Biz Tips: How to Build a Content Marketing Team (with the Right Roles)

Biz Tips: How to Build a Content Marketing Team (with the Right Roles)

Biz Tip:

How to Build a Content Marketing Team (with the Right Roles)

A good content marketing machine is a thing of beauty, each piece well-oiled and optimized for ultimate production. But like any machine, if a piece isn’t working the way it should be—or missing entirely—the whole machine will suffer. (We’ve seen and experienced this more often than we’d like to admit in the teams we’ve helped counsel.) Unfortunately, when a content marketing team isn’t functioning to the best of its abilities, the symptoms aren’t always blatantly obvious. It’s less about the mistakes made and more about the opportunities missed.

  • It’s the lack of expertise that could have turned a basic blog post into a cornerstone piece of content.
  • It’s the social strategy that needs a little more fine-tuning.
  • It’s the analytics that go unanalyzed—or, worse, aren’t properly set up.
  • It’s the process inefficiencies that eat up time.

Of course, the truth is many marketing teams are limited in how many people they can hire or outsource to, so they are often forced to do more with less. It’s no surprise that things slip through the cracks. However, even the smallest organizations can make great strides—as long as they have the right roles covered.

55% of B2B marketers only have between 1-5 people on their content marketing team.
35% don’t have anyone dedicated to full-time content marketing.

—CMI’s 2021 B2B Benchmarks Report

If you want to build a great content marketing team, whether you have two people or 20, you need to make a simple mental switch. Focus on covering the right roles—not hiring the right job titles.

Job Titles vs. Roles in a Content Marketing Team

One of the problems we consistently see in content marketing teams is checklist hiring. You know you need someone to run social, so you put out the call for a social media manager. You need content, so you hire a writer. Thus, content marketing operations tend to have the same combination of positions, including the standard titles like marketing manager and social media manager.

But just because you think you have a full team doesn’t mean that every necessary role is covered. (After all, the devil is in the details and things fall through the cracks all the time.) On the flip side, just because you have a small team doesn’t mean you can’t create a seamless content marketing operation.

We believe the smartest way to build a content marketing team is to take a holistic approach by focusing on roles vs. job titles. Whereas job titles are associated with specific duties, we think of roles as a particular skill or superpower. One person may hold several of these skills.

  • Your editor may be a superb project manager and copywriter.
  • Your marketing manager may be data literate and social media savvy.

When given the space and support to embrace these talents, you can cover multiple roles even within a small team. This approach also allows for more creative collaboration and experimentation, as people feel less constricted by their particular job titles.

So what roles do you need to fill to create your strongest content marketing team?

The Roles You Need on Your Content Marketing Team

Each brand may have different needs, but every content marketing team performs the same duties. Ensuring you have everything covered, from editorial calendar maintenance and ideation to distribution and analytics, is crucial.

Based on years of experience (and a few mistakes of our own), we’ve compiled this list of the most important roles in content marketing. Each of these roles performs a core function, fills gaps, keeps you on track, and provides the quality control needed to build a healthy operation.

Note: While there are many outlined here, you don’t need to go on a hiring spree ASAP to build out your content marketing team. Most of us are battling resources, budgets, and higher-ups. The goal is always to work more efficiently with what you have at hand (although asking for more budget never hurts—here are 5 ways to do that.) For that reason, we’ve also included some resources to help you find—or better perform—each role. And for convenience, we’ve organized them according to each stage of the content marketing cycle: strategy, content creation, and distribution.

As you continue to refine your operation, review your team’s workload periodically. It may be better arranged to support everyone’s needs.

1) Content Strategy Roles

The strategy phase is the core of your entire content marketing operation. This is the time to craft a solid strategy, informed by data, that aligns with your company goals.

Of course, the key to crafting an effective strategy is including the right stakeholders from the get-go. Here’s who you need on your content marketing team to make sure you do it well.

Marketing Leader

Whether it’s your company founder, your CMO, or other higher up, the content marketing machine needs a driver. This role acts as the liaison between business development and marketing, as marketing’s primary function is to support sales. Marketing leaders coordinate with company leaders (to ensure content strategy aligns with the company’s goals) and brand stakeholders (to ensure all content reflects the brand’s voice and visual identity).

Marketing leader resources:

Marketing Manager

There are many parts to a marketing machine, from production to distribution. A good marketing manager works as a mechanic, running point to make sure everyone on your content marketing team has the resources and direction to complete the task at hand. A marketing manager helps guide content strategy, stays abreast of industry trends, supports content creation and distribution, and does whatever else is needed.

Marketing manager resources:

Data Expert

One of the most important keys to a strong content strategy is the ability to measure it. Thus, you need someone who can manage your analytics. This role is not just about pulling numbers; it’s about extracting important data-driven insights from those numbers. (This type of brain is also infinitely valuable to help generate content from in-house data.) Most importantly, this person’s work influences everyone else’s role. Their data insights may inspire the marketing manager to tweak newsletter CTAs, or convince the managing editor to produce more e-books.

Data expert resources:

2) Content Creation Roles

Once you have your goals outlined and keywords selected, you’re ready to deep dive into generating and producing solid content ideas that will resonate with your audience.

Content is the most labor-intensive part of the process. I’ve heard it said that no matter how long you think a piece of content will take, multiply it by three—or even five, in my experience—and that’s how long it really takes. It’s no surprise, then, that it takes a focused content marketing team to create truly effective content. Here’s what that looks like.

86% of B2B marketers outsource content creation.

CMI’s 2021 B2B Benchmarks Report

Managing Editor

A managing editor oversees all content, manages publishing volume and cadence, and keeps the content machine running. That means masterfully managing an editorial calendar, coordinating contributors, curating a healthy mix of content, and ensuring that content strategy is properly implemented. This role is the connecting piece between content strategy and production.

Managing editor resources:

  • CoSchedule: A super easy editorial calendar, social scheduling, and task management tool. (Sign up for their newsletter, too.)
  • Feedly: A content aggregator and organization tool that lets you store relevant articles, blogs, and sites in one place, so you can easily peruse next time you need content ideas.
  • Stormboard: A tool that helps you collaborate, communicate, and brainstorm with contributors on a digital whiteboard.
  • Editorial Calendar Template: A handy tool to plan content.

SEO Expert

In the content marketing world, SEO is everything. Having a go-to expert to audit, keep track of progress, and keep pushing and optimizing your content is absolutely essential. From choosing the keywords that inform your brainstorms to constantly experimenting and testing various plugins, this role is both tactical and analytical. They may be a contractor, brought in to educate the team and available for specific questions, or an in-house resource. (They may also be your data expert.)

SEO expert resources:

  • SEMRush: Awesome resources for all levels of SEO experts, including e-books, guides, etc.
  • Search Engine Land: News and daily coverage of all aspects of search marketing.
  • Neil Patel: Great hacks to increase traffic and conversions.

Subject Expert

The biggest value you can give your readers is your expertise. To create helpful and credible content, you need a credible source (aka a subject expert).

69% of B2B marketers say finding partners with adequate topic expertise is particularly challenging.

CMI’s 2021 B2B Benchmarks Report

Luckily, there are many ways to find one. You may find your expert in a specific group, community, organization, or online resource. You may find an expert in-house—even if they weren’t hired for that specific person. (For example, a former business development leader at our agency had a master’s degree in business analytics—very handy when we needed someone to help create and vet our data guides.)

Resources to increase your expertise:

  • Expertise Finder: A creative marketplace that helps put experts, writers, and businesses together.
  • Qualified data sources: Our roundup of free data sources to help boost the credibility of your content.
  • ClearVoice: Find expert writers and creatives to create your content.

Editor

Even though you’ve heard it over and over, a lack of editing remains a huge problem in content marketing—even among the “thought leaders” out there. Having someone who can truly edit saves you from embarrassing mistakes and helps elevate all of your content.

Note: There is a major brand in the marketing industry, which I will not name, that is a good (bad) example of this. They pump out a ton of content and have a significant newsletter audience, but the content is riddled with typos and sloppy posts. Over the years, this has degraded my trust in them.

Editor resources:

  • Grammar Girl: A useful blog featuring quick and dirty editing tips—think of it as editing 101.
  • Grammarly: A great Chrome plugin that catches common spelling and grammatical errors (especially helpful for emails and WordPress).
  • Upwork: A site to find freelance editors.

Designer(s)

Visual content should absolutely be a part of your content mix. Whatever your needs—infographics, interactives, e-books, white papers, social content—good design communicates your brand’s visual language, makes content easier to synthesize, and enhances your audience’s experience. An effective designer should be skilled in design, as well as data visualization.

Designer resources:

  • Behance/Dribbble: Portfolio sites that give you access to thousands of freelancers. You can see their portfolios and reviews, ensuring you find the right designer for the job.
  • Visage: A super easy design tool from our sister company that lets non-designers design all sorts of visual content, including charts and social assets. (Using tools like this to design the little stuff frees your actual designers up to work on more important pieces.)
  • Data Visualization 101 e-book: An awesome (free!) primer for designing some of the most common charts and graphs.

Note: Depending on the type of content you’re creating (e.g., static vs. interactive vs. video), you may also need additional players here, including:

Writer

If you’re lucky, you can find an expert and a writer. However, those two do not often come in the same package. A good story is lost if you don’t tell it the right way, which is why it’s so important to hire a solid writer who can communicate your message (in your voice). A word of warning: Just because someone can type words does not mean they are a writer. You need someone who can produce quality, compelling copy.

Writer resources:

  • Ann Handley: A great blog from a content expert that includes useful tips, tools, and thoughts on creating compelling copy.
  • Headline Analyzer: A handy tool that analyzes and scores headlines for emotional and SEO impact.
  • Hemingway Editor: An easy way to upgrade your writing, you just copy/paste your text and get recommendations for how to improve.
  • Tips to Write Compelling Messaging: Good tips to tell a better brand story.

3) Content Distribution Roles

You’ve heard it a million times. Good content is nothing without an audience. Your distribution team is the conduit to get your content in front of the right people. The right team will help you build a following on social, grow your email list, get placements in major publications, and gain visibility through partnerships to increase brand awareness and get conversions.

Distribution Strategist

To make a big impact with your content, you need to get in front of the right people. This is where a distribution expert comes in. Someone in this role has contacts at major publications, knows what type of content is going to land with publishers, forms smart relationships with other brands, and knows how to strategize earned and paid placement. A distribution strategist should also strive to extend your reach through partnerships with publications and influencers, including guest posts, content campaigns, etc.

Distribution strategist resources:

Email Marketer

There is nothing more powerful than a captive audience. Your email list is your gold mine. This role is all about nurturing and growing that relationship to increase conversions. Your email marketer should focus on best practices, effective subject lines, A/B testing, powerful CTAs, and anything else needed to strategize.

Email marketer resources:

  • Sumo: A great suite of tools to help you optimize your site to increase conversions, including heat maps, list builder popups, social sharing buttons, CTAs, and more.
  • HubSpot: All-in-one marketing software that helps every aspect of your machine, from analytics and CTAs to landing pages and SEO.
  • Unbounce: Easy-to-build landing pages to help you convert leads (great blog, too).

Social Media Expert

Remember when “social media guru” was on everyone’s business card? That title has started to fizzle out, thankfully, but social is only continuing to evolve. You need someone to stay ahead of the curve. A social media expert should be immersed in social culture and best practices, find tactics for engaging your audience (especially through paid social), strategize distribution, and put your brand’s best foot forward on social.

Social media expert resources:

The Other Folks

While not the core players, there are other roles within your company that can contribute to content marketing success. As always, leveraging what you have at hand will help you stay ahead of the curve.

  • Customer advocate: As a brand, your primary content marketing goal is to show that you understand what problems your customers are facing and that you have experience in solving those problems. Regular conversations with sales teams, project managers, and anyone who is client-facing will help you identify those problems.
  • Tech support: When your blog crashes, you can’t figure out how to insert an iframe, or you want to explore interactives, you need someone with the tech knowledge to pull it off.
  • The wildcard: There are people who work at your company who, while they might not work in marketing, always have great ideas and a unique perspective that your content marketing team can benefit from. These weirdos can be your secret weapon; use them!

How to Support Your Content Marketing Team (Even More)

No matter how equipped your content marketing team is, there are always times when you might need a little extra help. Whether you’re looking to learn more or get an extra pair of hands for a big launch, you can always turn to the pros.

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