Why content marketing is facing a shortage of qualified staff

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The world of digital marketing is facing a skills shortage when it comes to content generators.

You might not think that’s the case, what with the incredible amount of content available online, but according to recent survey results from by SkilledUp.com, a website focusing on online educational resources, there is a critical need for skilled professionals to fill the rapidly-expanding world of content marketing. A recent edition of Content Marketing Institute’s CCO magazine tackled this timely topic, bringing to light the sometimes-complicated dance in the business world between content-creation skill sets and marketing departments.

The survey, conducted online by Provoke Insights (a market research and brand consultancy firm) in July 2014, found 94 percent of marketing professionals saying it was “critical” that content marketing was part of a company’s strategic business plans; in 2014, 40 percent of those companies reported increased spending on content marketing, with fully half of the respondents expecting their company’s respective budgets for content marketing to be increased this year. Yet 34 percent also reported finding difficulties in finding suitable job candidates.

Nick Gidwani, president of SkilledUp, noted the direct connection content marketing has to the bottom line of companies, with “88 percent of respondents saying that content marketing drives sales, 83 percent saying it grows customer referrals and 75 percent saying it builds a loyal customer base.”

The barriers to finding the right candidates isn’t down solely to a lack of critical skills, but that businesses are lacking the organizational structure that would allow them to thrive. As Brianne Carlon Rush recently noted in The Guardian, “agencies and brands are still fumbling to figure out how to build content marketing departments due to this lack of structured training and professional development.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by Fatemeh Fakhraie, a social media and marketing specialist based in Oregon. “There’s a shortage of skills, not skilled people,” she explains. “Many companies might not understand content marketing fully, or are trying to implement it without preparing marketing staff in the details around content marketing and how it relates to inbound marketing.”

Rush notes in her Guardian piece that skills vital for content marketers include good time management skills, solid writing skills, and a strong personal brand. Content marketing writer and B2B copywriter Paul Schroeder echoed this in a LinkedIn post from October 2014, adding skills like research, graphics, and knowledge of SEO.

As content strategist Gregory Ciotti points out, “(i)t isn’t the lack of hungry, hard-working candidates, the trouble comes in finding a myriad of specific skills under one umbrella; manifest in a single person, so to speak.”

Ciotti interviewed a range of content experts about the shortage, including Mark Hayes at Shopify, who told him the main factor in hiring more content experts was identifying qualified candidates who combined expertise in ecommerce and marketing with talents in writing and subject matter.

“Finding a happy middle ground is difficult.” Hayes wrote. “In general I look for: history of success, resourcefulness, and a balance between writing and ecommerce skills.”

That balance can be hard to find. “Content marketing isn’t something you can just get a degree in,” Fakhraie continues, “so it’s silly to assume that you’re going to find a bunch of people who have years of content marketing experience.”

Making a return to school full-time isn’t necessary, however; potential candidates can always go to places like the Content Marketing Institute and NewsCred to boost their skillset.

“On a company level,” she continues, “there are so many materials, certifications, and conferences that are worth companies’ time and effort to educate the marketing staff they have, or need to hire. Companies shouldn’t shy away from providing these opportunities to their marketers.”

There’s also outsourcing. Rebecca Lieb, a content marketing analyst who’s worked with names like Ketchum and Edelman, advises that companies should keep some key things in mind if they outsource. First, determine precisely why you want an outside agency, then consider their range of expertise; look into the company’s own content marketing, request relevant case studies, speak with current and former clients, and learn about their success criteria. Furthermore, ensure potential firms know the difference between strategy and tactic. As Lieb writes, “’You need a Facebook page’ is not a strategy. It’s a tactic.”

Fakhraie sees the outsourcing of content marketing in a slightly different light.

“It doesn’t seem like large ad and marketing agencies would leave money on the table here,” she notes. “Inbound marketing, and the content marketing that helps push it, are major parts of companies’ brand and marketing efforts.”

Instead, content-driven experiences seems to be “a natural progression for huge companies with expansive marketing departments,” says Fakhraie. “I think the majority of small and medium-sized businesses will finally start to explore the opportunities content marketing can bring them, and possibly, hop on the bandwagon.”

 

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2 comments
Candyce Edelen
Candyce Edelen

This article is excellent. Thanks for publishing!

It touches on the issue of strategy but could go deeper. Lately, I'm hearing from a lot of companies that hired a content marketing agency, but got very little in terms of ROI from the effort. When I dig into what was done, I find "strategies" that are no more than tactical marketing plans and keyword lists.

If they have them at all, B2B buyer personas cover irrelevant details like "owns a dog" and "married with children," but lack important information about buyers' business needs, current situation, and how they interact with colleagues on the buying committee. Very rarely do I see buyer personas that are based on real interviews with recent wins, prospects, and lost deals. There is no messaging strategy, no editorial calendar, no buying process alignment.

The agencies amounted to little more than content farms creating keyword-optimized crap that might get found in search, but doesn't offer the real prospects the insight they need to drive change in their organizations. That kind of content won't move the dial in complex B2B sales.

Content marketing done right is really hard work, and it's getting harder. To be successful, particularly in B2B, it requires extensive industry knowledge, clear understanding of how content strategy intersects with the target audience, and a broad range of tactical skills to produce, publish and amplify the content. Those skills are hard to find.

Terrance Collins
Terrance Collins

@Candyce Edelen Great points, Candyce. When talking with prospective clients, I often get a blank look when I tell them to up the quality and reduce the quantity of their content.

Many are still deep-set in the 2010 mindset of pumping out thousands of words, with little regard for hitting any other target than Google SERP.


The smart ones know that a 200-word email to laser-focused prospect trumps a 2500-word blog post that does no more than spins a story that's been seen a hundred times before.


All the best.


Terence