Episode Overview: Managing partnerships with remote agencies and clients present unique problems that can hinder establishing successful business partnerships. Overcoming remote obstacles require collaboration, coming to agreements and implement time management processes. Join host Ben as he continues his discussion with Orainti founder Aleyda Solís as she explains the best strategies to manage partnerships between SEO agencies and international clients to ensure success in business endeavors.
- Setting clear expectations, including agreeing on protocols and management systems, with international clients is integral to starting a successful agency partnership.
- Tracking agency hours and progress is best accomplished using project and time management systems like GREG, Asana or Airtable.
- For consultants it’s always best to go the extra mile to schedule teleconferences that benefit the client’s time, but it’s possible to reconcile odd times and schedule teleconference meetings that benefit you and clients living in a different timezone.
GUESTS & RESOURCES
- Aleyda Solís: Website // LinkedIn
- The Voices of Search Podcast: Email // LinkedIn // Twitter
- Benjamin Shapiro: Website // LinkedIn // Twitter
Ben: Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and today we’re going to be discussing how to manage SEO agency relationships across the globe.
Ben: Joining us today is Aleyda Solís, who is the founder of the International SEO Consulting Firm, Orainti, which is an experienced and world renowned, international, mobile and technical search marketing practice, that helps their clients establish and optimize their mobile and international websites through audit, strategy, product management, and in house training. Today Aleyda and I are going to continue our conversation and talk about how to manage the relationships with remote agencies.
Ben: Okay, on with the show, here’s the second part of my conversation with Aleyda Solís, founder of Orainti. Aleyda, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.
Aleyda: Thank you very much for having me again, very fun.
Ben: Excited to continue our conversation. Yesterday we had a chance to sit down and talk about some of the differences between agencies around the world, and some of the benefits of remote agencies, as opposed to having people that are in-house, and able to sit down with your in-house SEO and engineering teams. I want to talk a little bit more about the operational part of having a remote agency. If you are looking to internationalize, or you’re just looking for a specialist that is not going to be present in your office, what are some of the best practices that you recommend to make sure that, that agency relationship is a successful one?
Aleyda: Yeah, I think it is very important that at the beginning you set very clear expectations with the client, right, like how often are you going to follow up, that you establish clear protocols and platforms to do itself. So for example, you agree on duties, a certain frame of management system, for example, with all new requests, all new validations, or any documentation, it’s going to happen. And I don’t know, Asana or Basecamp, or Trello, whatever project management system that you use, it doesn’t matter, but that you agree that you give access early on and you say, “Okay whatever happens, etc., etc., you can send a message to me through this platform, and then you can expect a reply from me in less than 24 hours, or less than 48 hours,” or whatever amount of time you want to set, but it’s important to clarify from early on what the client can expect from you in terms of communications.
Aleyda: That is something very important, and I have had cases when the client has told me, “Look, it’s also important for me that my developers are very well involved in the process,” and it’s very difficult for them, for example, to be included in your own project management system. So for example, in that case, we have agreed to do a mix, that is the easiest for them to handle. For example, even if we have an SEO project where the eight houses you own, that they may have in the organization of the digital marketing manager or whatever, I am also in a Slack channel, not only web, maybe the person managing the overall process, but also the stakeholders implementing the recommendations, or executing the changes that were requested, to have a much more straightforward ongoing type of communication, right.
Aleyda: So as you can see they’re can be, or there might be a mix, but what is important is to agree early on, on something that works well for both sides, and the client feels very comfortable to make things happen, because at the end of the day, that is our goal, to make things happen.
Ben: I think that’s an important distinction, that while you don’t have the opportunity to interface in real time, in a more casual setting, bump into somebody while you’re getting coffee in the office and talk shop, there are technology solutions that are getting better and better, that enable real time communication. You mentioned Slack being one of them. Talk to me about some of the ways, and the cadence, and the technologies that you’re using to continually maintain relationships, real time communication and what are some of the tools that you’re setting up? And how often are you actually communicating with people that you’re not seeing in person?
Aleyda: Yeah, indeed, I think that, for example, it’s very powerful to show how something works sometimes, instead of when you are not sometimes in the same office, that can be a little bit more challenging, but for example, what I have seen many remote based consultants and agencies, and I do myself too, is to record myself explaining something, showing something else on screen, so recording my screen. So you can do that, for example, with tools like Loom, for example, or even quick Zoom, if you have Zoom too, it’s not only to have a quick conversation and answering to the same room, and clarify whatever doubt, but people is not connected at the same time, and there’s a need for a synchronous communication. You can do it the other way, by recording yourself and recording your screen and showing how to do something, or showing how to do what you expect in something, or whatever you want to show. I think that is very powerful, and will get the message across much more easily I will say, than by written only.
Ben: You mentioned managing asynchronous communication, I think it’s important to draw the distinction between synchronous and asynchronous communication, and to me, having managed remote teams, having worked with remote agencies, having been a remote employee before, synchronous communication, a lot of that is happening on chat, and it can be an impromptu video conversation. Slack is great for that, it’s all sort of built into the same place. You can essentially pick up the phone, turn on the video camera or just write a message and have it be responded in real time. You get those bursts of notifications and work through some problems.
Ben: Then you get when you can’t solve something synchronously, or when the time zone discrepancies are too much, where you don’t get the opportunity to communicate, and be synchronized. Asynchronous communication where you have email, you can use scheduling tools to block off time with your agencies. You can have conversations, and set up time to actually do your Zoom conference and your video chat. And then the last one you mentioned, is just basically replacing the whiteboard sessions with screen captures and recordings. What was the tool that you named where you can basically show people what you’re doing?
Aleyda: Loom, L-O-O-M.
Ben: Loom, okay. So there’s tools like Loom where you can essentially replace the whiteboard and show someone what you’re doing. One of the things that I’ve found, that also gives people a better sense that you are actually doing the work, is documenting how much time you’re putting into the project and sort of essentially accounting for the billable hours. Are you doing any of the time management? And showing how much time is being put into a project when you’re working with your account managers? I know it’s something that is possible.
Aleyda: Yes indeed. I mean I try to stay away from selling hours purely like this with clients, and instead of that it’s more of a project based, or process based, type of agreements that we have together. However, indeed, in many cases because of cost efficiency, you do want to track your times, right? And for that many tools you can also do it with your own project management system, right. So, it depends what you use, most GREG Management Systems have that option. So for example, I have my own time tracking type of system with Airtable directly to some mix, that is a little bit of a mix up, sheets versus database, that is quite flexible to do that [inaudible] For example, if you use powerful Frazier management tools, it’s very likely that you will have the way to do it there directly too.
Ben: I didn’t realize there was a time-tracking block in Airtable. That’s brilliant. Yeah. Airtable is a great tool. It’s something that I’ve used in my business to do content production with it, like I mentioned, a team that’s based around the globe. Another way that’s great for project management synchronization, there’s other tools like Asana, where you can assign tasks to remote team. Basically your best project management tools are going to have the ability to assign responsibility to members around the globe.
Ben: I guess the last question that I have is, when you’re working with a remote team, you have the challenge of managing time zones, and I think it’s something that can be very sensitive. You don’t want to keep your agency up all night to manage the relationship, but you do want a chance to have face to face. You have to stay up late at night for this conversation, I know that you’re based in Spain. What time is it right now?
Aleyda: Right now it’s 8:41.
Ben: Oh God, we got to get you out of here at some point here. How do you, not only manage the difference in time zones to make sure that you’re getting synchronous time, but also you know you’re not just burning your agency out?
Aleyda: Yeah, indeed. Well it’s possible, but again, you need to balance well and coordinate well. So for example, right now I have a client on one hand, in India, right, and I also have clients in the West coast in the U.S., so you need to allocate them, organize well the times of what you do, when, so for example, I know that I will be having calls early in my morning to be able to catch up with my Indian based client on one hand, and then on the other hand, for my West coast based client, I will tend to have the calls at 6:00 PM, which is still 9:00 AM for them. So it’s a win win.
Aleyda: So, there’s always very likely an hour over layer, a couple of hours overlay, their early mornings, my late afternoons are still workable time for me, and the same in the other side, right.
Aleyda: I used to have also clients last year from Japan, from Tokyo, and indeed it was the same. It was to coordinate that, it was in the late afternoon for them, it was my early morning and it worked pretty well. At some point I had this very crazy type of situation of a client, one of them based in Amsterdam, another one based in the West coast in the U.S., and at that time I was struggling a bit for a few conferences in my case, and I was in Australia, right. So there was no way at all, that all of us would be at a good time, in a working time, having a very specific call follow up, that we needed.
Aleyda: So, at that point, of course, it was me, the consultant, who was going to stay a little bit late one of the days, in order to be able to catch up with them at reasonable times for them, because of course they were the clients. So at some point you cannot have it all, you need to do a little bit of an extra effort to make it happen and to make it work, right. But those should be the exceptions I have to say. Most cases, if it is a reasonable type of distribution, you will likely be able to talk with clients that are located in other areas of the world, that reasonable times identifying overlays.
Ben: At the end of the day, managing an agency is very much around building relationships, and making sure that you’re getting the most out of the team that you’re working with, whether they’re in the office, whether they’re across the world. There’s still people that are working for and with you, to help you achieve your goals, and the more that you can communicate and be clear with what your expectations are and what the milestones that people need to hit, the better relationships you’re going to have.
Ben: Okay, then that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with the latest Aleyda, founder of Orainti. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Aleyda, you can find the link to her LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact her on Twitter. Her handle is Aleyda, A-L-E-Y-D-A.
Ben: Or you could visit her company’s website, which is Orainti.com, O-R-A-I-N-T-I dot com.
Ben: Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about, if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to Voices of Search.com where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voices of Search on Twitter, and my personal handle is Ben J Shap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P and if you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, in addition to the last part of my conversation with the Aleyda Solís, founder of Orainti, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the workweek. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed soon. All right, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in Ben.