A friend of mine owns her own marketing agency and recently asked me what qualities are most important when looking for someone to lead a content/inbound team. We were both at the Portsmouth Rumble Tumble for a playgroup, and the chaos of toddlers high on gymnastics wasn’t an ideal backdrop for a serious conversation. So I told her that I'd email her some thoughts later that night. Once I fired off the email with a list of desirable traits, I started thinking about the future of content and what it takes to really stand out. I use the terms "content" and "inbound" sort of interchangeably – but yes, I'm aware they are NOT the same thing.
According to "Content Is the Fuel of the Social Web," there are 27 million pieces of content shared every day. This statistic was released in 2012 by AOL and Nielsen, so you can imagine how much bigger that daily “share” number is now, four years later. Living in a world where so much content is shared is great for consumers because there is now more information available to them than ever before. As they consider purchases, consumers have a huge breadth of information at their fingertips to help make smarter, better informed decisions.
Whether they are looking for a new blender that can keep up with their aggressive margarita lifestyle, or thinking about purchasing a new home and want to do a virtual walk-through from the couch, going online and searching for relevant information (content) is typically the first step for any modern shopper. Don't know how to caulk that small crack between your bathtub and the bathroom wall? There are literally hundreds of YouTube videos that can show how to do exactly that.
But for marketers, all this content has (in a way) created a barrier between their message and their ideal customer. How do you break through all the search results and create something discoverable and relevant - which your audience will value?
Like a lot of agencies today, my friend's shop spends quite a bit of time explaining to clients why inbound and content marketing efforts are worth the investment. This is where, I explained, she needs someone who is truly results-driven, and can not only explain the value (in theory) to clients, but can also show them how these specific marketing campaigns work in practice (perhaps using Hubspot, Salesforce, Marketo or something similar).
According to the 2015 B2B Content Marketing report, only 21% of marketers say they are successful at measuring their content marketing ROI. So why is that number so low? Most brands are not using sophisticated enough software to shine the light on their individual campaign results. They know they need to be pushing content (hopefully not cat videos) but where does it go after that? They can look at analytics and reference traffic results, or see how many likes/hearts a certain social post received, and attempt to draw a correlation, but what is the hard dollar value of this effort? How many unique email addresses did it produce? How many potential customers can you retarget from this list with a tailored message that makes sense given the communication path you have already initiated? A content strategy must be dictated by data.
Not only should a content-lead have a firm grasp on inbound best practices, but it’s also helpful if they have held other positions within the marketing spectrum so they understand how content fits into the bigger picture. Understanding this is helpful when designing a strategy for a client because it can become a feeder system for where to focus efforts. What is the most frequently searched-for product on your website? Does that on-site search dictate that we should build a dedicated landing page for that product or anything else? This is something that someone coming from eCommerce might suggest, but there are others factors to consider.
How do inbound and content practices impact a website's domain authority? And what does that impact have on paid search results and other advertising techniques? Having a varied, multidimensional, professional background can make and your entire team smarter. Such experience also impresses clients when an agency associate asks questions like that which makes them (the brand manager) rethink their own product offering.
Lack of direct inbound experience does not negate the critical value of someone well versed in the complete digital marketing spectrum.
There is a draft-like love affair between marketing agencies and journalists (or students of journalism), and it makes a lot of sense. Strong writers who know how to tell a compelling story? Yes please! Train them on HubSpot, provide them with some information around search terms, and they can be building meaningful connections with audiences by the end of next week.
Social curators are also real assets to a good marketing team. Someone already active in social media, someone practiced at sharing news and ideas your agency finds compelling and valuable, can add serious value to your team. Social curators are great too because they are motivated to be active contributors - they probably like what they do (low turnover) and could either help you improve - or can direct clients on how to best make themselves synonymous with topics and communities related to their particular industry.
Other good candidates for a marketing team might have backgrounds in: creative writing, communication, public relations, anthropology or other social sciences.
Looking Ahead: We all know that personalization is the future of marketing and advertising. No longer will broad marketing campaigns net the same customer volume that they once did. Marketers need a different, more precise strategy to resonate and convert. This applies across the board, not just for those leading retail and eCommerce teams, but also for content marketers and agencies.
Brands will be challenged not only to reach targeted audiences, but brands are going to be forced - in order to stand out and truly resonate - to genuinely become a part of their customers’ communities. Focusing on the micro-level (micro-moments) of consumer interaction will be a crucial point of difference for a lasting content strategy that actually drives consideration, engagement, and conversion.
The creation of unique, quality, and personalized content is what agencies need for the future. They will need help with content creation, content deployment, and data interpretation of that content. These are efforts that cannot be mass-produced by technology (yet), so brands will need to find talent from all walks of life to create the most engaging content possible; content that matters.