Developing great content isn’t easy.
Beyond certain skills and knowledge, good content marketers exhibit particular qualities.
Whether you’re a one-person operation or a chief marketing officer managing a large department, work to cultivate these seven qualities in yourself and the people around you:
Content marketing isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon-and the finish line keeps moving. It’s frustrating to experiment and fail or to see now-sputtering tactics that once worked beautifully. In this industry, patience is more than a virtue; it’s a requirement.
Cultivating this mindset will prevent you from burning out when things don’t go your way. If you want to master content marketing (or anything, for that matter), you must be willing to spend time sharpening your skills.
Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to master something, but I’ve been working in marketing for much more than 10,000 hours, and I still feel there’s so much more to learn. This is largely because the industry is always changing.
2. Listening skills
Good content marketing is about serving your customers. To create excellent content, you must get inside your customers’ minds. Understand what they struggle with, and look for ways to solve their problems.
To do this, you have to listen more than you talk. Listen to your customers’ challenges, as well as their feedback on your product or service, no matter how harsh it might be. Their outsider perspective is the key to moving your content in the right direction.
Customers aren’t the only people you should be listening to, though. Pay attention to anyone doing great work. As Brandon Mull says: “Smart people learn from their mistakes, but the real sharp ones learn from the mistakes of others.”
Although listening opportunities might not always organically present themselves to you, make it your responsibility to create these opportunities, regardless of your role, your clients or your business model. Emailing people to ask for feedback not only works well, but is relatively pain-free—and it scales.
If you’re bored with your writing, it will show.
The antidote? Be curious, and get inspired. (Elizabeth Gilbert, a creativity guru and author, encourages people not to look for their life passion, but to follow their curiosity.)
Be interested in expanding your skill set, learning new things or trying a different approach. In the always-changing world of content marketing, resting on your laurels is death.
Always assume that there are better, more interesting and more effective things you could be doing. Then, go out and find them. Make curiosity part of your nature.
There is little room for ego in content marketing. The more willing you are to be humbled, the more successful you’ll be. The more you experiment and fail, the more you will improve.
Humility makes you a better team player and helps you put your customers and your organization before yourself. It makes you more open-minded and willing to listen.
Though you should be humble, it’s also important to have confidence.
Confidence is the key to picking yourself up after a mistake. Rewards come to those who are unwilling to let their failures define them. As Randy Nelson of Pixar says, “The core skill of innovators is error recovery, not failure avoidance.” The mark of a creative genius, he says, is the ability to recover—not some innate ability.
Building confidence in yourself and your team requires courage. The quicker you bounce back from obstacles, the more your confidence will grow. The more confident you are, the more likely you are to pitch that crazy-but-brilliant idea that could help your team excel.
Quality and consistency are vital to successful content marketing, but they require discipline.
Creating and promoting content can be like going to the gym: Four out of five times I don’t want to be there, but after my workout, I’m always glad I went.
Even when content marketing gets hard, frustrating or confusing, you still have to do it, and you’ll feel great once you power through and do it well. Remember, the only way to track your content’s success (and learn what to do better next time) is to have a benchmark.
Many brand managers fall into common traps that jeopardize their organization’s authenticity, including:
- Unnecessary trend-jacking: If breaking news naturally aligns with your organization’s interests, then produce content about it. If it doesn’t, though, your content will backfire. For example, would a medical provider’s Twitter followers really care what the company thinks about Kanye West? Probably not.
- Copying other brands: Did Apple recently launch a great campaign? Fantastic. Let Apple do its thing, and let your organization come up with something original. Copying other brands’ tactics looks tacky at best and sleazy at worst.
If you approach content marketing with a sincere desire to do good and provide value to your readers, you won’t go wrong.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Column Five blog.