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The Agency of the Future is Remote Working

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The Agency of the Future is Remote Working


When you think of an office, you’re probably picturing something like this:

Or if you’re feeling fancy (and worth billions of dollars) like Google is, so you’re thinking something like this: 

These days you can even think of an office as a rented, shared space like WeWork:

Thanks to 2021, more offices than ever before are looking like this, home offices that we’ve set up in the quietest corner of our homes:

Although let’s be realistic…how many of your home offices actually look like this:

Yep, I’m raising my hand too.

When you think about work in 2021 and beyond—we’re no longer just thinking of this:

We’re thinking about a hybrid or totally remote model:

And that changes how we build our agencies.

Our offerings and products can stay the same—but the way our agency works internally…can completely shift.

There are 3 organized models that you get to choose to run your agency from nowadays:

#1: Gig Model

Short-term tasks that can be managed by one, or at most, a handful of people. With the Gig Model, you’re the opposite of a stage 5 clinger. Your business runs project-to-project and you’re focused on excelling at each of those projects—and then moving on.

There’s no need for water stations or happy hours because your team is distributed. You’re entirely remote and all of your workers are freelancers. Chances are you’re the only person on your payroll.

This model works great for startups that can’t afford full-time employees yet and are still getting themselves off the ground.

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#2: Corporate Model

Hire a team to work on long-term open-ended jobs that can last for years. This is what you picture when you think of an office—lots of computers and people. We’re thinking of water station conversations and in-person team happy hours (remember those?!).

This is how DigitalMarketer ran pre-March of 2020. We had some freelancers, but the majority of our workforce was in-person, full-time employees. And it worked!

This model used to be an inevitable transition once your business required some full-time staff. It usually starts by bringing on some sort of operations or marketer—and quickly turns into full-time HR people, office managers, and interns.

But there’s a model in-between that most of us have missed—and it wasn’t our fault. We missed it because pre-March of 2020…we just weren’t thinking this way.

We were all thinking home offices and gig workers → rented office space and full-time employees. That was success in terms of an agency. Especially if you could afford the *good* coffee and the fancy snacks for your team.

Having to figure out how to run our businesses entirely remotely for months and in some cases over a year has taught us that we don’t need all of that fancy stuff. 

  • Do we really need every employee to be full-time?
  • Do we really need the fancy, expensive office space?
  • Do our employees even WANT to spend 40 hours of their week in person with us?

The answer is no, and I’m not even offended!

Forbes found that 61% of employees prefer being fully remote. 

And Fast Company found the number of people who considered freelancing as a long-term career option increased from 18.5 million to 28.5 million between 2014 and 2019.

I know I’m not the only one thinking that with all these changes coming to market…there’s no way a new business model can’t emerge from them.

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And I’m calling this new model…The Hollywood Model.

The Hollywood Model

Stay lean and bring in the best on a project basis. This means that you have some full-time employees and the rest of your workforce are contractors/freelancers/gig workers (all the same thing).

Chances are your full-time employees are your decision-makers, they’re your executives and the people who report directly to the CEO. There might be a set of employees under them as well, depending on the size of your business and your service offerings. 

The rest of your employees get brought in on a project-by-project basis. 

  • Your copywriters are on retainer to write your email campaigns as needed
  • Your graphic designers are on retainer to create your social media graphics
  • Your Facebook ad expert is on retainer on a per-client basis

“A project is identified, a team is assembled, it works together for precisely as long as is needed to complete the task, and then … the team disbands.” – Adam Davidson, Co-founder of NPR’s “Planet Money

If the majority of employees want to continue remote work…and we have more people than ever starting to freelance—the Hollywood Model was made for times like these.

Times when businesses most want to stay lean thanks to the unpredictability of the markets, and employees are A-okay with switching up how they used to work.

How The Hollywood Model Works

The thing about the Hollywood Model is that it has to be done right. If you don’t do it right, your life can easily become:

  • A perpetual state of hiring as you look for gig workers who have the experience and availability for your projects
  • A mess of workflow as your full-time employees fail to efficiently teach your gig workers what platforms to use, how to send in deliverables, and how to communicate with the team
  • Tight, impossible deadlines due to lack of communication between full-time employees and freelancers leading to delayed launches, campaigns, and products

You can learn more about the Hollywood Model here. 

Business has changed—and in some ways, it’s for the better.

Maybe we weren’t being as efficient as we could have been by having our employees come into the office and spending all this money on rent, utilities, and snacks when people are happier working from home.

But that doesn’t mean we have to go back to the Gig Model—DigitalMarketer, Scalable…they wouldn’t succeed with that model. They’re past the stage of being able to survive with just gig workers.

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But they don’t need an entire full-time team.

The Hollywood Model is the lean business model that works in 2021 and the foreseeable future. It creates consistency with our full-time employees and the opportunity to tap into highly qualified talent through our freelancers.

It’s the model we’re running at Scalable and DigitalMarketer—and it’s working.

Time to turn this around for your business.

You can generate $3,500/month retainer clients and build a marketing agency that sets you apart from the competition.

Not just because you’re better at marketing…

…But because your business runs lean, is highly adaptable, and uses high-quality talent to get the job done.

And that’s something your competitors using the Corporate Model or the Gig Model can’t compete with.

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Grab our free Fractional CMO Playbook so you get the exact, 4-step client attract, convert, and onboard process we teach our agency partners at DigitalMarketer as well as:

  • Understand the math behind a $336,000 a year, part-time “Fractional CMO” practice
  • The one-sentence “pivot script” that has prospects begging to book a meeting
  • A simple little “trick” that filters out virtually all the “lookie-loos” and crazy clients with unrealistic expectations…
  • When to sell retainers (and when NOT to sell retainers)

This training is for:

Coaches & consultants thinking about expanding into marketing services.

Freelancers & solopreneurs sick and tired of giving away their time for free.

Marketing professionals thinking about making the leap and launching their own marketing coaching or consultancy.

Anyone thinking about making the leap and launching their own marketing agency or consultancy.

And I’m teaching it.

Register here for The Fractional CMO Playbook to learn how to generate $3,500/mo retainer clients and build a marketing consultancy that sets you apart (thanks to the Hollywood Model).



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MARKETING

the second key persona for modern marketing operations leaders

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Marketing operations talent is suffering burnout and turnover

This 4-part series presents a framework that helps rationalize the roles and responsibilities modern marketing operations leaders are taking on. This installment summarizes the framework briefly, and dives into how MOps leaders are now “orchestrators.” 

In case you missed it, part 1 is here.

Inspiration for this framework

Two years ago, marketing technology pioneer and chiefmartec.com editor Scott Brinker outlined the four key responsibilities of marketing technologists, summarized here.  

That work espoused the view that you could be both a marketer AND a technology leader. They are not mutually exclusive! It was my inspiration for this framework, explaining how today’s MOps leaders are instrumental for marketing and business success.

X-Axis:  A range of skills from a focus on technology to creativity and arts

Y-Axis: A range of decision-making skills, ranging from emotional to rational approaches

The resulting grid captures four MOps archetypes or “personas.” MOps leaders exhibit characteristics across all parts of this framework and will operate in multiple quadrants, similar to Brinker’s frameworks.

Modernizers – Are most likely to be the “original” technologists, constantly modernizing their martech stack.

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Orchestrators – Are the closest to Brinker’s Maestros and the focus of this article. He described this archetype in 2020 as the “Operations Orchestrator — MAESTROS who design and manage the workflows, rules, reports, and tech stacks that run the marketing department.

Psychologists – Are now increasingly responsible for “reading customers’ minds,” i.e. interpreting customers’ interest through intent data and digital engagement.

Scientists – Are constantly testing and evaluating. Experimentation is their specialty.

Orchestrators: Leaders of the band

Now that you’re familiar with the framework, let’s dig deeper into the Orchestrators!

I’ll start with a personal story. My exposure to orchestration started with 8-straight years of practice in violin and trumpet during my formative years. Each week was literally a blur of private lessons, group lessons, orchestra and/or band practice. I probably spent as much time with music directors as I did with my family.  

It was painfully obvious to those conductors when we hadn’t prepared or practiced. Moreso, we would get – literally – an “earful” from the conductor when we were not listening to the other instrument sections. If we were not coordinating our efforts and timing, the outcome was awful for anyone listening.

Source: Unsplash

This orchestration metaphor is powerful because there are multiple levels for MOps leaders:

  • As a project management team within marketing, and often as a conductor across external agency partners.
  • As a cross-function business partner and primary contact for IT, compliance, and legal, in addition to the traditional MOps role of achieving marketing/sales alignment

Notably, all marketers have to be project managers for their own tasks/deadlines. They must be aligned with overall campaign and program timelines. 

However, as organizations scale they are more likely to have dedicated project management teams to handle coordination across the specialist teams within marketing. The orchestration responsibility may include timeline, scope, and capacity trade-offs even after campaign briefs have received approval. 


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The orchestration responsibility multiplies when agency execution teams are delivering on individual tactics and media buys. Last year, Optimizely described these evolving orchestration duties as a “transformative shift and approach towards how marketing synchronizes their teams, content, channels, workflows, and data!”

I believe the shift is even more impactful, with orchestration benefits being felt beyond marketing. The highest value “program orchestration” responsibilities occur when MOps leaders are representing marketing’s interests in enterprise-wide programs with other functions within the organization, including product, compliance, and IT. Examples of orchestration duties with these other key functions can include:

  • Product teams – Coordinating campaigns with major product feature/functionality launches, and managing brand standards.
  • Legal/Compliance – Overseeing compliance with Can-Spam, GDPR, and CCPA, and customer preference and data privacy initiatives that may be initiated by a marketing touch-point. 
  • IT/Procurement – Technology stack management, vendor evaluations and negotiations, platform integrations and data management.

All of this departmental and cross-departmental coordination requires skill sets that can be analogized as the difference between a chamber orchestra (marketing) and a full symphony. It’s the highest level of conducting across the enterprise. 

MOps leaders are holding individuals and teams to target timelines while managing the scope of a particular campaign and business initiative. They do this while also overseeing targeting of customer and prospect segments.

In order to accomplish this complex segmentation and coordination, MOps leaders are now responsible for cross-functional data – embodied by the modern martech stack imperative: integration. Integration across systems has been the #1 issue for marketers since the modern marketing tech stack started exploding in the early 2010’s, but software and solutions providers finally listened. A tipping point was reached in 2020. Marketers reported that we were finally working within an integrated, multi-system environment, according to a CDP Institute member survey analyzed here.  

Continuing with the orchestration analogy, the conductor is the integration “synchronizer,” deciding if/when the data flows across the stack. The sheet music is the data model standard showing how to map common attributes. 

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However, just because we now have this more integrated environment does not mean our work is done. The instruments do not play themselves (yet!) and they require configuration and deliberate training to play effectively — both individually and in groups. 

Training was one of the top responsibilities for marketing ops leadership, ranking it in the top 5 of MOPS tasks by percentage of work, according to the 2022 MarTech Salary and Career Survey, published jointly by MarTech and chiefmartec.com (free, ungated download here). conducted by chiefmartec.

In the 2020 version of that same study, training was highlighted as one of the top two responsibilities for many of the primary marketing technologists personas, and 91% of operations orchestrators reported that training and supporting technologies were among their top priorities.

MOps leaders are never done

Finally, under the category of “MOps leaders are never done”, the last several years have also forced a whole new category of orchestration duties – a combination of conducting, training, and martech growth: marketing work management.

The largest growth (67%) over the last several years was in the category of “work management”, according to the 2022 edition of the Martech Landscape. Established entrants such as Adobe expanded with the acquisition of Workfront, while newer players like Trello and Monday gained traction.  

Although this was already a prevailing trend BEFORE the pandemic, the hybrid/remote work environment brought on by the last 2+ years forced these project management and agile-planning tools to the forefront.  The marketing work management category grew to over 1000+ tools, according to the State of Martech 2022

Source: State of MarTech 2022 – chiefmartec.com and Martech Tribe

MOps leaders are Maestros

In summary, modern MOps leaders are indeed Maestros. They are skilled orchestrators, conducting a symphony across multiple levels. They lead:

  • Omni-channel campaigns within marketing and across business functions
  • Integration across an ever-growing, integrated martech stack
  • Training and deployment as one of their primary responsibilities 

Editor’s note: In Part 3 of this 4-part series, Milt will expand on MOps leaders’ growing role as Psychologists. For background on this framework, see Part 1 of this series here


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


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About The Author

Milt is currently Director of Customer Experience at MSI Data, an industry-leading cloud software company that focuses on the value and productivity that customers can drive from adopting MSI’s service management solutions.

With nearly 30 years of leadership experience, Milt has focused on aligning service, marketing, sales, and IT processes around the customer journey. Milt started his career with GE, and led cross-functional initiatives in field service, software deployment, marketing, and digital transformation.
Following his time at GE, Milt led marketing operations at Connecture and HSA Bank, and he has always enjoyed being labeled one of the early digital marketing technologists. He has a BS in Electrical Engineering from UW Madison, and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management.

In addition to his corporate leadership roles, Milt has been focused on contributing back to the marketing and regional community where he lives. He serves on multiple boards and is also an adjunct instructor for UW-Madison’s Digital Marketing Bootcamp. He also supports strategic clients through his advisory group, Mission MarTech LLC.

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