7 Traits Every Content Marketer Needs to Cultivate

by Josh Ritchie

If you want to build an awesome content marketing operation that gets real results, you need a lot of things: the right team, the right ideas, the right resources. But most importantly, you need the right mindset. A good content marketer knows what it takes to do their job well, and they cultivate those traits every day. If you want to be a successful marketer, you can—and should—too.

7 Things That Make a Great Content Marketer

Content marketing is an ever-evolving practice, and as a marketer, you’re ever-evolving too. Work to nurture these key traits in yourself (and your team), and you’ll improve your work, strengthen your content, and achieve the marketing goals you want. 

1) Patience

This one is tough, especially when you want instant results to show your boss. But all good things take time, and content marketing is no exception.

Whether you’re experimenting with a new format, a new social platform, or a new campaign, it’s natural to want to know whether or not it’s working now. But good content marketing requires an investment of time. 

Tip: If you’re not getting the immediate results you want, don’t pause the campaign or throw your work in the trash. Instead, wait a set amount of time (e.g., a month) to see what the whole picture looks like before you make a big decision. This will show you if the work you’re patiently putting in is actually paying off. If not, it will hopefully show you how you can tweak and improve.

2) Empathetic Listening

One of the most common mistakes a content marketer can make is focusing on what they want to say, not what their audience needs to hear. No matter how great your content is, if it isn’t interesting, relevant, or valuable to the people you’re trying to reach, it isn’t going to work.

When you’re trying to come up with good content marketing ideas, flip the script. Talk to your target customers, find out what problems they’re struggling with, what solutions they’re looking for, what subjects they want to learn more about, etc. The more you get inside their mind, the easier it will be to find content that will connect with them. 

Tip: If you don’t know your target audience, see our guide to craft marketing personas to understand them. You can also try these simple prompts to brainstorm content ideas that deliver true value, and see how other brands create empathetic content marketing. 

Example: Course Hero is a brand that provides course-specific study resources for students and educators. To make their audience’s lives easier, they produced a series of infographics that condense famous books into simple study guides. By synthesizing the information and presenting it in a visual package, they give students a valuable resource that saves them precious study time. 

content marketer traits

3) Curiosity

If you create the same old lackluster content, you’ll get the same old lackluster results. What might happen if you try something different? 

A good content marketer is curious about everything—the people they’re serving, the industry they’re in, the way other marketers work, etc.

Tip: To keep yourself on your toes, challenge yourself to learn about a new topic, try a new content format, or mix up your brainstorms. You never know what you might learn, and how that knowledge can improve your practice. 

Example: Visual content provides some of the most exciting opportunities for brands to experiment. Delassus Group is a Moroccan grower of snacking tomatoes, citrus, grapes, avocados, and flowers. They used beautiful papercraft to bring their website to life in an eye-catching way. 

Delassus group fruit 1 Delassus group fruit 2 Delassus group fruit 3

4) Humility

Content marketing can be exciting, and it can be really frustrating. If you’re brave enough to stay curious and take risks, it won’t always work out. But, as Nelson Mandela said, “I never lose. I either win or I learn.” Being vulnerable enough to make a mistake, or admit you don’t know something, is the key to maintaining your empathy and becoming a better marketer, coworker, and person. If you look at your shortcomings as opportunities for exploration—not epic flaws—you can maintain resiliency and even enthusiasm about your work. 

Tip: If you tried something that didn’t work out (or didn’t work as well as you hoped), you can turn the lessons learned into great content. 

Example: We’ve written about the biggest lessons we’ve learned during our first decade in businessthe challenges of creative work, and our biggest content strategy mistakes. Sharing these lessons helps us see how far we’ve come—and, hopefully, helps our audience feel less alone in their challenges. 

5) Confidence

If things are working just fine, it’s tempting to stick with what works. But if you want to grow your content marketing operation, you need to think bigger—and move in that direction confidently. The good news is if you build your practice around good data, you often have the numbers to back up your decisions. Whether you want to ask for more budget or create an ambitious campaign, let your experience and data give you the confidence you need to pursue your goal wholeheartedly. 

Tip: Find out how to choose the right metrics for your content strategy. No matter what you want to do, stakeholders will always be easier to convince if you have the data on hand. 

Example: We partnered with SAP to produce their first podcast, a 9-part science fiction series. It was a bold choice that paid off, as we won the Content Marketing Institute’s “Content Marketing Project of the Year.

6) Discipline

The quality of your content is everything. But when you have a large volume of content to get out the door, it’s easy to let a few things slide here and there. Maybe you didn’t proof that e-book as thoroughly as you could, or maybe your Art Director didn’t sign off on the design. These things may not seem significant in the moment, but if you want to create a strong brand, you need to create quality content consistently. If you aren’t disciplined about applying your brand, you will quickly degrade it. 

Tip: See our guide to keep your content on brand to ensure every piece of content you create is up to par.

7) Sincerity

We’ve all seen soulless corporations try to insert themselves into a cause, hop onto a trend for the likes (aka newsjack), or make grand public statements about their values (which are often in direct opposition to the way they behave). When this happens, they might be the laughingstock of Twitter for a 24-hour cycle, but they’ve hurt their reputation for much longer. 

As a content marketer, you need to be hyperaware of what your brand believes, and how it communicates these beliefs through both content and actions. Remember: Trust is the most valuable asset you have, and when you behave insincerely, you break that trust with your audience. 

Tip: Identify and articulate your Brand Heart, including your purpose, vision, mission, and values. This document can serve as your North Star to help you stay aligned to your core principles and guide your brand in the right way.   

Example: See how these 10 companies share their Brand Heart through content. 

Keep Challenging Yourself

One of the most beautiful and frustrating things about content marketing is that the work is never done. There are always new things to learn, and new ways to grow. What matters most, however, is building your content marketing operation on the right foundation. 

And if you find yourself stuck at any point, turn to the experts. See our tips to find the right content marketing agency for you, find out what it’s like to work with us on a content strategy, or chat with us about the challenges you’re facing. We’d love to help you bring your brand story to life. 

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