The benefits of content marketing are well documented in 2017. According to a Content Marketing Institute report, 88 percent of B2B marketers now use content marketing strategies, with content marketing leaders experiencing 7.8 times more site traffic than non-leaders.

Investments in content marketing are clearly paying off, with those dedicating the most effort earning the greatest results.

But in all of the hype, a key piece of the content marketing equation is overlooked – content marketers themselves.

We know what makes a great content marketing strategy, but what makes a great content marketer? Sugar, spice, and everything nice?

Let’s just say it’s a bit more complicated than that.

4 Qualities of Top Content Marketers

Content has become a battleground for brands to earn consumer attention and dollars.

Social networks like Facebook are creating an environment of constant discovery, and companies, like Google, are following suit.

Yet, despite this call for more information on diverse subject matters, sales and conversions must be a byproduct of good content. Consumers crave resources, but they’ve also grown more attuned to what promotional content looks like online.

It will only become more challenging to compete on strategy alone as a great number of marketers begin to master 21st-century content.

Fortunately, those responsible for ideating and executing these strategies can serve as a point of differentiation themselves. As brands shift their content marketing strategies to better compete in today’s digital environment, marketers must revisit their values as writers, as well as how these values translate to the page.

Whether hiring new content marketers or retraining an existing team, here are four qualities to be mindful of.

1. Approachable

In the absence of person-to-person interactions, content allows brands to build strong relationships with consumers. This means that content itself must be positive and familiar, and inspire the same sense of community that talking to a friend might.

The same goes for design. Content design should facilitate easy and productive user experiences.

For example, when planning a wedding, brides and grooms are often inundated with ads that have too much information.

A website that acts as a friend, however, understands that this is not what those in the throngs of planning a wedding want. Rather, a clear infographic can more successfully educate consumers on wedding to-dos, in a way that’s easy to understand and enjoyable.

Just like a close friend or family member, this type of content conveys that the brand is here to make consumers’ lives easier, especially during such a momentous occasion.

Producing content that consumers find valuable demands a deep understanding of the issues faced daily in commerce. A value closely tied to friendliness and being approachable is empathy. Content marketers who are compassionate in their personal lives will naturally want to learn more about consumers and find the solutions best able to solve their problems.

Compassionate leaders are said to inspire less stress among their employees, and friendly and compassionate content marketers can do the same for consumers.

2. Boldness

One of the main responsibilities of content marketers is to try new, sometimes scary things. Whether this is a riskier campaign idea or interacting on an emerging channel, content marketers must be willing to take risks that engage consumers in an oversaturated marketplace.

Risks pay off when handled correctly but crash and burn when improperly strategized and executed.

To see this spectrum in action, consider top beverage brands Pepsi and Heineken. Each released a 2017 campaign that was strongly tied to popular social topics like protesting, gender, equality and more. While Heineken’s marketing strategy was well received, Pepsi incurred a great deal of backlash for its partnership with celebrity, Kendall Jenner.

Such polarized reception of bold campaigns shouldn’t scare brands away, but it is an important reminder to be highly strategic when executing untested marketing/advertising ideas.

Fortunately, modern analytics software and AI solutions mitigate much of this risk for marketers by keeping a better pulse of what consumers like and don’t like. That said, while intuitive software helps brands operate in a data-driven way, it’s ultimately marketers who are responsible for implementing solutions and translating data insights into real-world strategies.

Rocking the boat requires self-confidence, even when you’re prepared and assured of your direction.

3. Creativity

In the next five years, creativity will become the most important leadership quality. An inventive mindset steers brands away from their competitors and industry trends, and marketers will find creativity an invaluable differentiator when creating content.

Creativity can help brands earn consumers’ initial interest.

Take Airbnb, whose recent ‘Live There’ campaign flipped the script on what it means to be tourist. While the ads do promote Airbnb’s listings, this is a secondary goal to the campaign’s main message – that just because you are a tourist doesn’t mean you have to live like one. In a short video, Airbnb quickly piques viewers’ attention and leaves them wondering how the travel company can help plan their next trip.

Despite the value of creativity, calls for creativity should never be forced. It’s important that marketers take pleasure in the process of building, designing, and writing content, as their own enthusiasm will translate to the page.

Creation simply for the sake of creating doesn’t solve real problems. Rather, when a marketer’s own creativity is applied to an identified business need or consumer expectation, the resulting content reads as more thoughtful and compelling.

4. Knowledgeable

Knowledgeability here is a two-part value. Top content marketers must:

  • Be knowledgeable in their industry and best practices.
  • Possess an innate desire to always learn more.

Constant learning not only keeps marketers abreast on new strategies and solutions, but also communicates to consumers that a brand is always striving to improve their experience. Marketers with an appetite for understanding how consumers search for and digest content, as well as what types of content resonate best when, will prove invaluable in building and maintaining strong relationships with shoppers.

As a bonus, consumers are 131 percent more likely to buy from brands immediately after consuming early-stage, educational content. This kind of content can have lifetime engagement improvements as well.

For example, an auto dealer can develop brand affinity with consumers by providing education content on how to perform routine car maintenance, such as changing wiper fluid. While this interaction doesn’t earn the dealership immediate business, the company will be top of mind for consumers when the time comes for more complex service needs.

Conclusion

As brands begin to prioritize these values, they will quickly realize it isn’t a single characteristic that makes a top content marketer, but a blend of many.

Knowledgeable and approachable, as not to be condescending.

Bold and creative, as not to be boring.

Collectively, these values produce content that situate brands as friends, not impersonal organizations with the sole mission of profit.

Sure, bottom lines are on every marketer’s mind, but this should be a secondary goal to providing consumers with top digital content and experiences. Building out a content marketing team with values like those above supports this philosophy and helps brands find a voice that effectively translates their in-store experiences online.

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