Many B2B organizations devote nearly a quarter of their marketing budgets to content marketing initiatives, including articles, social media, blogs, newsletters, case studies and in-person events, according to a recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs.
"It's the online business equivalent of jeans that don't make your butt look big," wrote Sonia Simone and Sean Jackson for Copyblogger. "Social media ROI is everyone's holy grail of the moment."
Now more than ever, it's important for marketers to have a strong voice at the executive table. If you're a business owner seeking to hire a content marketing expert or to become a content marketing consultant yourself, consider these three must-have leadership traits:
Agile, But Focused
"As brands become publishers and newsrooms, they become rainbow colored zebras," says Suzanne Baran, a content producer, strategist and agency director. "Chief marketing officers and chief financial officers have a learning curve because, traditionally, content was not a business commodity or product. I'm not saying it is now, but it is an effective tool to inform and educate customers and prospects using authority, quality and relevancy."
Baran, who has worked and consulted for companies including AT&T, DirecTV, Yahoo, Cisco, Toyota, FIJI Water, POM Juice and Scottrade, explains that today's content marketers are somewhat of a rare breed. For those looking to get into content marketing, she recommends learning the language of technical, quantitative and design.
"A content strategist is a unicorn," Baran says. "We interface with search, IT, UX, creative, product, customer service, marketing, finance and QA. We have to know code, best digital and traditional publishing practices, a bit of market data, editorial style, product development, marketing taxonomy, and the list continues."
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A Collaborative Mastermind
"Every company needs to establish a cross-functional team of customer service reps, creatives, marketing gurus, user experience designers, interactive mavens, technical leaders and custodians," Baran says. "You never know where ideas will come from."
Srong marketing leaders understand how to leverage the best attributes of cross-functional teams, as well as how to find ideas outside of the business too.
"Polling the social stratosphere is helpful," Baran explains. "Amazon, a leader, constantly repackages, not reinvents, its products and identity—from selling books to selling everything, from retail to the cloud, from the cloud to devices, from devices to publishers."
A collaborative marketing leadership style is the fuel for brand evolution.
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A Path Finder
Content marketing leaders understand that social media, blogs and whitepapers are building-block-elements for your company's sales funnel.
"The idea is to engage people, and if they congregate everywhere but on your site, your channels, and in your forums, then be open to building new roads that lead to your strengths," Baran says. "Be magnetic in culling constructive criticism."
Customer relationships will be a powerful byproduct of this process.
"Influence aside, to lead is to inspire," Baran says. "Learning to socialize your message promotes your information in the form of an ecosystem. Inspire others to seek information only you can provide. That's the real sweet spot."
The decision to try something new is not always easy. That's why it's essential for marketing leaders to be warm, open and friendly.
"Do not fear evolution," Baran says. "Put focus and energy into being a leader people can feel proud of and want to follow. What works is strong collaboration and set goals: a governance process, creative content with authority, rank and a team willing to integrate content marketing and social media into a holistic landscape."
Read more articles on marketing.Puri is a San Francisco based blogger who writes about trends in business, internet culture, and marketing. She's inspired by the intersection between technology, entrepreneurship, and sociology. Puri blogs via Contently.com.
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