What does it take to succeed in content marketing?
Tenacity, teamwork, and some fundamental content marketing skills don’t sound all that bad as a basic list. But ask a marketer to lay out what they consider to be fundamental knowledge for content marketing, and suddenly the list becomes much more complex. Running the gamut from creative skills—writing, design, filmography—to technical skills—SEO, marketing automation—there’s a lot for marketers today to know.
In this respect, content marketers exist in a strange in-between space. We’re considered to be a specialty of marketing, but in acting out that specialty many of us must generalize our knowledge to some extent. For this reason, I’ve stopped thinking about excellent content marketers as “rock stars,” “gurus,” or any of the numerous titles that startups like to use to describe their content marketing leads. Rather, I’ve started to think about content marketers as “dynamos”—figures who embody a wide scope of knowledge and skills and who work energetically to put all of it into practice.
But now that content marketing has established itself as a core pillar of successful marketing practice, what will content marketing dynamos need to do to stay relevant and keep growing in their careers?
The first thing to remember about content marketing is that it’s a relatively new practice, at least in terms of definition. While many of the tactics we employ have been around for some time, the specific collection of these tactics and the language to describe them is less than two decades old.
In fact, a recent study from Conductor found that the majority of content marketing teams are less than four years old. Further, the vast majority of these teams have four or fewer people dedicated to them, and these teams may or may not operate with autonomy in their organization. It would appear that, for many in-house teams, content marketing is still very much in its infancy—and that means it’s landed on a select handful of workers to do what they can to lift every aspect of their content workflow.
As these teams continue to grow in size and sophistication, what should marketers themselves expect?
Image attribution: Céderic Vandenberghe
While content marketing teams will always benefit from dynamism, content marketers should expect to start seeing more specific roles begin to crop up. Currently, these roles take two paths: generalist positions that capitalize on a wide breadth of knowledge to inform strategic direction and management, and specialist positions that home in on more technical aspects of content marketing.
A perfect content marketing team mix has yet to be found by anyone, but there are some patterns that a content marketing dynamo should keep in mind as they look towards their future:
Content marketing’s history of dynamism will likely continue to be a hallmark of our work into the future. Rather than being a product of understaffed teams, however, it will be because content marketing continues to push itself towards the sharp edge of marketing thought and tactics. This means that—for content-oriented workers especially—continued learning will be a necessity throughout our careers.
If you think that specialization might be the route you want to take in your career, consider looking for a large or growing content marketing team. With more resources and manpower, mid- to large-sized marketing teams are more likely to have the infrastructure in place to support focused specialists across their tactical marketing activities.
While AI, machine learning, and other simpler forms of automation are already mixing up the marketing landscape, this tech isn’t a death sentence for any marketer who doesn’t want to earn a PhD in computer science. Rather, it’s a reminder that continual learning and thoughtfulness about the tasks you do will be important as you develop throughout your career.
On a more specific, skills-oriented level, there are some other general directions that generalists and specialists alike can take to stay relevant in their fields:
For generalists who want to tackle the track of strategy and management, it’s important to understand that one of the greatest limiting factors for your team’s growth is leadership buy-in. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to consider adding leadership communication to your repertoire of content marketing skills.
I cannot remember the last content marketing position I saw that didn’t list graphic design, photography, or film as a desirable (“but not required”) secondary skill. For content marketers who end up on the more editorial side of the mix, consider developing a secondary skillset in a creative field to give your resume that extra push of competitiveness.
Picking up coding might sound daunting, but as marketing leans ever more fully into the digital space, it would be prudent for marketers at any level to develop basic coding knowledge, or at least the ability to understand and speak about coding-related projects in a thoughtful way. Look at your current role and your desired career path, and perhaps consider studying even one language that might set you up for success in the future.
Content marketing has never been for the fainthearted. Even as the field continues to grow, this new influx of attention and resources doesn’t mean we can let up on the gas and stop being thoroughly dynamic workers. Rather, we should see this growth as an opportunity to think critically about whether we want to lean into a wide breadth of knowledge to tackle the challenges of strategy and leadership, or if mastery over a specific set of technical skills would be more appealing.
In either case, we should remember that marketing dynamos continue to be the core of a well-functioning content team and that it is on us to ensure that we keep ourselves dynamic for whatever the future may bring.
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Featured image attribution: Marivi Pazos