Building a content marketing strategy is a lot like building a successful career in marketing. It’ll take planning, foresight, and a commitment to excellence if you’re to succeed in either (and hopefully both.)
Samantha Thorne and Cameron Robert are two Australian marketing professionals who have realised success in both their careers and the strategies that they’ve crafted. Thorne, OpenAgent’s Content Marketing Lead, has spent her entire professional life in the field, crafting out a niche in content strategy. Robert has utilised his expertise as Marketing Automation Manager, guiding Flight Centre Travel Group to an enviable market position over his almost five-year tenure.
We took the opportunity to speak to these two leaders about how to build both a marketing strategy and a successful marketing career, and how the two challenges could form a nice Venn diagram, by crossing over in a few key ways.
The role of content
Anyone who has worked in the content marketing space will tell you that developing content can be incredibly difficult, because the return on investment may not be readily apparent or easily calculable, and the wants and whims of your audience can at times be hard to read.
It’s therefore vital that as a content marketer you not only have a deep understanding of the role of the content, but also the audience for whom you’re creating it.
“Whether you’re speaking to a consumer (B2C) or another business (B2B), the fundamentals of creating engaging content more or less remain the same” says Thorne. “Your aim should always be to create valuable content that guides a user through every stage of their journey. Doing this without adding to the endless noise that’s already out there is one of the biggest challenges facing content teams today.
“At OpenAgent, we try to stay super close to our audience and understand what they’re actually interested in consuming. At times that means talking directly to them and finding out what would actually be helpful – you’d be surprised by what you uncover if you take the time to engage.”
The importance of feedback
Engagement during content development is every bit as vital as engagement when the content is released. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that according to Thorne, OpenAgent actively seeks out this engagement and acts on comments and criticism where it can.
“If we get feedback, we take it seriously. We don’t ever dismiss a newsletter response as unimportant, for example, and will often start a dialogue to find out how we can make things better. This person has taken the time out of their day to respond, or to ask a question, and it’s our duty to make sure we’re delivering content that’s actually making a difference.”
“The real estate industry is unbelievably competitive, and people are creating incredible content every single day, so if you produce something that’s carelessly slapped together, and don’t put the user at the heart of what you do, they’ll bounce and disengage.”
While working in a different industry, Robert says these principles remain the same. For his part, he is an advocate of marketers gaining a bit of first-hand, front-line experience as a means to understand the individuals being targeted.
“Every marketer should work on the other side of their campaigns, in a customer facing service role,” he says. “Experiencing the complaints, difficult questions and problems with marketing offers and promotions early in my career shaped how I conduct marketing activities to this day.”
“Marketing is communicating ideals, values and dreams to people you’ve never met. It stands to reason that meeting a few of these mystery individuals will make a marketer better at their job.”
Building a content marketing strategy
But how exactly does one build a solid content marketing strategy? We asked Thorne to walk us through the process at OpenAgent.
“Planning and getting the team aligned at the start of every quarter is super important. We’ll have a couple of goals that we want to bite off, and each person in the team works on different activities and channels, all of which funnel up to help us achieve those goals. Before we begin we think about how we’ll resource these goals and how much the tools or contractors we might need are going to cost.
“While we always have big goals, we’ll often break them down into smaller chunks and treat it as a test. We’re always asking ourselves things like:
- How are we tracking?
- Is the needle moving?
- Will we get there?
“Sometimes you won’t hit that big number that you set for yourself, but seeing progress counts for a lot and helps you to understand whether this is something you can scale, or whether you need to do things differently. And if you fail that’s OK too, as long as you learn from it. If something clearly isn’t working we aren’t scared to pivot and try something new.
“But one thing always stays true; we never just create content for the sake of creating it. There’s always a purpose. We always ask ourselves ‘why?’”
Progressing your career
Perhaps you’re getting the hang of developing successful content marketing strategies. The next logical step would be to turn your attention to developing your career; something in which our two experts have plenty of experience.
“I believe there are two distinct paths for a marketer,” announces Robert. “You can choose to be either a generalist or a specialist.
“Generalists boast a wide range of marketing skills. They know how a few marketing channels work, they develop solid business, team and strategic acumen, and they’re very valuable in smaller business as doers, and in larger businesses as leaders.
“Specialists, on the other hand, focus on a very specific set of marketing skills or channels, and aim to be the best. These people will generally move towards large businesses (which have the resources and infrastructure to support their niche speciality), to agency or consulting work, or to the vendor of the product in which they’ve become a specialist.”
While Roberts admits that there are an almost infinite number of career possibilities within marketing, he says that functionally pretty much all could either be described as a generalist (a jack of all trades) or a specialist (a master of one, or perhaps a handful). Choosing which of these career paths to walk down early in your career – although far enough into it that you understand what you’re getting into – will place you ahead of many of your professional peers.
Developing your marketing career, like developing a sound content marketing strategy, is about having a clear end goal in mind, and monitoring your progress in getting there, pivoting where appropriate.
It’s about breaking down your large goal into smaller, more easily digestible ones, to keep both your hunger and your momentum up.
It’s about communicating clearly, and asking for feedback where possible.
And in the end, it’s about being content.