8 Must-Have Skills for an Expert Content Marketer
Know what to look for before you hire your next content marketer.
Are you looking to hire an expert content marketer, but struggling to sort through the masses of marketers who say they have the writing chops? You're not alone.
"Everyone — and I mean EVERYONE — thinks they're a writer," says Rebecca Reynoso, senior editor at G2.
A lot of marketers are writers, but there is a big difference between a great copywriter and a great content marketer –– and it's one that isn't discussed as often as it should be.
Copywriting is what you see earning people massive following on LinkedIn and Twitter –– and it's even what is most often featured in marketing educational series. For instance, in the popular newsletter Harry's Marketing Examples, you'll see several rewritten website headlines claiming to help increase conversion. And they probably do just that. But that is not content marketing. That is copywriting.
So, what is content marketing and what skills should you be looking for in the person you hire? Let's get that clear.
The difference between content marketing and copywriting
A lot of content marketers are also fantastic copywriters, and the reverse is true too. A lot of expert copywriters are admirable content marketers. But, just because there is a crossover doesn't mean the two are one in the same.
Content marketers build a content strategy for a brand, and then put together the plan and oversee the execution of that plan to realize the overall strategy. The plan includes content research, content briefs, content writing, content editing, SEO optimization, graphic design, and finally, content distribution.
Copywriters are often helpful in the writing portion of the plan (though copywriters historically have written shorter form content than is typically needed for search-optimized blog posts these days) and in the content-distribution section of the plan. After all, copywriters know how to tell a story and engage an audience. And there's no better place to do that right now for a business audience than social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter.
The top skills expert content marketers have mastered
If you're looking for a true expert in content marketing, you'll want someone who is also a great copywriter. But that's not where his or her skills end. Here are the eight main skills great content marketers have mastered, and how they help your business grow.
1. Content strategy
The ability to formulate and present a clear and coherent content strategy is a must-have for expert content marketers. Many content marketers can execute on a strategy, but not all of them can do the research necessary to put together a long-term strategy, detail the waterfall method in which that strategy will be executed (thus creating a plan) and have the ability to present that plan to founders or executives for sign off.
This is a skill senior content marketers hone over time, and if you're looking for an expert, you'll want to ask questions in the interview that help you understand if they've been able to do this successfully.
2. Project management
The second most crucial skill for an expert content marketer is project-management ability. Many organizations are content-first, but they don't necessarily realize it. That is to say, successful organizations often repurpose content from the blog, case studies and more for their ads, email marketing, sales-enablement material, etc.
This allows content to not only be measured on SEO success, which is a really good thing because SEO can take six months or more to begin to work.
Content-first organizations need a strong content strategy that takes the full funnel into account, and they need a strong project manager who can report clearly on when content will be ready and help the team autonomously create expert content for every single stage of the funnel.
3. SEO basics
Having a clear content strategy and great project-management skills doesn't rid you of the requirement to understand the fundamentals of SEO. A great content-marketing strategy will build organic search traffic over time, helping to reduce CAC and build brand awareness and brand trust.
Now, your expert content marketer doesn't need to know the technical bits of SEO (or how to implement them), but he or she should have a clear enough understanding of Google's algorithm to build a content strategy that has you ranking for relevant terms, and that allows him or her to optimize content before it goes live.
Ask him or her about the content marketing tools he or she uses specifically for SEO. The answer shouldn't be "None."
4. Creative production management
Every single piece of content that is produced, whether it's for your blog or for your sales team, will require graphic design. After all, you want to put your best foot forward with your content, and great design helps create brand cohesion across all of your assets.
Similar to the project-management experience mentioned above, expert content marketers have experience managing a creative production pipeline to ensure blog hero images are delivered on time and that PDFs are being designed as needed for further down the funnel.
Here we are back at copywriting –– it is a crucial content-marketing skill. Great copywriting will accomplish the following:
- Increase the click through from organic search results to website.
- Grow your branded audience on social media platforms.
- Make presentations far more appealing and likely to get approval.
Great content marketers have honed this skill over time, but don't think that all expert content marketers have massive social followings. That's simply not true.
Many content marketers have spent more time focused on headline A/B testing on highly trafficked pages, for instance, to increase conversions. Or, they have been focused further down the funnel helping email marketers with great copywriting to increase retention. Social media is the top of the funnel –– and that's not always the best place to focus for growing revenue.
Expert content marketers are also great editors. This doesn't necessarily mean they prescribe to a certain stylebook, though. Instead, it means that they know how to edit a story for clarity, for readability and for the brand's style.
Don't worry –– there are plenty of content-marketing tools on the market that can help with spelling and grammar. While that is a nice-to-have for expert content marketers, that skill is quickly being outsourced to the bots.
7. Blog writing
Great content marketers likely rose to their position through fantastic writing and editing on blogs of their own. It is true that it takes far more than a blog and a dream to become an expert content marketer, but all content-marketing experts should be able to pump out great blog content –– even if they manage a team of folks who typically do that for them these days.
Check their clips. Make sure they can write, source and credit properly. Otherwise, you're risking your brand reputation.
8. Analytics and tracking
Finally, expert content marketers don't just publish and pray. They distribute, and they measure. And they aren't only measuring traffic to the website. Expert content marketers are skilled at understanding website behavior, running content-specific CRO tests and measuring the impact of organic search traffic all the way through the funnel to conversion.
Experts won't just hand you a blog post to publish. They will build an entire strategy, execution plan and analytics dashboard to keep you up to date on what is working, where and why.
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