Communication is known as one of the key challenges of remote work. A Gallup survey shows that 32% of remote and hybrid employees feel disconnected from their organizations, 30% have free opportunities for collaboration, and 24% saw relationships with coworkers stagnate. These challenges are impactful on the macro scale but are even more evident once you zoom in on collaboration- and communication-focused departments like remote marketing teams.
Demand generation, content, and performance marketing managers might find themselves limited in tools and equipment, struggling to build cross-department relationships, and lacking tools to make spur-of-the-moment decisions.
In this post, we will dive deeper into the challenges of handling remote marketing jobs. These are largely based on the informal survey we ran within the organization and our findings from helping over 2,200 organization leaders worldwide set up and streamline remote operations.
- The shift to remote work caught many marketers by surprise
- 5 ways we used a virtual office platform to build an effective remote marketing team
- #1. Creating a low-pressure communication environment
- #2. Simplified meeting setup
- #3. Creating a space for collaboration with contractors
- #4. Increased visibility
- #5. Creating engaging digital experiences
- The bottom line
The shift to remote work caught many marketers by surprise
The data from our informal survey showed that oVice marketers were largely working in person before joining the organization. This is consistent with the big-picture view highlighted in Buffer’s State of Remote Work Survey from 2019. According to their data, only 12% of surveyed remote workers are in marketing team roles.
Both our internal and external data show that, while largely underway, the shift to remote work in 2020 was still sudden and abrupt for many marketing leaders.
As the result, it came with its challenges and forced leaders to step outside of their comfort zone by reevaluating long-established practices. For most, the key struggles of the new model were:
- Difficulties in understanding the bottlenecks teammates are facing. When asked about the challenges of remote work they experienced before joining oVice, our organization members said it was difficult to tell when teammates were struggling. As the result, team members did not know when to step in and help each other. Most importantly, managers were struggling in pinpointing bottlenecks or burnout red flags within their teams. This tendency is seen on a larger scale as well: the OwlLabs State of Remote Work Survey 2021 shows that 78% of employees feel more included and engaged when working at the office.
- Delayed response. Plummeting communication speed was another common concern our teammates associated with traditional remote work setups. According to them, without a physical presence, it was hard to tell what is preventing people from responding to collaboration requests: a busy schedule, lack of enthusiasm for joint work, or a different issue. In marketing, where collaboration between teams is instrumental to a successful campaign, not being able to quickly catch up with teammates kept teams from jumping on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Managers picked up on that as well and, according to data signals, are increasingly concerned about employee focus and engagement.
- Lack of experience in remote work. For many marketers, switching from office-based to remote communication meant turning their habits upside down and building new routines from scratch. On that journey, few were supported by managers or provided with the tools to reach peak performance. That’s why a temporary slow-down commonly accompanied remote work transition.
- Little versatility in collaboration tools. In mapping out the tech infrastructure for the remote work shift, many leaders took the cookie-cutter approach. They adopted the platforms widely used by other industry players without tailoring their stacks to the needs of their teams. Out of those we surveyed, most pointed out that Google Meet, Slack, and Zoom were the most widely adopted solutions. Although these platforms performed their baseline functions, remote workers were frustrated with the lack of communication opportunities and the inability to effectively share information through video conferencing. Generally, remote meeting experiences were the Achilles heel for most remote teams n marketing and beyond. 70% of remote employees said they couldn’t find the right time to contribute, 72% struggled to identify speakers in meetings, and 63% couldn’t see the faces of their peers. These frustrations were slowing down operations and adding up to meeting fatigue in the long run. Scheduling meetings that would be convenient for participants in the US, Europe, and Asia was a struggle. It was clear that rather than trying to schedule regular cadences between teammates, the organization needed a more flexible approach, allowing teammates to casually chat at their convenience.
5 ways we used a virtual office platform to build an effective remote marketing team
In creating an effective remote marketing team management strategy, our focus was on designing a flexible workplace that would enable spontaneous interactions without leading employees down the rabbit hole of spending more time scheduling and confirming meetings than focusing on tasks that are both enjoyable and have a high yield.
That’s when we made ample use of our own product – a virtual office space platform designed to bring the spontaneity, ease, and immediacy of in-person interactions to remote work.
Here are 7 impactful ways our marketing team is using virtual office platforms to onboard new hires, brainstorm ideas, make quick decisions, and take advantage of market opportunities before they fade away.
#1. Creating a low-pressure communication environment
Marketing is a collaborative process that requires constant coordination and knowledge sharing. Effective teams have to be well coordinated internally and build strong cross-department relationships with product, sales, design, or engineering.
As the result, marketers need to have an ability to catch up quickly and consistently – for most, it means a day spent in back-to-back meetings. The need to spend hours on camera caused anxiety and discomfort for many on a scale of making media headlines.
Although asking employees to have their video on at all times is uncomfortable and puts extra pressure on the team, it’s easy to see where managers are coming from. Having the camera off in meetings gives team leaders even fewer cues for gauging engagement and is often proof of low engagement within the team. Also, the rigid, grid-based design of video conferencing platforms makes it easy to lose focus if there’s no moving picture to focus on.
Virtual office platforms help alleviate some of the stress by allowing team members to stay engaged even with their cameras off. At the same time, compared to a “video-off” Zoom call, employees in these spaces have a higher degree of presence.
For one, having their virtual desk helps employees establish themselves within the organization and promotes belonging the way it would in a physical space.
#2. Simplified meeting setup
In a similar vein, switching to remote work meant that quick status updates marketers could share during a coffee break or quick catch-ups with product or sales managers became a lot more tedious.
Spontaneous interactions were essentially lost – marketers now had to be a lot more intentional about connecting the dots across multiple departments. For many, introducing yourself to a team member from a different department asynchronously, confirming, availability, and sending calendar invites became too time-consuming so the frequency of status updates plummeted.
As the result, remote marketers found themselves isolated from other teams and unable to help their colleagues with high-performance collateral, request technical assistance from engineers, or track the performance of their demand generation pipeline by staying in touch with the product team.
In a virtual office, there’s no need to intentionally schedule a call – you can see who is in the space and jumpstart a conversation. Through quick updates and impromptu Q&A sessions, remote marketers can keep the situational awareness they used to have at the office and use insights from other teams to design effective campaigns or track the performance of their efforts.
#3. Creating a space for collaboration with contractors
In most organizations, in-house marketing is enforced by alternative workforces: freelancers, gig workers, and contractors. While in-house managers are instrumental in keeping all processes in place, tracking performance, and communicating with other teams at the organizations, outside contributors facilitate content creation and assist with SEO research or PR activities.
Despite the benefits of alternative workforces in marketing: the convenience of the pay-per-outcome model, the ability to upscale and downscale teams on-demand, reduced little or no training costs, and many others – a failure-riddled track record of collaborating with third-party contributors left many marketing team leaders disappointed.
Communication is the key challenge in-house employees are facing in working with contractors who are slow to respond, not sufficiently engaged, or increase the risk of confidential data leaking to the public.
This way marketers can protect the confidentiality of in-team discussions and organize workforces.
Other than that, having a space to engage with contractors will help increase engagement and response immediacy.
For contractors, the ability to engage with the in-house team will offer learning and career development opportunities and help improve the quality of their work without sacrificing personal autonomy. It is a win-win arrangement for everyone involved.
Also, a virtual office space can help facilitate interactions between contractors which is a rare workflow in traditional marketing departments but a promising one.
This way, third-party contributors will have a more pronounced sense of belonging to the organization and avoid isolation or loneliness, that almost inevitably follows remote-only work styles.
#4. Increased visibility
Another challenge marketers had to face in a remote environment was a limited influx of insights and ideas. In most cases, it had to do with the fact that meetings and brainstorming kept bringing together the same participants – over time, their trains of thought would become predictable, ideas – stale.
It didn’t use to be as much of an issue for in-person workplaces, where inviting someone to a brainstorming session could be a spur-of-the-moment decision. However, as meetings started requiring prior confirmation and advanced notice, a lot of people had no idea who was meeting whom and when and got no opportunity to contribute.
Both by using a virtual office in our organization and introducing it to other remote teams, we quickly discovered how important it was for people to see the meetings other team members were having. This heightened visibility served three key purposes that were specifically evident in marketing
- Situational awareness. Even if marketers didn’t participate in meetings other teammates were having, by knowing that a sales team leader had a catch-up call with the product team while the PR team had a budget meeting with the finance department gave the marketing team structure, as well as the big picture view and understanding of where they should expect future updates.
- Room for varying participation levels. A virtual office platform doesn’t require people to join meetings to participate – it’s enough to be in the radius of a nearby meeting. At that point, the choice is up to teammates themselves – they can either speak up and contribute or stay in the “lurking mode” and listen in without interrupting the flow. Both types of participation are helpful in their own right and are easily enabled in a virtual office space.
- Fluid brainstorming and constant influx of new perspectives. Virtual office spaces help create an open doors policy, allowing everyone to join whatever meeting they are interested in. For marketing team leaders using oVice, we recommend writing the team agenda in the meeting tab so that the rest of the organization can see what’s on the discussion board and effortlessly contribute. Both within our organization and the companies of our clients, this approach has fostered transparency and increased participation. Having a sales team leader, customer support team, or operations manager spontaneously contribute to marketing brainstorming sessions helped us exchange ideas and enrich the marketing team’s understanding of other processes at the organization.
#5. Creating engaging digital experiences
Before the pandemic, the trend of creating digital experiences was already picking up speed. In the last two years, it became even more important to marketers and salespeople who have lost the ability to connect and build relationships with customers.
During the pandemic, virtual help desks, customer-facing chatbots, and online onboarding sessions became standard practice. Yet, the experience often failed to engage and impress customers in the same way due to the lack of immersion and personalization.
In the two years following the release of oVice, we’ve seen a rise in consumer-facing use cases for virtual spaces. Marketing teams used virtual venues to create international events and reach wider audiences.
For them, a virtual office trumped traditional video conferencing in many ways. For one, there was more room for customizing the experience – marketers and designers could collaborate on creating a unique visual experience that helps the brand stand out to event attendees.
Also, while standard video conferencing platforms gave event teams limited interaction opportunities with the audience, virtual spaces enabled and facilitated one-on-one communication. An event moderator could easily walk up to a guest to collect feedback or offer assistance.
The opportunity to chat with guests after the events in the program are over to suggest other ways of connecting with the company – leaving an email, scheduling a demo call with the sales team, or following corporate social media accounts, helps move leads down the pipeline and create opportunities for long-term relationships.
The bottom line
Individually, most marketers enjoy the benefits of remote work. It takes next to nothing from the quality of individual work and introduces the benefits of autonomy, time saved on the commute, and the ability to make rent and other decisions without having to factor in the location of the office.
However, on a team level, the situation is more complex. A lot of marketing operations are embedded in constant communication and consistent contact with other teams (the famous product-marketing-sales triangle). This aspect of collaboration has been lost in remote work, leaving marketing teams to their own devices.
Consequently, marketers are having a hard time tracking the performance of their campaigns, generating ideas, and influencing customer-facing interactions by staying in touch with sales and customer success.
In our opinion, a form of spontaneous and effortless office-like interactions is crucial for successfully implementing marketing strategies. That’s why we are huge proponents of using virtual office spaces in marketing departments. They can help both streamline internal operations and create immersive digital experiences for customers, going beyond artificial and rigid interactions through video conferencing, phones, or asynchronous communication tools.
In this article, we outlined some of the applications of virtual office tools in marketing departments. This is not the full list of ways to use the platform to manage marketing operations – we will expand it with part two of the series.
Learn how oVice helps streamline marketing operations and create customer experiences by checking out how an IT company created an oVice-based showroom to connect with customers.
To learn how our solutions can help your company and marketing team, visit our tour space and talk to our marketing, customer success, or sales teams.