On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your content marketing efforts?
According to a survey by Chief Marketing Officer Council and NetLine Corporation, only 12% of marketers would rate their efforts high.
Only 12% of marketers believe they have an effective content marketing strategy in place. An effective strategy that targets the right audiences with relevant and persuasive content.
This article is a long read, containing over 3,500 words of insights and advice.
If you’re looking for something specific,
Or don’t have enough time to read the entire article you can directly skip to:
- The skills you need in a content marketing team
- The importance of culture in your hiring your content marketing team
- Which profiles to hire (and in which order)?
- Advice on collaboration and productivity
The reason your company is struggling with content marketing… is you.
Ok, maybe not really YOU.
But bear with me for a moment.
There are many different reasons why the 88% is not happy with their strategy. Some of these reasons are:
- Lack of a clear content marketing strategy
- Lack of measuring and proving content marketing ROI
- Not creating customized content for target audiences
- Not leveraging the right distribution channels
- Not enough marketing budget to create and promote content
While all these reasons might be legit, there’s a very big responsibility for you, the business owners.
The ones who own the business and set the initial guidelines for everything.
You decide how successful your strategy is going to be.
You decide how your marketing team is organized,
You decide the resources, the culture, and general attitude.
Because you own the company.
That’s a big responsibility.
Some of you are rocking this responsibility like no other.
But some of you… are struggling.
whether knowingly or unknowingly
This article is for you.
This article is for the ones that don’t really know where to start.
This article is for the small businesses and the start-ups that think they can’t really focus on content marketing right now.
This article is for the ones that tried it before, but it didn’t really work.
And this article is especially for the ones that end a successful meeting with the following response:
“Thank you, we’re convinced that we need content marketing. However, we won’t accept your proposal, we’ll start looking for a junior profile who can do all this internally.”
You’re risking the growth of your company to save a few $100 in the short term.
But I get it.
It looks so simple,
We all use Facebook and Instagram in our spare time.
“We’re all experts, right?”
Content marketing takes a lot of time
And as a business owner, you don’t have that time.
Your time is too valuable to be involved in the content marketing plan of your company.
But how do you do it?
This article shares advice based on my personal experience and hopefully helps you to change how you organize your content marketing team.
Content marketing isn’t a one-man job
Plain & simple.
Content marketing has become too complicated for one person to handle.
Sure, one person can start with some content marketing initiatives internally.
You don’t necessarily need a content marketing team of five people on the first day of your business.
Sure, there are some very talented, young people available on the job market.
But content marketing simply isn’t a one-man job.
And I can prove that very easily.
Here’s a list of the most important skills a content marketing team should provide:
- Strategic skills:
- Content marketing strategy
- Social media advertising & bidding strategy
- Buyer journey strategy
- KPI & Goal-setting
- Reporting & data analysis
- Writing & creation:
- Copywriting for social media
- Copywriting for blog articles ( yes, that’s different! )
- Long form copywriting
- Interview techniques
- Basic video editing
- Basic HTML & CSS
- Tools & software:
- Keyword tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, LSIGraph & Moz
- Content production in tools such as Photoshop & Canva
- CMS & content management in multiple systems
- Marketing (automation) software such as Drift, HubSpot, MailChimp
- Facebook Business Manager and other social media advertising software & tools
- Google Analytics
- General skills:
- Project management
- Fast learning
- Social reach & networking
- Strong communicators
- Empathy ( yes, that’s a skill )
Here’s a visual overview:
You see why most marketing folks describe their team as:
If that’s not enough of a challenge, there are more things to hiring than just ‘skills’.
Not enough time to read the full article? Skip directly to:
Always put culture first
The word ‘team’ in content marketing team is very important.
You simply can’t find all the necessary skills in one person, you need to hire multiple profiles.
These profiles need to work together. Closely.
“Culture should be essential in your hiring process.”
There needs to be a match. Your team members don’t necessarily need to become friends, but they need to have a shared set of values.
Your company’s core values.
If someone wants to work for or with Great Scott! they’ll have to check these boxes:
- Driven by curiosity,
- Looking for improvements
- By challenging conventions
If they don’t share the same core values, there will be no magic.
So how do you do this?
How do you hire for culture?
There’s a lot more to it than some bullet points, but I’ve discovered four important elements:
- Document what makes your company unique and make it very tangible and universal so everybody gets it.
- Share it across your company. It’s not enough if you put your values on a fancy PowerPoint slide.
- Incorporate your values into your hiring process. E.g. by asking atypical questions, describing situations or engaging in role-play situations.
- Review quarterly and reward people and situations that really embodied your values. Be tough for people and situations that don’t fit your values as well. You need to take this seriously. If somebody is repeatedly failing your values-test you need to fire them. Even if they are highly skilled. They are a disaster waiting to happen as they undermine your company’s culture.
There’s a lot more to this, I can strongly recommend the following book: Traction by Gino Wickman.
The book contains an entire framework and actionable exercise to get more traction in general.
Your company culture is a big part of that.
And if you need some inspiration to document your values, take a look at HubSpot’s Culture Code. They did a hell of a job.
One final thing about this topic:
Culture is very important, but it’s not the only thing that matters.
Your top hires should always:
- Have a relevant experience
- Fit your company culture
- Have a hybrid set of skills (from the list mentioned above)
Who to hire first?
Nowadays, a lot of companies are building their own content marketing teams.
So who do you hire first?
Well.. there’s is no real ‘best practice’ that works for everyone.
But I’d like to share the insights I’ve seen work well for multiple organizations.
1. Writer (a hybrid profile)
Your first hire should be a hybrid profile.
Someone who’s a real digital native and understands how the internet and how social media works.
While their core focus should be writing, they need to be a little bit more than that.
Once you explain a rough idea, they need to be able to take this idea and make it tangible and better.
So look for someone who can work with Canva or Photoshop, someone who can take a photo or someone who’s not afraid to pick up the phone and call someone.
I often call this the “Let’s do this” profile.
Someone motivated who sees opportunities, rather than someone who sees ‘more work’.
Look for people with:
- A general marketing background or education, so they understand the bigger picture
- An active personal blog or vlog, so you know they are capable of running the entire show
- And a passion for (long form) copywriting
2. Social media/Content manager
If the volume of content you need increases, you can always engage a second writer or a freelancer.
But if you want to be smart, your next hire should be a dedicated social media manager.
Someone who manages all your social media accounts.
The perfect moment to hire this person is when your writer starts spending more time on managing everything instead of writing.
Posting, scheduling, reporting, social listening and basic advertising are skills that go into this second profile’s job description.
Option 3A. Junior copywriter
If you don’t have any complex systems in place and your strategy is clear, your main issue at this point will be executing ideas.
You and your content marketing team will have great ideas, but no time to execute them.
That’s when you hire a junior copywriter.
Someone with fewer experience but a lot of motivation and dedication.
This new asset to your ream typically costs less but allows you to create more time for the first two profiles. Your first hire will now focus more on the consistency of your content, the planning of your editorial calendar and the cornerstone content.
Option 3B. Marketing Automation Manager
If you have more advanced marketing and sales systems in place, I recommend another third profile to hire.
Execution will also be a challenge, but look for loyal freelance copywriters to solve this instead of adding the junior copywriter to your payroll.
Hire a marketing automation manager instead.
Someone who understands software such as MailChimp, HubSpot, Act-on, Pardot, Marketo etc.
They will connect your content marketing efforts and make sure your initial readers automatically convert into qualified leads with automated workflows, dedicated email campaigns and lead scoring.
In other words, your content marketing team now consists of:
- Someone who creates content (1st profile)
- Someone who distributes content via social media (2nd profile)
- Someone who brings it all together in an automated lead generation program (3B)
4. Experienced strategic profile
Your next hire should be an experienced one.
Someone with 3 to 5 years experience as a content marketer and a more holistic and strategic view on things.
This profile can help you to break down more complex strategies and projects, without jeopardizing the current workflow and timings.
Traditionally, this hire is a tipping point for smaller organizations. It’s the key moment where you decide to grow and scale your content marketing efforts.
It’s the moment where you decide to go all-in on content marketing and make it the beating heart of your marketing team.
If you decide that that’s not the right strategy for you, you probably end at step 3 or even step 2.
And there are often good reasons for that.
5. Researcher & Ads booker
If you decide to grow, you’ll need a researcher and Ads booker.
Someone who will take this out of the hands of the previous profiles so they can focus.
This is a number-cruncher who constantly analyzes reports and provides new insights for the writers.
These are people with less focus on content creation skills, but with more focus on statistics, behavioral analysis and with an interest in platforms and technology such as Google Analytics and Databox.
6. Long form copywriter
Depending on your business and content marketing strategy, you’ll hire more social media profiles, marketing automation managers or general writing profiles.
But if ebooks, whitepapers, and infographics are a structural part of your strategy, think about hiring a long form copywriter.
This person works closely together with the other copywriters but gets more time to work in depth on a particular deliverable. The other writers often don’t have the time to create a customer survey and to translate the results into a 40 pages whitepaper. This profile does.
This profile helps you to create a 10x piece of content every single month/quarter.
7. Online/Social Media Designer
Last but not least, hire a dedicated designer.
Your first two hires should all have a certain feeling for design.
But at this point, you’ll have so much design work, that it will pay off to hire a dedicated designer.
It will clear up space in all the agenda’s, and it will provide an additional boost in quality.
Make sure this profile is an online designer.
DTP or branding designers are completely different. They have different skills, use different software and have a different process and mindset.
Make sure that it’s someone who:
- falls in love with designing small elements such as calls-to-action buttons
- knows all social media sizes by heart
- has an experimental mindset and is open to data-driven insights
Interaction skills (creating GIFs or animated text) is a BIG plus for this profile.
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Some frequently asked questions:
Why is there no dedicated SEO profile in your content marketing team?
That’s a great question.
I don’t include it as a general best practice, as I’m convinced that everybody in your content marketing team (apart from the designer) needs to have a good understanding of search engine marketing:
- Your strategic and research profiles can do keyword research or perform a competitive analysis.
Usually, your marketing automation profile will be able to do this as well. As many marketing automation platforms contain SEO-tools.
- Your copywriters need to understand the best practices for on-page SEO: how to integrate keywords naturally, title tags, alt tags, title & URL best practices.
- Your content manager needs to be able to use tools such as Yoast when publishing to perform a final check, reduced file sizes, create backlinks etc.
And if you want more advanced SEO knowledge, I recommend to temporarily hire an advanced agency or consultant to work with your team.
However, if you have a purely SEO-focused content marketing strategy, it might be relevant to hire a search specialist as your third or fourth hire instead.
Who is responsible for updating the website?
Your content manager.
They are responsible for putting your content out there.
Of course, they’ll have to work closely together with your copywriters and designer who’ll create the actual content. But your content manager is your best bet for efficiency as they are used to upload content into different (social media) platforms.
Why is there no dedicated video/photography profile?
Because you can’t have everybody on your payroll.
Yes, video and photography are essential to a modern marketing approach.
But you have to look at the costs as well.
Instead of putting them on your payroll, I recommend finding a great freelance video/photographer.
Get them to know your business and company values and set-up a structural collaboration.
For instance, keep a list of things to shoot based on your ideas for the next quarter.
Then, organize a quarterly shooting with your freelancer and use one or two days to make high-quality visual material.
Collect everything in a local library so your content marketing team always has access to great videos and photos.
P.S. If you’re looking for a great photographer, I can highly recommend my friend Thomas Lenaerts.
Can’t you just outsource everything?
Yes, you can.
And many of you should.
Especially as a start-up or SMB, it’s usually not the best strategy to start building a large content marketing team and hire 7 people.
If you outsource your content marketing efforts, I recommend building a team as well.
However, it will be a team of loyal freelancers.
Hire freelancers that take the time to know and understand your business.
Hire freelancers that share your company values.
And make an agreement for a longer period, so you avoid spending time on constantly negotiating prices and hourly rates.
The order I then recommend is:
- Strategic profile: you need to have a plan first
- Copywriter (similar to 1st profile)
- Social/content manager
- Marketing automation manager
- Ads booker
How will automation/AI/Bots/… affect content marketing teams?
Aaah, a hot topic!
A very interesting one.
This topic is worth a series of dedicated blog articles, so I’m not going to elaborate too much here.
But some key thoughts:
- Repetitive, manual marketing tasks will be automated intelligently and increase your productivity
- You’ll get faster, better and more insights from your current data
- The creative process will change, as new platforms create websites or write copy.
In general, the content marketing standard will be higher as ever before.
Which requires a better strategy and more creativity to stand-out and beat the competition.
I’m currently not convinced AI, automation, and bots will take over every content marketing job.
Our skills have always changed and evolved due to innovations such as print, television, internet and social media.
If you compare the typical Mad Men agency to a social media agency, you’ll see a completely different skillset.
Our skills will change and evolve again.
And faster than ever before with these new technologies and innovations.
How do you manage the team?
Do you have a content marketing team in place? Great!
But they still need to work together.
So how do you this?
How do you create a framework of efficiency and productivity that will ultimately boost your results?
Again, there’s not a single formula for success.
But there are five things that always work like a charm:
- Provide a clear overview
- Short stand-up meetings
- 90′ content marketing team meeting
- Stimulate initiative
- End the week together
Provide a clear overview
Planning, planning, planning.
If there’s a lot of work to be done, you need a clear overview for everyone.
You can’t afford to lose valuable time on unclear responsibilities, lack of deadlines and undefined tasks.
Make sure you have a realistic planning in place – no, a copywriter can’t write three blog articles on a single day – and put in a clear, user-friendly system that is accessible to all.
I prefer using Co-Schedule (advanced) or Trello (budget-friendly) for planning your content marketing efforts.
We all hate meetings, right?
They kill our productivity.
So why do we keep having these long, inefficient meetings?
The alternative is simple:
Have short, efficient stand-up meetings.
These are 15 – 30-minute meetings where everybody has to be present and no laptops or smartphones are allowed.
In these 15 to 30 minutes, everyone gets a few minutes to tell the entire team what’s going on.
What is going well? What isn’t?
Communication is key in the team, and these stand-up meetings guarantee this communication at least 15-30 minutes/weekly.
A 15-minute meeting every week saves the entire team up to 2 hours that would otherwise go to email-discussions, internal frustrations, false expectations etc.
If you have a larger team or have a lot to discuss I recommend you do the stand-up meetings daily.
90′ content marketing team meeting
There’s only one meeting that can take longer: the weekly content marketing team meeting.
Organize a team meeting for 60 – 90 minutes at the beginning of every week.
But this meetings is somewhat different.
Don’t talk about specific jobs or clients.
Talk about the issues instead.
Talk about the struggles.
The things that make your life in the content marketing team hard.
And solve this as a team.
The solutions are documented and appointed to a team member. In the next team meeting, you track progress.
If you have this meeting every single week and even if you only solve one issue every meeting, you’ll solve 52 issues every single year.
Include the entire team in reporting
The entire team should be included in your reporting.
From your copywriter to the designer, they all have to know the results.
Tools such as Databox can help you to do this effectively.
The numbers and charts in Google Analytics are the direct results of everyone’s job.
You need to know how your actions impacted these results.
Because you’ll start learning what works and what doesn’t, and this will make your work on other clients better as well.
Make this a part of the team meeting and quickly run through the key numbers and discuss what can be improved, why some results are behind schedule.
These are new issues to solve during the team meeting.
Everybody has great ideas.
If you know the results from the reporting,
if you know what works and what doesn’t from the stand-up meetings,
you’ll get new ideas.
“Hey, maybe we should do X.” Or “Maybe we should try Y.”
Stimulate people to share these ideas.
Discuss as a team how the idea can work for you.
Don’t make the mistake of judging it as a bad idea.
Unless one of your company values is “being a d*ck”.
The person who had the idea, will probably never share a spontaneous idea again. And that might just be the idea that doubles your business.
Close the week together.
You survived. That’s often how it feels, right?
You’re a team.
So take a few minutes every Friday to close the week together.
Grab a beer and run through your highs & lows of the week.
Or turn it into a learning moment: the one thing you learned (or fucked up) this week.
It helps to blow off some steam, express some frustrations and just get it out of your system.
So you can go home and the weekend can REALLY begin.
One last statement
Content marketing is no longer an “optional extra”.
Not even for small businesses and start-ups.
It’s the only road to long-term success.
That success is a team effort. Otherwise, it won’t happen.
With this article, I tried sharing a lot of my insights and thoughts on how to organize that team effort.
Hopefully, it’s your first step to a highly effective content marketing team.
If you want to talk about your content marketing team or their struggles, get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or just leave your emailaddress right here and I’ll be in touch within 1 or 2 business days:
I’m happy to help and discuss:
- How to hire your content marketing dream team
- How to boost your content marketing team’s productivity
- Collaboration tools and processes
- Coaching & education workshops and strategies
If you want more insights, make sure you also read:
- Content marketing ROI: where do you start?
- The inbound marketing secrets you need to know before you start
- Launching a new content marketing business?
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