Way back in 1895, John Deere launched their first printed customer newsletter, The Furrow. The magazine’s goal was to tell stories that farmers enjoy reading and provide them with the knowledge they can apply in their operations. From this early example to today’s digital-first world, content marketing has evolved into a strategically-critical function for brands looking to connect with their audiences.
The last couple of years have seen growing budgets, deeper focus, and in some cases, a spot on the CX panel for content marketing teams. This has opened up new career options and a longer career path leading to senior leadership within organizations. For content marketers and seeking to develop their leadership skills, this article identifies ways to do that within your content marketing team.
If you’re new to content marketing or are evaluating a career in content marketing, here’s a resource to help you assess the space and make an informed decision.
Essentials of a Strong Content Marketing Leader
- Understand your company’s sales process: A deep understanding of the organization’s strategy, vision, and business are essential for all functional leaders, including content leaders. Content leaders should be familiar with the sales cycle, the common objections from the prospects, and motivations to purchase. You can leverage this knowledge to help define the content strategy and themes that align well with your business goals and deliver on the ROI promise.
- Know your audience: Content marketing can only succeed if it’s relevant and meaningful to the audience. As a content marketing leader, you should demonstrate a solid understanding of your customers’ context, pain points, and challenges at each stage of the journey and address that through the content you develop. You should also foster a culture of customer-centricity and implement the necessary processes to ensure that your teams are always connected with the changing needs of your audience. To become a successful leader, you’ll always need to stay in step with your audience and motivate your teams to do the same.
- Develop functional expertise: As a leader within the content marketing function, you’ll be charged with setting up teams, processes, and tools to get the content engine up and running. You would also be responsible for crucial strategy, budget, and quality decisions. Leaders who have grown from the ground up by creating content and having invested in their professional development are likely to have a deeper understanding of the nuances of this function and succeed. Invest in working on the various stages of content across functions. Some essential functional skills include writing, design, video creation, planning, editorial, and data analysis.
- Master collaboration and team building: A significant part of a content leader’s responsibility includes building and nurturing a solid content team. The content team in most organizations works across business functions such as customer success, product teams, HR, etc. Strong collaboration skills can help you navigate through organizational friction and set up cross-team collaboration and processes.
- Invest in building your personal brand: Personal branding is not restricted to physical appearance. This also includes your communication and actions. A strong personal brand helps you build trust and a reputation as a knowledgeable content leader in your organization and the external world. However, it is essential to remember that your personal brand should be authentic and reflect your true personality.
How Can You Gain These Skills?
Unlike many other functions, content marketing is still in the early stages of evolution. Most content marketing leaders today are self-taught through first-hand experience, unconventional training programs, and peer-to-peer learning. Here are some avenues for developing the skills and competencies to establish yourself as a credible content marketing leader:
- Training programs: Content marketing isn’t mainstream yet. This means you likely won’t find this as part of the academic curriculum at most universities. However, you can find helping training in content marketing from organizations such as AMA that offer expert-built certification courses in content marketing. In addition to broader, introductory content, you’ll usually find online and offline deeper-dive courses to help you hone your skills in specific areas of content marketing, such as writing, editing, team building, project management, and personal branding.
- Tools and technology: Content marketing teams today do more than just writing. Along with the various formats within content, the teams also need to be able to measure performance, analyze results, and make data-backed decisions. Also, tools can help you enhance the quality of your content and the team’s efficiency. As a content marketing leader, staying abreast of the evolving technology and building the right content marketing technology stack for your organization is a surefire way to get on senior leadership’s radar as a serious player worthy of taking on other strategically-important initiatives.
- Peers and Influencers: Ask any content leader today, and they’ll speak highly about the importance of peer-to-peer learning in developing their knowledge. Trade shows and meetups curated for content marketers are great ways to network and talking shop, gaining new insights, and expanding your circle of connections. CMI’s Content Marketing World is one such event focused on content professionals. You can also join virtual communities to build your global network.
As you build your peer network, be sure to follow and connect with influencers in the content marketing arena. Influencers, by definition, are not just knowledgeable about emerging trends and movements in the industry – they shape them. Following the right influencers can help you learn from their experience and be on the content marketing cutting edge. Here are 15 content marketing influencers that we recommend for 2022 and beyond.
Whether you want to start your career in content marketing or advance to the next level, the industry offers abundant opportunities to those who invest in themselves and hone their craft. The key is to never stop learning.
Who knows? You just might even find yourself leading cutting-edge AR-VR content initiatives in the metaverse for a certain 100+ year-old farm equipment company.