I outlined this article before I started writing the introduction and it intimidated me, I’m not gonna lie.
This is a massive subject. And, honestly, I don’t have the time to write 4500 words on marketing management. I’ll try to cover the key things I’ve learned from doing it, but will have to trust that you can do further reading on the details of it all. Otherwise we’ll both be here till sundown and ain’t nobody wanting to read in the dark.
I’ve been managing a marketing team of some variety since 2013 — digital exclusive, so I don’t know anything about conferences or brochures (just to get that out of the way right here at the top).
I do know how to manage a team of marketers to create high-quality content, avoid making a fool of themselves on social media, launch a successful lead gen marketing campaign, and design a process which intelligently moves top-of-funnel traffic through to sales.
There are a few other things I know how to do (I can turn this text green with CSS</span>, for instance), but perhaps that’s not what you’re here for.
To head straight to the section that interests you most, click the links below:
Table of Contents
Tools to use
Managing a marketing team, especially in the new world of remote work we all find ourselves in, simply can’t be done without the right tools.
You need tools to organize your work, tools to communicate about that work, and tools to make that work easier on you and the people doing it.
In other words…
Project management tools
Pick one that does it all and stick with it. My recommendations are either
Both allow you to organize every project, process, and campaign you’re working on. They hold all relevant information, facilitate communication, offer automations and dozens of integrations.
They’re like Asana or Trello on crack.
The biggest thing for me with both is the customization.
Our marketing team’s processes are not like your processes. So the workflow which gets work done for us is not the exact same workflow which gets work done for you.
“One-size-fits-all” project management doesn’t work for me. I’d much rather the platform fits perfectly (or can be made to fit perfectly) with the way we work.
Wordable has always been a fully remote company, but since the Covid epidemic our business is no longer an outlier.
And, when it comes to marketing management, there are three primary concerns with that:
- The ability to communicate reliably
- Information siloing
Here’s an example of a Loom video I sent to my content team explaining a new content type they’ll be working on:
Those three tools (PM platform, Slack and Loom) form the basis for all communication, work assignment, processing and information storage at Wordable (and Codeless, our sister company and content production agency).
The third challenge there is engagement, which is a far more nuanced thing than the others.
Managing and maintaining an engaged remote marketing team is difficult, don’t get me wrong.
So here are a few things that I’ve found work:
- Regular calls: This may sound like a “no shit, Sherlock,” but it’s actually the “regular” which is more important than the call itself. Remote work can feel structureless. Regularity in meetings, calls, check-ins goes a long way towards structuring your team’s days (and your own) while you’re on the couch in your pyjamas.
- Collaborative work: Independence is all well and good, but many people miss working on a team when working remotely. Don’t err, every time, on assigning independent projects. Instead, choose a team of two or three and give them the project to own, complete, and present together.
- Non-professional communication: Remote workers get the benefits of working from home, from not having to commute, and flexible hours. What they lose is the daily water cooler chat of, “What did you do this weekend?” and “How’s the remodel going?” — Make it a priority to engage your marketing team about more than just work. Maintaining a social relationship with your team is as important as maintaining a professional one.
Content marketing tools
This is the bread and butter of our marketing (though perhaps I’m biased as my background is in content…)
There are three tools we use internally to make our lives easier:
- Ahrefs: We use Ahrefs to identify keyword opportunities for which to create new content as well as opportunities for optimization of what we already have.
- Grammarly/Writer.com: That forward slash is misleading, as these aren’t actually interchangeable. Writer.com does a better job of ensuring your writers meet custom style guides (which can be helpful for any agencies out there) while Grammarly catches more grammatical errors more reliably.
- MarketMuse: We use MarketMuse to optimize new and existing content. As simple as it is, we have found that requiring our writers to hit this platform’s content score (which is based on what the competition is including in their articles for a given keyword) does increase that content’s chance to rank or current ranking position. (See screenshot below).
Here’s what one of our client’s ranking reports looked like after we implemented our optimization of the content using MarketMuse’s “Optimize” tool (as well as updating and compressing images, adding meta descriptions, image alt and title tags, and other general SEO best practices):
I’ll be putting together a guide to exactly how we do this in a few weeks, and will update this article to include a link to that. But, for now, you’ll just have to wait!
The three tiers of work
I love working with freelancers. Knowing exactly how much someone is going to cost to do a task makes budgeting and profit analysis so much easier.
When I was managing a marketing team in-house at a tech startup, everything was a bit more complex — salaried employees are harder to quantify than freelancers who you’re paying per article, design, or hour.
Nonetheless, the way Wordable works now has given me insight into what I can only refer to as the tiers of marketing work.
I recognize that this section may feel a bit awkward. The idea of “quantifying” the value of a team member is tricky. Nonetheless, refusing to recognize that having your head of advertising (who’s making $100,000/year) doing keyword research is a recipe for your failure.
On the other hand, understanding these tiers of work and responsibility can save your business massively over the course of a year.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
Top-tier work is managed by your highest tier and most expensive team members. In general I’m talking about other managers, back-end developers, and sales managers.
Top-level tasks and responsibilities include things like:
- Client-side sales pitches: Selling your business to prospects who have been qualified by an SDR (see “intermediate tier” below)
- Strategy: While marketing brainstorming sessions should be a “whole team” exercise, locking down which of those ideas will be part of your marketing sprint is the role of an expert.
- Budget allocation: Holding the purse strings isn’t always fun, but it should be the same person who will be ultimately responsible for the success or failure of a given campaign.
- Process: The processes which make up your analytics, reporting, and market research should be created by someone in the expert tier, and executed by someone in the intermediate or junior tier.
- Community-building content creation and top-tier outreach: If you know the CEO of Buffer, you shouldn’t delegate that email to one of your team members. Do it yourself and you’ll get farther. Equally, if you’re creating a piece of blog content dedicated to community-building (rather than SEO), write it yourself and include yourself (and your experience) in it.
Intermediate-tier work is managed by your marketing associates.
Intermediate-tier team members manage day-to-day execution of social media, content marketing and creation, outreach, and lead generation campaigns.
Intermediate-tier team members are also responsible for the majority of content creation: email drip campaigns, blog content, social media post creation, etc.
Junior-tier work is managed by interns and virtual assistants.
Junior-tier responsibilities include:
- Data entry: This includes content marketing reporting, keyword research, etc — essentially this is executing the more time-consuming processes created by your top-tier team members.
- Lower-tier outreach: The majority of social media interactions, customer service interactions and link-building efforts can be managed by a junior-tier team member, provided the processes exist for them to manage that communication.
Marketing management outlines and processes that work
In this new world of remote teams, managing a team is all about the processes and workflows you have in place.
Now, part of that is the tools you use. Creating intuitive, detailed workflows in a PM tool which allow work to be assigned (based on the tiers I provided above) is crucial to managing a marketing team and the campaigns they’re responsible for.
But another (major) element is the documentation you create to support your team — the templates, walkthroughs, outlines and brand guidelines which all combine to do one thing…
Give your team the answers to their questions when you’re not awake.
This is the key to good marketing management in 2021.
Let me show you what I’m talking about…
We have templates for every piece of content, every email, and every social media post we create.
Templates provide our team with the framework for communication. They don’t stifle creativity, but they do ensure that creativity is expressed through the filter of our brand and is related to our marketing objectives.
Here’s an example:
You can get a copyable version of this outline template here.
I mentioned above how the nitty gritty of your marketing reporting should be a junior-tier responsibility. The challenge with that, of course, is that reporting isn’t something that should be taken lightly. Your business relies on accurate data to make intelligent business and budget-allocation decisions.
As a result, I use a combination of two spreadsheets and a loom video to ensure our content optimizations (as an example) are reported upon accurately by the VA responsible for completing the work.
You can get the master reporting spreadsheet, individual URL spreadsheet and the video which explains both here.
You should be able to assign content creation out to anyone — freelancer, content agency, in-house intern, whoever — and get something back which looks, feels, and sounds similar to another piece of content assigned to someone on the other side of the world.
A comprehensive style guide is crucial to making that happen, but few businesses have a complete one.
They tend to be something marketing teams start and then abandon when something more immediate pulls them away.
And it’s a mistake.
A style guide isn’t just for the creators (though it’s incredibly valuable for them to refer back to); it’s for the management team as well. It helps you to define your brand voice, to discuss and then put down in writing how you want to be remembered when your target reader stops reading.
Here’s an example:
You can check it out (and copy it) here.
In summary: Make fewer decisions by taking the subjectivity out of your processes
Sometimes it can feel like all I do all day long is make decisions. It’s part of a delegation-oriented marketing strategy.
So, to streamline my day, I make those decisions as easy to make as possible.
How do I do that?
Two primary ways:
Using tools like MarketMuse, Grammarly, and ContentHarmony take the “is this a good piece of content?” judgement call out of the picture.
If a piece of content doesn’t score above the target score in MarketMuse, has errors in Grammarly, or doesn’t match the brief provided by ContentHarmony, then it goes back to the writer. Simple as that, and doesn’t require you to get involved.
Essentially, “This is our process. Stick to it.”
Creating and implementing clear policies (like number of internal links per blog article, the fact that we don’t accept stock images in guest posts, or that all subheaders are sentence case and unbolded) means that I can make that decision once, document it, and then don’t have to make it every time the question is asked.
Managing a marketing team, whether of salaried employees or (like me) 60 freelancers and three full-time staff, requires similar processes.
Most of all it requires a breakdown of each task into bite-sized pieces:
- Who’s doing what?
- What’s it going to look like?
- Who’s responsible for it once they’re done?
Nail down those four elements of your marketing and your life will be so much easier.
And if it doesn’t, I can only recommend the true heroes of marketing management: coffee and alcohol.
Best of luck.