Unlike most other functions in an organization, marketing has completely transformed. Modern companies have begun to shift away from a traditional marketing mindset to one that is data-driven, growth-minded, and accountable for producing tangible results (read: revenue).
Some companies are adapting to this change more quickly than others, and it's an inevitable shift that will leave the slow-movers lagging behind. As Seth Godin puts it, "The marketer now needs to be in charge of everything a company does… they need to be the first step."
Simply put, marketing is no longer an afterthought that enters at the end stage when it's time to promote a product or raise awareness. In a well-integrated business, marketing should control, touch, or influence virtually every part of the company. From product development to customer advocacy, smart marketing is the driving force for businesses that are poised for growth.
At the heart of this change is the evolving role and increasing importance of the content marketer. Content is, at its core, the foundation of all marketing. Rebecca Lieb said it best: "Content is the atomic particle of all digital marketing. Everything. There's no owned media without content. There's no social media without content. And there's no paid media without content."
What are the key attributes a content marketer needs to survive and thrive? What should you be looking for when you're hiring a content marketer? At Uberflip, we have a strong focus on content marketing and as a result, I get this question a lot.
So, we created an infographic that shows the key skills, characteristics, and attributes we've identified in the best content marketers we know. I've expanded on some of the highlights below, but be sure to check out the full infographic (at the end of this post) for a more visual breakdown.
1. A scientist's analytical mind
A good content marketer wants to understand how the content marketing is performing. Is it resonating with your audience? Is it generating leads for your sales team? What is your content ROI?
The right tools combined with the right processes will give you that information. And though you don't need a degree in data science, you do need an understanding of which metrics matter depending on your specific goals, and how to turn those insights into actionable steps.
2. A copywriter's grasp of language
Content marketers teach, engage, and persuade with words in a variety of channels, such as blog posts, e-books, webinars, and whitepapers. A content marketer must be an expert at finding the right language for the right medium.
A content marketer also needs to know how to employ an audience-first approach to writing to find compelling topics and angles that can cut through all the noise.
Good copy reaches through the screen and grabs you. It's powerful. It attracts people and keeps them around longer. By taking an "audience first" approach you can begin to understand what words and phrases are effective and how you can use them to better communicate your message.
3. A developer's technical knowledge
The rise in marketing technology (which, by some estimates has doubled in the last year) empowers marketers to control their digital properties without the need for a developer, and a marketer with a few basic technical skills is still at an advantage.
Some basic HTML and CSS as well as a solid understanding of various marketing tools and technologies can help you get more done without the inevitable delay of waiting for your IT team.
From editing the source code in a blog post to creating a landing page for an e-book, brushing up on your technical chops can help you move faster and iterate on your content marketing efforts.
4. A graphic designer's keen eye
Though years of Photoshop experience isn't necessary, exceptional content marketers have a keen eye for good visual design. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, the obvious: Adding visuals to your content almost always helps. That could mean including images in your blog post, or graphs and charts in an e-book, whitepaper, or SlideShare presentation.
But what's equally important as the photos and images used to enhance your content is the visual layout and format of the content itself. How do your words look on the screen? How does the content as a whole appeal to people visually?
Here are a few basic tips. (These aren't hard and fast rules and will probably need to be adjusted to fit your content, format, audience, medium, etc.)
- Avoid overly long paragraph or big blocks of text.
- Use font types and colors that make text easy to read.
- Use bold, italics, hyperlinks, and other strategic formatting choices to facilitate skimming.
- Organize your ideas under subheads so it's easier for readers to follow along.
This is part of the much bigger topic of creating a better content experience. At the end of the day, experience matters and how you package and deliver your content determines how people will consume and interpret it.
5. An SEO expert's awareness of algorithms
Ah, the almighty Google, the evolving entity that we're all trying to please in one way or another in terms of SEO. It's no secret that SEO has changed drastically, moving away from old-school keyword stuffing and backlink antics.
With an increased emphasis on semantic search and the ability for quality content to help drive SEO results, a good content marketer must understand the ins and outs of optimizing content for search engines. This comes down to crafting the right type of (really good) content, making it shareable and including the right balance of relevant keywords.
6. A community manager's ears
Marketers in general have to be in tune with what's happening in their space. Like a good community manager, a content marketer must listen to identify trends and understand what’s resonating within the broader interwebs.
But beyond that, listening also helps you become more responsive. Read a news story that is relevant for your customers? Blog about it. Come across a study that speaks to their pain points or struggles? Break it down for them. There are a ton of new and relevant content ideas if you keep your eyes (and ears) open.
7. Your customer's shoes
In Ann Handley's recent book, Everybody Writes, she speaks of the importance of empathy in the content creation process. Having a deep understanding of your customer, their needs, their struggles and their everyday lives will make you a better content marketer.
Take the time to talk to your customers, find out where they live online, tease out their stories, learn about their daily trials and tribulations so you can better relate to them. Bottom line: Learn to speak their language so you can identify what is and isn't important in their world.
Here are a few ways you can keep in touch with your customers.
- Schedule "customer development" calls and speak to a few of them one on one.
- Use social media or other forums to engage with them
- Talk to the people on the front lines like Sales and Customer Success (they can give you some great insight into how your customers and audiences think)
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Today's content marketer wears many hats. And the best content marketers know how to expand their skill set beyond their specialization to become versatile enough to drive results in this constantly evolving practice.