I work with a team full of lifelong learners. It is a requirement to work at Hanapin. Gotta have that thirst for knowledge. Something happens, though, when you have a diverse team with varying depths of PPC knowledge: one-size-fits-all training doesn’t work. One-size-fits-most doesn’t work. This is a problem I ran into when I sat down with my colleague to construct our training program for 2019.
How do you deliver group training that engages every team member at every stage in their careers? How do you do it without outsourcing everything?
In this post, I’ll walk you through Hanapin’s newest approach to training our team through all stages of development. I’ll introduce you to three Hanapin Heroes and work through how we will approach training for each of them.
Training an Agency of Experts
As an agency, we want our people to have depth of knowledge, creative solutions, and industry-leading expertise. Unless someone is going to pay us to educate and train ourselves day in and day out, having the knowledge alone doesn’t pay the bills. We actually have to put it to good use. Which is why we ask our team to set aside about 6 hours a month for training.
Back in the day, we could spend a whole day together, teaching each other, challenging ourselves to learn something new and share that information with our team, and creating a slew of best practices for our agency. But we were small and new and the industry was starting to grow up a bit and us with it. So it was easy to be inclusive with our material.
Fast forward to today. As you will see by my very generalized examples of a team’s breadth of capabilities, putting a team of 50 in a room together and throwing information around hoping different bits stick to different groups of people is chaotic and fruitless. We needed to allow our teammates to grow in ways that suited their goals. So let’s meet a few members of the team.
Katie Conversion: New To The Industry
Katie is a Production Associate. Katie was hired 4 months ago. Previously in B2B sales, she changed her career trajectory and headed into the world of PPC. She knows her way around a spreadsheet well enough. Bids, budgets, quality score, programmatic, conversion rate optimization? Katie is just now getting comfortable with PPC jargon.
Katie’s training should be:
- Technical skill heavy
- Process oriented
- Broad views
- Building a toolkit of Common Practices
Trent is an account manager. He has been with the agency for 2 years with 3+ years prior PPC experience. He really wants to start focusing on Amazon and improve his shopping campaign skills. He hates lectures and prefers collaboration.
Trent’s Training should be:
- Advanced strategy tactics
- Deep-dive into single topic
Daphne is an Associate Director. She is new to the role, but has been in the PPC industry for 6 years. She oversees 2 XL Enterprise Accounts and advises on a slew of B2B, B2C, Ecomm, and Lead Gen clients. She has an organic growth goal she needs to hit. She wants to grow her accounts and her team. She craves innovation.
Daphne’s training should be:
- Filled with the latest industry trends
- Advanced marketing strategy
- Ways to develop herself and her team
In the past, we have had a full day of training devoted to 1 topic. Here’s what an agenda looked like:
Happy training day, team! Today we are taking a deep dive into Facebook.
- Getting started with campaign options
- Lookalikes: how do you use them?
- Brand safety
- Creating a social strategy for B2B
Here’s how each member of the team might absorb that information:
Katie: I need to know all of this. This is all new information. This is great. But I don’t work on any accounts that use this yet. I guess I’ll just put this in my back pocket for later.
Trent: *Yawn* Old news. I’ve been running FB campaigns forever. Speaking of Facebook, I think I’ll take a look at my best friend’s honeymoon photos. (No one I work with would ever be this disengaged, right team?)
Daphne: Oh good. I’m glad we are covering this. My team needs to know this. Are they paying attention? I have to get that email out to that really important client asap. But I should be paying attention. Are they going to tell me something new? No? This is what I already know. No worries. I’ll put out some starter questions and boost discussion.
I took a course on training and something that stuck with me was this: if at least 1 person learned something and was engaged and got something from the class, then you have done your job. Yeah, true, I guess. But I think leading training for the whole team means the whole team should walk away with something.
Solution: Individualized Group Training
Paradoxes. We love them here at Hanapin. Individual Group Training? It makes no sense! And truthfully, it doesn’t. But it is the best way I can describe it. Lumping multi-experienced individuals into one training wasn’t working. So we thought long and hard about three things:
- Agency Growth Goals
- Career development
And here is the new structure for our day of training.
We all come from different backgrounds. Just because you studied marketing 6 years ago at university doesn’t mean you know PPC. And just because you know PPC through working in the industry for 3 years doesn’t mean you have a foundational knowledge of marketing. Integrated marketing is taking a branch of marketing strategy and understanding how it works in tandem with a PPC strategy. No one PPCs in a black hole. Even though our clients come to us because they need an expert in PPC doesn’t mean that they are solely relying on PPC to drive revenue.
We will spend a portion of our day hearing from field experts: marketing professors, our own marketing team, CRO experts, SEO teams.
Are you still using the phrase “Best Practice” to describe optimizations? If you are, that is fine. It may work for you. But in the past year or so, at an agency our size, it is a bit taboo to say “best practice”. We have clients of all shapes and sizes and “best practice” becomes increasingly problematic. Even if we have two clients who are in the same vertical, they may have different budgets and different goals. So even though we don’t really have a “best practice” for specific initiatives, we still need to have a plan.
Our Take is designed for small groups. Something is shifting in the industry. What is our stance? How do we measure success? The idea behind Our Take is to build an understanding of the topic, source solutions from the team, and create processes to implement in our accounts.
For instance, with the increase of AI and the subsequent increase of available ad types, conventional ad testing is dead. But this all crept up on us. We didn’t wake up one day and have to redo everything we normally do with ads. It was slow and we adapted. But we forgot to develop tools and processes to help us manage the results and glean actionable insights.
An Our Take session might talk about the future of ads, explore AI, and challenge the team to develop a tool to assist in ad testing, build a report template for clients, and create case studies on multi-ad type testing.
Here is where the individualized training comes into play. For the afternoon session of training, the group will be split into 3. How do you know what group you belong in? It is a little bit based on tenure and a little bit more based on experiences (note the ‘s’ at the end). Where are you in your career? What can you learn that will make the most impact for you and your clients/department/agency?
The Strategy Track might feature “how-to’s” to assist with technical capability development. For example: how to build a custom bid template for multi-brand accounts.
The Growth Track is more focused on big picture. This track could include leadership development sessions but also include training on market expansion.
And finally, the Innovation Track is devoted to moving the agency forward in capabilities, efficiencies, and growth. These sessions would be small group SWOT breakouts, individual projects, or leadership-dictated hot-button issues.
Share the Wealth (of Knowledge)
The cool thing about working in an agency full of experts is that we are our own best resource. While there might be a need for us to bring in industry experts to lead us in training, for the most part we have the skills we need to train each other. We have the responsibility to each other to share what we know. Albert Einstein believed the only source of knowledge was experience. Guess what? We have buckets of experience.
Beyond the strategy and the innovation and the philosophy, teammates like Katie still need some technical skill training. With a lot of things PPC, it is trial by fire. You can listen to the philosophy of a strategy till the cows come home but it isn’t going to sink in until you actually get into a platform and build something from scratch.
We still want to equip our team with a baseline knowledge of platforms and tools. Which is why we will be devoting 1.5 hours a month to technical skill training. Each month will offer 4 topics. You get to choose which class to take to sharpen your skills.
PPC 4 Life
I don’t think we will ever reach a point in our industry where we will be like “Welp, that’s it! We know everything!” So I encourage you to keep your skills honed, your brains open, and ask for on-going training. And if all else fails, just keep coming back to PPC Hero for the latest.