As the field of content marketing evolves, it’s becoming more of a science and less of an art. While no marketing discipline will ever be purely a science, content marketing, to be effective, needs to be measurable, repeatable, and sustainable. A key element of this evolution is the identification and development of attributes that make for a great content marketer.
My thinking on this topic has developed as Iâ€™ve built out a B2B demand generation team at Apptio over the last two years. The approach that I follow is to single out the traits that would differentiate a content marketing candidate if I were hiring today. Through this exercise, a handy mnemonic leapt out at me: CASH.
So, what makes up CASH?
Curiosity, especially when it goes hand in hand with empathy, is a prerequisite for effective content marketing. Great content marketers have an almost anthropological understanding of their prospects and customers.
Great marketers start by putting themselves in the shoes of their prospects. They’re relentlessly curious about the needs, wants, desires, challenges, and motivations of their prospects. They develop an understanding not just of the environment in which their prospects function, but also of what’s important in turn to their prospects’ customers.
They don’t just stop there, of course. Great content marketers also map out milestones in the journey that prospects take from being unaware of the marketer’s solution to being a happy customer and a reference.
Content marketing isn’t about creating content for its own sake. It’s about creating and merchandizing content to attract, engage, and convert prospects. Measuring and optimizing for outcomes is essential. How does a great content marketer do this?
The first step is to understand the different stages of the marketing and sales funnel, and the stages that need improvement. Sometimes a business needs more inquiries. Other times, it needs to do a better job of converting Sales Accepted Leads to Qualified Active Opportunities. A content marketer must understand and align the funnel stages to the current snapshot of her company performance.
The second step for a content marketer is to form a hypothesis about the type of content that she needs to produce to improve this performance. The type, medium, and depth of content needed varies by stage, but unless a content marketer can make the connection between the funnel needs and content, she can’t truly be effective. To gauge content effectiveness, the content marketer must figure out the leading and lagging indicators of content efficacy. And what she can do to improve these.
The third step is to figure out the conversion and optimization economics associated with getting this content in front of the right prospects at the right time in the right forums. While storytelling skills, which I cover below, are essential for this purpose, it’s also important that a content marketer understand the efficacy of distribution channels (search, social etc.) in terms of their cost and other revenue performance indicators. Beyond understanding, the content marketer should be comfortable in driving performance in these channels using levers such as multivariate testing and quick experimentation.
What skills does a content marketer need to do this effectively? Familiarity with Google Analytics or other web analytics tools, a basic understanding of statistics, and the ability to pick up multivariate testing is what comes to mind. Let’s not forget a desire and an aptitude for manipulating Excel! Excel is a marketer’s best friend.
Every piece of content has at least one great story embedded in it. It has a hero – one that the prospects can identify with and root for. Cue Joseph Campbell and his Hero’s journey.
A good content marketer tells stories. Stories that capture the imagination of prospects, elicit an emotional response, and make the prospects act to take the next step in the buying journey.
Good writing skills complement storytelling. But it goes beyond just writing; to thinking about how to tell stories with the variety of tools we have out there. It’s about making great presentations and applying that skill to media like SlideShare. It’s about video marketing. It’s about understanding how you can tell stories on social media like Twitter. It’s also about injecting the right amount of tension and conflict in a blog post.
Storytelling skills can be learned. Here are a couple of great books on the topic:
- Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
- The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make us Human
A content marketer that gets results is one who’s not afraid to hustle. So, what is hustle in this context? It’s a can-do and positive attitude. It’s the ability to roll up your sleeves and get things done. It’s dogged persistence and grit. A part of this is work ethic. Sure. But more of it is about creativity. Flexibility. And agility.
A lot of content marketing is about reuse, recycling, and repackaging of existing content. This isn’t about laziness. It’s about ROI. A great content marketer understands and internalizes this in all her marketing activities. She starts by curating content before moving to creation and cultivation. She’s always looking for new channels and formats to get her content out in front of prospects. She spends time on GrowthHackers.com and Inbound.org learning the new tricks of the trade. She engages with influencers in her sector and gets them to contribute on her blog. She finds current memes and attaches to them in clever and engaging ways.
If push comes to shove, I’ll take this quality over most of the others, though a good mix is always welcome!
What do you think? What other traits would you add to the list above? Chime in via the comments below or tweet me @dhamdhere