ANNOUNCING: Join us October 29 & 30 for Smart Marketer LIVE

Building A Strong Virtual Team

What I’ve got for you in this week’s video is a behind the scenes Bonanza.

We’re going behind the scenes of my team work-cation to see what it takes to build connectedness among a virtual team.

Then we’re going behind the scenes of Blue Ribbon Live, an event for my top-level ecommerce mastermind…

And behind the scenes of one of the industry’s biggest and most important events, Digital Marketer’s Traffic & Conversion Summit 2017.

There’s a lot to cover, and I don’t want to spend another second in front of the scenes. Let’s go!

What’s the Best Model for a Team?

There’s a lot of discussion in our industry about what the best model is for a team: Should you have an office? Should you work virtually? How do you make your team feel like a team?

When Carrie and I started this business, it was always our goal to have it be in service of our lifestyle and not the other way around.

And because we like hanging around the house together, taking breaks when we want to, and the option of the good ol’ mid-day bath… We decided to work from home.

Which comes with a lot of upsides: It provides the opportunity for a great work-life balance (see above); there’s no overhead of having an office; you can work from anywhere, and you can hire talent regardless of location.

Scaling Your Team and Staying Connected

My team grew a lot last year—it doubled in size from about 10 to 20 people.

And with growing to this size came the challenge of keeping the team connected and feeling like a community, especially because it’s now more difficult to get everyone together in the same place.

Well, we just had our first big get together and it was a dang good time!

At first I called it a team retreat, but “retreat” brought to mind piña coladas for breakfast so I reframed it as a team “work-cation.” Working and vacationing.

But we had a lot of fun, and I think having fun is what really brings people together.

The thing about flying your team in from across the country is that it’s expensive! So why was it so important to me to do it?

The Value of a Unified Team

Because while it was an investment for us that doesn’t have a direct ROI, it yields an unquantifiable value:

Increased intimacy with team members means a happier team, better collaboration, and quicker solutions to problems because everyone is comfortable communicating with one another.

That’s also why we’ve transitioned from a virtual team to virtual-local. We have groups of team members, or “pods,” who live near each other and get together once or more a week to work.

The project management team is in San Diego, the copy team is in Los Angeles, and the support team is largely based in NY.

I find that helping my team members feel connected to a larger group—and to give them a place to interact and collaborate—also increases productivity and the quality of work.

A couple of team-building tips before I move on:

Incorporate acknowledgement routines – Tell your employees when they’ve done a good job! This doesn’t mean you can’t focus on improvement too, but when people feel like they’re doing a good job, and that you’re paying attention, they will work harder for you and do better work.

Indoctrinate people into your business – Tell them what the goal of your business is beyond selling a product: What’s your ethos? What’s your mission? Why are you doing what you’re doing instead of something else? I did a whole post on this a while back.

Other Highlights of this Week’s Video:

See how I indoctrinate my team members. What’s my mission? What’s our greater goal at Smart Marketer?

Meet members of my team, and see who won the Smart Marketer title belt.

Get a behind the scenes look at my Blue Ribbon Mastermind Live Event, with special appearances by Drew Canole, Nathan Hopkins, and Digital Marketer’s Molly Pitman…

And go behind the scenes of one of the industry’s biggest and most important events, Digital Marketer’s Traffic & Conversion Summit 2017, and see what all the fuss is about!

Video Highlights
1:24 The Virtual/Local Team
2:22 The Beauty of Work-Cating
4:08 Having Fun and Building Intimacy
4:34 Acknowledgement Routines
6:00 People Over Progress
7:25 Smart Marketer Employee of the Year
9:09 Blue Ribbon Mastermind 2017
12:06 Getting a Pulse on the Industry
14:03 T&C Summit, San Diego 2017
15:10 Facebook Messenger

Click Here For Video Transcript

Ezra: Clap your hands, everybody. Clap, clap, clap your hands, everybody.

Hey, Ezra here. That’s my little shimmy shimmy shake. It’s the only dance move I know. I’m at my team retreat, which has actually been renamed to a workcation. I was calling it the team retreat, and then I realized I really ought to frame this as working and cating, so it became the workcation. And, you know, we have a virtual team. And there’s a lot of discussion in our industry about what’s the kind of best model for a business. Do you do virtual? Do you have a, you know, office and a whole sort of local team.

And, for us, when we were building our business, my wife and I, we really wanted to, like, work from home and be able to, you know, take a bath in the middle of the day or do whatever we want. So we built our team virtually. And that has a lot of upsides in that, you know, we have a really nice work-life balance. But, you know, people don’t really get to relate with one another and build those bonds and see each other very often. So we like to do this once a year where we bring everyone together and we work and we cate. So we’ve been partying and playing laser tag and going bowling.

And I wanna talk to you a little bit about kind of why we’ve gone the direction of virtual and sort of how our team has evolved, because as we’ve grown, we’ve gone virtual-local. We can talk a little bit more about it. I got my hair and my eyes. You don’t usually see me with my hair down. But I figured, hey, you know, we workcating here. So, basically, what that means is we’ve started hiring people in a local area who work virtually so that we can get them together. So we got a lot of folks in Upstate New York where we live who we bring together every now and again so we can have them in person.

And then we have little pods. Like, we have the social media team and the project management team and the copywriting team and the customer support team. And each of those little pods, we’ve been hiring in a local area. So the chief operating officer and project managers are in San Diego. And the copywriters are in L.A. And, you know, the support team is in New York. So we can have these little sort of pods that work on a virtual team, but they work together once week. So we got this nice little virtual-local thing going. It’s working really well.

So I’m gonna take you around, show you what’s going on. Let’s check out the workcation. Thanks for coming on and visiting with me, I guess. I don’t know if you’re visiting, but thanks for checking us out, and I’ll take you around now.

Woman 1: How do you like workcating?

Kevin: Workcating in sandals. The beach is, like, 200 feet away. It’s great.

Colleen: The downtime has been awesome. But the uptime, the work time, has been even better, because we’re just getting stuff done, and it feels really good.

Ezra: Stepping on toes just making a decisions.

Brittany: Throwing people under the bus all week.

Steve: It’s nice to see everybody face to face. Yeah, he’s a real person.

Zack: I think, yeah, just meeting people, because I’m new to the team, and I haven’t met most of these people in person. So it’s been really great to connect.

Pepijn: You know, I’m working on the BOOM contact page redesign, been wanting to do this for a long time. It’s finally happening.

Kevin: I’m making a better community sales page. It’s gonna be good.

Ezra: I’m working on my Blue Ribbon Mastermind slides, because one of the things that I seem to like to do is wait till the very last minute before actually creating anything that I’m going to present. It’s all, like, kind of in my head, like a tornado of thoughts circling. And I like to have that pressure. Like, the event is in two days, do the slides. That seems to be, like, my style.

Woman 1: What are you working on?

Laura: I’m working on creating some images for all of our social media outlets.

Ezra: Did you show everyone a lizard.

Laura: No, no, that is workcation only. What happens here stays here.

Ezra: Hey, so you’ve seen a little bit of my team workcation. I’m here actually at the Andaz in San Diego for my Blue Ribbon Mastermind. The team retreat was so valuable because people got this opportunity to build some intimacy with one another, build some connection. And I think that there’s a non-quantifiable value that comes when people are in relationship with one another. And they’re more willing to be truthful. They’re more willing to be honest with each other. They’re more willing to share. And it’s why we ensure that our team has opportunities to have fun together, because when you have fun with people, you kinda get to know them well, and it’s good.

So one of the things that you wanna think about with your team is building in acknowledgment routines, so routines for you as the person who’s hiring and managing people where you’re calling out what they did well. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t, you know, focus on how to have people do better over time and hold them more accountable. But it does mean that positive reinforcement works. And when people feel seen and heard and like they’re doing well, they work better and harder for you, and when they enjoy the people they’re working with.

So we spent a lot of money. We invested a lot in this workcation. And there’s no, like, direct result where we can see how much we made from that. But there is, like, a non-quantifiable kinda value to the team coming together like this. And I think that’s important that you indoctrinate people into your culture, that you tell them why you’re doing what you’re doing and, like, what you’re doing beyond just trying to sell a product. What is your goal in the world? What are you up to as a company? And you can get people excited about that mission once you have them being more interested in participating in it.

So Ezra here, thanks for watching.

I am super, super thankful for all of you guys. I think you’re all wonderful. And I want to tell you what we do. I know that, you know, many of you have some idea of what we do. But I wanna give you a little history of sort of where we came from, what industry we’re in, who we serve, what are viewpoints are as a company just so that you kinda get a sense of who you’re dealing with and what you’ve gotten yourself into.

The first and foremost is that we believe in people over progress. So our agenda really isn’t to, like, take over the world or build some crazy big company, you know? Like, we have no agenda beyond enjoying our work life and being of service to our community. And if we do that well, then as you see, good shit happens. We end up growing. We sell stuff. People like it. But, like, we are into people. And we believe that relationships and communication and intimacy amongst groups of people is where it’s at in life over money or business or anything else that society will tell you that you’re supposed to strive for.

We are not a product company. We are a customer service company. I’m gonna break down what we do. Like, our general overall how we do things is really the same strategy. Every one of our businesses, we do the exact same thing. But, ultimately, what we do is serve people. And what we care about is the people who are engaging with our brands. You know, our tagline, which is not on the shirt, “Serve the world unselfishly and profit.” You only profit if you are truly serving. You cannot profit otherwise.

I am super excited about the responsibilities that you’re taking on, the expertise that you are growing. There is no role that is more important than another role. It all comes together to create what we’re doing here. So I want you all to know how much I appreciate you. And once a year, I’m gonna crown an employee of the year.

So this year, the winner…

Ezra: …the 2016 Smart Marketer Championship Employee of the Year…I want the champ to hold the belt like this. So this person leads up a department that has fundamentally changed all of our brands. And this department, the amount that they produce is mindboggling. I am constantly asking this guy if he is overworking. How can you be doing all of this stuff and not be overworked?

And moving on with the theme of being better than everyone in everything, Rubin St. John is 2016 Employee of the Year.

You are the department lead, and you spearheaded this thing, 2016 Employee of the Year, buddy.

Rubin: Oh, man. This is, like, not a joke belt. Like, this thing has, like, fur on the inside. It’s really nice and heavy.

Man 6: All right, champ, how does it feel to be the champ?

Rubin: You know, it feels the same as it did before I was a champ. It doesn’t change who you are. Basically, I think they figured they couldn’t give it to Pepijn. The analogy that was used was that, like, Meryl Streep can’t win the Oscar every year.

Ezra: One thing about the belt that we didn’t take into consideration was that, actually, it’s too big for Rubin. It doesn’t actually fit.

Man 6: Two Rubins, I think.

Rubin: I’ve been eating a lot in this trip. It might just fit.

Ezra: let’s see here.

Rubin: Gotta get the very last one there.

Ezra: Oh, there it is.

Ezra: Oh damn! Look at that.

Ezra: Thank you for taking a look at the team workcation. We’re here at the Blue Ribbon Mastermind, which is, like, my highest level of group. So at Smart Marketer, we have blogs with content, like free content on our podcast and on our blog. And then we have informational courses. We put on events. And we also do a mastermind group, which is people who are making at least $500,000 a year in their ecommerce business, most of them doing 7 figures, many 8-figure business owners, all coming together and sharing what’s working for them and partying and hanging out. So I’ll show you a little bit of behind-the-scenes of that. And thank you for watching this workcation video.


Ezra: The camera, the camera.

Molly: We think Messenger is going to become a channel like email marketing, right? Email marketing is still wonderful. I think Messenger is not going to replace it. But it’s going to be very similar, since it’s absolutely something you should pay attention to, if for no other reason, the amount of people that are using Messenger.

Man 7: What would my life be like if I was doing what I love and I was making money doing that, and not focusing on the money, but helping people. And I started shooting a video every single day. I was 40 pounds heavier. Every day, I’d shoot a video, give away content, two to three minutes. And then I started to dabble with Facebook. I turned that Facebook community into probably 100 subscribers on YouTube. And I’m like “This is a viable business, 100 YouTube subscribers.”

Ezra: You said it just like that to myself too.

Man 7: Right? Yeah. I got 12 views this week.

Ezra: How do you think companies like the one that you work with think differently? Like, these big companies are doing hundreds of millions of dollars. You have a roomful of seven and eight-figure business owners who are not at the multi-hundred million dollar level. How do you approach things differently if you’re looking to potentially scale?

Man 9: In some ways, we look at things the exact same. Like, it’s an amazing way to develop a brand and to generate revenue very, very quickly, right? That’s why, I think, all of us have gotten into this because it’s a way of being able to go into a marketplace and get results very quickly. Where things get interesting is as a company gets bigger and bigger, I mean, you do hit a point where it can transition over to where, like, you can become more brand-focused and oriented.

Ezra: Blue Ribbon Mastermind, oh my goodness, I’m exhausted. I just talked for, like, six hours. One of my favorite things about Blue Ribbon is I kinda get a pulse on the industry of what people are doing, what people are paying to, because it’s 70 7 and 8-figure ecommerce business owners all coming together. And some of the things that are being talked about are, obviously, multi-touch point marketing, like we talked a lot about here at Smart Marketer, but also using multiple media formats. So people are talking about sending postcards again, so, after someone buys from you, reengaging them by sending them a physical postcard. And there’s Shopify apps that will do this for you. It’s working really well for both.

The Facebook Messenger channel was a huge portion of our presentation. And we had Molly Pittman coming from DigitalMarketer, and she was talking about how they’re using the Facebook Messenger channel. So it’s a channel that you wanna start paying attention to. We’ll be releasing some blog posts on it. It’s in our Facebook ads course. But figuring out how you can leverage messaging in your business, because consumers now expect that they can message businesses. They wanna be able LiveChat you. They wanna be able to Facebook Messenger you. And the open rates that we’re seeing on Facebook Messenger when we broadcast to groups of folks in Messenger are incredible. It’s a good way to communicate with people.

And also how to leverage pre-purchase order bumps. So this is something that we talked about in our Zipify Pages presentation. It’s like if you’re gonna go through the work of getting someone’s attention, showing them that you have something to offer, then you owe it to yourself to do as good a job as you can at selling your items so that you then have more revenue that you can invest back in your business, that you can invest in creating better products, that you can invest in hiring more support and doing better advertising.

And one of the ways that you can do that is with order bumps, so figuring out how to have a higher average order value by doing things like, when someone adds a product to the cart, making them a second offer, like “Hey, would you like to see something else?” with a pre-purchase popup, or having a whole second order bump page or having cross-sells on the item page, so like they’re buying a wig, you offer them a wig cap right on the page, so figuring out ways to increase your average order value pre-purchase in addition to post-purchase.

Those are some of the highlights from the mastermind. Thanks for watching. I hope you enjoyed this video. I’ll see you in the next one.

Hey, guys, we’re here at behind-the-scenes at the 2017 Traffic & Conversion Summit. I have to find the hallway, because this place is packed. There’s like thousands of people here. I’ve never seen an event this big. So kudos to DigitalMarketer for, like, bringing the community together. I wanna give you the highlights of what’s being talked about in our industry. Right now, we can see that as, like, cutting edge of what’s going on in the ecommerce and digital marketing industry. So, hopefully, we won’t be in a hallway the whole time. But I’m gonna show you what’s going on. Let’s check out the Traffic & Conversion Summit.


Hey, Ezra here on the final day of the Traffic & Conversion Summit in San Diego. I didn’t get a chance to bring you around to any speakers. It’s been madness. There are so many people here. And one of the big conversations has been about messaging. I did a presentation on Facebook Messenger and how the future of business to consumer communication will be inside of Messenger. You’ll be ordering your Ubers in there. You’ll be booking your travel in there. You’ll be buying products in there. So there’ll be a lot of messaging happening where you’re able to do things. You’ll get rid of all the other apps on your phone. And a lot of what you’re doing will be happening in one messenger app. So I’m gonna be producing more content about how you can use Facebook Messenger as a communication medium between your brand and your consumers. So stay tuned to the blog for that.

Actually, I have my friend Hyam who showed up at this event. Come in here, he’s shy on camera. But newcomer to the industry, what do you think of this event, man?

Hyam: I think it’s awesome.

Ezra: Yeah, you’re having fun?

Hyam: Yeah, I’m having a lot of fun.

Ezra: Well, I just wanted to bring you in just to embarrass you a little bit. Thank you for coming on the show. But, anyways, thank you so much for watching these videos. Thank you for checking out our team workcation, the Blue Ribbon Mastermind, Traffic & Conversion Summit. And I look forward to seeing you in the next video.

Smart marketing. Right to your email.

Get the latest marketing news, hot tips, and lifestyle advice delivered to your inbox.

Smart Marketer will not sell or spam your email, you can opt-out at any time.

Popular Posts

Get Smart(Er) With Our Courses & Memberships


Smart Marketer Live

Join us for 2 days of growth, connection, breakthroughs, new friends, eye-opening discussions, & most importantly… FUN!


Join us for 2 days of growth, connection, breakthroughs, new friends, eye-opening discussions, & most importantly… FUN