Open up any marketing blog and you’ll see that 2014 has been dubbed, “The year of the content marketer.”
The statistics are compelling:
-According to Hubspot’s 6th annual “State of Inbound” report, adopting a content marketing strategy can double average website conversion rates, with survey participants reporting an average jump form 6% to 12%.
-The same report also indicates that inbound marketing delivers, on average, 54% more leads into business marketing funnels than traditional outbound marketing.
-The Aberdeen Group reports that year-over-year growth in unique site visitors is almost eight times higher for content marketing leaders than for followers (a difference of 19.7% over 2.5%).
If that doesn’t convince you, check out an Altimeter study, which found that, in 2013, 57% of marketers reported that content marketing was their top priority.
And that was back in 2013!
It’s almost 2015, so it’s safe to say that if you aren’t already on the content marketing train, it’s time to jump aboard.
The question isn’t, “Should I do content marketing?” anymore – it’s “How do I do content marketing?”
You might already have a marketer onboard with your business. But I’d argue that if your existing employees are more marketing traditionalists than content innovators, you’ll still benefit from bringing on a new rock star hire.
What makes a content marketer successful looks very different than the skills and training many traditional marketers possess.
-Good content marketers are data-driven: An OMI study of 747 Fortune 500 executives found that 37% of their companies are desperately seeking employees who can manage the digital marketing analytics that drive content marketing – more than any other skill set they were questioned on.
-Good content marketers are likable: Old school marketers could hide away in their offices and watch their campaigns from afar, but content marketers have no such luxury in a world of social media and constant exposure. In the words of Marcus Sheridan, “When it comes down to it, unlikeable people make AWFUL content marketing managers.”
-Good content marketers respond in real-time: Traditional outbound marketing involved meticulous research, extensive planning and careful campaign deployment. Content marketers, on the other hand, must be able to move much faster to capitalize on viral trends and to communicate with an always-online audience.
And, of course, all of that goes without saying that good content marketers need to be great writers, editors and content curators. If they happen to have graphic design, video editing or interview skills as well, that’s all the better.
Maybe you’re lucky enough that your existing employee can adapt to this new environment. If that’s the case, pat yourself on the back and go grab a cookie.
But if you have the sneaking suspicion your old school marketer won’t be able to hack it in the world of content marketing (or if you don’t have a marketing employee on staff yet), it’s time to think about pulling the hiring trigger.
Now, let’s get one thing straight…
Anybody can call themselves a content marketer. All it takes is a carefully worded resume and some very generous overestimations on LinkedIn.
You don’t want just anybody.
You want the kind of marketer who will use content marketing to form an accessible, engaging bridge between your brand and your audience.
You want somebody who’s passionate about communicating with followers and who has the drive to learn about and use whatever channels are needed to do so.
And you want an employee who’s going to take the data these campaigns generate by the horns and use it to drive brand awareness, higher conversion rates or any other metrics your company deems worthwhile.
Sounds great, right? Well, the only way you’re going to find that person is if you’re exceptionally careful in your recruitment process.
Here’s how important hiring the right person from the start is:
-The Creative Group’s “2015 Salary Guide” puts the average salary for a Content Strategist between $72,500 to $100,000/year. For the sake of this article, let’s assume you hire somebody in the middle of this range for $86,250.
-In term of benefits, MIT Sloan School of Management lecturer Joe Hadzima projects that the extra perks provided to employees (including health insurance, personal/vacation time and 401k contributions) average between 25-40% of their base salaries. Again, assuming your expenses fall in the exact middle of this range, you’re looking at 32.5% in additional employee costs for a total salary of $114,281.
-In addition, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, in its 2011-12 Recruiting Benchmarks Study, found that average recruitment costs for 0-500 person companies total $7,645 per new hire.
-A 2007 report published in Training magazine found that average training costs for a single employee come out to about $1,200 a year. And if we apply inflation estimates provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, that number is now closer to $1,450 a year.
Adding all of these costs together, you’re looking at a total investment of $123,376.
Now, to make things even worse, a Mellon Financial Corp. study found that it takes between 8-26 weeks for new hires to get fully up to speed (with the lower end of these productivity losses being explained by simple clerical jobs and the higher end by executive positions). This lost productivity winds up costing companies between 1-2.5% of their total revenues.
I’m not telling you that to upset you. What I want you to understand is that, while finding and hiring a truly rock star employee can be difficult; the last thing you want is to have to do it twice!
Imagine that you bring on an employee that you’re lukewarm about. She might do a great job, but she might also underperform to the point where you have no choice to replace her.
And are you really ready to invest another $123,000+ in something you should have done right the first time around?
Clearly, my preference is to hire the best possible candidates from the start. I hate the thought of hiring over and over again. Every time you make a change, you’re losing time and money that’s better spent elsewhere.
It’s much better to spend the time up front to hire right, instead of rushing through things and winding up paying double (or more) for your mistakes.
Of course, knowing this and doing it are two different things. How do you know what to look for in a content marketing candidate? I’m glad you asked…
Stage 1 – Envisioning your ideal candidate
Yes, I know you want a rock star content marketer. But the thing is, not all content marketers are created equal.
Some are strong writers, others excel at graphic design work, while another group is best at video production. Some are great at building community among online followers, while others focus more of their energy on interpreting the data generated by content campaigns.
Which one is right for you? Well, that’s what we’re going to figure out in this section.
But first, I want to share with you the results of a seriously troubling 3-year study by Leadership IQ, which found that 49% of new hires will fail within their first 18 months of employment, while only 19% will achieve indisputable success. Of these failures:
-26% will falter because they don’t know how to accept feedback
-23% will fall short because they can’t understand and manage emotions properly
-17% will fail because they lack the drive to succeed
–15% will be missing the appropriate temperament for the job
-11% will lack the technical skills needed to do the job
If you ask me, that’s a pretty damn big deal!
Of the surprisingly huge number of new hires that will fail in the first year and a half, only a small percentage will fail because they aren’t able to do the work. The biggest problem is their attitudes.
And it gets worse when you think about the fact that the Leadership IQ study refers to candidates over a huge range of fields. In marketing roles, it’s even more important that candidates have a drive to succeed, as well as the ability to manage emotions.
So, in addition to the qualities described earlier in this article, what should you look for in a candidate that will let you know whether or not you’ve found somebody with the right attitude? I found a few great answers from an article compiled by Tatiana Liubarets, in which nine top marketer talk about the skills needed for marketing success.
Since I don’t want to copy and paste all of them here, I’ve picked a few of the answers that relate best to content marketers. I’ll let them take it away…
“Adaptability is more important now than ever. Not only because of the changing marketing landscape but also changing demands of the client/brand.” –Scott Stratten
Scott is the president of UnMarketing (as well as the author of the book by the same name), and he’s definitely on to something here.
The world of content marketing is constantly evolving. Just think back to how much the internet has grown and changed over the last decade.
Hell, ten years ago, Facebook was still limited to college kids and Twitter wouldn’t even be invented for a few more years. Not to mention the huge number of Google algorithm updates that have shaped the world of digital marketing over the same stretch of time.
When considered in this light, things like internet videos and infographics are still relatively new – and who knows what we’ll all be talking about in another ten years?
The thing is, with all these shiny new techniques and opportunities, it takes a special kind of marketer who can be adaptable enough to keep up with these new duties and skills.
You need somebody who’s willing and able to study new strategies as they come up and determine exactly how they can be harnessed for your own efforts. True content marketing rock stars know how to roll with these changes, whether they’re working on client campaigns or using new best practices to connect new customers with your business.
“Patience is key for anything in business, but especially in this ADD-fueled business world. You can’t build a huge email list in a day, you can’t make things go viral, and five tweets do not build you an empire.” –Scott Stratten
Want to hear something fascinating?
Ramesh Sitaraman, a University of Massachusetts-Amherst professor of computer science conducted a series of studies tracking the internet viewing habits of 6.7 million users. How long do you think the users were willing to wait for a video to load?
At five seconds, 25% of viewers left the page, rather than wait for their videos to load. At ten seconds of load time, more than half of the users were gone.
Turns out, we’re a pretty impatient lot!
The Pew Research Center and American Life Project confirm these results, blaming the need for instant gratification discovered in their own studies on their subject’s hyper-connected lives.
A good content marketer, therefore, must be able to cut through the digital noise and hold a prospect’s attention long enough to prompt some type of action. But how do you do this?
It turns out, the answer might not be as difficult as it sounds.
A candid article by Neil Patel claims that the secret to holding attention is to do many small actions, consistently. This consistency – when paired with a patient, methodical approach – is the key to growth. Don’t expect overnight success. Instead, pick an action and do it again and again.
Even top bloggers like Pamela Slim and Reggie Solomon agree that it can take a few years to build up a decent-sized online audience. Getting picked up by major media outlet helps, but the experience of most marketers is that there no short-cuts to business success.
So when you’re looking for a rock star content marketer, steer clear of candidates who jump impatiently from technique to technique. Instead, look for those with the patience necessary to stick with their efforts until they’re successful.
“Good marketers cannot be complacent. You cannot be satisfied with past accomplishments. You need to be restless.” –Mark Schaefer
Mark is the Executive Director of Schaefer marketing Solutions, as well as one of AdAge’s Power 150 Marketing Bloggers. But while his quote is great, my friend Bea’s experience really highlights how important restlessness is for content marketers.
The picture below is of her Dropbox folder. Do you see the contents of her marketing folder?
What you should notice is the dozens upon dozens of electronic books, all on different marketing techniques that have come up over the years (including everything from affiliate marketing to content strategy, to PR and more). Bea has invested a fortune in these books, all in order to stay up-to-date on changes in the industry.
Being a rock star content marketer means never assuming that you know everything. Bea could have stopped learning after she picked up the basics, but she didn’t. Instead, she kept educating herself and growing her knowledge to be the best marketer she could.
If you hire a marketer who’s complacent, he’s going to become shortsighted very quickly and your campaigns will suffer. Look instead for avid, excited learners who have the dedication to learning and curiosity needed for long-term success.
“Successful marketers will have a results orientation. Speak the language of the business.” –Mark Schaefer
Want to see a great example of accountability in action? Check out this post on marketing metrics by Noah Kagan of OkDork and AppSumo.
In the post, Kagan shares his accountability form, which is given out to all the people he works with and includes things like the number of tweets sent out, sites emailed or replied to, mentions replied to, interviews emailed and more.
If that sounds intense, you’ll be even more shocked to see that it’s a daily form. That’s truly taking his motto of “You must track it or it didn’t happen” to heart!
The trouble is, with so many different potential advertising channels out there, content marketers must be in the habit of tracking metrics and results to prove their value. Even though Noah himself says that marketing results aren’t always numbers-based, he acknowledges that hiring a good content marketer should involve looking for candidates who are comfortable quantifying results.
Mark Schaefer backs this up in another quote he shares in Tatiana Liubaret’s article, saying:
“Today it is important to have some strong analytical skills, specifically some competence in statistics. More and more, marketing is about math!”
Statistical competence, plus a strong drive for results – it’s a winning combination.
So let’s review. When you’re looking to hire a new content marketer, all of the following are important skills to find:
-The ability to respond in real time
Now how do you go about finding this mythical unicorn of a rock star content marketer?
In the next few sections, I’ll cover everything from how to write your job ad to the questions you should ask in your interviews to weed out potential underperformers. At the end of this article, I’ll give you a step-by-step action plan that puts everything together.
Sound good? Once you feel like you’ve got a good understanding of the candidate you should be looking for, read on for more of the nuts and bolts on making your next hire.
Stage 2 – Composing a job ad
Want to hear something crazy? The way you structure your job ad might play a bigger role than you think.
In theory, anybody should be able to write a job ad. Barring any issues that prevent you from writing normally in your regular life, a job ad seems like it shouldn’t be that much more difficult than any other type of writing you do.
But according to an article by Justin Miller, marketing manager for Motion Recruitment Partners, this is the wrong way of looking at this step in the hiring process.
In 2013, Miller’s team changed things up by creating a common ad template according to SEO best practices. As a result, Miller found that:
“Our concentration on SEO helped our ads get found more on Indeed.com and other job sites, as well as organically… Our ads were more aesthetically pleasing and easier to scan, and because of that, we saw users applying to more jobs. In the month of January after our ad overhaul, we more than doubled our application rate.”
Nothing changed about Miller’s company or the way it approached hiring. All that was needed to boost the size of the applicant pool was proper formatting and more attention paid to SEO.
Crafting good job ads gets good results. But besides the way your ad looks and how it’s structured, how do you know what to put inside of it?
One great suggestion comes from Kevin Daum, writing for Inc. Daum suggests that your ad should be “a bit of a puzzle” to help weed out candidates before you even decide who to bring in for interviews.
In Daum’s approach, job ads start out with all the usual details, identifying the company, sharing core values and describing job duties (a format that’s also recommended by Guardian Jobs).
But after that, thins take a turn. In his Inc. article, Daum describes adding the following to his job ads:
“We are looking for someone who can investigate, learn and execute. Before you submit your cover letter and resume, please read the following short PDF. Then please submit your cover letter in the form of a compelling value proposition and include a joke. Send it with your resume to: (Your email).”
Yes, it’s a lot to ask of your would-be candidates, but requiring these extra steps tells you a number of different things.
First, you learn whether or not the applicant can follow directions. You’ll be amazed at how many candidates fail to follow simple instructions – like including a joke in this case.
Daum’s specific exercise also tells you whether the applicant is familiar with basic marketing techniques. If she can’t write out a basic value proposition for a cover letter, she’s not going to suddenly improve while working for you!
You’ll also learn about the applicant’s communication skills. Was the joke professional? Was the value proposition stated in a clear and compelling manner? Are they able to capture the tone and style you want representing your business?
Keeping all these recommendations in mind, here’s a sample job ad I put together to help you out:
Sample Job Ad
Hello from X company. We are a company that specializes in [talk about what the company does] and we’re a fun set of people. We value [what you value – imagination, execution, results, etc.] We’re looking for a marketer to add to our growing team, with the following job duties to be performed:
Duty C and so on…
We’re looking for a marketer who [what you’re looking for]….
Compensation will be in the form of [whatever your structure is]…
To apply, send us a short cover letter explaining why you’d be a good fit, and how you’d possibly handle the following X situation. Email your cover letter to [email] and use the subject line [whatever subject you like to make it easier for sorting.]
Please, don’t send [whatever you don’t wanna look at].
An ad like this conveys all the information candidates need to decide whether to apply for your position, without being totally dry. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through in your ad!
You’ll definitely want to customize this template to your company’s unique needs. Maybe you’d rather review portfolios than resumes. Or maybe you’d like candidates to put together short videos, instead of cover letters.
Whatever you want to include in your ad is fine – but whatever you do, make sure it works to both convey information and pre-qualify candidates.
Most job listings receive an average of 250 applications, which means you need a way to cut through the clutter quickly. By including an out-of-the-ordinary request, you force applicants to pay attention. Those that don’t can be weeded out right away, leaving you with more time to focus on stronger candidates.
Use the ad listed above for inspiration, but if you need more to go off of, check out this list of 10 awesome job ads.
Stage 3 – Interviewing candidates
The way you write your job ads determines the quality of the applications you receive. But it’s the specific questions you ask in your interview process that helps you weed out the pretty great from the true rock stars.
Now, you’re not a trained HR rep (or even if you are, recognize that hiring effective marketers isn’t always as easy as filling less complex positions). You don’t have time to go back to college to learn how to be good at interviewing.
Don’t worry! In this section, I’m going to show you everything you need to do to wind up with the right hire.
If you’ve followed the steps above, a lot of the work should already be done for you. You should have a good idea of what you’re looking for after going through Stage 1. And if you’ve structured your job ad correctly – as described in Stage 2 – you should have already narrowed your field of applicants down significantly based on who can and can’t follow directions.
All that’s left is to figure out which of the remaining candidates is the best fit for your position. And you’ve got a few different tools to do this…
Technique 1- The Situational Question
This type of question comes from Noah Kagan, the founder of AppSumo, and his Round 2 interview form.
Kagan describes his process of asking candidates interview questions based on how they would handle hypothetical situations in further detail in an Inc. article. As an example, he asks:
“How would you respond to this? “Hey guys, Really upset with this deal. They asked for my credit card during registration and I already had to give that once to you. Plus my code is not working for the discount. HELP! – Sam””
Another example he gives is:
“If you could coordinate any AppSumo deal/bundle, what would it be and why?”
What you’re looking for when you ask these types of questions is how the candidate’s mind works.
Is he able to think through problems and come up with viable solutions? Or does she struggle to come up with responses under pressure? Sure, an interview is a high pressure situation, so your results here might not necessarily mirror how a candidate would perform in real life.
But take a look at the specific questions above. If you look closely, you can see that they deal with two very different aspects of marketing. One is more focused on conflict resolution, while the other addresses marketing intelligence.
If a candidate can’t handle either question, you’re probably not dealing with the kind of rock star you’re looking for. Even if he can address one well, but not the other, you’ve got a red flag.
Remember, you’re looking for a candidate who’s highly adaptable. A candidate might be able to clearly articulate his thoughts on one question or the other, but if he can’t switch between the two easily, you probably haven’t found your rock star yet.
Technique 2 – The Behavioral Question
Situational questions are great, but as you can see from the examples above, they won’t always leave you with a clear-cut winner.
The next tool in your hiring tool belt is the behavioral question. The idea behind this type of question is that the way a person behaved in the past is a good predictor of how they’ll act in the future.
Therefore, if you ask questions like “Tell me about how you handled this type of situation…” or “Tell me about a time you made a mistake…” you should be able to see patterns in how they perform that’ll apply to their work in your role.
If, for example, the answers you get lead you to believe that a candidate has an issue juggling multiple projects at once, there’s a good chance he’ll have the same issue again in the future. Again, it’s not a guarantee, but it can tip the scales one way or another when deciding between candidates.
Say you interview one candidate who talks about the results of past projects – not just what she did – you’re likely looking at somebody who has the results orientation needed to be a strong content marketer. If another candidate can’t clearly answer what he does to stay on top of industry developments, these differentiations could factor in to your decision.
Technique 3 – The Fact-Based Question
The last type of question you’ll want to integrate into your interview is the fact-based question.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but in case you need more detail, the following are all examples of fact-based questions:
-Where did you go to school?
-What was your major of study?
-How many years did you work at X company?
-How many employees were on your last marketing team?
-Have you ever supervised other employees?
-What content marketing techniques do you use?
These types of questions serve a few different purposes. First, they let you mix up the style of your interview. Nobody likes to spend an hour being drilled with hypothetical situations or questions on past performance.
It’s also an integrity thing. The fact-based questions you use should all be things that you can easily confirm with references (you did ask for references, right?). Obviously, a candidate who lies in the interview isn’t one you want to hire.
The point of all this is to mix things up when planning out the interview questions you’ll ask. If you’re sneaky, you’ll notice that I already gave you a few possible questions in the sections above.
But since I promised this article would be totally comprehensive, here are a few of the questions I ask when trying to determine whether or not a candidate has the qualities needed to be a rock star content marketer.
-Tell me about a time you faced unexpected changes and had to adapt in the moment – Basically, you’re looking to see how they handled situations where they had to alter course and abandon their work up to that point. Responses to this question tell you whether or not the candidate has the adaptive quality you’re looking for.
-What recently-developed marketing strategy or tactic interests you most? – Not only does this help reveal whether a candidate is adaptable or set in his ways, it tells you whether or not he stays up-to-date on industry advances.
-Tell me about a time where you made a big mistake – Everybody makes mistakes, so be wary of candidates who tell you their track records are perfect. Instead, look for answers that tell you whether or not the applicant can bounce back and regroup after failure.
–What was the longest you’ve had to wait for a success? – Content marketing takes time, so rock star content marketers must be patient. Candidates who have had to tough things out in the past likely have the mettle and hardiness needed to be successful in your position.
-Tell me about a complex problem you’ve faced and how you solved it – Again, this question is testing a candidate’s adaptability and patience. If you have an applicant who has battled challenging problems, come up with various solutions and pushed through to success, you’ve probably got a winner.
-What are you studying right now? – The true test of a rock star content marketer is whether or not she’s constantly learning new strategies. Look for a candidate who answers enthusiastically and who has pursued education on the techniques that fit will with your existing marketing mix.
-What do you like to do for fun? – When you ask this question, you’re looking for somebody who demonstrates a drive to pick up new skills, as well as a candidate that will match the culture of your company. Give added bonuses to candidates that like to read (but be sure they’re not blowing smoke at you by asking about the last title they read).
-Tell me about the project you’re most proud of and the results you achieved – Rock star content marketers know how to articulate results. This question combines a behavioral and fact-based interview question, letting you determine how the candidate handled the project (and will likely handle your work), in addition to giving you something you can verify.
-How do you pursue ROI in your marketing work? – This is a hugely important question. First, if the candidate doesn’t know what ROI is, you’ve got an immediate “no” right there. But also, if the applicant hasn’t made it a priority to measure ROI in the past, you know you’re dealing with somebody who isn’t results-oriented. Even marketers who know that ROI isn’t everything know not to ignore it entirely. Finally, this question gives you an inside look at the content marketer’s approach. Is she a hard, ROI-based “numbers” marketer, or somebody who focuses on softer, more intuitive metrics like engagement or share of voice?
Clearly, these aren’t the only questions you should ask. It’s also good to find out how the candidate relates to supervisors, coworkers or direct reports, as well as how he manages in-office challenges. Spend some time searching the internet or asking other business owners in your network for other questions that will help illuminate these characteristics before you begin the interview process.
So now, it’s time to put all of these things together. I promised you an action plan for finding a rock star content marketer, and since you now have the interview questions you need, let’s move on…
Stage 4 – Your action plan
Whew – this has been a long article so far. Thanks for sticking with me!
If you’ve been following along and doing the homework I recommend, you might not want to hear that I’ve still got one final task for you. But given how much of your time and money is at stake, all of this work will be well worth it.
Now, we’re going to pull all of the different things we’ve talked about together into a master action plan. Get a piece of paper and write down your responses to the following prompts:
What qualities am I looking for in a content marketer?
In addition to the characteristics described above, record your answers to these questions:
-What is the culture like at my company? What kind of person will fit in?
-What stage of growth is my company in? A startup needs a different type of content marketer than a Fortune 500 company.
-Will my content marketer be supervising other employees? If so, past manage experience is a plus.
-What content marketing strategies are most important for my business? If you plan to invest heavily in video marketing, don’t hire a strong writer who’s never edited a video clip before.
What needs to go in my job ad?
Gather up all of the following pieces of information before you begin writing your ad:
-What are my business’s core values? How can I articulate these in a job ad to attract the right type of candidates?
-What specific job duties will my content marketer be responsible for?
-How will the marketer be compensated?
-How can I turn my job ad into a puzzle that will help me weed out applicants? What instructions should I add?
What questions will I ask in my job interviews?
You can use the questions I’ve listed above, but they should be taken as a starting point only. Answer the following questions as well:
-What other questions should I add to my list? Monster UK has a few other good ideas to check out.
-What am I legally allowed to ask? What questions should I not ask job applicants?
-Do I have a good mix of situational, behavioral and fact-based questions?
-How do I plan to follow-up on fact-based questions? Keep in mind that employment laws may dictate what you can ask past employers and what they’re allowed to say.
What does my team think?
If your rock star content marketer will be your first marketing hire, you can skip this step. But if he will be joining an existing team, ask your existing employees these questions:
-What do you want to see in a team member?
-How do you see a new team member fitting in?
-Where is our workload too heavy and where are we overstaffed?
-What can we do as a team to help the new team member fit in and get up to speed as quickly as possible?
Don’t skip any of these steps. Do you remember that $123k+ number I outlined earlier in this guide? Well, the last thing I want is for you to sink that much money into a person you think is a rock star, only to be disappointed by the results and have to do it all over again. Do yourself a favor and take this entire process seriously.
Most of the founders I know think of their companies in the same way they think about their children.
Don’t you want the best for your children? Wouldn’t you do anything to help them grow up healthy and strong?
I thought so, and you’ll find all the information you need to find and recruit the best possible content marketer for your team in the article above.
Take your time and go through everything written here – read through it more than once if you have to. Carefully plan out your approach, launch your ad and then sit back and watch as the rock stars come to you!
What tips do you have for hiring a great content marketer? What challenges have you faced when looking for one? Share you experiences!