Over the past couple of years, I've seen small companies get off to a frustratingly slow start with content marketing. The reason, more often than not, was because they made one big mistake: Rather than hire the skilled professionals it takes to build a successful content marketing program, they tried to add content marketing to their marketing team's list of responsibilities.

At first glance, doing so may seem like a pragmatic approach, but it's ultimately shortsighted and it rarely leads to the desired results. The reality is that if you want to attract and retain great customers, and reap all of the other benefits of content marketing, you need to put the right resources against it.

The good news for budget-conscience executives is that that you don't necessarily need an army of content marketers on the payroll to be effective. In fact, you can often build a successful program with just one or two key hires.

Whether you are new to content marketing or you are looking to re-evaluate your current resources, keeping the following four steps in mind will help you assemble your dream team.

1. Start by hiring a managing editor

Every content marketing program needs its own "CEO," a role often best filled by a managing editor who reports to the head of marketing. A good managing editor will develop your company's content strategy, simultaneously marshaling and managing all of the resources necessary to execute that strategy.

The best managing editors typically have a combination of deep editorial experience and proven project management expertise. To succeed in the digital age, they have also had to become experienced online marketers with myriad talents, ranging from optimizing content for search engines, to developing effective landing pages that drive conversions, to distributing content through social media and other online channels. And they have to be analytics gurus who can track and analyze all of the metrics that demonstrate the value of the content marketing programs they create.

Importantly, don't confuse managing editors with writers. Their job isn't to create content, it's to manage all of the other people and resources involved in content creation and distribution. If they get too deep into the weeds, they won't be able to provide the strategic guidance that great content marketing programs need.

2. Find full-time (or freelance) content creators and distributors

Since your managing editor should only be involved in content creation and distribution at a strategic rather than a tactical level, you are going to need some additional resources to help get things done.

Consider hiring a writer who is savvy not only about your industry but also with online marketing best-practices. Since he or she will likely be your primary content creator, make sure the person has a strong background in journalism or a related field—or, better yet, experience writing for another company in your industry.

As your content marketing program grows, you may soon discover that you need to hire an additional team member to focus on distributing all of your content. Amplifying your content by effectively distributing it across your website and other controlled sites, as well as your social media accounts, not to mention through paid channels and direct marketing and relationship marketing campaigns, can easily become a full-time job.

Considering all of the effort you are putting into creating your content, you will be doing your company a disservice if you don't put an equal amount of effort into making sure that content gets to the right people at the right times.

If your budget doesn't permit you to make these additional hires, you might want to consider freelancers as a budget-friendly way of scaling your team. Good freelancers provide on-demand access to the additional resources you need without the full cost and complexity of adding full-time staff.

Another advantage of working with freelancers is that you can tap into a much broader range of skill sets and expertise than what you may have in-house, making it easier to produce and distribute a rich array of high-quality content.

3. Identify industry influencers

Another effective way to expand the scope of your content marketing team is to build relationships with industry influencers—the journalists, bloggers, consultants, industry analysts, and others who influence your buyers' decisions. The three main benefits of influencer marketing are these:

  1. You can get great content for free. Try interviewing influencers in videos and podcasts, asking them to contribute quotes to your whitepapers and reports, or even encouraging them to contribute original content on their own.
  2. You can build your brand. Getting influencer sto contribute to your content effectively puts their seal of approval on that content. Such endorsements can go a long way toward building credibility and brand recognition with your target audience.
  3. You can expand your reach. Influencers who create content with you are likely to share that content with their own followers, helping you to access a larger audience than you might otherwise be able to reach.

Ultimately, influencer marketing can be a great way to accelerate and amplify your content marketing efforts. The trick is to make sure you build strong relationships with the influencers and find the best ways to work with them. In some cases, that may mean doing a lot of the legwork yourself so that you are not asking for too much of the influencer.

4. Don't forget about your coworkers

Finally, take a look around your office. You may discover that you are surrounded by thought leaders you can interview to create great content, amateur bloggers you can convince to write a post or two, or social media enthusiasts happy to help promote your content online.

The point is that successful content marketing teams find allies within their company. By taking the time to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your coworkers, determining where their natural affinities lie, and thinking about how to best make use of the time they can offer you, you will find it easier to produce and distribute better content.

The trick is to get people outside of the marketing team to jump on board the content marketing bandwagon by demonstrating the value of what you are doing.

* * *

Ultimately, the key to building and managing a successful content marketing team isn't to have dozens of people on the payroll. Instead, make a couple of key hires, make use of the right people within and outside of your organization, and put everyone's individual skills and talents to the best use.

Doing that—rather than approaching content marketing as an add-on to your existing marketing team's responsibilities—will allow you to create an efficient content marketing program that yields true value for your business.

Additional Resources:

"The Ultimate Content Marketing eBook to Build a Content Factory"

"Once Upon a Marketing Message: How to Craft Stories That Sell"

"Build Your Content Factory: Must-Have Tools to Get Your Assembly Line Humming"

"The 25 E's of E-Book Marketing"

"Content Machine: The Street Guide to Building a Successful Content Marketing Program in 7 Weeks"

"A Step-by-Step Guide to a Successful Social Media Program"

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image of Kevin Cain

Kevin Cain is a content and communications strategist based in Sydney, Australia. He has more than a decade of experience working in the financial services and consulting industries and helping expansion-stage software companies develop their content strategies.

LinkedIn: Kevin Cain

Twitter: @kevinrcain