The Content Marketing Specialist – The Must Have Secret Weapon for Small Business & Startups
This article isn’t about the importance of content marketing. You should already know it’s one of the most effective and sustainable marketing strategies. No, this article is about the finding and hiring a content marketing specialist. This is the crackerjack operative who finds all the best keyword opportunities, gets killer new sources of quality backlinks, and hooks up content distribution in places your users are secretly hiding out. In short, s/he’s your black-ops content hacker that gets results. And if you’re a small business or startup, you need this person ASAP.
Who is a Content Marketing Specialist?
First, when I say “black-ops hacker” I’m not talking about black-hat shady SEO practices. I’m referring to the type of person who digs up opportunities that aren’t so obvious. I’m referring to the deep experience and tested tactics that a real expert brings to the table. The name really says it all. A “specialist” is someone that focuses on one thing, every day, becoming more and more proficient, until their work begins to look like magic.
If you’re as old as me, then you grew up watching the A-Team and you know the “Faceman“. This guy was the specialist that figured out how to get the impossible done. In every episode the team found themselves in a seemingly hopeless situation. They would call on the Faceman to dig them out of it. This is how I think of the content marketing specialist — s/he just figures out how to make it happen.
Source: Mental Floss
Content Marketing Manager vs. Specialist
Most decent sized companies look to hire a Content Marketing Manager when they first start building out their marketing strategy. And for larger companies, this role is generally the right one. But for startups and small businesses, you’re looking for the specialist. There’s a difference, and if you only have budget for one marketing hire, this is the one. In many ways the two roles are quite similar. Both team members will work on these things:
Any decent content marketing manager can write content. And maybe this is sufficient for some companies, especially bigger ones that think they need volume over quality. But they rarely have the passionate voice and empathetic heart of a true specialist.
Most digital marketers are familiar with Ahrefs and know how to do basic keyword research. But Ahrefs and similar tools are so feature rich that most people only use a tiny part of the functionality. Not the specialist. They go deep. They love the nooks-and-crannies of marketing tech, and they will extract the full value of your monthly subscription.
You may also want to read: The Importance Of Keyword Research For Your Website
Good marketing requires good planning, organization and attention to detail. This includes everything from keeping track of a publishing calendar to tracking and organizing marketing analytics. A content marketing manager has these skills too, but they generally aren’t perfectionists like the specialist is. Your guy will run a tight ship where nothing falls through the cracks. S/he always sends your content on time. And ALWAYS produces speedy results.
Nobody can do everything themselves, although you’ll be surprised at how much your content marketing specialist can actually take on. Even still, s/he’s going to need resources to help. That could include graphic design, tech work, freelance writers and content distribution partners. This is probably where the content marketing manager stacks up pretty well with a specialist.
The main difference is how the specialist can manage resources and be an incredible individual contributor at the same time. Managers, on the other hand, quickly find admin work to be a full-time job. And at that point, their direct contributions like writing and research starts to dip.
In a 2018 study, the Content Marketing Institute determined that the most effective B2B marketers spend 40% of their budget on content marketing. So yeah, researching and writing great content is critical. But getting it distributed on high traffic sites and blogs through guest posts and feature placement is even more important.
This is a tedious and time-consuming effort that lends itself to the dogged nature of a content marketing specialist. More than likely, your manager is going to look to outsource this effort. Don’t do that, especially if you’re just getting started. It’s always harder to get someone outside your company to be as effective as anyone on the inside. Unleash the content marketing specialist on this task and you’ll get further, faster.
It’s not enough to just get your content on other sites. You have to drive traffic to your own work through back-linking strategies. This too, is a nuanced skill that takes effort and meticulous grinding to get results. Rarely have I seen a content marketing manager with the patience and discipline to build a backlink strategy that will grow your domain rank fast and consistently.
You may also want to read: Why Backlinks May Hurt Your SEO & How to Boost Inbound Links
The bottom line is that even the best content marketing manager is more of a generalist. They’re likely to have corporate soft skills and political capital building prowess that just isn’t that useful for startups and small businesses. The content marketing specialist is a different breed. They aren’t versed in the bureaucracy that comes with working at bigger organizations. They’re laser focused on executing and getting results. And when you’re small or just getting started, this is exactly what you need.
Source: Meritt Thomas on Unsplash
Core Skills of The Specialist
In addition to doing everything listed above, the content marketing specialist has unique skills that set them apart from managers. These are qualities that can’t easily be taught. There’s an innate sharking savvy that only true specialists have.
Truly Passionate Voice
Every writer has a voice. Even the tone of this article is unique in style. A stellar content marketing specialist should have a certain passion that shows in their voice. One of the benefits of being a startup or small business is that the passion of the founders can be felt in the content you produce. You need your marketing champ to bring that same inspiration to bear. Passionate writing is contagious. It engages readers beyond the topic or context of the content itself. So, you want to hire someone who can be an extension of your own passion for the business.
The specialist isn’t jaded by the frustrations of bloated marketing departments – at least not yet. S/he’s still fired up about making real impact and actually providing value to readers. This shows in their ability to empathize with an audience. When a writer feels the pain of their readers (or customers in your case), they can create content that excites and motivates them. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling shoes or software — you want someone leading your content marketing effort who can get into the minds of your people.
Research is one of the most frequent and important aspects of content marketing. Whether you’re hunting for keywords, finding questions that have been left unanswered or simply understanding your customers, your content marketing specialist should live to learn. S/he should be the type that gets lost in a rabbit hole of deep links from one article to another — keeping a detailed log of insights and statistics to be used in future content.
At its core, content marketing is about telling stories. The specialist is like a sponge, absorbing stories and re-packaging them in a way that engages readers and illustrates the business value. This is the subtle art of content marketing.
When you create a narrative that provides useful and valuable information while simultaneously weaving the benefits of your business, you’ve hit content gold.
These are the things that make great content marketing specialists so much more valuable than ordinary marketing folk. You must be dogged and patient in your search for the right person.
You may also want to read: B2B Content Marketing Tips to Reach Out to a Wider Audience
Finding and Hiring the Specialist
So now you know you need to find and hire the best content marketing specialist you can. A quick search of Indeed will prove that there are a lot more open recs for content marketing managers than specialists. This is partly because many of the people are already working for your competitors. You’re going to have to do some digging to find the marketing ninja you seek.
Writing a Job Description
You want to be really thoughtful when creating a job rec for this position. You can start with a basic content marketing manager outline you can find on Glassdoor, but the goal is to “speak” to the specialist. Use your words carefully so that the role stands out. This starts with the job title.
I’m a fan of using creative modifiers in the job title — something like “Content Marketing Specialist with Crackerjack Smarts”. This stands out. It might actually dissuade the more corporate marketing types, but that’s what you want.
The really sharp candidates will take notice of this and want to learn more.
Next is the intro paragraph where you talk about the company and the role. Get clever here too. Let the prospect know how much you and the company value the role of the content marketing specialist and how much impact you expect them to have on the business. This isn’t a supporting role — your person is going to be the boss of their domain. So let the candidate know that in the first paragraph.
Cherry Picking Candidates
You can post your job on popular boards. But in the end, the best person for the role is likely to come from a referral or by plundering companies you respect.
Get on LinkedIn and check out your competitors and other businesses that are likely to have great content marketing people. Start with the more junior roles. The easiest way to recruit someone away from their current job is to find a diamond in the rough.
Look for associates, specialists and even interns. Bigger companies frequently don’t see the potential their junior employees have. You might get lucky and find someone that is just a little under-appreciated. Find their email using tools like Snov.io and hit them up.
Once you’ve got someone on the hook, get them on Zoom (or in-person if you’re reading this post-COVID). And don’t do what most people do when interviewing marketing candidates — talk about yourself and the company. Instead, get them to tell you stories. Try the prompt “when was the last time you did X” or “have you ever found yourself doing Y”. Push them to give you details. The stories are where you’re going to find out if they make the grade.
Look back at the qualifications outlined in this article before you do the interview. Then find out their strategies on back-linking or keyword research. When you’re confident you’ve found your person, give them the pitch. Remember to pump the impact. A great content marketing specialist wants to know his or her work is appreciated and making a difference.
Source: Kyle Cottrell on Unsplash
Your Content Marketing Specialist in Action
Once you’ve hired your new marketing ace, put them on the field quickly. Sure, it’s going to take some time for them to learn your business, but they’ll pick it up faster in practice than lectures. Here are the first few things you’ll want them to start working on:
Do an Audit
Ask your specialist to do an audit of your current marketing engine. This includes reviewing the blog for UX opportunities and SEO best practices. Have them review the past 6 months of published content. Dig into your Ahrefs account and see what’s what. Make sure s/he’s clear you’re looking for truth and not to sugar coat anything. Ask for a written report and let them know this will be the basis for the marketing plan s/he’ll build next.
Find the Niches
Have your specialist research content niches for your business. Almost certainly you haven’t found all of them and more than likely your content strategy has been too high level. Ask man to propose three new niches for writing content and him them tell you why they’re largely untapped.
Have your person start writing content right away. It will take some time before they are adept at word-smithing the business vision, but you can help him or her get up to speed quickly by editing their work. Have them create some content for your blog and begin outreach for guest posts. This will quickly empower your specialist and help increase their passion for the company.
Summing Up and Scaling
At some point your business will grow too big for just one person to manage the content. The goal is to be ready to replicate the systems, processes and style your content marketing specialist has built. You may be forced to hire more staff to support your superstar or maybe begin outsourcing content to a network of freelance writers. But never lose the fire your ace has built.
Don’t get cheap. Pay your specialist more as your business grows, but don’t make the mistake of promoting them to manager. Like the Faceman, your specialist needs to be free to be effective. As soon as they get bogged down by process and the ministry of big business, they’ll lose the fire. And sadly, one day, your specialist may end up leaving. Don’t be sad. Encourage them to find another startup to run ablaze. Then just sit back and be grateful. If you got to this point, you accomplished exactly what you set out to do when you started.
Jeff Solomon is currently co-founder of Markup Hero, a screenshot and annotation tool for Mac, Windows, and Web. Jeff is a 5x founder of both bootstrapped and venture-backed companies, with several exits under his belt. He is a product and marketing focused entrepreneur with deep experience in SaaS.
Jeff also teaches entrepreneurship to high school students and is an active advisor on platforms like Clarity.fm. He is working on a comprehensive customer development course launching in early 2021. You can connect with Jeff on LinkedIn here, or follow/tweet him @sollytweet.
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