A content marketer is a different species of professional. I’ve been helping businesses market themselves for 18 years and have seen the marketer evolve since the early 90’s.
They went from direct mail specialists to media specialists. Media professionals split and evolved into cable, broadcast (back when there were only 3 non-cable channels), radio, print, and billboard experts. As the web gained traction, we saw the emergence of digital marketers who bridged the gap between the geeks and the clients. Over the last 5 years an evolutionary leap has created the content marketer.
The content marketer isn’t a glorified account executive who can talk about Facebook and blogging. This simplistic view has crippled many organization’s marketing strategy. A content marketer is an expert in several key disciplines and often play a different role depending on the problem, customer, or business.
Entrepreneurs, business owners and CMOs are having an increasingly difficult time finding a content marketer that can do the job. Their task is complicated by the legions of Content Marketing “Lite” professionals who are long on theory but short on practical experience and demonstrated expertise.
Recently, I was asked to describe the ideal content marketer. It was a tough request because the ideal candidate is a combination of 7 complex roles.
The roles are:
The best content strikes an emotional or logical chord with the audience. A story, well told, can make a memorable connection that can move a person to take action. A content marketer needs to find the hero, villain, symbols, and purpose often buried in the businesses day-to-day activities. The content marketer then uses this story to connect with different audiences on dozens of different online platforms.
Content marketers work pixels that generate data. Everything they produce is placed on a platform that reports in real time how the content is performing. A content marketer must take these numbers and turn them into insights that inform the next round of content production. I cringe when a content marketer says they “hate math.” Math, the data, is the language of content marketing. Get educated or go sell classified ads.
I am not a writer but I realize that writing is the cheapest and quickest way to tell my (and my client’s) story with content. You may avoid writing like a rash but the best content marketers know who to communicate with the written word. This may be bad news for you but the good news is that you don’t have to be a Malcolm Gladwell or Stephen King. You just need to be concise, interesting, and clear. This can be learned. Get to it.
Noah Kagen, founder of AppSumo and head taco at OkDork mentioned in a presentation that over 80% of his ideas fail. The other 20% are discovered through constant experimentation and optimization. Successful content marketers are always trying to squeeze an extra percentage point of improvement.
They test word count, headline types, button colors, paragraph length, and hundreds of other variables to get an edge for their content. These marketing ninja know Google Analytics, Optimizely, Kissmetrics, and other optimization tools like they know their medicine cabinet.
Content marketers are in the business of teaching other people why their product is essential. They see every reader and visitor as a student trying to figure out a problem. They view themselves as the person who will connect the dots and show why their product is relevant. Content marketing is an education-based strategy where teachers excel.
In most businesses, the marketing team is a pain in the butt. They spend most of their time coming up with ideas that they can’t implement. The builders, designers, engineers, and IT folks hate brainstorming meetings because its when the marketers parcel out ideas for them to execute.
I was one of those pain in the butt marketers. I even had the nerve to look down on the “geeks.” Then our company lost a big account, which meant that some folks would be let go. I remember looking around the office and realizing that anyone can come up with ideas but not everyone could build a website, create a new form, modify a page to test a new idea. I realized that I couldn’t contribute unless I learned some new “geek marketing skills.”
When I say “coder” I don’t mean computer science graduate level software programming. I believe a content marketer should be comfortable with:
HTML creates the structure of every page you see on the web. Understanding HTML helps you create and modify a page to display information that way you want.
Tutorial: Codeacademy – Learn HTML and CSS
CSS drives how web pages look. A little CSS knowledge give you the ability to add personality and flair to your websites and blog.
Tutorial: The Best Way to Learn CSS : Tuts+
PHP is the language most website use to retrieve information from databases. Sounds scary right? Don’t be fooled, a little PHP knowledge goes a long way. PHP is the underlying language that runs WordPress blogs and you can use it customize your WordPress blog and customize your content.
Tutorial: PHP : Codeacademy
One more thing:
You might be thinking: I am not good with computers. I’ll just hire someone else to do this. The problem with this approach is without a basic knowledge of coding basics you’ll have a tough time knowing what to pay a freelance coder. Over the years, I paid way too much for tasks that turned out to be basic 10 minute jobs. Basically a was a penny wise but a pound foolish. Go ahead and learn these skills so you have a better idea of what you need help with and what it’s worth.
Content marketing is evolving too fast for you to play it safe. Often, by the time you hear about a tactic, you have a limited time to execute it before your competition does. The best content marketers try new tactics before they are “best practices.” They understand that innovation and competitive advantage requires risk.
Do You Need to Have All Of These Roles?
No. You don’t have to be the Content Marketing world’s Leonardo Da Vinci. Some roles will come naturally to you. Others will take time for you to learn. You don’t have to master them all. But, you must work to understand all of them. Simply ignoring (or rationalizing away) a role will hamper your ability to leverage content marketing as a marketing strategy.
Tell me, which of these 7 roles do you find the most challenging?