Aug 03, 2000
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Last month when we interviewed EngineHouse Media’s Founder and CEO Laura Tidwell to write our Case Study about her cool rich media postcard campaign to Web marketers, we wondered how this agency based in an old brick bank building in Troy Alabama managed a nationwide presence.
The answer: a team of sales people (known as “Directors of Client Services”) located in virtual offices across America.
Q: We hear a lot of people talk about starting a virtual team with lots of remote locations, but fewer actually do it. Why did you decide to take the plunge?
Tidwell: We like them to be remote for a couple of reasons. When we moved the business to a small town in Alabama, we realized we wouldn’t get the most highly qualified pool to pull from, and we didn’t want to be limited based on where they were located.
Plus, we wanted to have people close to the clients physically so it wouldn’t be a big deal just to hop over and spend the day with a client.
Q: How do you keep in touch?
Tidwell: It works out really well. We keep in really tight communication through our intranet. And once a quarter they all come out and touch base with the team. Sometimes too, an account exec says ‘Hey I need to get together for a huddle.’ and we’ll let them do that.
Q: How do you find these great reps?
Tidwell: It’s getting easier and easier as more people find out who we are. Now I have top-level people in the industry contacting me saying, “Everything you guys represent, your approach, is something I’ve been waiting to see happen!”
Q: Do you meet them in person, physically, before you hire them?
Tidwell: I think that’s important. You learn certain things -- there’s trust right there in the beginning. We fly them out after 1-2 phone interviews so they can meet everybody, understand who we are, and understand if our corporate culture is a good fit for them too.
Q: Ok, once they’re on board, how do you train them?
Tidwell: First they go through week-long training online and over the phone. Even if they have lots of experience, I want them to be familiar with our lingo, our values, the way we treat our clients. We have trainers here and we put together an extensive manual. It explains how we work, how they communicate with the rest of their team, our technology … all of that.
Then we fly them here for a week and they sit down with this person, and this person and this person. It’s in- field training. They sit here watching the rest of their team. They’ll have an account coordinator, a media buyer and planner and a trafficker located in Troy assigned to them. Most new reps need a vacation after they leave here, that’s how high energy we are!
Q: There are so many Internet marketing trade shows and events these days everywhere. It must be great to have people all over the place who can attend them more easily than you can. How do you decide which shows they go to?
Tidwell: Actually I tell them not just to go to Internet shows, but any kind of industry show. Go to jewelry shows, manufacturing shows … if there’s a show at the convention center in your area, you should be there! Everybody’s starting marketing online, and if they’re not they should be. We have a strong audience in almost any industry.
Editor’s Note: This year Tidwell is a regional winner of Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award (an award which Advertising.com’s leaders won in the Mid-Atlantic region.) She’s looking forward to the trip to Palm Springs for the final national awards later this year. “I got a new client just by going to the functions for the regional one.” Somehow we don’t doubt she’ll pick up a few more clients in Palm Springs!