Three Ways To Keep Your Content Marketing Team Sharp

In November of 1993, Royce Gracie of Rio de Janeiro forever changed the martial arts. Gracie, at barely 180 pounds, used a style of martial arts called Brazilian jiujitsu (BJJ) to win the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first tournament. At the time, few martial arts studios in the U.S. had heard of BJJ, let alone were trained in it, and Gracie was able to capitalize on the style’s effectiveness and his opponents’ lack of knowledge.

Today, nearly all major cities have multiple BJJ academies, and being an expert in the art is essential for any martial artist wanting to compete in a professional mixed martial arts organization such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Because all of today’s elite mixed martial artists know BJJ, the Gracie family, though still widely considered the masters of this art, have lost their competitive advantage.

The content marketing industry has experienced something similar. There’s no longer a massive gap between those who understand what it is and those who don’t. Today, any marketer worth their salt is steeped in the fundamentals of content marketing. And there’s even a new young wave of marketers coming up who only know content marketing — the other forms of marketing had faded out before they began their careers.

Those who had a competitive advantage in their knowledge a decade or even just five years ago no longer do. The gap has closed, causing many to question content marketing’s value. Bill Carmody, CEO of Trepoint, put it like this: “If you’re noticing a diminishing (or even a nonexistent) return on your content marketing efforts, you’re not alone — and it may be time to pivot.”


Marketing is a mixed discipline.

I view marketing as I do mixed martial arts — excellence demands a relentless focus on mastering multiple, though related, domains. As the Gracies felt the gap closing, I witnessed them do as Carmody suggested above — they pivoted. Pivoting, by definition, means maintaining the central point. In this sense, the Gracie family worked hard to maintain their advantage in BJJ but also began to train extensively in other martial arts, such as in muay thai.

Many of today’s content marketing teams are feeling the knowledge gap close. In-house teams are looking across at their competitors and seeing similar strategies and levels of expertise. While the instinct may be to abandon the approach and find something new, I’d argue that content marketers go the way of the Gracies: Maintain your mastery and start working to build other skill sets.

After all, according to PQ Media’s “Global Content Marketing Forecast 2015-2019” report, content marketing is projected to become a $300 billion industry by 2019, and the words uttered more than a decade ago from author Seth Godin still ring true today: “Content marketing is the only marketing left.”

Here’s how to keep your content marketing team evolving and in constant pursuit of mastering its domain:


1. Invest in and incentivize the use of online courses. 

Online courses have dramatically improved in quality over the years. Coursera, for example, now offers a class through the University of California, Davis, titled The Strategy of Content Marketing, and the Content Marketing Institute runs Content Marketing University, which includes frequently updated modules on all aspects of content marketing. And to help your team pivot, consider signing up for a business account at Udemy and opening up a discussion with your team about which classes outside of their specialties will most help their careers and the company.


2. Attend industry events and conferences. 

Over the years, I’ve met thousands of content marketers at various events and conferences, and many expressed disappointment that they were attending not for the sake of learning but as sponsors who mostly had to stay at the booth. If possible, schedule an event or two each year where members of your content marketing team can attend with the sole purpose of soaking up insights from the leading thinkers in their field.


3. Establish a mentorship program. 

Mentorship programs can be a fantastic way for colleagues to connect with and learn from each other. The first step here is assessing, as the marketing leader, what skills members of your content team could most benefit from acquiring. Next, discuss your thoughts with them and make sure you’re in alignment. Lastly, create a connection. If nobody in-house feels quite right or can take it on, consider reaching out to your industry connections to see who might be open to serving as a mentor.


The field of content marketing is evolving at breakneck speeds, and a radical focus on continuing to learn will be the one commonality among the teams at the forefront.

Article written by: Cameron Conaway