At Clay, we’ve noticed more and more of our clients prefer to meet virtually, even when those clients are located in the same city as we are. Most if not all marketing meetings are held by phone and/or online, and participants may be scattered all over the country or even the world.
Not knowing the people with whom we do business is business as usual these days, but it’s still important to foster collaboration. That means treating an agency as a strategic partner and an extension of your marketing department, not just a vendor. One way to create that feeling of partnership is through teambuilding best practices.
Here are 4 teambuilding best practices to use when your internal marketing groups and outsourced agency partners are collaborating virtually:
- Make Thorough Introductions
Often, facilitators refer to attendees by name, but never clarify their title or function. Before getting down to business, brand leaders and agency leaders should introduce each member of their teams and explain why those individuals are vital to success.
Introductions become especially important when new players will be joining the project at different stages of completion. When everyone feels acknowledged and respected from the start, they are more likely to actively participate. That means Mr. IT Guy isn’t going to wait silently until the call has ended to tell his boss something can’t be done.
- Respect Time Differences
Outsourced agency teams often work for a variety of clients coast to coast, which could mean they start their days on EST and end it on PDT. That makes for a very long day. These time differences are even more complicated when team members are spread all over the world. Being aware of people’s locations and not asking them to hold an hour-long conference call at 5am lets them know you value their time and respect them as individuals.
- Host Virtual Whiteboard Sessions
In the “old days,” before the marketing world started logging in remotely, many of our clients held quarterly or bi-annual teambuilding meetings onsite to uncover branding challenges and opportunities. Facilitators would begin by presenting a topic of discussion, and then roll in a whiteboard so we could collectively throw ideas at it. This process helped us get to know one another and understand each others’ thought processes, so we could work more efficiently together in the future.
Ideally, you still hold live brainstorming events at which team members can put faces to names, understand each other’s roles, and get to know each other as real human beings. If this isn’t possible, consider a virtual whiteboard session in which a facilitator writes ideas on a shared screen. Keep attendance small (less than 10 people) to avoid confusion. Then send out the results to the larger teams for their input. Email out a summary and highlight best ideas that are approved going forward.
Topics to cover in brainstorming sessions may include:
- New campaign directions
- Redefining your brand mission
- Addressing inconsistencies between Sales and Marketing messages
- New markets, opportunities or brand directions
- Social media strategies or guerilla marketing ideas
- Community outreach/PR ideas
- Use Project Management Tools
Brands that outsource to several agencies at a time may find those agencies feel competitive toward one another. In worst-case scenarios, this can lead to withholding of information or refusal to play nice in the sandbox. Making sure each agency knows the critical role it plays, how its role is unique, and why it is valued can help deflect this sort of infighting. However, a more effective approach is to employ project management tools like Basecamp or Slack, which enables real-time messaging and archiving.
Project management tools create one location where all brand assets and information can be housed and made available to anyone who touches a project. They can also make it easier for internal brand teams to share important resources, information and feedback on a shared, neutral platform that allows all participants to feel like they are in-the-know and part of the team.
Creative teambuilding is a must for helping everyone feel included, important and effective. Find out how your team is doing in our post How well is your internal team supporting your marketing support agency?