!
The good news is, there are lots of tools that can help you and your marketing agency team accomplish all of this and more. We already mentioned Google Docs for documentation and we obviously recommend Agorapulse for social media management, which includes built-in team functionality. But what else?
For Hiring – Workable is a great tool to manage your entire hiring process, from posting resumes to interviewing candidates, it gives you full control and visibility over the process.
For Project Management – An essential tool, particularly when collaborating with remote or external teams, and Asana is typically what we use and recommend. Basecamp and Trello are alternatives.
For Communication – Every member of the team will, of course, have email and a phone, but what do you use when you just want a quick answer to a question but don’t necessarily need it right this instant? Slack is the answer. You can group clients or conversations into different channels, send notifications or files as needed, and it even integrates video calling which is of paramount importance for distributed teams.
For Calendaring – For most instances, shared Google Calendars are the preferred medium for tracking meetings and events and coordinating schedules. It also has automatic integration with Google Meet to facilitate team video calls.
For Training & Information – How do you and the rest of the team keep up to date with what’s new and changing with social media? For that, you have quite a few choices. You can read blogs, attend events, and consume weekly marketing shows/podcasts that keep their audiences updated.
Examples include Social Media Examiner, Agorapulse’s Blog, Social Media Today and MarketingLand. You can follow Jenns Trends, The Digital Gal, Hey Stephanie and The Social Media Hat. And of course you should subscribe to this Agency Accelerated podcast by Agorapulse, if you haven’t already.
Social Media Marketing World in San Diego and the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference in St. Louis are two popular events for your whole marketing agency team to attend.
Social Media is always changing. Have systems and processes and people in place to help you manage it, yes, but also mechanisms to help you stay informed. You don’t need to be at the forefront of every shiny new trend or app, but you should have an understanding of where social media marketing is headed in the coming year so that you can ensure your efforts are properly aligned and your agency growth strategies are in tune.
Keeping an eye on trends and to the future of social media marketing, while regularly checking in with your marketing agency team and monitoring analytics, will sometimes lead you to the inevitable conclusion that change is needed.
Maybe things aren’t going so well, or maybe you see an opportunity. Whatever the case, what do you do when it’s time to pivot?
Armed with that information, not only will you ensure the stability and scalability of your marketing agency, you will position yourself as a trusted and valuable resource for clients.
I’ll see you and your agency… accelerating… into the next show!