There’s a psychological theory developed back in 1895 that still holds true today that can help explain why remote teams fall apart if they’re mismanaged. It’s called deindividuation, and states that when groups of people can’t be identified in a group, they’re more likely to misbehave, e.g. cause violence, riot.
To put it in the words of Gustave Le Bon, the psychologist who first theorized this, “a loss of personal responsibility in crowds leads to an inclination to behave primitively and hedonistically”.
Bear with me…
This might sound like a long shot, but it holds true for remote teams, too.
In an office, everyone is held physically accountable for the work they do. They’re a tangible employee in a building, being actually overseen by other people. In a remote team, everyone’s just an icon on Slack, an email address, or a source of app notifications. If team members feel like they can get away with not communicating, not keeping their team updated, and not getting work done, they’re much more likely to.
And that’s why remote teams are fragile. This is a shame for businesses who can’t manage them because 77% of remote workers are more productive than their office counterparts, and get more done in less time.
In this article, I’ll look at the problems that come along with having a remote team, and go through some methods for solving them.
Problem #1: No accountability without remote team processes
In an office you keep your team updated naturally by chatting how work’s going on the way to lunch, or just mentioning your progress while you have a coffee break. However, many remote workers report feeling isolated, which is part of what creates a lack of accountability, causing teams to go silent and work to start slipping.
How do you solve a lack of accountability?
At Process Street, our remote marketing team has several channels of communication and policies that mean we always keep in the loop:
It’s enforced that all work-related conversations amongst the marketing team must go into the group chat, creating an activity log of work and information. Any task being discussed must be presented alongside a link to its Trello card, and it’s expected that all Trello cards will be commented on whenever progress has been made.
During the meetings, we present our Trello cards to each other for review as proof of work (plus an activity log recorded in Trello/Slack), and go through the tasks together.
Using a Standard Operating Procedure software is a great way to ensure that everyone adheres to the same way of doing things. This approach leaves absolutely no room for a lack of accountability. If team members aren’t working on their tasks, it’s totally obvious because there will be no record of it.
Problem #2: No centralization of information without remote team workflows
With your whole team collaborating over the internet (without opportunities just to look over their co-worker’s shoulder) it can be a pain to share information if it isn’t centralized. It’s an obvious problem for businesses since some of the biggest software companies — Dropbox, Box and other document management systems — were created purely to solve it.
How do you centralize information?
One of the main ways to do it is to make sure you’re working entirely on the cloud. We’ve written about all of the SaaS (software-as-a-service) products we use together before, and it made me realize how stuck we’d be without live collaboration and the ability to store information in the best, most easily accessible places.
As I said in the solution to problem #1, everything can dumped into a Trello card. Trello cards can hold links, attachments, images, and even spreadsheets, so there’s no excuse for not centralizing information when it’s that easy. For documents, we use Quip and Google Sheets, ensuring we can always access what we need, no matter where we are.
Get information centralized by enforcing all work-in-progress task material to be uploaded to Google Drive or Dropbox, or dropped into a project management app like Trello or Asana.
Problem #3: No teambuilding without remote planning
Building camaraderie through direct messages is easier than before thanks to the prevalence of emojis, gifs, and other just-for-fun things, but it’s nowhere near as easy as when you’re face-to-face.
You might get invited to a get-together after work if you’re in an office, but that’s not the kind of thing that’ll happen in a remote team, and neither will natural team-building.
This could mean that team members are shy, uncommunicative, or less productive because they feel isolated, especially when first joining a new team. Managers should nip this in the bud by facilitating effective employee onboarding. The onboarding stage is integral and it sets the tone for your new employee. Using an onboarding software can be a great way to centralize information, get insightful feedback all while welcoming your new hire aboard.
The ways that have worked in our remote team have been have:
gaming tournaments (playing the card game Hearthstone against each other to win a prize)
sharing videos, movies, and music (we will share weekly recommendations, such as guilty pleasure movies, music to help focus)
having a general chat channel (a work-unrelated channel for water-cooler style conversation)
If those options don’t suit, you can also try this list of team building activities for remote teams.
The long-term solution: Agile process management
All three problems explained in this article are caused by a lack of communication, policy, and process.
As Atul Gawande explains in The Checklist Manifesto, key aspects of how we get work done can be overlooked without a process, and policy to enforce it.
“When we look closely, we recognize the same balls being dropped over and over, even by those of great ability and determination. We know the patterns. We see the costs. It’s time to try something else.” — Atul Gawande
Remote teams are susceptible to disconnection, deviance from process, and an attitude of unaccountability.
As Gawande says, and as we’ve found in our time building process software, the solution is strict regulations and processes that enforce the centralization of information, encourage communication in open channels, and actively build culture.
It doesn’t sound as appealing as letting a strong team grow organically, but it’s a lot more likely to work.
Resources to help you get started: Your remote team processes!
Below are some public Process Street templates and then a whole load of really useful blog posts they’ve published too, to help you get started and systemize your remote business!
What do Johns Hopkins surgeons, anonymous big-time investors and World War II pilots have in common? This isn’t the set up for a terrible joke but a demonstration of how widespread an often-overlooked tool is – they all use checklists to avoid disaster.
For surgeons, disaster is a lethal infection caused by straying from proper precaution. For pilots, it’s crashing a plane that was deemed far too complicated to fly – the Boeing B-17. For investors, checklists avoid what is sometimes known as ‘cocaine brain’; the drive to make snap decisions on high-risk investments that often result in huge losses.
One of the best ways to improve your craft is to check out what your competition is doing. If you get to know what’s working for everyone else (or at least the success stories), you can avoid many pitfalls when it comes to your own company.
So, when I set out to find out how we could improve our sales and marketing cadences around 6 months ago, I knew that I’d have to gather data. A lot of data.
By the time I was finished, I’d signed up to 281 SaaS companies (including the Montclare SaaS 250 and some of the top startups in AngelList) using the details of a fake Vodafone employee and analyzed the 1,000+ emails and voicemails I received in return.
While I won’t go over everything I learned right now (we’d be here for days) I will highlight five of the core takeaways I gathered to help you convert more of the leads you generate.
If you want the rest of the data (including a Slideshare summary and copies of every email and voicemail I received), check out Inside SaaS Sales – a site we set up specifically to house this data. Otherwise, read on!
#1. Send an email every day
First up, you need to keep in regular contact with any potential lead who signs up. This both reminds them that you’re there and builds the connection they have with you.
Although tactics obviously differed based on the company, the majority of companies (41%) sent us one email per day until they stopped contacting us.
Other companies averaged out to sending one email per day, but instead took a staggered approach. A great example of this is Salesforce.
Their team sent us two emails per day for the first two days, then one email for the following four days, and then one five days after that as one of their final touch points.
This is a great way to strike while the iron’s hot (aka, when the lead first signs up), but to avoid drowning them in sales and marketing emails if they aren’t interested.
#2. Don’t send the same kind of email two days in a row
Although most companies sent us one email for every day of their sales cycle, it’s important to make the distinction between marketing and sales emails.
Too many marketing emails and the lead’s attention could be split between offers or they may not have the drive to take action on your product (depending on your copy).
However, too many sales emails and most people will also be put off. Doing this makes your sales efforts very impersonal, and they will feel like they’re not being valued as a potential customer.
That’s why sales teams on average only sent one email every two days – the rest were marketing emails.
#3. Leave a voicemail (if it’s worth it)
Assess whether the lead’s value is enough to warrant the time and effort to reach out and call them. If so, it’s also worth your time to leave a voicemail if they’re unavailable or don’t answer.
I’ll say straight-up that not every lead is worth following up on in this manner (the resource investment can be massive depending on the number of leads and size of your team). A massive 74% of companies analyzed didn’t leave voicemails, which gives a clear picture of the kind of investment we’re talking about.
If you’re not sure whether voicemails are for you or not, compare the resources you have to the potential gain from the lead.
Does your sales team have time for another call? How much would a call effectively cost in terms of time spent and the sales rep’s wages? What would such a call prevent them doing, and how valuable is that action?
Also, don’t forget to look at how successful voicemails have been for you in the past to get an idea of how likely the gamble is to pay off.
#4. Stick with leads you voicemail for longer
If you have a lead that’s worth voicemailing, it’s also worth sticking with that lead for longer. This was shown by the sales cycle of companies who left voicemails being 160% longer than those who didn’t.
In other words, if these companies left a voicemail, they kept trying to convert us for 1.6x as long.
Now, I know that this data could be due to a number of reasons. It could just be that the companies who had the resources to leave voicemails just had a longer sales cycle. Maybe a few took special exception to us since we were a high-value lead.
Either way, if you think that a lead is worth the investment to leave a voicemail after failing to call them, then chances are you have the resources to stick with that lead for longer. You’ve put the work in, so don’t throw it away at the slightest resistance!
#5. Use (or at least consider) marketing automation
Marketing automation is a fantastic way to save time and money – it lets you queue up your emails long before they ever go out and is an absolute must-have for any team looking to scale.
However, to back up the point, a massive 67% of companies used marketing automation to send their emails. An even more shocking 39% only used automation – there were no salespeople involved.
In short, if you’re not using some kind of automation to take the strain off your team, you’re missing one of the biggest shared tricks in SaaS sales cycles.
Don’t make the same mistakes as everyone else
While all of these points are useful, if you only take one thing away from this post today, take away this.
Don’t make mistakes that someone else has before you.
It might sound simple, but this simple principle will take you a long way in almost anything you do.
Whether you’re looking for a way to improve your sales cycle or you’re trying to build a blog, do your research beforehand and search for what others have to say on the subject. Someone out there will have published their own experience on the topic, and learning that takes you one step closer to success.
Effectively using email to connect with your customers is an important part of being a SaaS company.
When someone signs up, you want to reach out to show off what your product can do, or tempt someone into upgrading to your premium service.
We know this all too well, and we know how difficult it can be.
With low open rates and even lower click through rates, email can sometimes seem like a daunting area to focus on.
This is why we conducted a study of how top SaaS companies approach their email marketing and sales.
In partnership with PersistIQ, we looked at the sales cycles and drip marketing techniques of 281 top SaaS companies, analyzing 1183 emails in the process.
We compiled all the emails into a searchable database at first but decided to make it a bit more user friendly for people to browse by turning it into the microsite Inside SaaS Sales.
You can hop on there to search by company and view their emails; analyzing their approach.
Our tip is to find a few companies like yours – i.e. with similar business objectives – and work out why they’ve created and structured their emails in the way they did.
But there’s only so much we can learn from one email at a time. What trends can we find in the data? What sales cycle takeaways do we have?
The key findings from analyzing 281 companies’ emails
Companies follow up for 9 days before stopping contact
Companies tend to be persistent. While avoiding sending emails on weekends, the average period of a sales cadence is 9 days – just short of two working weeks.
Some companies tended to stray quite a distance from this average. Salesforce, for example, took 1 month before giving up with their outreach. While a company like Slack, where each customer tends to be of less value to the business, hit the 9 day mark square on the head.
Companies send one email per day until the end of the cycle
In that opening flurry of emails, the SaaS company doesn’t want to overdo it and scare you the customer away, but they don’t want you to move on either.
Looking at the two previous examples, Slack send the first 4 emails over the first 5 days with the final email coming on the 9th day. That pattern of sustained outreach initially followed by quiet rare reminders is mirrored by Salesforce’s approach, even if their cadence is longer.
Salesforce send two emails a day for the first two days and one email a day for the following four days. The last email in their cadence comes over a fortnight after the penultimate.
This pattern can be seen across the data set and suggests that a sprint start is preferable to a balanced campaign.
65% of companies hand you over to an automated marketing campaign
Automation is huge at the moment, and not just in marketing.
We’re slowly walking into a world where computers are performing an increasing number of our tasks. In the report Four Fundamentals of Workplace Automation from McKinsey, they predict that 18% of a marketing executive’s working time could already be automated by existing commercially available technologies.
And that report is about 18 months old. Zapier have integrated with an extra 500 companies since then!
In our data, it is clear that though lots of companies use automated elements, many of them combine automated with manual. Both Slack and Salesforce send automated marketing email, but Salesforce have a person on hand to reach out to you too; using the double tap method to follow up on previous outreach as a warmer mechanism
Consider automation! All I’m saying…
Most SaaS companies have two sales contacts per lead
Typically a company will have two contacts and at least one of them will have a title which is geared toward bringing in new customers: Sales (35%), Business Development (18%), or Marketing (18%).
It’s not unusual, however, for a company to reach out from a different member of staff – something which puts a friendly face on the company. Like the CEO or Founders themselves (7%) or a Customer Success (6%) person.
This kind of internal branding could add a little more positive to the mix, maybe?
74% of companies don’t leave voicemails
If a company leaves voicemails, the sales cycle length is usually 160% longer.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise because voicemails are indicative of a high touch sales approach. This involves a lot more effort and a lot more commitment from your sales team.
Generally, a company like Slack has no interest in sending you voicemails. Yet, a company like Epicor – who provide serious industrial services in a high value specialized niche – knows that their market is smaller and each lead is super valuable.
It’s in their favor to leave voicemails where possible! (All voicemails we received are transcribed with the rest of the email data on the microsite)
MailChimp is the most common email marketing software
Used by 49% of the sample, Mailchimp is the faraway winner of the email marketing software battle.
Up in second place is Marketo at 21% with HubSpot biting at their heels on 19%.
The rest come in a little further behind with “other” coming before (in order) Eloqua, Tout, Sidekick, Pardot, Marketing Cloud, Sable, and Sendgrid.
Mailchimp is very easy to use and they’ve offered useful automation elements for a while now. It’s surprising to see how far ahead they were in terms of usage amongst industry leaders, but it’s a compelling sign for anyone searching for an email marketing tool.
Learn your techniques from the best
It’s very easy to write an article online about how you should approach your email marketing.
You’ve probably read loads of these articles. I know I have.
But often these articles are written without the expertise for your particular needs. The expertise you need to listen to and learn from lies within the businesses with whom you share business objectives and demographics.
Hopefully, we can help you cut the bull and check out what the real big players do, so you can learn from them.
Let me know how your company approaches its email marketing in the comments below!
Inspiration can strike at any time and from anything. You could be sat at your computer actively trying to think of blog post ideas, or one could take you by surprise as you browse a local shop. When that time comes you’d better be prepared to record and organize your idea properly, or risk losing it forever.
Our marketing team does this by creating a note in Evernote (which can be installed on any device) to hold the idea and then assigning a particular tag to it. However, rather than having to open up Evernote later and manually process these ideas, we use Zapier to automatically push notes into Trello and format them into actionable project cards.
In other words, when inspiration strikes we note it down in Evernote and that will automatically get pushed into Trello and organized appropriately.
While it may sound lazy or unnecessary, automatically creating a new document for the posts you write saves a huge amount of effort over time.
Rather than having to open up a writing app, create a new document, organize it, and post a link back to it in Trello, me and my team can just move the corresponding card into our “WIP” column. Zapier picks up on this, creates a document in Quip, sorts it into the correct file (according to who the Trello card is assigned to), and posts a link back into the card.
Again, it may not seem like much, but every little helps when you’re running a tight ship in a field where flow and minimum distraction levels rule supreme.
Whether it’s keyword research or guest posting, we have a documented process for everything we do more than once. That way we aren’t ever left wondering what to do next – we can look straight at our checklist, follow the next step, mark it as complete to track out progress, and then continue.
Unfortunately (much like creating documents), creating checklists manually adds up to a hefty chunk of time over any extended period. So, instead, we automatically trigger them with Zapier.
We’re a little mad on centralizing information – the idea that everyone should be able to access everything they might need to. Hence why we post notes takes from our meetings into our shared Slack channel.
Usually this would need manually pasting in, but instead we have Zapier detect when our meeting checklist is complete, then automatically ship the notes into Slack for us.
While it’s true that we technically have an accessible version of the notes with the checklist, having that second copy in a much more freely available space is a godsend. That way we can check exactly what we’ve each pledged to work on, what we need from each other, and our CEO doesn’t have to go digging around for the checklist to be able to see our progress at a glance.
In short, everyone wins.
I’ve already mentioned how we use Trello to manage our marketing team, but it actually goes further than that. Each of our team members has their own personal Trello board, while we share boards for thing like “Blog articles” and “Knowledge Base Content”. That way we can manage our personal tasks separately from, say, blog articles and ideas we need to easily separate and track.
Now, the main problem with Trello is that is can be extremely difficult (and awkward) to get a concise summary of a person’s activity, or that of activity on a board in general. This can be easily solved, however, by once again using Zapier.
We’ve linked our Trello boards to various team members’ Slack channels, meaning that any activity in those boards is posted as part of a conversation in our messaging app.
So, rather than even having to open Trello, I can see everything that’s happened in the Blog board by just checking a Slack channel. Similarly, my boss can see all of the activity I’ve taken (along with a timestamp) on my personal board by checking a different channel.
This makes it incredibly easy to get an immediate summary of how our team has spent their day, thus increasing accountability and making everyone more aware of the need to report any work that they’ve done. It may sounds a little extreme, but it’s one of the best ways to keep on top of a remote team such as ours (especially if some members are new to remote work).
The final basic task you should be automating to save time and money is that of creating invoices. Everyone likes getting paid, after all, so why not make the moment even sweeter by taking the boring work out of the equation?
The exact method for this will vary depending on what you use to create your invoices (eg, an accounting app or something simple such as Google Docs) and how you wish to record your information, but we decided to keep things simple.
By filling in an invoice checklist in Process Street we can quickly note down all of the important information the invoice needs, such as the date, payment amount, personal and client details, etc. Once complete, ticking off the final task will (using Zapier) automatically push that information into an invoice template and email the final product to both ourselves and the client.
These are just a few of the tasks you could be automating to make time for the work which actually requires your attention – to make the most of automation you need to get creative and test the limits of what you can do. After all, wouldn’t you rather automate as much shovel work as possible?
What tasks do you automate? Have you got any automation tips of your own? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Making connections with influencers isn’t just for fashion blogs and trendy Instagram accounts.
You’ll need a ‘way in’ no matter who you are or where you’re going.
Whether you’re looking to write for big publications, get a boost to your social shares, improve your SEO, or just get on the radar of a blogger with a big following, you’re going to need to start somewhere.
In this post, I’m going to go through the process I used to write for TechCrunch, get guest blogging slots, and build relationships with social media personalities. It all boils down to a repeatable process with just a few points, and takes very little time or effort.
Let’s get into it…
A few steps before you get started
We’re all blinded by what we already know,
An easy way to find influencers is to use Buzzsumo’s Twitter influencer search. By typing in a keyword relevant to your niche, you can find editors, bloggers, and broadcasters that you can leverage to get more exposure. Alternatively, you can find publications in your niche and then find who’s responsible for content submissions and editing there.
Since this is a social-focused technique, the next step is to follow the influencer on Twitter and add them to a Twitter list.
Now, add their RSS feed to your feed reader so you can keep up to date with what they’re writing:
Now you’re set to get on with the rest of the process.
Retweet two of the influencer’s articles
The first part of the interactions after getting started is to retweet two articles. This should be done over time, either with Buffer to Buffer the retweet, or manually by checking back.
To stand out, you can even add a comment inside the retweet, like above. The more you say to start a conversation, the better the outcome will eventually be, and the faster you’ll get to a comfortable stage where you can reach out personally and offer help / make an ask.
Leave two comments on their blog posts
The comments section is an excellent place to interact with bloggers. It’s their home turf, and every blogger loves getting comments and responding to them because it means their work is being read and they’re not just writing into the void. Even if they get a lot of comments already, more can’t ever hurt. Especially if you say something more worthwhile than other people.
Make sure you:
Add value to the post (explain how you’ve tried similar methods, or share some of your own experience)
Encourage a response (by asking a follow-up question)
Sound like a real person
Here’s an example of a great blog comment made for relationship building:
Overall, a thoughtful, conversation-starting response is the most important thing.
Since you’re subscribed via RSS, you can easily keep to date with what’s being posted and just take a little time in the mornings to read it on your phone and comment.
Share two of their articles on different platforms
I don’t often get my work shared on LinkedIn, but when I do it’s usually by someone who’s got an active following there and I remember the occasion because my Twitter feed is flooded, but my LinkedIn notifications update only rarely.
The people who interact with me on LinkedIn stand out, and that’s a tactic you can try too.
Like before I mentioned how you can Buffer retweets so they don’t go out all at once, you can do the same thing with social shares across multiple platforms. Buffer connects to Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.
The influencer could be grateful you’re sharing their content on a platform where they don’t have as much presence.
Send a personal email with an offer and a request
Do you know the most important factor that goes into an influencer deciding whether or not they’ll open your emails?
The name of the sender is the most important factor to 64% of respondents, so if they recognize your name as ‘the person who I had a great conversation on Twitter with’, they’re way more likely to feel obliged to open and respond to your email.
When Alex from Groove tried to build an ‘inner circle’ of influencers to help promote his content, he found that a good way to get shares and exposure was to ask for the influencers’ opinion on the draft of a blog post in an email like this one:
Alternatively, if you’re reaching out to a journalist, you might want to try an email like this one:
Dmitry from JustReachOut.io has compiled a list of 26 cold email templates, which he says he’s used each one of to take his career to the next level at some point, and for requesting an interview with an influencer, he suggests using this one:
Your next steps…
To make it simple, I’ve compiled an SOP you can run to do influencer outreach here. Make sure you’ve compiled a list of 10-15 influencers, and that you run one checklist for each influencer and work through the list.
Using that method, you’ll find you get more followers on social media, more shares, better placement for guest posts, and more backlinks.
And it all starts with a little work on social media, so I’d say the reward is fair for the work put in!
Have you tried any similar methods or checklists? Let me know in the comments.
It’s no secret that time is money in any business. No matter whether you’re selling the hottest real estate around or making toothpicks for a living, you don’t have time to do everything yourself if you want to scale (or even run) your business effectively. You need to outsource some of your workload, but what should you offload?
Whilst the answer is really “anything which you personally do not have to do”, as long as your time could be better spent on something else, we have the top 7 tasks to outsource to a VA right here. These are the most common, time / resource consuming tasks which (frankly) we could happily see the end of.
If you want more time to focus on the things that matter for your marketing efforts, go ahead and outsource these tasks before anything else!
Nobody likes the arduous task of trawling through hundreds of contacts, manually adding their email address to each one. Equally, the task of finding new contacts and their email address can happily chew up hours upon hours of your work day; hours which could be much better spent personally building a connection to those new contacts, rather than just finding them.
Hence, whenever you have a task which requires the collection of email addresses, you should be outsourcing it to a VA. This is a prime example of everything an outsourced task should be; it’s time consuming, monotonous and doesn’t require any of your personal input or expertise to carry out.
Finding Contact Handles
This task has many parallels to gathering emails; finding other contact information such as Twitter handles or LinkedIn profiles can be just as time-consuming as gathering their email. Time which, once again, could be much better spent creating content to market, improving your website or, as with the emails, building a personal connection to said potential contacts. Essentially, instead of building the framework, you’re shaping your network.
Curating Social Media Content
If this is not already handled by your business process automation system, social media is something which you (by and large) don’t want to be dealing with. You want to have your social media accounts topped up with content that isn’t just an endless stream of self-promotion, but where exactly do you get content that resonates with your audience.
Depending on your tastes, you might try social bookmarking sites like reddit, Inbound.org, GrowthHackers, or putting together a small list on Twitter of accounts that tend to share top notch content. Making a marketing process for this should be easy if you know the kind of content you’d like to curate.
Whether you’re designing the cover for your brand new ebook or just need to get some header images to pair with your Twitter and Facebook posts, you could spend the time to do them yourself. After all, if you just have to do one or two images you might as well take the 5 minutes it takes to whip up a good image.
However, when you get to the stage where you need professional-looking infographics, 20 social media images a week and a new ebook every couple of months, it only makes sense to outsource the task to someone more qualified. Hey, just because the task is going to a VA doesn’t mean that it’s going to be worse quality! All you need to do is make some inquiries to learn who has experience with creating visual content, and then boom; you’re away.
Other than being a fantastic way to get your name and brand out there and seen on more popular sources, blog commenting is another monotonous task which can take up hours upon hours without ever being complete (as long as there are more blogs and new posts, blog comments can be made). So, rather than tackle it yourself, you can quite happily hand the task off to a VA without too much trouble.
The only problem which can be posed by outsourcing this task is that the comments should have some sort of review process. This could either be yourself (even if you review each comment, you’ll still save the time taken to write them) or a permanent member of your marketing team, but there should be at least a little quality assurance before a VA is allowed to say anything under your name.
Although this mainly applies to those of you who produce a podcast or video content, transcriptions are easy to do and provide you with extra content with relatively little effort. If you outsource the task you’re not even wasting any time on it – you’re essentially getting several mediums of content for the effort put into just the one.
Content Creation (Be Careful Though)
This may be a bit of a controversial one, but content creation doesn’t always have to be handled by an internal member of your team. You can outsource your content creation to a VA with little problem and, although you’d better have a thorough employee onboarding process to help them along, it should take little time for them to produce similar quality content to yours in the same (or even a shorter) time period.
As with the blog commenting, this should always be monitored and go through at least one of your team members before being pushed live; although many VAs are very talented and can most certainly deliver on what they promise, there’s always a chance that an error has snuck by them or that they haven’t got your tone right.
And there you have it! With a little caution and training, VAs can be a massive boon to your marketing efforts if you let them take these time-consuming tasks off your hands. However, why not take it one step further? Get creative with analyzing your day-to-day tasks and you may find that you can outsource more than you thought to great effect!
In this post I want to let you in on the best way I’ve found to get hundreds of targeted leads on our email with just one piece of content.
I want you to be able to read this post, then go away and start doing the exact same thing as me. I’m going to start with the creation of the ebook, and then move through to promotion.
Writing the ebook
The ebook — a guide to business process automation — was written casually over the course of a couple of months. It consisted of all of our blog posts on the topic, tied together with an intro and outro, structured so it developed like you’d expect a book to.
So, while we were building our blog and posting like usual, we were also creating an ebook in the background. This means we can rank for all of the chapters individually plus the ebook page, and it’s much less work.
Essentially, it’s one giant content repurposing project, allowing both the posts and ebook to generate leads.
The way to start is to do a little keyword research. Once you’ve found a great keyword (high volume, low difficulty, well targeted at your audience), start to brainstorm 5-10 blog posts on the topic, all going after the long tail keywords related to it.
Note the structure using a tool like Evernote or Trello, then start turning keywords into titles. Once you’ve got the titles down, blog away as normal until the book’s written.
The blog posts were all sent as links along with our graphical assets (icons, gradients, etc.) to a freelance designer hired through Upwork. She came back with a PDF and ePub version within the week, and then it was time to prepare to promote it.
Before promoting the ebook
Next up, we needed to find as many people as possible that we thought would like the ebook. To do this, I used BuzzSumo to scrape the names and Twitter handles of 250 people that talk and write about business process automation. We also gathered everyone who had been mentioned in the book because they’re more likely to have a vested interest in its promotion.
Handing it off to a VA to scrape the emails, I went about writing the landing page copy.
The landing page copy for all of our ebooks follows the same structure:
Problem (you’re doing too much in your business manually)
Solution (you can harness automation, if you know how)
Call to action
Who’s this book for?
What’s in the book?
Call to action
We have a template of this in WordPress, so it’s easy to duplicate it and work off of it to make sure you’re not missing anything out.
With the emails loaded up in Close.io, our CRM, and the landing page ready to go, I wrote an email template informing the outreach contacts I found earlier that we’re launching a book they might be interested in, like this:
Launch day: ebook marketing in action
On the day of the launch, we posted the ebook on Product Hunt, sent emails to the list of influencers, and watched the email subscribers roll in. By some bizarre stroke of luck, we hit #1 in Books on Product Hunt despite the narrow audience of the subject.
We also posted it up on reddit and inbound.org, which, as you can see, brought a comparatively small slice of traffic when checked against Product Hunt:
After launch day
To make sure we were capturing as many leads as possible, we went back to every relevant blog post and added a call to action to get the ebook. Since some of the posts had already started to rank in Google, it meant that we were able to capture some of that success and make it stick.
We still find a few hundred leads coming in every month from the ebook, even after the launch day buzz has long gone. For a side project, it’s well worth investing your time.
5 extra tips for success
There are a few things to know about this tactic before getting stuck in:
Make sure your landing page copy is long. Short copy and gated content doesn’t rank at all well in Google
Write an announcement blog post and link your ebook’s landing page in it to help it rank
Send the PDF file to everyone who’s already on your list so they don’t have to put their email in again
Working remotely is a skill. People often don’t realize this.
Working remotely is something you learn to do and you get better at with time.
As a manager, you have to recognize this as much as anyone on your team. You have to recognize this because you have to take responsibility for your team members’ ability to deliver.
That’s why I’m writing this article to give you an insight into some of the processes we use to keep our team’s productivity high while working remotely, and to give you some idea of how we constructed these processes.
The thing is, you probably already have a stack of processes you use day to day whether your team realizes it or not. The next step here would be to document these processes using a Standard Operating Procedure software.
As such, the first thing we need to do is identify one activity central to your team’s activities so that we can begin to look at the method of improving the team’s performance.
To make this easy, we’ll take an example process that I would use within my team as a writer – the content creation process.
This process already exists. Let’s say it happens in the following way:
An article is assigned
Keyword research is undertaken
I do research for the article
I write the article
The article is formatted
The article is approved and published
Super simple, no?
What we have above is the most basic iteration of a documented process. Once we have this, we can start analyzing its constituent parts; adding detail or assigning roles where necessary.
How is the article assigned? Does an editor send an email? Does the writer propose the article and have the idea accepted or rejected?
These are the little questions that need to be asked of that basic documented process.
Eventually, we’ll start to see that there are multiple smaller processes within this workflow. The process of researching for keywords could be considered a standalone process. The process of formatting an article could be too. You can see two basic version of these processes here:
You don’t need to go into this level of detail at the beginning. Start by doing what you normally do and document each step of it. Every action you take, note it down.
This will give you a clear linear flow of how your team operates on a daily basis.
From here, you can present this process to your team and collaboratively improve it. Some team members might have tools they use to improve steps: e.g. Use an extension like Grammarly to be continually checking spelling and grammar, saving time in the proofreading.
Your team are the ones who will be using this process regularly so they need to be the ones most comfortable with it.
When your process is fully documented, make sure your team use it each time they undertake that activity. Over time, this will highlight any obvious mistakes in the process and naturally result in proposed improvements.
In the meantime, we want to find ways to improve these remote processes. Which brings us to the tools which help remote teams thrive….
Tools you can use to improve remote working
I’ll give you our 4 key tools to help a remote team get more done. I’m of the school where I believe less is more. Every interruption during a task is a potential moment for lost productivity. As such, if you keep your team working from the smallest number of platforms, you’ll see less moments of distraction.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I hate email.
I blame it on having done sales in the past. A few quick reasons:
Email just isn’t fun to use. It feels formal and stale. Even the best organized inbox will distract you with unimportant mail. It’s terrible for multiple people to communicate through together. I don’t like using it on mobile.
All of those problems, conveniently, are items where Slack does well.
Provided you learn to use asynchronous communication techniques, a remote team using Slack can be really well connected. Slack’s instant message approach with both individual messaging and team channels creates a really well streamlined way of keeping up to date with each other, and other teams.
We have a rule where all communication must exist in public channels. This fosters a stronger sense of company culture, and means that you learn from reading other people’s conversations. The knowledge spillover which results from public channels is a resource and you should be using it.
Keeping communication strong across your team will make sure productivity doesn’t take a hit. No one likes mass emails, but a post in a public channel feels less intrusive.
Process Street lets you track your processes
Process Street lets you build your processes in template form and then run each process as a checklist whenever it needs to be done.
As a manager, you can see these checklists and monitor the progress. It also means that when the template for the process is updated as part of your never ending attempts at optimization, all employees will now be working from the updated process.
This simply allows you to standardize company activities and iteratively improve them. For example, you can use Process Street as your onboarding software to manage a new hire’s onboarding process. You can centralize everything they need to know, like company policies and employees’ calendar links, as well as provide training docs and tasks all from one place.
What’s not to like?
When you’re part of a remote team you need to make sure everyone is doing each task properly. The best way to do so is to Stick To The Process.
Airtable is your database in the cloud
We’ve moved a huge amount of our activity to Airtable over the last year.
Airtable is primarily a cloud based database set up which allows you to view your data in a spreadsheet form. Much faster than Google Sheets much more comprehensive, Airtable lets non-techies manage data like they’d just done a course in MySQL.
It’s a great place to store information and we first started using it to archive and track all of our output – articles and the like.
However, in 2017, Airtable released a new feature which allowed line entries to be viewed as cards on a Kanban board. This along with an improving calendar feature encouraged us to switch over for our task management.
The result being that all information entered into our task manager was now archived forever in our database. Very smooth and very manageable.
Trello manages your tasks so you don’t have to
Full disclosure: it is Trello which we’ve been moving away from.
For us, the amount of data we had on our Trello boards made it slow and difficult to find things from the past.
However, for less data-intense teams, Trello is a great option because it is intuitive and the Kanban system is a very effective means of organizing.
When you’re working remotely, it is beneficial to be able to hop onto someone else’s Trello board, find the task they’re working on, and check their progress. Particularly if your work is reliant on some of their work.
You don’t need to reach out to that person, you can simply enter their virtual office and see if they’ve uploaded that file you need yet.
It saves you interrupting them and it saves you waiting for their response.
Utilizing tools like the ones mentioned above can improve your processes through speeding up communication or making helpful resources easier to locate.
But optimizing a process requires you to pick it apart and look at different sections:
How well is the desired output being achieved?
How often does the process break down, and why?
How much of the process can be automated?
There are whole libraries of books to help you improve your processes. You could use techniques related to the Deming cycle, like PDSA or PDCA to improve the quality of the output.
Or, you could employ Six Sigma techniques to reduce the defects in the process, like DMAIC.
But point three is even easier.
Tools like Zapier, IFTTT, and Flow can be used to cut out some of the more time consuming menial tasks like data entry. They can also be used to set up notifications to other team members automatically when another activity is created.
These third-party automation tools – of which Zapier is my personal favorite – can shave time of your processes and allow your team members to focus on the work they do best.
Build effective processes designed for your remote team
According to the McKinsey report Four Fundamentals of Workplace Automation, the typical marketing executive could save 15% of their working hours by automating simple tasks.
But automation will be of little use if you’re not working from set processes. Because if you’re not working from set processes, how will you know what to automate to attain best results – not just for yourself but for the whole team?
With a mix of process management philosophies, cloud based modern SaaS products, and one eye on the future, you could drastically improve the performance of your remote team.
Not with a whip. But by building processes which help them focus on what they do best.