The ascension of digital programmatic advertising has created a rapid expansion of what marketers are expected to be proficient in. From tag management to data management to reporting results, the list goes on. This is a challenging spot to be in not only as an individual entering the programmatic advertising landscape for the first time but especially as a leader in the position to hire and train up talent green to this complex world. Sure, you can take the approach of throwing them in the deep end, and they will likely learn the ropes, but as a leader, you have to consider the time spent ramping up and what happens when a role (or many) turn over and you cannot afford to pay someone who is already experienced. Having the right strategy for programmatic advertising training can be not only a huge efficiency gain, but can also improve your employees’ experience.
I have developed and managed programmatic advertising clients, solutions teams, and technical support teams for close to a decade. During that time, I have facilitated training for MANY new folks just entering the world of programmatic advertising, and I have honed in on a tried and true approach. There will be some upfront homework to do, but I promise that while you may not have the time for it, consider how much redundant time you are spending training and supporting today, and you may be able to justify taking a few hours to create a better system.
Where do you stand today?
Take stock of what on-demand resources you have internally and available through any partnerships (wikis, learning management systems, certifications). The time you spend with a new hire should be used to dig into the nuance, the “what if” types of questions, not the black and white basics. In order to free yourself from spending unnecessary time teaching the basics, you’ll want to invest some time upfront to create on-demand learning content for your team.
Many wikis and learning management systems (LMSs) are out there at varying price points (we use Hubspot and G2 Crowd to make it easy to browse all tools). I highly recommend creating at least an internal wiki that can be used across the entire organization, but if you can’t justify the cost, just start with a free tool, like a shared Google folder. The important thing is to get valuable content out of your head and document it where others can find it. Also, look to your partners to help with the content. Your demand-side platforms and ad servers likely have excellent training materials already. We’ve done this many times to create great training and marketing content quickly. If you can, assign wiki article creation throughout the team and set a goal since this is back burner work. We set aside 1-2 hours each Friday for a quarter and threw ourselves a happy hour as a reward!
Wikis and LMSs are notorious for getting out of date and unruly, so from the beginning assign owners to sections, have an expectation for updating (we do once per quarter), and create an article template for uniformity.
Wikis need to be fed new content regularly to limit the questions coming to you in the long term. Create a culture for you and your team to constantly ask themselves, “could this question be answered by going to our wiki”? If yes, then update accordingly!
This step sounds so boring, I know, but SO much time can be given back to you by creating a training outlet for your folks to go and have their questions answered. People also generally like to help themselves (see self-checkout at the grocery store), so they appreciate having access to the resource.
Early on, we decided to take it another step further and created an LMS that could incorporate videos for more visual learners. We recommend starting with the wiki and then taking on an LMS if it makes sense for your team and organization.
Build a modular training template
Similar to the wiki exercise, we recommend cataloging what topics and milestones you typically run through with someone in programmatic advertising training. We do a four-week training plan that always starts with a “Choozle Core” module which contains information that ANY new hire needs to know. We then have various modules to be completed that speak to different roles and their responsibilities. For example, content is customized differently for Account Manager training compared to a Technical Support Rep’s training.
Each week of training is broken down into categories, on-your-own tasks (sitting-in on client calls, watching webinars), exercises (tests the application of what they are learning), live sessions, and checkpoints. For live sessions, I own a simple Google sheet where I assign different “hosts” for each topic, outline the objective of the session and the date it is to be completed by. I’ve gotten feedback that being trained by multiple people is not only more engaging, but they get to meet more folks on their new team.
For checkpoints, I used to ask, “do you understand” and if they said, “yes,” I figured we were golden! Pretty quickly I got wise to this not being the best measure of understanding, so I started doing weekly checkpoints (mix of oral quizzes, role-playing, and delivered exercises) on topics I absolutely needed new hires to retain by a certain timeframe. It makes expectations super clear, which I’ve found helps people guide their own efforts.
Tips to make it more effective!
Give them permission to learn.
Most folks are eager to contribute ASAP to a new role and will try to fit training in on the side. I tell hires that are new to programmatic advertising to take the next four weeks for training and just be a student of the industry. That is their only job.
Slack, or another messaging solution, allows for a group chat during training. Questions SHOULD come up, and to help lessen the load on any one person, the newbie can drop their questions in a group chat to get answers (with the expectation they check the wiki first). This also is a great way to identify gaps in your wiki!
Further into programmatic advertising training, incorporate some “look over your shoulder” work time. You can have them review ad campaigns, add them to an email alias, whatever will help them see the actual work they’ll be doing and contextualize things. It will bring up very specific questions (in a good way) also.
Find an easy win.
Find an area they can quickly become proficient and start to contribute to their role. This not only helps them gain confidence and builds momentum, but you’ll see returns on your hire faster. For example, on the Support Team, we put someone new on easy reporting tickets. It helps them learn the system, remove workload from other team members, and feel a part of the team quickly.
Celebrate their wins.
It is a mental battle to learn a new industry and come onto a new team. Something as simple as a coffee or a bottle of wine for a team member that “graduated” from training means a lot and gets them excited to continue to learn.
You can put a survey link into your training template or check in regularly to get tips on improving the process. I ask new hires how we could adjust to help the next person ramp up more quickly and effectively, and found I get more candid answers than if I have them rate their experience directly.
I hope this provides you some helpful tips on facilitating the training of someone new to the exciting, dynamic world of programmatic advertising. Happy marketing!
About the author:
Rachel Mimken is Choozle’s VP of Operations. A solver of problems, wrangler of chaos, and leader of teams, Rachel oversees client-side execution and emerging opportunities at Choozle. When she’s not at work, you can find her reading a book (Fantasy), fly-fishing, or otherwise doing something outside with her husband, pup, and new baby, Eli.