Training Your Search Marketing Employees – Part 2

Because we work in a relatively new industry, until recently there were few formal platforms available to learn SEM skills . Most people were self-taught by working in the trenches, reading forums, attending conferences, and interacting with their peers. Now there are more formal avenues available.

Last time, I looked at the value of training your search marketing employees. I specifically looked at training newcomers to the industry. Today, I’ll look at training advanced practitioners and delve into the need for ongoing training and non-industry related training.

Training for Advanced Practitioners

Advanced practitioners come to my agency with the skills in place to help grow my business. That’s why I hire them. Because they’re skilled in relation to their job, my priority is to train them to flourish in my agency.

One of the downsides of hiring an individual with experience is that they can be stuck in their ways, insisting on doing things the way they did when working for other agencies in the past. Therefore, I always start the training process by developing a clear understanding of our agency at an early stage.

I want them to understand our way of doing things. That’s not to say they may not have a better way of doing things. Rather, I want them to take what we do, add their own knowledge, and then improve on our systems. What I don’t want to see is one of those experienced search marketers abandoning our processes to entirely replace them with their own.

This training includes imparting a clear understanding of our business processes and procedures, along with an understanding of the different functions within the agency and how they fit in. This helps them to integrate their specific knowledge into our workflow.

I also detail one-on-one training sessions with members of the executive team so that they really get to grips with the agency in a holistic way. Viewing the business as a whole is a necessity. It’s not about one department; rather it’s about how that department integrates with others to achieve our business goals.

Ongoing Training

Training in the SEM industry doesn’t end after the initial training period. Ongoing learning is an essential part of our industry. Conferences such as Search Engine Strategies (SES), Webinars, video demonstrations and SEM books all increase the opportunities for us to learn.

SES now runs a one-day live training session at the beginning or end of each conference, and also offers SEM training around the country as standalone one-day events. I attended some of these training sessions at SES New York. It was first-class, and featured some of the best presenters the industry has to offer.

Our team attends SEMPO Arizona events, which always includes training and sharing of ideas as part of their monthly meetings. We’re now seeing a lot of face-to-face training, especially in the past year. This is an excellent way to train your hands-on learners.

Also, there are some great Webinars out there, and often an organization will produce a series that builds on knowledge and training. One of the best books on the subject is Bill Hunt and Mike Moran’s Search Engine Marketing Inc.

I’ve also set aside an hour per week where my staff can get together to discuss a specific topic — not only the theory, but how it applies to our clients. I’ve found it’s a good idea to assign a topic to a staff member so that they can present to the group. This helps their knowledge, as well as their confidence, especially related to public presentations.

I also encourage my staff to take part in presentations and become presenters themselves. This gives them confidence and reminds them of how much knowledge they have attained.

Non-Industry Training

Another key issue is non-search-related training. Does your customer service staff need customer service training? Does your paid media staff need Excel training? Do you need management or leadership training as your team and business grows? We’re often so caught up in the search world that sometimes we forget to invest in the basics. There are many different skills that may need to be addressed through training.

Your training should always start from the point of view of your agency and then advance on to specific industry areas. Ongoing training is essential in an industry that changes as quickly as SEM.

In my next article, I’ll cover how leadership helps motivate your team to excel at what they do.

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