Onboarding Remote Employees: How to Build Culture, Rapport and Support

Running a remote marketing firm provides a lot of benefits for our team and our clients. But having a team working from home most or all of the time isn’t without its challenges. One area that I get asked about a lot is how to successfully onboard a new work from home employee? How do you make sure they feel like they are part of the team quickly? How do you make sure they have the tools and access they need to get up and running quickly?

Here are some of the strategies that have worked for us. We also reached out to our network of business owners, managers and talent leaders to get their thoughts on strategies for managing onboarding remote employees. Their insights are included throughout. 

Clearly Layout 30 and 90-day Plans

Whether your new team member is working from home or not – having a clear 30 to 90-day plan is so critical. SHRM points out that 69% of employees are more likely to stay based on their onboarding plan. At Lake One, we turn to the same tool we use to plan and manage our client Marketing Springs – Asana. We build out all the tasks and milestones for our new team members and link it up to the essential resources they’ll need to accomplish their onboarding from links to our standard operating procedure to the company drive file structure. 

Jennifer Zick, Founder and CEO at Authentic Brand adds, “New employees – whether working in a physical office or remotely – need clarity in two primary areas in order to get up to speed and become productive in their roles. First, any new employee needs to know where to find what they need to do their job. Secondly, they need clear definitions on what they are responsible for, and what success should look like.”

Diversify Training and Communication Styles

Mix up the training schedule to make sure your new team member gets to spend time with a diversity of folks. This helps the new employee develop connections within the company and absorb information better. Not to mention, putting the responsibility on one person to get a new employee up to speed can be a lot.

Tyler Anderson, Principal at Andcor Talent states, “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to communicating during onboarding and beyond.  Each leader (and team member) needs to understand communication preferences and needs. Some may prefer and are comfortable with email.  Others need verbal communication and interaction. And others want a combo of both.”

Outline Subject Matter Experts

Make it clear – who in the organization owns what. This not only saves time across the board, but it sets expectations for both the new and existing employees. If you have a standard operating procedure (see below) this is a great place to put this information. Some HRIS systems also have a place for this in an org chart. 

Anderson recommends, ”Getting them up to speed fast and hit the ground running by pairing the remote employee with an on-site employee or if everyone is virtual, another remote team member who they can go to for advice.”

Onboarding Remote Employees

Zick notes, “Many companies may not have well-organized online databases or platforms full of training materials, sales collateral, HR documents, or other resources that new employees can quickly locate. In these situations, it might make sense to align an employee with an internal guide – a “sherpa” of sorts – who can answer questions to help them quickly get to the right person or place to find what they need. Collaboration tools – like Slack – can be invaluable in these cases, allowing employees to quickly ask questions and crowdsource answers from their peers. The key is to open as many pathways to answers as possible, as quickly as possible, to help the new team member feel fully equipped to do their job.”

Set Up All Accounts in Advance

One simple thing you can do to make sure your new team member is ready to hit the ground running is getting all their account access set up in advance. There is nothing more frustrating than over the course of 30 days constantly having to ping a supervisor to get access to this, that or the other thing. Make an account run through a task in the onboarding plan. That way your new team members on their first day can go through all their welcome emails from systems, make sure they can access everything and feel good about checking some things off their onboarding plan. 

Anderson suggests, “Break up onboarding/training tools. Don’t throw too much at them all at once. Also, if you can get started on setting those tools and accounts up before official day one, all the better.”

If Possible, Have an In-Person on Day One

Depending on where your team is actually located and where the new team member is, this work from home onboarding idea may not be doable. But if it is, even grabbing lunch or breakfast with your new employee can help defer any jitters on day one. If you can’t do it, is there another team member that’s close by? 

Anderson notes, “When this whole C-19 thing is behind us if you have a physical office, bring the new hire in and go to lunch or a happy hour. But don’t just let it be a one-time thing. Hold quarterly gatherings and continue to make them feel like part of the team.”

Break the Ice 

Like with any new job, the first few days can feel like you’re an outsider. That can be especially true for remote employees who aren’t onsite. Find ways to break the ice with new employees. Whether it’s fun facts, a game, or something else. Keep it light and fun. 

Cami Zimmer, EVP Sales & Marketing at Glympse says, “Use “Reply All”: Send out an email to the group with an icebreaker question, asking everyone to respond via email and “reply all” so that everyone gets to know each other a bit more. 

Don’t cut the Chit-Chat: It’s personal chit-chat that actually helps employees relate to each other!  When working remote, team members do not have a chance to make small talk with others in the coffee area. We have to build time for this small talk into group meetings.  Try to spend a few minutes at the start of each meeting to discuss personal or department updates. Ask that team members send in recent photos through Slack or other chat tools.”  

Anderson says, “Learn and share fun facts:  “What are three (3) things people you know well would be surprised to learn?”  Give examples – e.g. survived a plane crash, world-class chess player, child actor.  Give the new hire a couple of days to mull over the questions and share what other team members have said in the past. After learning what teammates answer, they might be more willing to open up.  This exercise is great for building rapport and humanizing remote team members.”

Schedule Video Meet n Greets

A key part of our operating procedure at Lake One is daily standups and regular check-ins. Get your new team member looped in on these ASAP. Even though they may not be fully up to speed – the face time with the team is crucial and they’ll also start to get the habit of how the team works remotely. 

Anderson advises, “Set up a series of orientation calls/video chats within the first few weeks with the CEO and each member of the leadership team to learn about company history, culture, goals, structure. In addition, set up calls with team members in other departments within the first month.  Maintain this going forward in long-term across functions and combining new and tenured team members. Depending on the individual’s communication preferences, at a minimum suggest starting the call with a video chat to do a quick wave and know who you’re talking to and then turn it over to a phone call.”

Have a Standard Operating Procedure? You Should

We run on EOS ® Traction and our standard operating procedure is our north star. If you don’t have one – start documenting one. This is also a great way to help familiarize them with how y our organization operates and executes consistently. In an office setting – it’s easy to pop up and ask a question. Virtually, that’s not always possible. Standard operating procedures help give guidance on how the business handles key situations. 

Zick says, “What has been effective for us, and for many of our clients, is having a very regular and predictable cadence of communication – whether through in-person or virtual meetings. People quickly feel included, valued, and aligned when they know that they are “in the loop” on the company’s strategy, decision-making, and work efforts.

Because our company runs on EOS – The Entrepreneurial Operating System – much of this cadence is built into how we operate. Our executive team meets weekly and quarterly to work on the business. Additionally, our consultants – our Fractional CMOs – come together twice per month as part of our “mindshare” community. In-between these planned meetings, we use collaboration technologies (Slack and Basecamp) to stay connected, share ideas, celebrate milestones, and reinforce our company values.”

Setup Regular One-on-Ones

Another holdover from working face to face – one on ones are key. But even more so with your work from home team. In the first few weeks, it may feel like overkill but do this at a minimum weekly. First, it’s a great way to build up that comradery and second, it’s a chance to identify any early questions or concerns that might be harder to pick up on working way from each other. 

Rob Weber, Managing Director at Great North Labs says, “Productivity should be measured and greater expectations of asynchronous work should be accepted. When not working in a face-to-face environment, you’re much more likely to see work schedules drift and become more flexible. This flexibility though should still require certain regular check-in meetings or standups to ensure collaboration and free-flowing discussion. I’m also a big fan if possible to occasionally still meet-in person, such as for onboarding, annual planning, etc.”

Anderson suggests, “Maintain a consistent communication structure.  Include regular check-ins and checkpoints that are mandatory for every team member.  Sets expectations of how each team member should interact, communicate and adhere to the plan for every team member. I also suggest leveraging visual communication tools.”

Closing Thoughts

Anderson says, “Keep in mind, not everyone is built to work remotely so before you onboard be sure you have the assessment data to identify who will work well and who will not.  Some really need face-to-face interaction and the structure of an office environment. Others will work well independently and thrive in a virtual one. There aren’t enough tools in the world to turn one into the other. They may be successful but you run the risk of losing them to the environment that’s better suited for them.”

Zimmer notes, “We were/are lucky in that we had a remote policy in place before this all happened. We all have laptops, Zoom, Slack and are used to working remotely part-time. Thus, we really haven’t noticed much of a pause to business.  Being in the Last Mile industry, we are experiencing an increase in inquiries, even, keeping most of us here at Glympse rather busy.”

Weber reminds us that, “The characteristics of a well-managed business are similar for all businesses, regardless of whether they support work from home operations or face-to-face. Accountability is created through transparent delivery of key performance information which empowers the workforce to make decisions wherever they are working from.”

Zick advises, “Through this time of chaos and uncertainty, the very best advice that I could offer to leaders and employees is to give one another abundant grace. Everyone is adapting. Everyone is coming up to speed on our “new normal”. And everyone’s workplace experience is being radically changed. The silver lining in all of this is that – as a global community – we’re learning how to work differently, and the lessons that we learn through this time of disruption can carry us forward with new skills, deeper empathy, and an even higher level of workforce productivity. Together, we will get through this.”

Related Reading: Benefits of Working with a Virtual Marketing Agency

Marketing in a Time of Crisis: Inbound and Automation Strategies

In a time of crisis, there can be a lot of uncertainty. Whether it’s knowing how or if you should change your inbound programs, turn your ads off, or adjust your automation. As marketing professionals, it’s our job to remain calm and advise clients on the best course of action when it comes to inbound marketing and marketing automation. So, what would you advise? What would you do?

We reached out to fellow members of the HubSpot Solutions Partners Facebook Group and here’s what they had to say about marketing in a time of crisis. 

Course-Correct the Messaging and Adjust the Automation

Jeff Schneider | Founder & President, Marketing Ninjas – “This is a tough one for sure. We’re advising our clients to stay the course, but to shift messaging and content towards what could be considered to be more helpful, knowing that people are hunkering down and social distancing. This way they’re still adding value and still staying front of mind with people. Strange times these are. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.”

Eric Foutch | Managing Partner, Red Branch Media – “We have adjusted all of our client’s messaging so that we show their current customers how they can leverage their solutions during this time. For prospects, we have also shared similar messaging by extending free trials, offering white-glove implementation, etc.”

marketing in a time of crisis

Lucas Hamon | Founder & CEO,  Orange Pegs -“No, I would not recommend staying the course. It’s completely tone-deaf. Every single person on this planet is impacted by this event and for many, it’s all they want to talk or hear about. I say lean into it. Help your customers find paths during these times to prosper vs weathering the storm.”

Myrna E. Arroy | Growth Consultant, Pepper Inbound Marketing – “Update messaging, turn off automatic marketing that’s not relevant.”

Suzanne Marsalisi | Marketing Manager, Communico – “Agree. Make sure to check workflows and sequences as well as scheduled social media posts.”

Break-Even Clients are Better Than No Clients 

Elliot Miller | Partner, Chief Marketer, BrackenData“Reassure clients (especially the executive teams) that at times like this it’s better to let CPL go up, ROI go down, margins go down than it is to reduce the volume of incoming customers. You can keep the lights on with many break-even customers but not with no customers. Tactically, messaging has to be a lot softer. Tone shouldn’t be too whimsical right now. Better time to focus on TOFU, not BOFU. If you don’t have something actually helpful to say about coronavirus, stay away from the topic

Not All Ads Are Bad- Just Watch Your Tone 

Tracy Gorenflo Graziani | Founder, Tog Loft / CEO, Graziani Multimedia – “I think it’s tone-deaf and in poor taste to run certain ads, so I think it really depends on the content. Right now people are terrified. My advice is to only focus on content that is immediately helpful.” 

marketing in a time of crisis

A Time of Crisis Might Also Be A Time of Opportunity

Dave Roma | Founder, Drive Agency – “I’ve been seeing posts in some of my Google and Facebook Ad groups about CPCs declining… so research that to see if it’s true and then offer them the opportunity to double down on paid traffic acquisition at a discount… or use this as a reason to keep the ads running and this should lead to lower CPAs” 

Related Reading: 3 Follow Up Processes That Turn Off Your Inbound Leads

What is Data Telling You? 

Whitney Parker Mitchell | Founder & CEO,  Beacon Digital Marketing – “We ran an analysis across all our media campaigns and have seen: CPC is down, CPL is up slightly. We haven’t seen a drop in conversions. Agree on the strategies above though about the focus on TOFU in the immediate next week and then reassess. We also talked to our programmatic ad vendors and they said they are seeing clients pull spending from B2C ad buys, but so far B2B is still pretty steady for now. We have had many ask for advice on it; as of today, I haven’t seen indicators in ad performance that suggest people should pull back. Financial reasons are another matter though.”

marketing in a time of crisis

Take Advantage of Doing the Right Thing in a Time of Crisis  

Susan LaPlante-Dube | Owner/Principal,  Precision Marketing Group – “This is so client-specific, but don’t take blatant advantage of the crisis. People can see and feel it. We have some clients whose businesses have been destroyed (they live by the interest rate) and others (hello, virtual meetings) who will thrive. I think it is most important to be genuine. If you know that your client’s offerings are at “the bottom of the food chain” in a crisis, encourage them to pull back. If you know that these challenging times are beneficial, encourage them to spend and capitalize… but, please, in good taste. Don’t take advantage of others misfortune, take advantage of doing the right thing with your good fortune… My two cents.”

Michelle O’Keeffe | CEO, EngagingIo – “Some business services will be needed more, and others less. It really depends on what they’re product/service is. Do the right thing in advising them.”

Have something to add? Share your strategies here. We’ll update this post regularly.

We hope that the need for this advice is infrequent and short-lived. But remember, when marketing in a time of crisis, don’t take advantage of the situation. If your organization legitimately has a product, service or content that can provide value during unpredictable times by all means – share it. But otherwise, maybe rethink what you’re pushing into the eco-system.

Components of a Lake One FieldGuide: What Your Digital Marketing Strategy Includes

When we create a digital marketing strategy for our clients, what we adoringly refer to as a FieldGuide, we pour hours into research and strategy. We heavily consider every piece we present in order to create a cohesive, targeted plan.

So what’s in a Lake One FieldGuide? We clearly lay out the action steps needed to elevate your marketing to target the modern buyer and hone in on your lead gen potential. Here are the elements your Lake One FieldGuide will include. 

digital marketing strategy

Step 1. Competitive Analysis

Competitive analysis can be viewed from two angles: qualitative & quantitative. One without the other, like most things in marketing, would paint an incomplete picture. Your Lake One FieldGuide will include analysis on both ends of the spectrum for up to three of your top competitors. 

Qualitative Competitive Analysis: 

What are your top three competitors up to? How well designed are their websites and are their sites created to move the user into conversions at every stage in the funnel? Additionally, what do their websites convey at first sight? We call this the Blink Test. Do you know what they do and what their differentiator is immediately or do you need to read heavy content and scrounge around the site to find out? 

Quantitative Competitive Analysis: 

What do the numbers say? Here we look at things like the competition’s traffic + sources, domain ratings, and backlinks. Without spending an inordinate amount of time, these numbers give insight into their marketing activity and authority. It’s also a good way to see, in a numerical fashion, how you stack up.

Want to know more about Lake One? Check out our FAQ.

Step 2. Develop and Document 2-3 Personas

Before we get to the guts of your campaign, we need to understand who we will be targeting: your buyer persona. A persona is “a profile that represents your ideal customer.” We conduct research- online and offline- to understand who you’re talking to. We zero in on what their challenges are, what makes them change their purchasing behavior, and what barriers they experience. The point of this is to be able to develop a marketing strategy that addresses these elements.

We’ll create two or three personas to being. Later on, we’ll decide where to narrow the focus further once we’ve jointly considered ease of implementation, ability to get quick wins, and budget. 

3. Keyword Research

Now that we know who your personas are, we want to know what they’re searching for and what the search volume landscape looks like for your product/service. We’ll use a few different tools to find niche keyword clusters that we’ll target via content. Our goal in this research is to find keywords and phrases with high search volume and low competition. IE- while it’d be fantastic to rank your retail shoe store for “women’s shoes”, you won’t have much luck beating Amazon and Zappos. 

A Lake One FieldGuide includes keyword clusters that we can realistically target to get you ranking on relevant SERPs (search engine results pages).

4. Persona-centric Content Calendar

When we created your personas, we thought of their challenges, barriers, and drivers to change. Now, it’s time to pair those elements and questions with a content strategy. 

digital marketing strategy

Blog Campaign Topics

Personally, brainstorming blog topics is my favorite part of campaign planning. The number of blog ideas we generate will depend on the scale of your campaign and frequency of posting- whether we’ll be posting on your behalf twice a month or a few times a week. 

Additionally, the number of personas will impact how many blogs topics we need. Each persona will have their own content strategy. The topics we select as part of your campaign will seek to answer the questions, pain points, and interests you unearthed in your persona research. In some cases, we’ll actually take their concerns and turn them directly into topics. Here’s an example. If your persona poses the question, “How do I lower healthcare costs for my company?” a great blog topic might be “5 Examples How to Lower your Company Healthcare Costs.” Additionally, blogs will be matched to your persona’s needs at every stage of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and decision. 

The other things we consider when generating your blog campaign are the keywords and topic clusters we uncovered earlier in our keyword research. We’ll pair your persona’s needs with search data to create a 1-2-punch of stellar topics. 

All of this sounding good to you? Here are a few more reasons why you should work with us.

Offer Content Topics 

Next up is pairing those blog topics with conversion opportunities in the form of content offers. We’ll propose 1-2 offers at each stage of the buyer’s journey. These offers are intended to boost your lead gen and provide value to your users. We might propose an offer in the format of a… 

  • Checklist/self-assessment 
  • Guide or eBook
  • White paper, brochure, or sell sheet
  • Infographic
  • Content “Packet” that includes a mixture of the above in one offer

5. Persona Centered Lead Nurturing Sequences

Your FieldGuide at this point includes persona insights, keywords, and a killer content strategy. We’ll now present a plan to put all of that to work in nurturing sequences. What are those? You might know them as drip campaigns, workflows, or just as email marketing. When a user downloads one of your offers, we ideally want to enroll them into an email campaign that nurtures them along the funnel. A user who starts out by downloading an awareness offer would get a sequence of emails that nudge them into the consideration offer… and then into a decision offer… and then *fingers crossed* into being a customer. 

So, included with your FieldGuide are examples of the type of sequencing we’d like to do for your key offers.

6. Persona Watering Holes and Digital PR Hitlist

The last part of your campaign will be some research on where your personas hang out- their watering holes if you will. What websites do they like to engage with and who might be their influencers. These insights will lead to the creation of our digital PR hitlist. For example, if your personas spend time on authoritative HR sites, we’ll add a few to our hitlist. When it’s time to execute the FieldGuide, we’ll reach out to these companies to do things like guest blogs in order to get in front of you personas where they already are. Furthermore, this strategy generates backlinks and bolsters SEO.

Let’s start a conversation on creating a FieldGuide for you. Request a consult.

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5 Types of Digital Marketing Audits: Must-ask questions to get your audit underway

When it comes to your digital marketing program (or at times, lack thereof) conducting a digital audit can be both eye-opening and exciting. Yes, we said exciting! From your website to your content to your tech stack, audits examine it all. The digital marketing audit is your ticket to finding out the state of the state and where the opportunity is for you to make a quick splash on your modern marketing and sales program. 

So, if you think you could be squeezing more results out of your current marketing plan or are feeling a little in the dark about your tech stack, then this one’s for you. Here are the 5 types of digital marketing audits Lake One utilizes, along with some of the top probing questions we ask to kick off the process.

digital marketing audits

1. Google Analytics Audit

The primary purpose of a Google Analytics Audit is to walk-through your site’s tracking implementation and setup. It goes beyond just paid media although that does play a part. From conversion to clicks to time spent on your site, here are a few questions to ask yourself to get you started in the direction.

Questions to ask:

  1. What are you currently tracking? Are you tracking everything you need to be?
  2. Is the data you are collecting valid? Can you trust it and make decisions off of it?
  3. What are the holes? What would you like to be tracking that you aren’t?
  4. Does anything need to be fixed? Is tracking broken?
  5. Can reporting and/or tracking be consolidated to make the process cleaner?

Is your marketing geared toward the modern buyer? Download our guide and learn more.

2. Website Audit

The fact that you are reading this blog post is a strong indicator that you realize how important your website is, but in case you don’t, we’ll say it: your company’s website is uber important. A website should attract your potential customers and empower them with information, aide in their buyer’s journey, and most importantly, provide opportunities for conversion. Design is critical as well, but great sites contain more substance beyond aesthetics. 

At Lake One, we like to review websites for four main areas.

Performance

Performance can mean can quite a few things but in a nutshell, this section means, “Does your website pass the blink test?” Not familiar with the blink test? Simply put, are you able to determine within five seconds the purpose of the site, digest some content, and know what steps to take next as a user. 

Questions to ask:

  1. Is the main value proposition clear? 
  2. Is the main navigation menu clear and accessible?
  3. Is there a clear conversion path? Do the conversion paths flow through the buyer’s journey from awareness through to decision?
  4. Are there relevant resources for web visitors? Are they accessible?
  5. Do users know what steps to take next?

Content & SEO Audit

Now we start getting into the nitty-gritty, the ‘substance’ that I was referencing earlier. 

Content

When reviewing a website for content, it should be two-fold with both online and offline content. Online content encompasses all of the posts, downloadables, etc. that are accessible by web visitors; offline encompasses all of the sales assets, one-pagers, etc. that may be archived internally.

Questions to ask:

  1. Does the site contain relevant keywords that align with a clear content & digital strategy?
  2. Is the content keyword-rich?
  3. Does the content appeal to different buyer personas?
digital marketing audits

SEO

We create content for people first and foremost. But content needs SEO love to fully reap the benefits of your hard work. SEO is an ever-present tactic we weave throughout all of our digital practices; however, at its most basic, we review from both the content and website construction itself. (Click here for info on finding the SEO keywords that will be the hardest work for you.)

Questions to ask:

  1. Do the relevant page titles, meta descriptions, URLs, etc use relevant keywords?
  2. Do the above elements follow SEO best practices for character count, structure, etc.?
  3. Are the images optimized for SEO as well?

Conversion

Websites must provide visitors with an opportunity to convert. A website that’s fully optimized for conversion goes beyond a learn more button and a contact us form. You can have all the website traffic in the world, but if the website isn’t converting, you’ve got a problem.

Questions to ask: 

  1. Are there conversion pages at various stages of the funnel?
  2. Are there any CTA opportunities being missed?
  3. Is it clear what steps a user needs to take to get that information they need to convert?

3. Technical

A site audit wouldn’t be complete without reviewing the technical implementation and output of the website. Have you ever sat and waited for images to load or content to render and given up? Sure, it might have been a slow glitch in your wifi, but it might not have been. Here’s what to look for when it comes to tech.

Questions to ask:

  1. What is the site speed?
  2. Is the design responsive?
  3. Does the design render well on mobile?
  4. Are there any crawl issues?
  5. Is there a sitemap?

4. HubSpot Audit

HubSpot offers a full platform of marketing, sales, customer service, and CRM software. It’s a powerful tool that when fully utilized, can propel your sales and marketing results forward. With all that being said, we love to look under the hood and look for ways to get more out of your HubSpot subscription. We look at the following and more:

  • Landing Pages
  • Forms/Form Fields
  • Thank You Pages
  • Personas 
  • Calls-to-Action (CTAs)
  • Nurture Sequences

When reviewing, first check if those functionalities are in use and then check performance. 

Questions to ask:

  1. How are the above elements performing? (conversion rates, submission rates, etc.)
  2. Are the nurture sequence emails targeted? What’s the enrollment criteria? Is it useful? Is someone checking those emails?

By the way, did we mention we are HubSpot Gold Partner? We just so happen to be experts in utilizing HubSpot and making it go the distance for your digital marketing program. Let’s chat.

5. Sales & Marketing Alignment Audit

We have written several pieces on the importance of Sales and Marketing alignment to achieve harmony among client-facing teams. When teams are aligned, it’s dynamite. However, when conducting the audit, think less along the lines of quick wins and more along the lines of building a strong foundation for long-term success. 

Questions to ask:

  1. Do teams have a common definition and understanding of key terms? (i.e. marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, etc.)
  2. Are teams targeting the same buyers?
  3. Are teams working towards the same goals?
  4. Are teams promoting the same products/services?
  5. Are teams creating content together?
  6. What is the lead handoff procedure?
  7. How does sales provide feedback on lead quality?
  8. Do teams have regular meetings?

For an in-depth look at the questions above, check out our B2B Smarketing Team Assessment.

Conclusion

The best way to move forward and to grow is to gain a complete understanding of where your company is at digitally. Even if you’re not looking to grow (but who isn’t?) no matter where you are at with your marketing, everyone can benefit from a digital marketing audit.

B2B Marketing: What it Takes to Be Successful

In many ways, B2B marketing is harder than B2C. Personas can be harder to pin down and more difficult to reach, the final decision maker is usually somebody different than the person doing research, and the sales process is slower. So, how do you succeed at B2B marketing? Here are a few of the traits companies who execute B2B marketing well exhibit; things we’ve come to know through our own experience and through watching our B2B clients succeed. 

Successful B2B Marketing

1) B2B Marketing Takes Patience and Grit

Getting results from digital marketing takes time. You can read more about why B2B SEO specifically is a long-game here, but patience is required for more than search rankings. It can take 6-12 months to start gaining digital marketing momentum. When things do start rolling, we like to say that one month of results is an anomaly, two months is a spike, three months starts a trend.

Successful B2B marketers understand this and keep on keepin’ on. They have the grit to trudge forward when the needle is barely moving because they trust the program. The alternative is, of course, giving up, and obviously, that will not contribute to any sort of positive outcome.

successful b2b marketing

2) B2B Marketing Takes a Big Picture Mindset with a Detailed Strategy

The most successful B2B marketing programs are created with the big inbound marketing picture in mind. These companies know that successful B2B marketing starts with knowing the personas: who is researching them, who the decision makers are, and how to support both. They use that information to build out a strategy focused on content tying back to research-based keywords and phrases. They focus on the details within keyword variations and how to target them as well the intricacies that make their persona uniquely fit. Successful B2B marketing connects these dots to create a cohesive plan.

A digital agency can help accelerate your marketing success. Here’s how to pick a good one.

3) B2B Marketing Requires SMART Goals

At Lake One, we usually start our inbound client relationships with SMART goal setting and creation of an SLA- Service Level Agreement. (Read more about our SLA here.) These two items direct the focus and attention of our work. The Fieldguide, or marketing plan, we create is the map to reaching those goals.

So how does that translate into your B2B marketing? Well, even when companies have grit and a solid strategy, it’s easy to lose focus. New products launch, opportunities in the market arise, pressures from the board tighten on other elements, etc. Set SMART goals allow you to stay focused on them. After all, how will you know if your marketing is successful if you don’t have specific indicators of success?

4) B2B Marketing Takes a Focus on Strengths

Keeping your marketing in-house can be a great choice if you have the bandwidth available and/or budget to hire for specific skills. When making that choice, consider the strengths of your team and where you’d like their focus to remain. If you have a killer marketing manager who is excellent at running internal events and social media but knows nothing about SEO, it’s probably unwise to expect that person to create a keyword strategy. In that case, it might be in your best interest to hire a new member of your team or outsource the work to a digital marketing agency. 

In order to be successful with B2B marketing, know your team and company’s strengths. Focus on them and outsource or hire where you’re weak. Here are a few tips to help you identify those marketing shortcomings.

How to Pick the Best Digital Marketing Agency for Your Company

Key Takeaways

  • Successful B2B Marketing takes time. Be patient. Have grit.
  • A successful marketing plan is detailed and specific yet encompasses the wider inbound vision.
  • SMART goals are needed to measure B2B marketing success.
  • Use your team and the company’s strengths. Find and fill the marketing weaknesses.

Anatomy of an Inbound Marketing Campaign

When it comes to human anatomy, every organ and system is essential for optimal function. The same rings true when it comes to your inbound marketing campaign. There are a lot of moving pieces and parts, and each one is vital to discovering and capturing maximum results. We’ve broken down the anatomy of an inbound marketing campaign below. So, grab your lab coats and highlighters and let’s dive in!

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The Brain – Your Inbound Strategy

Your inbound strategy is as important to your overall marketing campaign as your brain is to your body’s ability to function. Your strategy directs all systems. It’s the driver of collaboration on all parts toward a collective purpose.

Take the easy way out. Let an agency build out your campaign for you. Here’s how to pick a good one.

Like the brain, a solid strategy requires both input and output from the rest of the body. Other pieces must be functional to support the brain in a cyclical fashion.  

The Heart: Your Target Persona(s)

The heart is the strongest muscle in the human body- it pumps life into every vital organ with a rhythmic beat. For this reason, your personas are the heart of your inbound campaign. Everything you do should be with careful consideration of your persona because even the best thought out strategies will fail if they don’t meet the persona’s needs or pique their interest. 

You should most likely have between 2-5 Buyer Personas within your strategy. For each persona, define job title, decision-making power, and typical objectives and challenges they encounter.

inbound marketing campaign

The Veins: Your Buyer’s Journey

The buyer’s journey is the potential steps that each persona might take in order to become a customer of your company. In anatomy, the veins are how the heart pumps blood through the body. So naturally, the buyer’s journey is the veins of your campaign- how your persona flows. 

This journey typically happens in three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.

  • Awareness Stage: This is when one of your persona’s starts to become aware that they have an issue or need. They may begin searching at this point for information about the actual issue itself, whether others are experiencing a similar issue, and how to address it. 
  • Consideration Stage: This stage is when the persona fully understands their need and begins to search for potential solutions to the issue at hand. 
  • Decision Stage: At this stage, your persona has done a good amount of research and is narrowing down the possible options, which hopefully involve considering your offering.

Your marketing funnel is how you set up different stages of the buyer’s journey. Picture a good, old-fashioned household funnel which is larger at the top and gets smaller toward the bottom so you can siphon whatever you need to through the funnel into a container. In the case of your customers and your marketing funnel, you’ll be siphoning your prospects through your marketing funnel into your sales team’s bucket.

The awareness stage will be at the top, the largest part of the funnel, with abundant traffic but not necessarily the most qualified people. The consideration stage is in the middle; fewer enter this stage than the awareness stage, but the ones who do have higher potential than those who exited at awareness. The decision stage is the smallest point of the funnel where leads are making choices and converting to customers.

These stages are also referred to as the TOFU (Top of the Funnel), MOFU (Middle of the Funnel), and BOFU (Bottom of the Funnel). You may have additional stages within these depending on the complexity of your particular buyer journeys.

Have a lead come in on BOFU content? Here’s how to follow up with them.

The Spine – Your Content

Content is the backbone of your inbound marketing campaign- it supports everything. With direct communication from the brain and infusions from the heart, the spine upholds your message. Your content is how your campaign comes to life.

Your content is extremely important to your campaign because it is how you will get prospects to enter and make their way through your marketing funnel. It’s how eager solution-seeking users come to you to name, understand, and fix their problem.

Great content helps your company gain attention, but even more importantly it allows you to build trust with prospective customers because it offers value without directly seeking anything more from them.

Nervous System: The Buyer’s Journey

The messaging pathways. How your strategy connects to your content. Your content should map to the different stages within your marketing funnel and be targeted at getting a prospect to the next stage.

Let’s take the example of somebody with the problem of generating website leads. Here are some questions/content examples that somebody would be looking for at each stage:

Awareness: Why is my website traffic awful? Why am I not getting any web leads? 

Consideration: Tips for generating more traffic to your site. How digital marketing agencies can help increase traffic.

Decision: How Lake One generates traffic for our clients. Lake One Services: increasing traffic through SEO strategy.

Consider your persona’s pains and needs and what questions they need answered at every stage of the journey. Strategically design your content plan to answer those questions and pose yourself as the right solution at the bottom of the funnel.

inbound marketing campaign

The Extremities – Execution and Distribution

You can have the greatest strategy and the most amazing content, but without execution, no one will ever know. That’s why execution and distribution are the arms and legs of your inbound marketing campaign. 

The Arms – Social Media

Your social media strategy is one of the primary drivers keeping you visible and top of mind for your prospects and customers. It’s important to understand the differences and subtle nuances between the platforms and respect them by using each for what it was designed to do best. For example, LinkedIn tends to have a more professional tone, so you might use it for short product demo videos or to share your blog posts, and save your funny memes or GIFs for Twitter.

It’s also important to know which platforms your prospects utilize. Find out where they hang out and exist in those same spaces with them. Just because this is inbound marketing doesn’t mean you need to make it hard work to find you. Being active in the spaces your prospects spend time in will allow them to see your company as an authority on topics that interest or concern them.

The Legs – Email

If a prospect or customer has entrusted you with their email address by signing up as a subscriber, you better be sure to provide them with regular, valuable, targeted content. Make use of the information you collect from your subscribers and their placement in your marketing funnel to ensure you are sending timely helpful messages. Try to avoid sending blanket emails out to everyone on your list unless the message is actually relevant to all.

How to Pick the Best Digital Marketing Agency for Your CompanyAnother good practice is to make it easy for subscribers to edit their subscription settings and preferences. This is a great way to build trust and continue to ensure your messages are adding value to the people receiving them.

4 Reasons Why Sales & Marketing SLAs Are a Must

Sales and marketing SLAs are essentially a contract between the two teams on how leads will be managed through the entire sales funnel. According to the HubSpot State of Inbound 2018, 65% of marketers whose companies have a sales & marketing SLA see a higher return on investment from their inbound marketing efforts. However, only 26% of respondents actually operate under an SLA. 

Those that have an SLA are also more likely to have a need to grow their sales team to keep up with demand, and they typically have growing inbound budgets. If you think your company is headed for sales growth, a sales and marketing SLA should be in your future. Here’s why SLAs are a must.

Why Sales & Marketing SLAs Are a Must

SLAs Define Alignment

Sales and marketing teams perspectives tend to be different because they collect and digest information differently. These differences can lead to disagreements, disconnection, or simple misunderstandings. SLAs are a must-have because they alleviate these issues by establishing a baseline for your teams’ language through shared definitions, like the following.

We’re about to talk about Lead Scoring! Download this guide and follow along.

  • Customer personas – Sales may not have even utilized personas before this process. We guarantee, though, they’d be able to explain the details of the customers they prefer to speak with. Have marketing and sales use a combination of data and direct feedback to create a more clear picture than ever of your ideal customers.
  • Funnel & customer journeys – Chances are, both of your teams are using some kind of a funnel.  They are probably focused on very different stages and outcomes, though. Combine everything into a single funnel with lead stages assigned appropriately.
  • Lead/MQL/SQL – What’s the difference between a lead, an MQL, and an SQL? What are the criteria for defining each? Setting up lead scorning criteria together can help collaboratively define the terms.
  • Handoff point – One of the most important pieces of the alignment puzzle is the lead handoff. This is a defined point in the customer journey when marketing has done their part and it is time for sales to take over. Lead scoring can help here by setting the trigger point for the handoff, but no matter how you do it, make sure everyone understands and agrees on when.

SLAs Set Goals

Misaligned sales and marketing teams are typically hard-working and dedicated; they are just working hard toward very different goals. A lack of visibility into the other team’s focus and goals can actually lead to conflicting efforts, i.e. – Marketing is testing a price increase, but Sales is pushing for discounts. Having an SLA in place will calibrate your expectations on goals between teams. 

Establishing shared goals will allow your teams to start working in the same direction. Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating your goals.

  • Numerical/revenue goals – It’s fine to have a couple of soft goals, but most of your goals should be hard numbers tied to revenue and easily trackable. [Click here for a SMART Goals Template.]
  • Time-driven goals – When would you like to accomplish your goals? Aim for both short and long-term goals. Then, establish a rhythm of when progress will be reviewed, and be open to the idea that goals may need to be adjusted as everything is established.

Sales and marketing SLAs

SLAs Build Transparency and Accountability

One of the biggest reasons you need a sales and marketing SLA is its ability to address misunderstandings on team functions and contributions perpetuated by the absence of transparency. Laying out goals and roles in a shared SLA allows everyone to know who is responsible for what.”Marketing does X, then Sales does Y.” Having an SLA in place eliminates the, “I didn’t know”s and the, “I thought that was his job”s.

Want to know what a functional SLA looks like? Check out ours.

Additionally, an SLA provides structure around how each person and team will contribute directly to the goals.  Built into your sales and marketing SLA will be predetermined ways to measure this success or failure. Support these definitions with clear tracking metrics and reporting systems accessible to everybody involved.

This allows everyone to understand exactly how they contribute to their own personal goals, and how those goals contribute to the overall efforts of the alignment. It also allows them to see how others contribute and compare their own efforts to those of others on their team.

This level of understanding, transparency, and acceptance of responsibility allows you to have buy-in and accountability from every angle.

SLAs Encourage Commitment

People tend to feel more connected to something they help create. The individual contributors on your teams should be included in the process of creating the SLA and everything that goes into it. Including them will establish buy-in from the very beginning. These individuals also have the most accurate information to bring to the table because they are the ones doing the work day-to-day. You can combine all of their experiences and feedback to create the most accurate agreement.

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Furthermore, each individual and team is more likely to adhere to their specific accountabilities and goals because they are publically set and agreed upon by everybody. People are, in general, less likely to stray from their responsibilities when everybody will know if they fail. Essentially, peer pressure will work in your favor when it comes to SLAs. 

Why You Need Sales & Marketing Alignment

Sales and marketing alignment is more important for your business than ever. Misalignment can create internal tension between your sales and marketing personnel, and at its worst, can be extremely costly in both wasted time and lost potential revenue. One of the most common things you’ll hear when sales and marketing are not properly aligned are sales reps complaining about the quality of sales-ready leads coming in from marketing, while marketing accuses sales of a lack of follow up with the leads presented. Meanwhile, your company is bleeding money and resources as more and more prospective sales slip through the cracks. If this isn’t enough justification, we’ll walk you through a few additional reasons you need to align your sales and marketing efforts right away.

Why You Need Sales & Marketing Alignment

Continue reading “Why You Need Sales & Marketing Alignment”

What to Avoid When Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency

Working with a successful, experienced digital marketing agency can be critical to helping you build marketing infrastructure and scale for your company down the road. However, if you’re considering hiring a digital marketing agency that isn’t a good fit or can’t get the job done, it could be a very costly mistake. To help you avoid any chance at finding out the hard way, we’ve compiled a few tips about what to avoid when you are searching for and hiring a digital marketing agency.

WHAT TO AVOID WHEN WORKING WITH A DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCY

Research Phase

Don’t believe all agencies are one-size-fits-all

Your business is unique; therefore, the results you are looking to obtain will be unique. You’ll need to have an idea of what you’re looking to accomplish from working with an agency prior to going into the search. You don’t have to know specifics as you will eventually create a definitive strategy with the agency you choose, and they can help guide you in understanding what kind of results you should be able to achieve. However, to start, you’ll want to know some basics on your side

Download the How to Pick the Best Digital Marketing Agency for Your Company essential guide here.

Do you need serious help with your SEO or paid advertising? Does your website need an overhaul? Do you need a major boost around content? Are you looking for a quick fix or would you like to work with someone more long-term? Do you want to work with a local agency that you can meet face-to-face?

Decide what is most important to you prior to starting any kind of search activity for an agency so you at least know where to start looking.

Avoid choosing an agency based solely on location, pricing, or shiny promises

If you are pinching pennies, you may be enticed by the cheapest option you find, or you might be tempted to just find the firm that is closest to you. To be successful in the long run though, you’ll want to look into the capabilities of any digital marketing agency before you dive in and hand them your money. Marketing is a saturated market, there is a massively varying scale of capabilities and ability to produce results. Keeping this in mind, you’ll also want to be careful of being lured in by shiny messaging or promises that are right on the surface. The main point is to do your homework before spending a dime and hiring a digital marketing agency.

Did you know that they are different types of digital marketing agencies? Click here to learn more and find the best fit.

Evaluate more than just the surface

Check out the websites of your prospective agencies. For each one, consider if it clearly describes what they offer. Is the blog (assuming they have one) well-written and informative? Are there any customer case studies or online reviews? Narrow your list of potentials down to between 3-5 and get ready to have some conversations.

Prior to getting on the phone with an agency, have a rough idea of the budget you’d like to stay within. It may be difficult to find upfront pricing online because most agencies do custom pricing based on your objectives and the deliverables required to hit goals. That being said, though, if you have a budget range, a good agency should be able to demonstrate what can be done at that level.

In addition to a budget range, go into your conversations with a few set questions that you will ask every single agency you speak with. It can be easy to get sidetracked or a little lost in initial conversations because there is typically a lot of ground to cover. So, write down your questions in advance and make sure you get to all of them. You may want to save the pricing conversation until near the end of the initial call so the agency representative has an understanding of what you might need from them and can give you an accurate estimation. Here are some questions we recommend asking your prospective agencies.

Overall, hire a digital marketing agency who is transparent, quick to share examples and results, easy to talk to, knowledgeable, and experienced. You should never feel talked-down-to. Especially if you are going to work long-term with them, you’ll want to make sure your communication styles are a good match.How to Pick the Best Digital Marketing Agency for Your Company

Implementation Phase

Don’t allow work to start without a clear plan from the very beginning

Any agency should have a proven, repeatable process framework they can walk through with you. They should also have the ability to customize their typical processes to your specific needs and situation. They should make recommendations and tweaks to their processes based on what you are looking to accomplish and where you are with your marketing today.

Before starting the real work, a Service Level Agreement or some kind of full layout of the plan to get the project up and running should be presented for your approval. (Read about our Sales and Marketing Alignment SLA here!) Once you’ve signed off on it, persona work will likely begin with your agency. All of the work the agency does moving forward will be based on these personas, so you want to make sure they are accurate in order to target the correct audience with all marketing efforts.

At the start of the project, the agency should do a full walk-through (or Kick Off) of their plan with you. They should lay out their strategy and tactics and communicate the expected results. This should typically happen in a conversation that includes some kind of documentation for you to follow along, maybe it’s a slideshow presentation or a handout, but they should walk through it with you before jumping into the actual marketing communications.

hiring a digital marketing agency

It’s also important to note that inbound marketing can take 6-12 months to gain traction and upwards of 18 months before making a major impact. An agency that promises immediate results might be blowing smoke. Similarly, be wary of any agency that seems staunch in their plan. Inbound typically requires fluidity as data are gathered and knowledge gained. The ability to pivot as needed is key.

Project Phase

Avoid confusion later on in the project

Before getting off of your Kick Off call with your chosen digital marketing agency, you should have, at the very least, your next call scheduled. Ideally, you should set up a weekly or bi-weekly recurring time to meet and review progress. Even if you don’t end up needing or using the time every week, it’s great to have it on the calendar just in case.

Another thing you’ll want to establish right away is clear and set definitions of everyone’s role in the process, both from your own company and the agency. Who will be in charge of what, who will provide and receive updates, who has action items prior to the next check-in, etc.. Knowing these answers will help manage your relationship through its entirety. 

Finally, you should have a good understanding from the beginning of what kinds of metrics are important, how they will be tracked, and how they will be reported on, as well as how you can view and understand those reports.

Ready to have a conversation with Lake One? Request a free consultation.

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Six Questions to Ask Your Prospective Digital Marketing Agency

Hiring a digital marketing agency is a big decision. It’s the decision to bolster your existing marketing efforts with outside agency resources coupled with which agency will be the best fit for your organization. Picking a marketing partner to work with can be risky because of the time and effort that go into kindling that relationship. You can, however, reduce the risk by asking the right questions up front when selecting a digital marketing agency. Learn how your prospective agency will work, how that will align with your needs, and if it makes financial sense before you engage in a partnership.

Here are six questions to ask your prospective digital marketing agency during the interview process to help ensure a good fit.

Questions to Ask Your prospective Digital Marketing Agency

1) What is your typical scope of work?

The most important part of asking this question is that it allows you the opportunity to align your needs. Digital marketing is a very broad term that encompasses many elements- blogging, social media, paid media, etc. How each agency scopes digital marketing and the areas they focus on will vary. Find an agency who does what you need. If you only want somebody you post on social media for you, make sure you find somebody who specializes in social and not Google Ads. If you aren’t sure what you need, a full-service agency might be the ticket.

2) What does a partnership look like to you?

Asking your prospective marketing agencies what a partnership looks like will help align your needs with how the agency normally operates. Are you looking for a strategic partner to help guide and implement your marketing? Or perhaps your marketing is on lock, and you need somebody to simply put your own marketing plans in motions? Find an agency that operates that way you need them to operate.Questions to ask your digital marketing agency
This is critical because if you don’t have alignment here, your relationship will ultimately implode. If you desire a marketing partner to create a full strategic campaign with persona insights and specific tech recommendations (*ahem, Lake One*), you’ll be disappointed if the agency you contract with only does exactly what you say. The inverse of that is absolutely true as well; you don’t want to be fighting over control of strategy if it isn’t something you’re willing to partner on.

If you’re running into issues with your exisiting marketing partner, here are some tips on how to mange your relationship.

3) What is your billing structure and fees?

This one is self-explanatory, but you will, of course, need to talk to your prospective agencies about money. How much will it cost you to work with them? What’s the duration of a retainer? And really, do they even work on retainers or do they go by another structure like an allocation of hours, by campaign cycles, or something else? Next, ask about their invoicing structure. Some agencies will bill monthly while others will expect payment to be made at the start and completion of a sprint. Consider what will work best for your company and be transparent about the budget you had in mind.

Typically, when it comes to retainer amounts, the scope of work can be scaled to meet your budget. Work can be slimmed down if your budget is small or vice-versa. Keep in mind that a large budget usually generates more results. This is simply because more work- meaning things like blogs, additional paid ads, workflows of greater complexity- can be completed in a given timeframe when the budget is greater.

4) Can I see examples of results?

It’s perfectly reasonable and expected to ask your prospective agencies for examples of success stories and wins they’ve accomplished. The hard numbers tend to speak for themselves. Don’t forget to consider the softer wins like website redesign, sales team enablement success, and increases in website traffic, as well. These things are sometimes hard to quantify and measure specifically but can be incredibly impactful to a business.

Six Questions to Ask Your Prospective Digital Marketing Agency

5) What technology do you use?

Will working with an agency require you to change your current tech stack or CRM? If so, is that okay? Perhaps it’s better to find a tech-agnostic agency that will make recommendations but can work with any platform. Consider what you currently have, if it’s working, and where you’d like to go. Then ask your prospects how their tech will fit into that equation.

6) Can you provide references?

Lastly, when you’re about ready to make your final decision, you can ask your prospective agencies for references from current or past clients. Ask for references from businesses that operate similar to yours and have the type of relationship with the agency that you’re seeking. Here are a few questions you can ask the references provided:

  • How long have you been working together?
  • What has been the most impressive and disappointing?
  • Is the agency’s team easy to work with?
  • Are you happy with your results so far?

By asking these questions to determine marketing agency fit, you’ll be able to align your company’s needs with an agency who can create results. Think Lake One might be the agency for you? Request a consult!

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