What are the characteristics of a “get the job done” content marketer?
A little research shows that businesses see the content marketer as little more than a slightly more organized blogger. There are literally millions of articles on how to do content marketing but the information cupboard on how to select or train a content marketer is threadbare.
To be fair, most CMOs have been caught flat-footed by the rapid rise of content marketing. According to Google Trends, the topic has exploded in popularity in the last few years. So many marketing teams are staffed with excellent social media tacticians but still need talented content marketers to complete the roster.
So, where do you start?
What are the core skills of successful content marketers?
We’ll offer 7 to start the list. We’ll go out on the limb and say that every content marketer should have these skills.
Here we go.
Tim Ferriss is an incredible storyteller. He so effortlessly pulls you into his adventures that you read 2000 words before you realize that you’re hooked for another hour. Every post and podcast is another adventure we get to experience along with Tim.
Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle Is The Way, has mastered the same spellbinding storytelling talent. Ryan can make evolutionary biology sound as interesting as Friday night gossip on Facebook. Both Tim and Ryan are killer content marketers too.
The best content is carefully presented within the context of a good story. The idea is to immerse themselves in the larger story and bit by bit become a character in that story.
I believe U.S presidential elections are the best examples of elite content strategy. Every campaign starts with a ghostwritten book from the candidate. The book lays out the candidates challenges, hopes, ideas, and vision. The book is the first chapter of a larger story. From the first day until election day, the candidate’s campaign adds different chapter to the story with the goal of convincing you to identify with the candidate.
Businesses that struggle with content marketing often struggle with telling their story. Many believe they don’t have a story to tell! So each blog post, podcast, Slideshare presentation, Instagram photo, or video feels clinical and detached. Readers aren’t invested in the messages. They don’t care about the content because they don’t know why they should care.
Effective content marketers look for the underlying story that supports the personal or business brand. They use the founding story to communicate a businesses values and vision. They use day-to-day interactions among employees to demonstrate the businesses’ priorities like customer happiness. Customer testimonials are turned into videos that show the community that believe in the business and have invested in its mission.
Successful content marketers never miss a chance to tell one more chapter of their story.
Thanks to analytics tools like Google Analytics, Mixpanel, and Kissmetrics, you have hundreds of ways to collect and analyze date. We have never been more informed about the health of our marketing.
Successful content marketers have mastered collecting, analyzing and using the data their content generates.
Content marketing is 80% pattern recognition and 20% luck. When the content marketers dons their Analyst hat, they rely on spreadsheets, filters, segments, and other data analyst tools to turn data into competitive insights.
Content marketers can clearly express themselves. They understand the power of words and methodically improve their ability to communicate effectively.
The best content marketers study other content marketers to pick up new ways to present their story. Not all content marketers are great writers, but they can spot great writing when they see it.
I understand that visual and audio tools get attention, but good old fashioned text is still the workhorse of content creation.
See Demian Farnworth’s work on Copyblogger to see how a virtuoso content marketer writes effectively.
#4: Conversion Guru
Getting new readers isn’t the primary goal of elite content marketers. Their primary goal is turning readers into leads and customers. Master content marketers obsess over their content’s call to actions. They aren’t happy with a measly 1% visitor to subscriber conversion rate. They want to do all they can to move their reader from an anonymous blog interaction to an email based relationship.
Boosting conversions requires a willingness to test every aspect of your blog. Headlines, first paragraphs, button placement, link color (and more) can be tested to determine the best combination of elements. Top content marketers run hundreds of experiments every month to steadily increase their conversion rates.
See Peep Laja at Conversion XL. His site is a treasure house packed with conversion strategies and tips.
My computer science professor started the class with a request – “I need two volunteers.” I’m a show-off so I raised my hand and was soon paired with a like minded glory hound.
“We are going to blindfold Frank.” The other volunteer’s eyes were covered with a black sleep mask.
“Ok Frank, I’ve just placed a loaf of bread, a butter knife, a jar of peanut butter, and a jar of jelly in front of you”
“Stan, your job is to give Frank step-by-step instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
15 minutes later, both Frank and I were thoroughly annoyed with one another. I learned that I wasn’t a good teacher (yet) and Frank learned that PB&J is better in your mouth than all over your hands.
Teaching is tough. It requires patience and attention to detail. Teaching, done correctly, is a powerful content marketing tool as well.
Remember the productivity coach I talked about earlier? She was an excellent teacher and received a premium fee for her expertise.
Here are a few other world-class brands who effectively teach with content:
Zapier: Zapier’s content team keeps its subscribers engaged with excellent productivity and automation How-To content.
Intelligentsia: I’ve heard Intelligentsia referred to as a “coffee thought leader.” Take a look at their Brew Guides and you’ll see why.
Lion Brand Yarn creates a steady supply of video content on — well — knitting proving that content can be used for just about anything.
You can judge the expertise of a content marketer in 5 minutes. Just ask them what they do. The best ones can’t resist showing you how to use their product or service. They love teaching and they do it well.
I’ve spoken about my crush on Zirtual. They’re ZAs have made my life easier. While Zirtual does its core business well, they also are great coaches. Their blog offers excellent tips and examples of how to use their ZAs more effectively. Zirtual understands that signing a new client is just the first step; you need to help the client hone their delegation and outsourcing skills to.
Apple has missed an opportunity here. I suspect that I only use 10% of my iPhone’s capability. Siri is still a mystery to me and ApplePay and other awesome thingamajigs never make it to my home screen.
I hate to say it by Google’s Android is doing a much better job coaching me on how to get the most out of their product. Apple needs to use content to coach its user on how to use their products to ‘Think Differently’.
Any product can be made be made better with content that coaches. Coaching content pays for itself via higher customer satisfaction, loyalty and customer lifetime value (LTV). Review your content calendar, are you coaching your current clients on how to get more value out of your product?
Yes. The best content marketers are comfortable with coding (geek speak for writing software).
Savvy startup CEOs call candidates with this knowledgeable – Full Stack Marketers. This is a marketer who can create their own landing pages, build their own online courses, pull their own data, and if need be prototype their ideas from scratch.
It’s easy to learn the skills you need.
One Month has a growing library of coding courses based on Mattan Griffel and Chris Castiglione’s learn by building something useful teaching approach. (By the way, these guys are great teachers too.) I learned how to build my first app with their Ruby on Rails course.
CodeSchool is similar to One Month but they have a larger variety of coding courses to choose from.
Khan Academy pioneered the online learning space. They have a nice collection of basic courses that you view for free.
Did You Come Up Short?
Did you think of another skill that should be added to the list? Let’s talk about it here