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It’s one thing to say that you want to become a content marketer and another to put this desire into practice. To jumpstart your content marketing career, you’ll need specific skills that can both help you land a full-time position and excel once you have one. Here are seven ways you can build the skills you need to kickstart your content marketing career in 2018.
1. Start by building your writing skills
It may seem obvious that someone overseeing content should be comfortable with words, but the importance of this skill cannot be overstated--which is why it’s first on our list. If you’re new to the content marketing world, start by taking a copywriting position (or another job that involves a large amount of writing) to build your writing skills.This will give you the foundation you need to succeed in content. Over time, you can expand your skills to span other digital marketing areas, but great writers are hard to find and even harder to replace. Make sure you’re one of them.
A report from the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills notes that 26.2 percent of college students have deficient writing skills, and businesses are spending billions addressing this issue. Don’t assume that just because you have an English or journalism degree that you’re ready for web writing. Writing for websites is completely different than writing your thesis or chasing the latest breaking news. It requires a different style, plenty of practice, and a good managing editor to help you along the way. You can also upload your writing to tools such as Grammar.ly or the Hemingway Editor for a quick grammar check. Keep in mind that sometimes grammar rules (such as ending a sentence with a preposition) are purposefully ignored when writing for the Web, due to the fact that proper grammar might sometimes sound too proper and alienate readers.
2. Learn from the experts
Content marketing is a relatively new field that is constantly evolving and involves a ton of experimentation. Because of this, it’s important to follow the experts, learning from both their successes and their mistakes. See this list from KissMetrics to get started. You can also look into books. Here’s a great list you can use. Still need more experts to follow? Here’s a list of 45 who can help.
3. Develop your tech skills
Technical skills are increasingly sought-after. Content marketers often work in WordPress or other content management systems. Other coveted skills include SEO, html, Google Analytics (and similar analyticsplatforms), as well as CSS, demand generation, and coding. Many companies are willing to train individuals who possess basic technical aptitude to use specific programs, but other technical skills can be learned before you ever start your first position through online training programs, reading, and practicing.
4. Get creative
Many people believe creativity is some kind of innate skill, but this isn’t true. While some individuals have more of an inclination toward creative endeavours than others, a creative spirit can be cultivated. Start by reading books, painting, or writing poetry--something you enjoy. Then take things up a notch. Many small companies are looking for content marketers who also have brand development and design skills. Not only must these marketers have a creative eye (which is necessary for almost any content marketing position), they must actually do some of the creative work themselves.
Here are three tips for growing your design knowledge:
- Identify great design. This is your first step toward success. The majority of this skill comes from experience, but you can train yourself. Start by going through the portfolios of successful designers and learn what you like and don’t like. Focus on specific elements. Sites like Dribble can help you get started.
- Study design theory.Read about new design techniques or trends, and follow your favorite designers.
- Keep a sandbox. Create a place where you can try new designs. Experiment as much as you can with layouts and colors, and have some fun. If you’re not currently being asked to work on any design projects, create your own, and start to build your portfolio. You should also use the opportunity to find your preferred design style.
5. Brush up your research skills
Anyone who writes for a living will tell you that research can make or break a piece of content. Valuable research is always attractive to an audience, while poor quality or outdated research can ruin your reputation as a writer. But research goes beyond just looking for relevant stats; it’s also about researching your target audience.
Great content marketers truly understand their customers and create the kind of content they crave. Use research to understand buyer motivations, pain points, and the types of content they prefer to consume. You should also identify your competitors, how they’re positioning their brands, what type of content they’re producing and the content gaps they’ve left open that you can fill. You should also research and fully understand your company’s products and how they are unique. You can do research online, within your company (through meetings with thought leaders or product experts) or by interviewing your customers. You might also choose to use tools such as BuzzSumo to better understand your industry and its influencers.
6. Spruce up your personal brand
If you’re looking to jump into a content marketing career, it’s important to understand that what you’ll be marketing first and foremost is yourself. And even if you already have a full-time marketing job, there’s ongoing work you can do to keep your personal brand fresh and appealing. Try posting content to your personal blog/website and your social media channels (particularly LinkedIn). You should also keep in contact with your LinkedIn connections when possible, engaging with them as much as possible on the platform. And don’t forget to do the same in person. Attend networking events in your industry periodically to make new contacts and catch up with old ones. Look for people who are supportive of your work but aren’t afraid to give you negative feedback when it’s required.
7. Enroll in courses that help you succeed
Experience can get you a long way in your content marketing career, but smart marketing courses can help you skip hours of your own research, which sometimes won’t be valuable or may be confusing.When employers see certified marketing courses on your resume, they know you’ve done the work to succeed in your new content marketing role, especially if the course you choose has a practical portion that allows you to practice what you learn.