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Content Marketers: Are You the Utility Player of Your Team?

To many people, Labor Day signifies the end of summer. To me, the changing season, such as the weather cooling down or leaves changing color, football and baseball playoffs signify the end of summer. Baseball playoffs start on September 30th this year.

In baseball, the “utility” player, by definition, is one who can play many positions well, so they are a “jack of all trades”. In the major league baseball playoffs, the utility player is vital and maybe the most valuable player to the success of a team.

Why?

They are counted on, perhaps more so than any other player, to help the team reach its goal of getting into the playoffs and winning the world series. And, in the clutch, the utility player is usually the difference maker in making/not making the playoffs.

For example, look at the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Josh Harrison. He was the only utility player selected for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game and his versatility and ability to play multiple positions has enabled the Pirates to off-set key injuries to regular players because he could fill that gap left when one of the regular starters got hurt. In fact, with him, Pittsburgh has a good chance to go back to the playoffs for a second consecutive year. Without him, they would have one of the worst records in MLB.

Which brings me to the subject of content marketing.

Content marketers have an incredible opportunity to add amazing value and be the utility players of their team – their company.

Why is this important?

A company’s number 1 goal is revenue growth. To achieve this, it needs to generate new business as well as retain existing business faster than it churns. Content Marketing is an important key to this because it can help move a casual visitor through various stages of the buyer’s journey to a customer and through the entire customer lifecycle. Content marketers do this by getting to know buyers, understanding what motivates them, providing resources and tools they need and want to help them in their jobs and nurturing them to the next point of the journey and the next and so on.

But that’s not enough.

Through the content they deliver, they have to make the journey with the buyers, so they can constantly help enhance their experience.  In effect, they are a buyer’s tour guide. Internally, Content Marketing is the glue that connects the C-suite, Marketing, Sales, Product, Customer Service and other groups together to provide the experience (cause) that results in a buyer taking action (effect).

As content marketing helps to nurture and convert buyers, it also helps build consistency of voice and message, which further extends the brand. In addition, content marketing’s contributions will be supported through metrics and will lead to support across an organization. Content Marketing’s ability to be a “jack of all trades” helps it add value to its cause as well as create more value for the company.

Remember, our baseball player, Josh Harrison? He not only is an outstanding utility player but actually leads the National League in hitting. So, the metrics show that contribution on a diamond or in Content Marketing is measured not by home runs but steady, consistent contact with the baseball and the customer.

 

There are two aspects of content marketing that help to increase its value even more – how content marketing fits within a company and the skill set of a content marketer.

 

The Content Marketing Team As a Whole

Where Content Marketing resides within the company is crucial to its success.

M4 Communications believes strongly that departments that collaborate with multiple departments across a company – think PR and Product Development  – should be set up as a stand-alone entity, reporting to a member of the C-suite, who will champion the effort, as well as a dotted line to an organization it is most closely aligned with.

This is absolutely the case with Content Marketing.

Content Marketing collaborates with Marketing, PR, Sales, Product, et al. While Content Marketing’s “clients” are all these groups, it is more aligned with Marketing. Setting Content Marketing as its own group with a C-suite champion and dotted lined to Marketing is more effective than positioning it inside the marketing organization. When Content Marketing is created this way so that it functions across the company (instead of within a department), it enables communication, consistency, teamwork and corporate growth, and ensures that a silo is not created. Silos are dangerous as they create miscommunication and distrust, resulting in lack of teamwork and consistency, and stunted growth.

The Content Marketer’s Function

Lately, I have been reading some thought leadership articles suggesting content marketing teams should be organized like news organizations and going so far as to say brands should be hiring journalists to fill content marketing roles.

I understand why.

The idea is that a journalist can go beyond the marketing-speak and get to the story. However, this is a short-sighted view and may not be an optimal approach.

Journalists may understand the elements of the story but do they understand the why’s, what’s and the who’s? In other words, do they understand why the company is engaging in content marketing in the first place, the corporate strategy, what the product is and where it fits in the strategy, who the buyer is, what type of action we want these buyers to take, etc.?

A journalist is not equipped to answer these questions. Michael Brenner, Head of Strategy at NewsCred agrees. He posits, “I have seen brands, even SAP, struggle by hiring journalists and former editors from media companies only to have them struggle with the weight of being inside a corporate business environment.”

There is a cultural change and a mindset change required to transition from a news environment to a corporate environment. Brenner adds, “content marketing needs to start with the why and define objectives and audience, long before getting to the how.”

Brenner also agrees that being a content marketer is not all about being a good writer. He notes, “I do not believe you need to be a strong writer in order to be a content marketer. I believe writing is like a muscle and so that is why I require everyone on my team to become a contributor of some kind. I did not test for writing skills. I guess I’m a believer in the whole ‘hire for attitude, not aptitude'”.

In the big scheme of things, being a good writer is a small piece of the content marketer pie, and it is something that can definitely be strengthened while on the job.

There are so many layers to the content marketer that a content marketer is not complete without them all. This very notion supports why a content marketer who is a utility player really adds value to the company.

In fact, Brenner’s recent article, 7 Skills To Look For When Hiring A Content Marketing Strategist, really hammers the message home that a content marketer must be many things to be effective. It’s one of the first articles I have read that drills the fact that there are many items at play that determine success of the content marketer.

There are 10 skills that content marketers need to be effective. They include:

Corporate Strategy. Content Marketers need to understand what the company is doing, why they are doing it and for whom they are doing it.

Marketing. Content Marketers must understand the digital and traditional channels used to reach and engage with an audience. Content Marketers must also understand the inbound mechanics such as the phases of the buyer journey, tools used in lead generation and lead nurturing activities, which content pieces are appropriate for each phase of the buyer journey, and how to convert visitors to customers. They need to be skilled in developing targeted messages and know various brand extension activities. They also must have a working knowledge of SEO.

Sales. For content marketers to be able to collaborate with the sales team, a necessity to generate sales enablement resources, content marketers must have an understanding of sales and business development and how each fits in a company.

Communications. Because content marketers collaborate with many departments in a company, they must be able to communicate effectively with them.

Content Strategy. Content Marketers must understand why they are doing content marketing in the first place. From there, they must be able to determine the appropriate original/curated content mix that will drive engagement and action.

Project Management. Content Marketers must be able to manage content projects from start to finish, including knowing when/where to publish content and ensuring that content is published timely.

Technical. Content Marketers should have working knowledge of content management systems, marketing automation and other tools to help them optimize their efforts.

Analytics. Content Marketers need to have a good grasp of Google Analytics and other tools to measure KPIs, and know what to test to optimize content.

PR and Social Media. Content Marketers should understand PR, know individual social media channels and their mechanics, and how to use social listening and engagement to grow an audience on social media.

User Experience. Content Marketers should know buyers enough to understand their pains, motivators, needs and wants so they can ascertain how buyers interact with the brand, and how to deepen the experience for these buyers.

Having the appropriate skill set and being positioned effectively in the company will enable a content marketing team to add enormous value and become the utility players of its company.

 

What can you do to become the utility player of your company? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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