Remote Marketing with Trevor Longino

Trevor has been the head of marketing of several companies amongst which GOG.com or CD Projekt if you prefer, a name of phenom in the video game world, Contact IO and Unito. Just to name but a few.

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Trevor Longino

Luis Magalhaes: Hello ladies and gentlemen, this is Luis yet again with another episode of StaffITRight, the Distant Job podcast where I interview people who lead remote teams into success.

Luis Magalhaes: Now my guest today really is a marketing superstar. I’m talking about Trevor Longino and Trevor has been the head of marketing of several companies amongst which GOG.com or CD Projekt if you prefer, a name of phenom in the video game world, Contact IO and Unito. Just to name but a few. Trevor is a master marketer and although he, for most of his life, worked on site, he has always supplemented these teams with remote people and he’s trying to move into remote work more and more lately. So prepare for a bit of a sniff fest because with me and Trevor, whilst recording this, were in the throes of somewhat of a cold. So I edited out for your benefit. Of course I edited it out the worst parts of the coughing, but some sniffles definitely came through.

Luis Magalhaes: Trevor does go deep into the details. So if you are looking for actionable advice, this is the place to be.

Luis Magalhaes: Without further adieu, the highlights, then Trevor Longino.

Trevor Longino: Here is a state of mind, right? The team you go, the folks you work with, the results you achieve is here.

Luis Magalhaes: Amongst many other things, Trevor makes a case that controlling your employees is no guarantee that you’re going to get quality work done.

Trevor Longino: This is where it gets weird with if I’m not watching you, how do I know if you’re working? Sometimes work, really hard, productive work, can look like taking a walk and I’ll go for a walk and figure out why didn’t this page work? Why didn’t this pitch work? What’s wrong with this?

Luis Magalhaes: He also makes a remarkably unusual point, which is if you care about diversity and providing quality of opportunity, remote work is one of the best ways to give a break to people who normally wouldn’t be able to play in these leagues.

Trevor Longino: If you want to feel like you’re part of advancing your career, remote work can let people who are not in the US or in the EU really advance their career by working for a brand that is big in the US or in the EU.

Luis Magalhaes: So Trevor, welcome aboard. Thanks for doing this.

Trevor Longino: Hi, Luis. Thanks for having me.

Luis Magalhaes: And let’s jump right into, well, again I’ve already given the proper introduction, but tell me a bit how your life has been becoming more remote and how that has affected your approach to marketing?

Trevor Longino: So I’ve been doing remote team building remote management for a decade now. My first experience with it was managing a team of content writers based out of Mumbai. This would have been back in ’07, ’06, somewhere around there, where I had built a team of 30 odd content marketers writing in Marathi and Indian [inaudible 00:03:35] and kind of doing a terrible job of it. Not so much their fault, all mine, and learning. A lot of my early years in marketing, this is mostly me doing it wrong and learning sometimes, as opposed to now when I still do it wrong, but hopefully learn more.

Luis Magalhaes: This is eerily familiar to me.

Trevor Longino: So back then, kind of building content team, working with them remotely. Now I do freelance work where I’m a remote marketer for a bunch of companies and I have, even at companies where I’ve been employed as their CMO or CRO or head of marketing or whatever. Usually a modern marketer these days supplements his or her team with remote workers and so even if you have a team that’s six guys or six girls or whatever all sitting at an office together, odds are you’re gonna have two or three or four people who are remote as well. So the same practices apply.

Trevor Longino: So what my experience is then learning how to take things, some of the ideas from Agile project management, some of the ideas from just people management and how to get people who are not all physically in the same space feeling like a part of the same team and all that is part of a good practice for building marketing and working whether it’s remote or a blended presence or however it may be.

Luis Magalhaes: Okay. So it’s interesting that you mention Agile because when I was first introduced to Agile, there was diverging opinions on remote work. Some people say that Agile is the perfectly adaptable to remote work and other people say that it’s completely the antithesis of remote work is completely the antithesis of the Agile features. Obviously I know where you stand because you just said you apply Agile principles to really remote work, but why do you think there’s this argument that goes between one side and the other?

Trevor Longino: I think a lot of the argument around any place where they say hey, Agile won’t work here, it’s from either the person had a bad experience with Agile being poorly implemented in the past or you’ve got somebody who is too caught up in a specific way of running Agile, a specific tool set, a specific process. If you’re like hey, your daily stand up has to happen, everybody has to get in the room together, you have to each speak about what you did yesterday, what you’re doing today, what you’re gonna do tomorrow, and what your block is on. There’s no room for flexibility.

Trevor Longino: You might not have a good place then to have half your team remote and half of your team here in person. But the fundamentals of Agile development are simply organize your team to where they hold more responsibility for their work, organize your team so that the deliverables are short and organize your team so you are more oriented on the destination you’re traveling towards and laying out every step of the journey. And you can do that in a bunch of different ways. Some of the practices around Scrum or Kanban and kind of how those systems work, have become formalized as Agile. But the basic idea of meet regularly, plan short term, and give your people authority to act on their own is gonna be successful whether you’re remote or not.

Luis Magalhaes: Well yeah, that makes absolute sense. That makes absolute sense. In fact, I would argue that when it’s time to work with the remote team, the ability of people two work independently, it is even of more importance and to hold themselves accountable for their work and for their area of responsibility.

Trevor Longino: Definitely. This is a podcast, so the listeners can’t see, although Luis can see behind me, I’m in my basement. I’ve got my child’s toys on the shelf behind me. As well there’s two computers that don’t work super well anymore. There’s nobody here checking up on me.

Luis Magalhaes: I only have alcohol, so I’m okay.

Trevor Longino: There you go. I’ve got a freezer large enough to store most of a cow in right next to me. So no one’s checking up on me. If I’m not self motivated to say what I wanna do is go solve the problem, what I want to do is different regardless of the company, my presence, whatever, if that’s not what drives me, I’m not gonna be a good employee for somebody remote. I would argue for the way I manage teams, if you don’t want to go solve problems, if you aren’t motivated by the prospect of doing good work, even if you’re in the office, you still won’t be a good worker for me.

Trevor Longino: I tend to be someone who has for a decade now been hands off. Told wherever my teams members are, here’s a problem, go solve it. You phrase the problems differently if someone is a junior employee versus a senior one, but you still get the work around I’m trusting you to take care of problems and if that person needs someone to check up on them every day and say here is the list of four things you were supposed to do, did you do it? No, you did that wrong. Let me show you how to do it and micromanage. It won’t work whether you’re remote or not.

Trevor Longino: This is true of marketing, this is true of sales, this is true of customer success, this is true of product, I’ve done all these different teams and if you have that drive to go solve problems on your own, then you can be successful in a distributed authority environment. So what I think is worth discussing that a lot of marketers have a hard time figuring out how do I run a team that has distributed authority? So that means how can I handle passing off responsibility whether my team is remote or in person? Of course Distant Job is about remote, so we could talk specifically about that.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, so there’s somewhere I actually want to go. We talked about some of the myths in a previous podcast with our mutual friend Sharon. We talked about some of the myths about remote working and a lot of people have a challenge with something that, well, it’s not exactly something that you said, but it’s something parallel to what you said, which is if I’m not constantly checking up on people, and this is harder to do when they’re remote, obviously, so that’s where this comes in, how am I sure that they are doing any work? I know for a fact, I’m asking you this, it’s no accident, because I know for a fact that even though you try to do your work remotely, you work a lot. You work a lot more than most people I know. It really is not the matter of working from home and slacking. I would argue that working from home is what allows you to do that. Am I very off the mark here?

Trevor Longino: Well certainly. I have a son who’s three. I have a wife, she’s of an age I shouldn’t tell or I’ll get in trouble, and the necessity of home life means, so first of all, generally I’m up early. Generally I’m up at 5:30 or so and I’ll put in a couple of hours of work in the morning, which is whether I’m working, I worked for two years here for a company in Monreal called Unito, and I’d work 5:30 til 8:30 in the morning and then go to the office, but those morning hours let me plan, let me do e-mails, let me have quiet, uninterrupted time to do the kind of work that is maker work, right? Have maker work and manager work and they’re very different kinds of work. Manager work is mostly meetings and interruptions. Maker work is mostly long blocks of time of thinking and doing.

Trevor Longino: Then as a CMO, my days are mostly I’ll have, and I can go dig up a calendar from a couple months ago, on an average day I’d have five meetings. On a bad day I’d have nine or ten, and you don’t get much done.

Luis Magalhaes: That would be a bad day.

Trevor Longino: That would be a bad day. It wasn’t uncommon, I’d literally have meetings back to back for seven hours continuously. Because I’m recruiting, I’m running several different departments, I have manager meetings, I have team member meetings.

Luis Magalhaes: To be that seventh hour guy, to be that seventh hour meeting, I wouldn’t want to be that guy.

Trevor Longino: Yes, on those days, at the last meeting I tend to be like hey, what do you want? Shut up, I’m not listening to you. But that’s okay, people do most [inaudible 00:12:54] talk to me in the afternoon. No, so that time in the mornings or in the evenings once my son is down allows for more quality thinking, allows for more deeper problem solving and part of the thing about maker work is, and this is where it gets weird with if I’m not watching you, how do I know if you’re working? Sometimes work, really hard, productive work can look like taking a walk.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah.

Trevor Longino: I need to figure out, I’m a marketer. I’m a marketer who works in content, who works in branding, and works in building up teams to solve how a company makes revenue and a lot of that at the fundamentals comes down to who do you talk to, how do you talk to them, what do they want from you? And I’ll go for a walk and figure out what didn’t this page work? Why didn’t this pitch work? What’s wrong with this? I can sit there at my desk and stare blankly onto an open word doc, which I guess looks a little more like working, but still not much. I could have a walk around and the brain moves then. Science has proven this, the brain thinks differently when you’re moving, when you’re out walking and surrounded by parks and trees or whatever, and so sometimes that’s work.

Luis Magalhaes: Sometimes, definitely. So I think that sometimes it is key. I know that you’re a writer and as a writer myself, it does happen that you kind of need to have that time where you just sit in front of the stuff and say I am not living here regardless of what happens on this blank page, I am sitting here for an hour. And you know what? If I don’t want to be bored out of my skull, something better happen.

Trevor Longino: Yeah, I’m never a guy who struggled with writers block and you’ll hate me now that I’ve said that.

Luis Magalhaes: No, I’m with you. I don’t think that that happens, but I do think that you need to show up. I think that’s the best way to put it.

Trevor Longino: Definitely, and if the goal is I need to write this landing page, this press release, I need to do it now. Then do it now. Do your best effort, certainly, but when people say, it drives me nuts, if I can’t look at you in the office, how do I know you’re working? I have seen people in the office with Reddit open. I’ve seen people in the office with Facebook open. Being in the office is no guarantee someone’s accomplishing anything, right? You need people who are motivated to solve a problem.

Trevor Longino: Now there are some processes you can build that will help you feel more confident you’re in control of workflows without having to have somebody sit there when you can watch their screen and be like, why did you open Facebook? Another one of the ones I like actually-

Luis Magalhaes: Even on Facebook. My best friend who’s currently the CTO at the communications company, he told me this story years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. It was at the tax start up that he was working, they hired someone specifically, a developer, to work into an internal communications system. So basically they were around the time ICQ and MSN were the standard and they wanted their own internal [inaudible 00:16:25].

Trevor Longino: This was a long time ago.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, this wa a long time ago. So they had this guy sitting at his desk, coming in every day, sitting at his desk working on that. They didn’t check up on him, though. They were happy enough to see him sitting there and working every day and eventually the project didn’t move and they got rid of him, and when the next guy sat down to check on this code, a years worth of code, it was gibberish. It was not any programming language known to man. It was simply gibberish. There he was there being a loyal employee on the criteria that he came in every day at the proper time, he checked in and sat down, and he did his work. Well, there you go.

Trevor Longino: Exactly. So physical presence isn’t remotely tied to is somebody doing the work. But there are ways you can help build in confidence for a marketing team or any team on how you know your team is doing their best work.

Trevor Longino: So there’s three different time frames I like to look at when I’m building a team and planning for a team and managing a team. I’ve been doing this for 15, 18 odd years. I’ve built teams up to 50, I’ve built teams up to three depending on the size of the company, [inaudible 00:17:51] and everything. But the same practice generally applies. So there’s three time frames you want to look at. There’s a long time frame, which for the majority of any start up, more than three or four months, it’s increasingly fictitious whatever you’re doing.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah.

Trevor Longino: If you’re a bigger company, a pretty established one, you can [inaudible 00:18:13] out to a year, the long time frame, which is bound by basically how long you can, with a straight face, tell your team this is what we think we’ll be doing this many months from now. There’s the medium time frame, which for me is usually one month.

Trevor Longino: Then there’s the short time frame, which is the sprint, or the iteration, the cadence. I like one week. I have specific reasons for liking one week that I have argued around with a bunch of different product people. I’ve been a product person and my fundamental reasoning for why I like my sprint to be one week is that it is very hard to carry momentum for your team over the weekend and regardless of whether or not you explicitly make your sprint one week, fundamentally on Monday morning, you’re gonna have to get the team pushed up and running again on starting the new week. At that point-

Luis Magalhaes: Just ban weekends all together, man.

Trevor Longino: Ban weekends all together. So at that point, if you have already and implicit weekly sprint structure because you have to start every Monday with let’s get going again guys, you might as well acknowledge it. I’m a big fan of telling your usual employee, look, it’s Friday at five. Put your work down. Don’t do Saturday or Sunday work. Leave your head open. You’ll be better for it on Monday. So explicitly acknowledging in that sprint Friday ends at, Monday starts at, telling your team, look, the weekend is not necessarily time to work. If you’ve got a problem that’s just stuck in your teeth and you want to go for it, sure, go ahead, but it shouldn’t be expected your working into the weekend.

Trevor Longino: So Monday, Friday is your span and for that, then you divide that into days. You’ve got five. I think I brought this into Distant Job when I was consulting with y’all, is do your daily stand ups and post publicly what it is you’re trying to accomplish today. The way I generally do them is I try for more things than I think I can do. So if I think I’ve got three tasks that are each three hours, then I will put them into my day, acknowledge that I probably can’t do all three ’cause that’s a nine hour work day and that’s particularly with meetings tossed in, probably not going to happen.

Trevor Longino: But it’s the stretch. It’s having the goal that is outside my reach is motivating because I don’t have to wonder at 3:30 in the afternoon when I’ve got 90 minutes left to my day, what do I do? I’ve got stuff. There’s this stuff on my list. That’s every morning you write that down. You don’t write your daily Scrum at the end of the day because forcing someone to take five minutes at nine o’clock and write down what they want to do for the day is a remarkable discipline to improve focus, improve productivity, and get people used to the idea of building a goal, setting a goal, achieving a goal, or not. And if I’m not, building a better goal next time.

Luis Magalhaes: Not just for your team, for yourself as well. There are countless days where I finish something, I’m tired, and I’m like well what should I do next? And the what should I do next is not something that I need to spend brain power that I don’t have on because I have the list that I wrote on my send up and I refer back to that.

Trevor Longino: Exactly. It’s fantastically helpful that way and also, I do bullet journaling, so I have a record going back years of what I’d accomplished, which is it can help sometimes when you’re what did I do last month? Or hey, we had that big project that we launched last year and I have no memory of what the pieces of it were. Well, ideally you should be using a project planning tool. But if you don’t or if you switched or if you’d left companies or whatever, you can kind of forensically recover it by looking at your day to day task list. So cool.

Luis Magalhaes: I wasn’t just slacking around all day playing video games and eating Doritos.

Trevor Longino: Yeah. I do, but we call it work. [crosstalk 00:22:51].

Luis Magalhaes: There’s a bullet point that’s that.

Trevor Longino: Exactly. So that’s your shortest time frame when you’re saying hey, if you’re not in the office, if you’re not here, physically, I can’t prove you did anything. That daily stand up shows that someone at least set out with the agenda of accomplishing nothing and as the manager, as someone who is managing the team, you look at everyone’s daily Scrum and that’s when you say hey, what the hell are you working on? That’s not what is important this week. Or, variously, hey, why aren’t you working on the thing that was important? Or finally, all that looks really good but did you consider? This is a great way to start a conversation with a teammate over what they want to accomplish for the day. Then looking, hey, yesterday you said you’d do these three things and you did one of them. What happened to your day?

Trevor Longino: If you’ve got somebody who’s remote, they can go oh, yeah, by the way, Steve from development asked me to do a complete rewrite of all the copy on these three screens. That was my day. I didn’t plan for it. Then you can be like I gotta go over to Steve and rough him up so he stops having my people do work for him. Whatever, cool, okay.

Luis Magalhaes: Someone is going to lose a leg or two.

Trevor Longino: No, just a finger. You start easy.

Luis Magalhaes: Okay.

Trevor Longino: That cadence there, daily cadence, answers the question of how do I know my team that’s remote is gonna be accomplishing anything worth a damn? Okay. The weekly cadence is when you take a stab at a middle length sized project and you tell people you’re gonna take this chunk of it. Then the longer cadence, the long frame, three month, maybe six month cadence is why I like to use OKRs, it’s objective and key result. That’s pioneered by the guys in ATEL and Google and all kinds of tech companies all around the world where this sets the way I like to do it is, I have a lot of companies don’t do it this way, which is why they may have had a problem with OKRs. You set a company goal and the company goal, it shouldn’t be a month goal. That was too short a time frame to have a big company objective and it shouldn’t be a year, really, that’s too long to have a company, ’cause it’s progress on a year goal is very slow and it’s hard for people to see the steps they’re making toward that goal.

Trevor Longino: A big company objective could be something like close a million bucks in sales this quarter. Okay, cool. That’s a three month timeframe. That’s a very well defined goal, and you might say the development team has nothing to do with the close of a million dollars in sales. This can’t be a company goal. Well that’s really not true because the development team or the product team or whoever has elements they’re contributing. They have the product you created. They have uptime. They have SLAs. If you’re doing a highly technical product, it might be really handy to get some of the developers doing a webinar or two to talk about your product and help onboard new customers or new leads.

Trevor Longino: All of these pieces of it can be handed over to the development team as part of that broader goal, and then the sales team, of course, has do this much revenue, and the marketing team has bring in this many leads and the customer success team has keep churn down below this number. All these pieces then fit into the big goal that each department has great, marketing needs to bring in 10,000 leads to earn 1,000,000 dollars this quarter. Cool, how is the marketing team gonna do it? And now you have projects.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah, exactly.

Trevor Longino: So the big objective for the company is have our best quarter ever as the objective. The key result is 1,000,000 dollar in sales and for the marketing team it’s bring 10,000 leads is the, I guess, objective, but is also the key result. You break that down into different ones where you’d say hosts our annual hackathon, whatever, and this is gonna bring this many new leads and write 25 new blog posts, bring this many leads, [inaudible 00:27:24] this many partnerships with our affiliates brings this many leads. So this objective, key result, objective, key result.

Luis Magalhaes: Of course, and the key part of that is it really is not any different doing that remotely than doing that in the office.

Trevor Longino: That’s the same anywhere but the importance is getting that structure.

Luis Magalhaes: Exactly. Exactly. So I wanted to go back a bit because we’re already talking about the way to order through the remote marketing team but I always like to start with the hiring and I know you’ve written in the past while you were working for Unito, I believe, about specifically hiring millennials. If you were interviewing specifically for remote position, what are the traits that you would try to discover to find out people with traits that you think would help them perform better in the remote marketing team?

Trevor Longino: You’ve already hit on one of them which is a self starter, somebody who wants to go tackle a problem because the problem is interesting. So one of the things I’d be looking for is I wouldn’t want to hire somebody who just wants a job. I never would. But particularly for this, it needs to be they’re passionate about the problem my company solves. They’re passionate about the space we’re in and they want to participate in that space because that kind of energy that somebody that wakes up and goes yeah man, I love working in this space, this is a place I wanna be. That is what will make a big difference for how well or how poorly they do working remote because there is less management direct oversight.

Trevor Longino: Now why I was kind of focusing on some of the structure at the company level and the week level and the day level was because you can [inaudible 00:29:30] that by building a good structure to run your team and then applying that same structure for both remote and in person team members is a big part of making it a successful collaboration across different types of presence in the office. But you need somebody who’s motivated to tackle the problem. This can be harder for some problems than others if you’re looking to hire somebody to build a cryptocurrency exchange as an example, ’cause I’ve talked to a couple of these guys recently. If you’re doing something unique and interesting in the cryptocurrency exchange space, then there’s that could be the kind of thing that actually interests folks, but if it’s just another standard exchange with nothing new except hey, we could probably make some money on it, that’s gonna be hard to attract people who are really motivated by your problem. Maybe they want to get started in the bitcoin space and this is their entry job for it, but you need to make sure that when you are talking to them, you aren’t pitching them on how you are different and special and unique and why this should be something someone invests a third of their life in every week.

Luis Magalhaes: So you said something that struck me as very important which is you need to find someone who wants to work here, but here is a lot more difficult to establish in remote. So how would you go about doing it?

Trevor Longino: Maybe it’s because I’m a nomad who’s wandered all over the planet for different jobs, but here is a state of mind. The team you build, the folks you work with, the results you achieve is here, and I tell people and they ask me hey, how do you like Montreal versus Krakow versus Warsaw or whatever. I’m like, well, the internet’s pretty flat everywhere.

Luis Magalhaes: There you go. That’s a good answer.

Trevor Longino: As long as I have internet access, I don’t care all that much. You need people who have the kind of mindset where it is look, I want to be part of here by which I mean the team, the company, the space, the movement. Not necessarily here as in I clock into your headquarters every day and get lunch with my friends and have that environment, because you won’t get that.

Trevor Longino: I think it is in some ways when you’re hiring somebody remote you either want to look for somebody who’s early in their career, and thus maybe doesn’t have a particular set of practices around how they work in the office, or has a history of remote work in the past. I think if you get somebody who’s my age, which is dauntingly close to 40, and who’s never worked remote and then who you say hey, come work remote. At that point, there’s gonna be a big cultural challenge. I’m not saying they can’t do it. They very well may be able to, but at that point, that’s when you investigate and probe and ask questions during the hiring process about how will you handle remote? What’s it like? When is the last time you didn’t leave your house for a week? Which I’m not sure that’s a good or a bad thing if they say oh, just last week. But regardless, there’s a certain solitude in remote work. There’s ways to affectively have your team be remotely there and in meetings, but it is a challenge you have to make sure your worker is ready to deal with as you’re discussing during hiring.

Trevor Longino: I think people who are either younger or who have had past experience with remote work are more able to deal with that kind of thing and also when you’re hiring somebody younger, they’re usually more junior. If it doesn’t work out for that person, it’s usually less traumatic for the company. If you have a remote CTO and after six months you’re just like this is just not going, that’s a big problem with the company. It’s a big trauma to fix that.

Luis Magalhaes: Of course, of course. I understand. So let’s dive a bit deeper into that because you have a very, maybe elaborate doesn’t make it justice because elaborate makes it seem needlessly complicated and it isn’t, but you do have your own established process of conducting the job interviews.

Trevor Longino: I do.

Luis Magalhaes: I know that you preview to interview in person. Sometimes [inaudible 00:34:22], that is, the person works remotely but we fly them in to meet the team or more especially to meet the people they are going to be working under, but flying isn’t always possible. Especially when you’re talking about startups, budget [inaudible 00:34:39], et cetera, et cetera. So absent the opportunity to interview your future remote candidate in person, how do you think a remote job interview should be different from a standard job interview?

Trevor Longino: So one of the key things I like to do during a job interview that may be different and quirky is particularly at a small company, you want to expose a new hire regardless of seniority to as much of the company as you can before you make a decision. It is quite common to say oh, well we’ve got a, this is a marketing specialist or this is a sales rep. They’ll talk to the hiring manager and nobody else and then they’ll just show up one day and start work. When your company is 12 people, every employee is crucial, and every employee should be treated with the same care that maybe is more common in a larger company with senior employees. In a larger company, you’re hiring a new VP of tech, or you’re hiring a new VP of sales, that person’s gonna meet a dozen folks in the company before they come on board because you want to expose them more broadly throughout the team. You want other folks to get their buy in. You want to share blame if something goes wrong, whatever the reason is.

Trevor Longino: But at a smaller company, you should have that same practice and so one of the things I like to do when I’m hiring physically in the same space is bring the candidate to lunch with the whole company when the company go to lunch or at least grab four or five people from the company and go out to lunch with that person. A little less formal than an actual interview where you’re dressed up and you’re wearing, it’s a video interview so you’re wearing a blazer and a tie and no pants ’cause no one can see below your waist, a little less formal than that.

Trevor Longino: So I would do something, a Hangout, find a multiple video way to get someone exposed to a few different people in the team and then a little less structured way than just Q&A. Having a MeetUp remote doesn’t really work. That’s just no. It doesn’t function.

Luis Magalhaes: Yeah. Yeah, I know.

Trevor Longino: I remember DJ had a remote drinking session one time where I think, [inaudible 00:37:04] and Sharon were all at various times engaging in a beer or two. It locks up and you can’t really clink glasses properly against your webcam.

Luis Magalhaes: No. If the company is paying for the laptop screen repairs, it could work. But generally, I would not recommend it.

Trevor Longino: Yeah, and then you get beer on your keyboard and it’s just a bad idea. But getting a little bit less structured environment to have several team members meet this remote worker, I think it’s important for a number of reasons. Number one is the remote workers are of course by definition more out of the loop because they’re remote, and getting to meet other people and knowing who does what and having a good exposure to the folks who are in the company even if they’re also remote. That can be very valuable. It’s harder to get into the kind of weird spaces where when you’re only interacting with somebody through chat or through a screen. Sometimes you are rooted in them or you are not as nice to them. You are more prone to blow them off.

Trevor Longino: If you had video chats with people, you have a chance to see them and interact with them in a little more human way. It’s much less common to have that happen as well. So there’s a whole boost in abilities to work together that are brought about when your team has interacted in a little less formal a way than had a video call and had a chance to chat.

Trevor Longino: So as part of the interview process, my structure is you do a phone screen, then you do a video interview, which is just the hiring manager, usually a second interview which is a few people who are interested in the role. Like hiring manager, somebody else from the department and maybe somebody from a different department, and then you do a general chat and after the general chat I like to do is a pilot project, which is when you do a small 20 to 30 hour piece of paid work. It’s not uncommon in the Valley for them to ask you to do the work for free, which is rubbish. If your company does that, shame on you, shame on your company, and shame on whoever thought of that idea. Asking people to do free work is a super, super crappy thing to do. So don’t do it. If you’re listening, don’t.

Luis Magalhaes: I’d second that.

Trevor Longino: So pilot projects that is a paid opportunity. Not paid lavishly, but you pay whatever the hourly rate of the role you’re gonna hire for is. Then say great, and you have a chance to evaluate how that person will work and how they will work remotely. Then at the end of that, you make the choice for who you want to hire. That kind of five step process I think is, it splits the balance between hire slow and fire fast, which is another common start up phrase. Getting people exposed to the culture, making sure that you have everybody who’s going to interact with this person has had a chance to see who they are and get to know them a little bit. Generally it is a superior hiring process for me than the more common phone screen interview one, interview two hire. I’ve hired a little under 300 people. So I’ve got some chops behind my process.

Luis Magalhaes: What percentage of this was remote hire? I’d wager not a lot.

Trevor Longino: Of that 300, probably around 60 were remote.

Luis Magalhaes: So what was the key difference in your approach?

Trevor Longino: One of them is I don’t take people out to lunch from a remote. I can’t. The key difference-

Luis Magalhaes: How do you make up for that? How do you make up for not being able to have that connection?

Trevor Longino: In my case, there’s a little more reliance on the kind of things I would normally do through an e-mail. I will instead do on a video call. I used to use Hangouts for this. Now I tend to use Appear In. I have a video channel that I will just sit in on my other monitor and I’ll have my headphones and I’ll be listening to whatever music and team members know if you have a quick question and you don’t wanna do it over Slack, hop into the room. I’m there. If I’m not there it’s ’cause I’m in the restroom or whatever, and let’s chat. It’s the same affect as can I swing by your office and talk to you? If I’ve got important work, I need to have my head free, I’m in a meeting, whatever, I’ll leave the room if I’m not available. But if I am, you can hop in the room, there I am. That gives you that immediacy of not even having to say can I set up a call? It’s just like you kind of went knock knock, are you there?

Trevor Longino: It’s a relatively recent technological update. It used to be I’d have a Google Hangout, Google video call, you could just hit me up and I’d answer. I had it set to automatically accept calls. So either way, allowing folks that little less formal way to reach out and have a face-to-face, I think a big way to win when you’re managing people during the hiring process, it’s not super different. Generally speaking, during my interview process, after the first time I’ve talked to you, I know whether or not I think you can do the job, and usually within the first 90 seconds, I know whether or not I think you can do the job. I don’t think I have ever changed my mind about somebody in a positive way after that.

Luis Magalhaes: Okay. I feel judged now.

Trevor Longino: It is human instinct. You can’t help that. But if I look at your face, I can basically see how you’ve lived inside that face for the last however many years. The shape of the muscles and the wrinkles and how you hold your face talks a lot about the inside of your head. So for different roles, you need-

Luis Magalhaes: [crosstalk 00:43:50] have a job interview with Trevor when you’re constipated. Reschedule.

Trevor Longino: I think generally speaking, probably don’t have a video call while you’re on the toilet is a good rule in life, yes. So I’ve had people 10 minutes in, 15 minutes in to an interview say something where I’m like oh, no I can’t hire that person. But I haven’t had somebody 10 minutes in, 15 minutes in say something that made me go oh, you know what, I was entirely wrong about everything about this person. Now, the rest of the interview process after that first 90 seconds or two minutes is really about exposing the company to this person and then getting other people in the company’s opinions as well because just because I think I can work with somebody doesn’t mean anybody else in the company does and there are times when I can believe you can do the job, but don’t believe you can do the job for me. And so that’s what part of the interview process is is I can discover this person is brilliant, totally qualified, probably would do an awesome job, but cannot work with half the people on the team.

Luis Magalhaes: So that’s a great point and I want to tie it in with the story that I have, which I have a friend who managers, it’s actually a medical practice and he was having some marketing trouble and I suggested they get a remote marketer because there are some really talented remote marketers out there. His challenge, and his answer to me was, you know what? I don’t think that if someone isn’t here with us, if they don’t see the way we conduct our day-to-day, if they don’t see the way the care with which we handle our patients, I don’t think they would get us. So I don’t think that the remote position would work. I think that the marketing, this is where the terms that you used, I think the marketing department needs to be immersed in what’s happening in a day-to-day basis. So how would you respond to that?

Trevor Longino: Well that’s tricky. I would argue, having been doing marketing for a long time now, a lot of what you do as a marketer is fairly mechanical. Marketing is very different than software development. Software development is frequently you need to go solve a problem that’s not well defined using a process that probably hasn’t been developed to attempt to create a resolve that’s never been seen before. A lot of it is exploring unknown areas. Most of marketing is you need to use define processes to solve fairly well scoped problems, and then the creativity part of it is how do you present it in a way that is unique and unusual and affective? But if somebody wants a website, there’s a couple pretty common templates for how you lay out your content and the way you do your graphics and colors and all those things may vary, but generally speaking, someone’s gonna hit your homepage, you’re gonna have a simple offer, a button for more information, heather navigation for common things people want to do and put a navigation for the weirder stuff. That’s your site.

Luis Magalhaes: I think that the point was more if they’re not here in the day-to-day with us, they won’t be able to articulate what makes us different from the competition. I think that is more of this point.

Trevor Longino: Where I’m kind of getting to here is so a lot of what you’re doing in marketing is fairly wrote. You build a website, you make a landing page, you create an e-mail, you launch an ad campaign, these are all quite discreet things. Then the flexibility that comes from how do you embody the company? Pretty common brand exercises, ways to say hey, let’s take two or three hours and really talk about who your brand is and what makes you different, what embodies your company and your culture, give you that foundation for okay, this is how we really are.

Trevor Longino: Now when I’ve been doing marketing consulting, which I’ve done for a whole bunch of companies, more than two thirds of them will say we don’t have time for the branding. We don’t have time to talk about this. Just go write this thing, just go design this thing, just go make this thing.

Luis Magalhaes: Leads. Leads.

Trevor Longino: And I’ll be like I can do that for you, dude, but here’s the thing, you pay me by the hour and you don’t want to spend the hours for a branding consult, I got you. But the amount of your time and my time we’re gonna waste on revisions now. Because I don’t know your brand, because you never talked to me about your brand. Means if I do more than one thing for you, the branding package will pay for itself. Now I’m paid by the hour so I’m not super motivated to tell you oh, okay, let’s do the branding thing first ’cause it will save me time and money, I’m doing that to try and help you, the customer, save money on a longer relationship. If you want to do it the backwards way and have me discover brand through all of the edits you provide me on all the work I’ve done for you, I will make more money, but you will be less happy.

Trevor Longino: So that is true whether you’re a freelancer or not, and somebody says oh, marketing must be here, physically here to embody the brand, no, you have to think about the brand, any brand, you can probably tie down to a pretty simple two or three charts with the matrix of formal and informal and corporate versus casual and then tech versus non-tech and you build a couple, two axis charts and you put the company on those and now you basically said here’s the brand. That can be a visual touchstone for anybody who ever works for you for how the brand should speak about itself. Building a brand style guide, building a language style guide. A couple of these things mean that you can make those choices and say hey, the absolute best PPC marketer I can find is in Vladivostok and I’m in Sydney, and that’s a long darn commute, but let me just have this guy work off of my style guide, my branding book, and then if he’s truly good at his job, it will seem like he works in the company because he understands how to apply the stuff I’ve provided him.

Trevor Longino: It does require some floor work. You can’t just be like oh, here’s a link to our logo, go figure it out.

Luis Magalhaes: There you go, our branding isn’t our logo, man.

Trevor Longino: Yeah, which is, ugh. Anyway. If you put that effort in and you have those docs ready, then it is super, super easy to tell somebody this is who we are, and if they can’t figure it out, if they can’t sound like they understand what makes your company different, then you get rid of that remote worker and find somebody who can.

Luis Magalhaes: Okay. All right, so not necessarily tied with getting rid of a remote worker, but in avoiding remote workers wanting to get rid of us, you’ve written before about how millennials are the kind of worker that’s more likely to bomb when they don’t like the work environment, so I wanted to run by me what you think, if at all, that remote work helps with engagement and retention. Especially when applied to millennials.

Trevor Longino: So as the oldest possible age you can be and still be a millennial, I feel-

Luis Magalhaes: [inaudible 00:52:18] to say that, man. Sorry.

Trevor Longino: I’m old like dirt. If you make the horrible mistake of showing this video, where my hair is like this and my beard is like this, people will be like how old is he, 50?

Luis Magalhaes: I don’t think you get to call yourself a millennial, sorry.

Trevor Longino: I do. I do. Millennial cohorts starts at ’81. That’s the year I was born, dude. So as the oldest possible age you can be and be a millennial, shut up, Luis, there’s a couple things millennials tend to value, which are different than older cohorts. They want to feel as if they are advancing their career, they want to feel as if they are contributing to a cause, they want flexibility to live their life around their work. A whole lot of millennials really want to be able to travel and they want to feel that they are working with their management, not working despite their management. So on all of those things, remote work helps for some and doesn’t hurt for others. And none of those things does remote work actually make it worse.

Trevor Longino: If you want to feel like you’re part of advancing your career, remote work can let people who are not in the US or in the EU really advance their career by working for a brand that is big in the US or in the EU. When I was in Poland, one of the biggest draws of working at relatively well known companies was that they were international. It was easy to hire ’cause folks wanted to work for international companies. It was easy to hire because folks wanted to work for an American. Then they worked for me and they’re like wow, are all Americans as crazy as you? I said yes, but differently. So they want to be able to contribute to something. Not just work a nine to five, but do something that makes a difference somewhere.

Trevor Longino: Remote work is neither a bonus nor a negative, really. It’s more about their role in the company. They want to be able to fit their life around their work. Remote work offers you that flexibility and more so than many different ways of work do. If you need to work from a different city because your dog is sick and you need to go fly back home to be with your sick dog, you can do it as long as you get those hours in. If you are a digital nomad, which is a lifestyle that a lot, not a lot, not percentage-wise, but more than any other cohorts-

Luis Magalhaes: Certainly you read about them a lot.

Trevor Longino: I think more than boomers, more than Gen X. So a lot in comparison, but not a lot as a percentage of digital nomads. Folks who work, earn 600, 800 bucks a month, whatever, and travel all over the world because if you’re willing to sleep in dodgy hostels with decent internet, then you can work from anywhere. They want to feel like they’re working with their company and not despite it. That is, again, it’s just about management and I think to run a remote team well requires better management practices. You can kind of dimly stumble your way through managing a team with no process and no tools and just e-mails and talks and you can kind of get there in a physically all in one office environment because most of the work ends up being somebody drops by a cubicle and says hey, can you do this? Or here’s an all hands and we all talk about it, but there’s less structure, but you can still make it work. Good management is required for remote teams to succeed. Good management also really helps you keep millennial talent.

Luis Magalhaes: Okay. Yep. Sounds good. So we are nearing the hour mark and I want to be respectful of your time, but I can’t let you go without putting through the same gauntlet that I put my previous guests here on [inaudible 00:56:36] through. So, were you guest hosting at the Chinese restaurant where you knew that the top executives of the Valley, or any tech hub would be dining, what is the marketing and managing related thing that you would write in the fortune cookie?

Trevor Longino: I would write in the, oh the fortune, wow. This is a skewer freaking question. … Men with mustaches make excellent marketers.

Luis Magalhaes: There you go. Well, that’s something to have in a portfolio for sure. Not sure if it’s a fortune cookie, but I will go with that.

Trevor Longino: If I’m attempting to persuade them that they need to find a marketer with a magnificent mustache like mine.

Luis Magalhaes: There you go. It’s a shame that this podcast is audio only.

Trevor Longino: Oh, you’ll get a picture of me, I’m sure, somewhere.

Luis Magalhaes: That’s true. This is true. Maybe you want to send me that picture of yourself and not let me choose. This may also be a good step.

Trevor Longino: I can send you my standard mustache shot, yes.

Luis Magalhaes: Okay. So thank you very much for your time and thank you for your insights. I had a blast. This was very fun. I’ll see you around.

Trevor Longino: Awesome. Thanks so much. I’m free to come back whenever you’d like to talk more marketing remote stuff.

Luis Magalhaes: So there you have it. Those are the thoughts of the master marketer on managing and building remote teams. If you want to get in touch with Trevor, he is around in the Twitters @trevorlongino and also in LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/IN/trevorlongino. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, you can register to get the transcript at distantjob.com/blog and we would be extremely happy if you took the time to leave a review on iTunes or your podcast service of choice. And as always, when you need to StaffITRight, just get in touch with us at distantjob.com and we’ll help you hire the best people from all around the world.

Luis Magalhaes: That’s it. This was Luis on the StaffITRight podcast, a podcast by Distant Jobs. Thank you very much and see you next week.

 

More ways to listen:

On the second episode StaffITRight, the official podcast of DistantJob we interview Trevor Longino, le enfant terrible of the marketing world.

With experience as Head of Marketing that ranges as wide as working at the top tier video game company CDProjekt / gog.com to helping market tech start-ups such as Unito or Kontact.IO, Trevor has spent a lot of time in offices around the world, but he now believes that remote marketers can be as viable by themselves, as they can be as a supplement to your in-house marketing.

He goes in depth into the subject matter, detailing how you can get the best results when hiring remote marketers, how to manage them, and keep them motivated and accountable. We also talk about how remote work can help you give hidden talent the break they need, and why it acts as a panacea to keep your millennial employees happy!

If you enjoy the show, please consider sharing it or leaving us a review on iTunes – it is greatly appreciated.

And if you are building a team and need to Staff IT Right, contact us and we’ll find you the best people, at the best value, from all around the world!

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