How to Maximize Productivity in Your Digital Marketing Team
Productivity is one of the most cherished values in the professional world. When important business decisions are made, productivity and profitability are almost always the primary determinants of outcomes. In the digital marketing scene, it’s no different: whether you’re working for a marketing department within a corporation or you’re in an agency, productivity is key to the success of every project and the satisfaction of its stakeholders.
Of course, it’s always easier to talk about high productivity than to actually attain it. Marketing teams are very organic; they depend heavily on human creativity, will, and commitment. While setting up work processes is well and good, getting people to religiously abide by them is another matter.
If there’s a value that employees place higher than productivity, it’s their individuality. It’s unrealistic to expect employees to follow every step in a process and every article in your code of ethics at all times. As managers and business owners, how can we maximize our human resources to accomplish as much as we possibly can without burning people out? Here are 10 tips based on more than a decade of experience and inspiration from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great:
1. Hire the Right People - Productivity starts with choosing the kind of people who have the potential to do well. When hiring for digital marketing functions, these qualities are often the most important:
- ?Apparent interest in learning more about the craft
- Good written communication skills
- A good head for statistical concepts
- A history of long tenures in previous jobs
- Non-aversion to change
- Belief in what your organization wants to accomplish
While you can’t get all of these in one person most of the time, hiring someone with at least four of these attributes is a pretty safe move. The bullet about tenure is particularly important because long stays at one company is a good indicator that the person is committed to the job, worked well with colleagues and was capable of performing the job. Some applicants with these qualities may not be spectacular immediately, but it’s up to you to help upgrade their capabilities through training and motivation.
2. Let Go of the Wrong People as Quickly as Possible – Productivity doesn’t just involve hiring the right people – it also means letting people go whenever necessary. Hiring is not an exact science and you’re bound to take in people who don’t pan out. When this happens, decisive action has to be taken in order to help both sides pursue their best interests and help you build a culture of excellence.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should adopt a trigger-happy approach to personnel management. Before you come to the decision to let go of any employee, ask yourself the following questions:
- Was this person given enough time and resources to meet his goals?
- Was this person coached enough to address his shortcomings?
- Did the person experience any major adversities outside the workplace that might have affected his performance?
- Does this person fit in our long-term plans?
- Has this person bought into our team’s long-term vision?
- Is there room for this person to grow in our digital marketing group?
The objective and factual answers to those questions will help you determine whether or not an employee should remain with your organization. For most of us, deciding to let go of a person is not an easy decision but it’s one that has to be made. Delaying a person’s departure only holds your team back from fulfilling its potential and it delays the underperforming person from moving on and finding a place where he or she is a better fit.
Keep in mind that while firing has a stigma to it, the instances when it’s for illegitimate reasons are generally fewer compared to the times it’s done based on rational thought. Rarely do good digital marketing management groups fire people out of incompetence. More often than not., it’s a matter of skill and personality fit.
3. Put Emphasis on Discipline – There’s no doubt that hiring and keeping talented people is crucial to a digital marketing team’s success. Marketing strategies require intellect and creativity to make them stand out. However, talent alone doesn’t generate great results in an industry where fast-paced work and deadlines are the norm. A high degree of discipline has to complement your team’s abilities so you can deliver quality work to the right people at the right time.
Most organizations have a culture. Some organizations have disciplines. However, no digital marketing organization can truly be great if they don’t have a culture of discipline. The ability to play within a code of conduct as a group without forcing anyone to compromise their individuality is a special state that not many organizations attain.
A culture of discipline doesn’t mean working in an environment beset by a tyrannical authority figure. As a matter of fact, it refers to the opposite. A culture of discipline happens when self-disciplined people understand what it takes to succeed and are willing to do whatever is necessary to produce results. Managers in disciplined digital marketing organizations don’t manage people, they manage systems that work for the businesses they serve. They understand that the best work comes from people who feel trusted and can exercise certain freedoms within defined limits.
4. Cross-Train Employees – Digital marketing departments and agencies are labor intensive business units. Most processes can’t be fully automated and most employees aren’t replaceable by machines. That wouldn’t be a problem if everyone on your team is in the office every weekday, but it doesn’t work quite that way in real life. People get sick, take vacations and have children. People also quit jobs in search of greener pastures. Therefore, dependence on human labor is as much a vulnerability as it is a fact of life.
While it’s impossible to eliminate the additional burden on a workforce caused by an employee’s absence or departure, you can minimize it by making your staff more versatile. You can add more skills to your employees’ repertoire by cross-training them on different functions. For instance, an SEO specialist can learn how to handle Google AdWords rather easily because of the overlap of concepts between the two functions. The same is true between a copywriter and a web content writer. Both can be trained on the basics of the other function due to the similar base skill requirements.
This way, you can pull in additional qualified manpower on a project if a sudden need arises. Even with absences and resignations, you can keep production humming thanks to greater personnel flexibility. This might involve a little sacrifice on your part and on your employees’, but the flexibility gives you a manpower insurance policy while keeping your people engaged at work due to the new things they learn.
5. Set Up and Evolve Processes – A digital marketing team may have talented and disciplined people but without clearly defined processes, the efforts of these people can go to waste.
A process is a set of tasks executed in a clear order to complete a business activity. It involves guidelines on proper procedures, required assets, and designations of which people are responsible for which phases. If designed and executed correctly, a process boosts production and allows people to specialize in aspects of it, granting them mastery and speed as their experience levels grow.
Processes also allow digital marketing teams to add, remove and switch personnel much like individual parts in a more complex machine. From a managerial perspective, this makes the on-boarding process of new employees smoother and it aids the cross-training of current employees to new functions easier. Having a firmly set process also helps limit the effects of an employee’s absence or departure from the company.
6. Invest in the Right Tools – As much as digital marketing agencies are people-driven, we need tools to help us increase the pace of our work many times over. There are tools for just about every function in digital marketing – some of them are free and others are paid. Here are some of the most commonly used applications, platforms, and plugins in digital marketing:
- Project management – Zoho, JURA, Smartsheet, Basecamp, Asana
- Email Marketing – Mailchimp, AWeber, GetResponse
- On-Page SEO – Screaming Frog SEO Spider, Yoast SEO (WordPress), Google Search Console
- Link Building – SEOQuake, Ahrefs, Majestic, Ninja Outreach, BuzzStream
- Keyword Research – SEMRush, Google Keyword Planner
- PPC Management- AdWords Editor
- Social Media Marketing – Buffer, HootsuiteRank Tracking – SEMRush, Siteoscope
There are a lot of others that are great, but these are the ones we’ve had lots of experience using. They cut down on the time that would have been spent doing things manually, allowing us to do more with fewer man hours.
7. Give Out Rewards Judiciously – Due to the fast-paced and sometimes stressful nature of work in digital marketing environments, it’s important to remind people that their work is appreciated and do not go unnoticed. As such, rewards should be given when employees accomplish significant feats. Delivering uncommonly high work volume, helping campaigns succeed beyond expectations and producing content that gets significant traction are all noteworthy achievements.
The rewards can be in the form of bonuses, citations or even a promotion. What’s important is that good behavior is acknowledged – it helps the employee stay motivated while setting an example for the rest of the team.
Just keep in mind that rewards must be reserved for good employees who churn out great work. It should never be given to bad employees who suddenly start to deliver decent work. Incentives are for regular people who achieve the extraordinary. They’re not meant to encourage mediocre employees to graduate to merely acceptable levels.
8. Focus on What You’re Great At – Digital marketing is a very broad field composed of many diverse disciplines. Email marketing, web design, SEO, paid search advertising, social media marketing and web analytics are just some of them. Smart digital marketing departments and agencies tend to focus on just one or two of these and leave the rest to other professionals for very practical reasons.
It may sound like leaving money on the table, but it’s really not. Focusing on what you do best allows you to be more productive because you’re faster, better equipped and more experienced in your area of focus. If you step out of that and try to do too much, a lot of your time will inevitably be spent on learning new things and engaging in trial and error. By choosing areas to focus on, you spend more time on production than on guesswork.
Here’s an example: an agency that’s great at SEO needs to revamp the design of a website’s pages due to its dated look and limited internal linking structure. The agency has a lot of elite SEO specialists with a little coding knowledge but not enough to call themselves actual designers. It’s more practical to hire a web design studio to do the work rather than figure things out on their own. It allows them to focus more on optimizing the site and it eliminates the risk of potentially low-quality web design. Whatever fees are paid to the design studio are dwarfed by the value of the SEO they’re doing while the design work is in progress.
Bottom line: overstretching your capabilities and manpower doesn’t really give your productivity much of a boost. If anything, it exposes your organization to greater risks that could kill productivity if things break bad.
9. Don’t Forget to Have Fun – As driven and competitive as your team may be, it’s important to keep everyone in good spirits. Good work in marketing agencies is a product not just of hard work but also of collaboration and creative thought. Make sure you set up your work environment in a way that it promotes professional respect and friendship
Organize fun company activities such as picnics, trips to the beach or after work games. Giving your employees’ minds a little time to relax usually translates to better concentration during work hours and greater trust between colleagues.
High productivity in a workplace should never be regarded as an arbitrary value. It shouldn’t be pursued because it’s generally regarded as a good thing. People need to be educated why it matters and how it trickles down to their individual careers and livelihoods. With transparency, sincerity, and leadership by example, you should be able to get the best out of any reasonable employee.