Every two years, Olympic athletes from around the world come together to compete in the alternating Winter and Summer Games. These athletes represent the best of the best from their respective countries, with finely-honed skills and abilities developed over many years of training.
Their tenacity elevates them above your average athlete, and their skills are what earn them a place at the Games.
In our industry, there’s no shortage of content marketers ranging from the blog-focused freelancer writer to the agency professional handling content for Fortune 500’s. The result is a ton of content, varying in quality, being pushed onto every online channel.
Similar to Olympic athletes, the content marketers who stand out are those with stronger, expertly tuned skill sets.
If you want to compete and get serious results, here are the ten skills you need to master.
1. In-Depth Research
Unless you’re the most knowledgeable subject matter expert, everything you create will need to have some research behind it. Any content marketer can browse popular sites, do a little research, and brainstorm some topics. Effective content marketers go deeper by:
- Researching the target audience to thoroughly understand their pain points and interests
- Discovering what channels the audience pays attention to for effective distribution
- Knowing the terminology the audience uses when searching
- Uncovering search queries they use to find answers and solutions
- Using platforms like BuzzSumo to discover the most popular content on a given topic
- Using a tool like Ahrefs to uncover link popularity for different content
- Digging into content comments, social groups, and discussion threads for audience concerns/interests
- Identifying different audience segments, applicable demographics, and psychographics
- Tracking trends in marketing and their industry
- Determining which content formats provide the most audience reach and engagement
Marketers who want epic results will keep researching until they have an exhaustive collection of data for their strategy and campaign. That persistence sets the best content marketers apart from the rest.
2. Leverage Trends
Trends come in a lot of forms. Every industry has trends and things that are on the minds of their audience at any given time. Industry trends are important to follow, but so are the trends outside your industry that capture the attention of your audience.
A smart marketer constantly keeps their eyes open for trending topics to stay ahead of the curve.
Being the first to jump on new industry trends to leverage them for your content campaigns is a great way to position yourself in front of a specific audience. But you can’t neglect other trending topics that make the top of the news and get listed in social channels with hashtags.
While some trends may be completely irrelevant to your business, others can be designed to create a correlation that puts your content in front of a much larger audience.
Texas-based LawnStarter jumped on local trends, featuring city growth in their blog. It reported that its home city of Austin had crossed a major growth milestone, and the story was quickly featured in BizJournal and Patch.com. By paying attention to what people cared about and leveraging trends, they expanded their reach to more than a million people.
3. Effectively Promote and Distribute
The average marketer does some social promotion when new content is published and leaves the rest to organic traffic from search. But if you want more reach and traffic from your content, you have to utilize every available channel for promoting new content.
When Jay Baer publishes a new video for his show, Jay Today, his team immediately begins promoting it through multiple channels. This promotion includes:
- Uploading it on YouTube
- Distributing video and audio podcasts on iTunes
- Posting to two websites (Convince & Convert and Jay Today)
- Promoting it on social outlets like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter
- Cross-posting to LinkedIn Pulse and Medium
In addition to using those same channels, you can use tools like Quuu to promote your content, send email notifications to subscribers, ask your connections and influencers you know to share it, and sponsor the content through various social channels.
4. Know How to Read the Data
Being able to tell a story is important, but knowing what to do with that story matters even more. Since every piece of content is created for a purpose, the most successful content marketers know how to analyze data to ensure that goals are being met and the content is performing well.
But, examining lots of data can be exhausting and inefficient, and the metrics you should ultimately watch for will vary based on your goals. To determine what the most important metrics for content marketing are for your business, you need to develop an efficient process for interpreting data, which can only come from really understanding what you’re looking at.
Knowing how to read the data can help you decide which topics to scrap and which top-performing topics you can repurpose into new, traffic-generating content.
5. Superior Strategy and Organization
A clear-cut content strategy helps you define goals, track your research, plan your content, record your progress, match content to your audience and stages of the funnel, and stay organized for consistent and effective deployment. A detailed editorial calendar and content strategy are signs of an all-star content marketer.
6. Write Better Than the Average Marketer
Writing well for a digital audience might seem obvious, yet a lot of marketers struggle in this department. With more and more emphasis on content marketing and brands struggling to catch up, I still see marketers pushing quantity over quality.
Content marketing is more than just getting content written, and good writing is more than just avoiding grammatical errors and typos. The best content is high value, long form, and packed with so much value that it might resemble an overfilled water balloon on the verge of bursting.
Moz’s take on writing 10x content should be the minimum standard you aspire to set for your content output.
7. Being a Scrappy Designer
You could do perfectly fine and get great results without having any design chops, but you’ll have to draw upon some other resources, outsource design elements, and shell out money to make it all happen.
Or, you could work on your design skills and gain more independence in all parts of the content marketing process. You can quickly push out really great content if you’re able to create and edit images that tell a compelling story. Whether it’s an eye-grabbing feature image or some inline graphics, having even a basic designing skillset would be hugely beneficial.
You don’t need a pricey Photoshop subscription to accomplish this. Just learn how to use Pixlr for in-browser image editing or Canva to create incredible, professional-looking images.
8. Telling a Compelling Story
Storytelling can take a lot of forms, and there’s no magic outline for doing it right. The most successful content marketers are the ones who can elicit emotional responses from readers in ways that further connect them to the brand.
Warby Parker uses storytelling to promote social consciousness by producing content that brings attention to people in need. The company is well-known for donating over two million pairs of glasses, with one pair given to a person in need every time one pair is purchased.
9. Be Versatile
I could crank out articles all day long and do pretty well, generating organic search and referral traffic for my agency. But I don’t settle because I’m more versatile than that for my clients, as well as my own content strategy.
Effective content marketers don’t put all their eggs in one basket. They rely on more than one form of content to reach their audience, because they know their audience digests content in different ways. Your customers read articles, listen to podcasts, watch video, scan infographics, examine case studies, and read through whitepapers for new insights.
Producing a variety of quality content will get you in front of a much larger audience.
10. Knowing How to Collaborate
Steve Jobs believed it was important to ask for help and lean on others when help was needed. More specifically he said, “Now, I’ve actually always found something to be very true, which is most people don’t get those experiences because they never ask. I’ve never found anybody who didn’t want to help me when I’ve asked them for help.”
The ability to collaborate and seek assistance from others is a valuable skill that the best marketers leverage for their content efforts. When you partner with someone, especially an influencer within your industry, you’re greatly expanding your reach into a much larger audience.
For example, I teamed up with Neil Patel to produce a comprehensive guide to building a blog audience. It was a mutually beneficial collaboration because we were able to leverage each other’s skills and resources to produce a highly valuable piece of content that continues to deliver results.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have connections yet. The best collaborations always start with an idea.
This isn’t a full list of skills that every content marketer should have, but developing these ten skills is critical if you want to stand apart from the endless torrent of “so-so” content that’s being shoved in front of your audience’s eyes.
Want to be an all-star content marketer and get epic results? Master the ten skills I mentioned, and you’ll be well on your way.
What skill do you think is most critical for getting big results from your content marketing efforts? Share your thoughts with me below.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!