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What’s the One Most Important Skill for a Content Marketer?

Posted on Mar 10th, 2014
Written by Lee Odden
In this article

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    content marketing empathyFocus and simplicity help ideas grow.

    The changing, competitive and often complex world of content marketing could use some simplification and that’s why it was refreshing to get the following question recently:

    What’s the one thing that has been instrumental for you to be successful at content marketing?

    My gut reaction of course was, there is no “one thing”. There are many things and they vary depending on the industry, types of product/services, target audience, maturity of the company’s marketing, resources, timeframe and so on. In fact, I posted about an array digital marketing skills just 2 weeks ago.

    But really, for me there is one thing that seems to stand out.


    Yes, that’s it, empathy. If there has been one thing that’s been instrumental for me in becoming a more effective content marketer for our own agency and for clients, it’s making a daily effort to try and think of things from the audience perspective.

    So often, these basic questions go unanswered in favor of doing what’s cool, reacting to competitors or self promotion. Always ask: What do they care about? What are their pain points and goals?  Sure, I have the things I want to say, but “me me me” is “boring boring boring”.

    Making the shift from egocentric content topic planning towards empathy takes time, but it’s an essential change.

    In many cases it’s a focus on the customer experience with content that I try to imagine, hopefully with support from data. I think about where the target audience might discover this kind of information and what topics, formats and devices they might use to consume it. Of course I also have to imagine the kinds of messages that will resonate and inspire action.  It’s about optimizing for the customer, over channels and tactics.

    Now here’s the thing about empathy with content marketing: Not everyone knows what they want. So there is a yin/yang relationship between customer empathy and brand leadership in its messaging. The combination is very powerful.

    So, if you make it part of your content planning to balance customer empathy with brand messaging, the content you plan, create and promote will become more meaningful and effective because it’s relevant to the customer experience as well as your business objectives.  The bonus of course is that when content is created with the readers’ needs in mind, they end up doing what you want them to do more often.

    Everybody wins.

    Except your competition.

    What’s the one thing you’ve found that contributes to your content and digital marketing success?