Best content manager training resources for digital marketing in 2020
By Liz Murphy
Top content manager training resources
- How to create a content strategy in the digital age course (free)
- Content managers virtual peer group
- Content calendar template for digital marketing (free)
- They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan
- Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
- Trello for content pipeline management
- HubSpot inbound certification
- HubSpot content marketing certification
- Content strategists Facebook group
- IMPACT Elite Facebook group
- IMPACT+ learning platform
- Marketing Profs B2B Forum
- Content Marketing World
- Digital Sales & Marketing World
"Is this the right article for me?"
If you're a first-time content manager, a seasoned content manager or strategist, or a digital marketer who has been tasked with limited (to no) resources to launch and execute a revenue-generating content strategy, you are in the right place.
This article, however, is not for the faint of heart. It's dense and packed with a ton of links to resources — online courses and mastermind groups, comprehensive how-to articles and guides, and so on.
It will arm you with everything you need to be an absolute ace in your content role, but you need to commit to putting in the mental elbow grease.
Ready? Let's go!
Why you won't find a list of content manager resources like this one anywhere else
A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... ✨
OK, not really.
One afternoon five years ago, I was sitting across from Kathleen Booth in her office at Quintain Marketing — before we merged with IMPACT in 2017.
At the time, I was a senior account manager at our little platinum HubSpot agency. While I had the chops to do the job, it was becoming abundantly clear that I was the right person in the wrong seat.
I wasn't marketer who was also a great writer; rather, I was a storyteller and writer who also happened to have a strong inbound marketing backbone.
But up until that point, I didn't know there was another seat open for me to take.
"Liz, I want to put you into a new position I've been hearing about called a content manager."
In my new role, I would not only be able to exclusively focus on content creation, thought leader development, and brand storytelling, I would also get the chance to build out processes from the ground up and develop the role as I saw fit.
You know, all the genuinely exciting stuff that comes with stepping into a role that didn't exist before.
There was just one small problem.
Content managers weren't really a thing yet... anywhere
Kathleen had heard about the role from Marcus Sheridan. At the time, Marcus was preaching about the importance of content managers over at The Sales Lion before they merged with IMPACT.
(The first edition of Marcus' revolutionary book, They Ask, You Answer, hadn't even come out yet!)
Still, however, content managers were very much the exception to the rule of digital marketing teams, because they hadn't really existed until that point.
So, back then, people like myself — and the content managers from the real-world success stories we talk about today at IMPACT — were essentially pioneers on the frontier of a completely new role.
Again, on the one hand, I love rolling up my sleeves (so to speak) and building something from nothing.
On the other hand, that meant there was a complete absence of existing training materials on how to actually be a content manager.
There were no scripts, no cohorts of more seasoned content management professionals I could turn to for help, no HubSpot certifications... nothing.
Figure 1: All of the available content manager training resources in 2015.
So, off all of us first generation content managers went into the great unknown.
We went through lots of trial and error.
We developed processes.
We broke those in half and created new, better ones.
We learned (often the hard way) what the best practices of our profession were.
We made a lot of mistakes.
And on, and on.
Why I made this one-of-a-kind resources list
As sincerely fun as that experience was for me, I don't want you to have to go through the same process of learning everything the hard way.
While there is still a ton of opportunity for development of even more robust training materials out there for first-time content managers, a lot has changed since 2015.
Now, instead of a vast wasteland of nothingness, there are some great content manager training resources out there. That being said, I have yet to find any digital marketing publisher out there who is talking as much about content managers as we are at IMPACT.
I know this to be true because I started writing about it here since I couldn't find anyone else out in cyberspace talking as much as I needed about the most pressing questions, challenges, and goals I have in my role.
So, I created this as much for myself as I am for you. Hooray, we're all winners! 🏆
Now, with all of that exposition out of the way, let's get to the resources, shall we?
Before anything else, you need to learn how to create a content strategy
OK, before we dive off the deep end into lists of links, books, events, online groups, and so on, there are a few other specific resources that pertain to the most important task a content manager will have to complete — building a traffic-driving, lead-generating, sales-closing content strategy for your company.
I mention traffic, leads, and sales as qualifiers to the creation of a content strategy because, if you can't showcase results, your company may not only lose faith in content marketing as a whole, you might also lose your job.
Call it hyperbole or doomsday rhetoric, but as a content management professional of 5+ years and IMPACT's editorial director, I believe in creating content that makes money. In doing so, not only will I help our company stay healthy, and I will stay employed. And the best content managers I know share this outlook.
Step 1: Learn your content strategy fundamentals
- Read this article on what The Big 5 blog topics guaranteed to drive traffic, leads, and sales are, because they are going to be a big portion of your strategy. And if they aren't, you're doing it wrong.
- Listen to this episode of Content Lab, which will teach you how to run content topic brainstorms with your team. You cannot build an effective content strategy without knowing how to do this.
Step 2: Learn how to create a content strategy
- Create your absolutely free IMPACT+ account.
- Complete my How to Create a Content Strategy in the Digital Age course, which is one of the free courses. So, again, it's a totally zero-dollar investment for you. I like free things.
Step 3: Put your content strategy into motion
- Document your content strategy using the exact content calendar template I use for IMPACT, which will help you execute your strategy and keep leadership informed on your strategy's progress — and you don't need to give me your email address to get it. Take it, it's yours.
- Sign-up for a free Trello account and use it to manage your content strategy pipeline. (This article includes a screenshot of how we have ours setup.)
- Get to work!
Step 4: Implement ROI reporting, celebrate content wins 🎉
This article will teach you about all of the metrics you need to measure, as well as how to celebrate wins with your team so they see the value of what you're doing and stay excited about your content strategy!
Extra credit: Create a content style guide
Finally, I strongly recommend you create a content style guide for your business. It's one of the most important documents you will ever create for your company, and you don't even know it yet.
That link above will teach you what goes into a style guide, how to facilitate a content style guide workshop for your business, and how to actually create your content style guide. It also includes all of the workshop materials (presentation, worksheets, etc.) you'll need, as well as a template for creating your style guide.
OK, let's address the elephant in the room
I just shared a bunch of content published by IMPACT. Heck, I'm even encouraging you to create an account for IMPACT+. On its face, this may seem like shameless self-promotion.
And, in a way, you could say it is.
That being said, I created all of these materials (like my content strategy course) because I didn't want someone like you to ever be in the position I was in a few years ago — having to figure out completely on my own how to create and execute a content strategy that works.
It's painful, trust me. So, shorten your learning curve and follow the process I laid out above. It's a lot of work with an initial time commitment up front, but I guarantee you will thank me later — as will your boss.
What you need to know about coronavirus and content strategy development
While there will be a point in the future where the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a memory in our mental rearview, its impact on businesses is significant (to say the least) and is certainly guaranteed to be felt for years to come.
Here are the resources you and your team need to guide your content marketing strategy forward:
- Is content marketing even relevant in a post-coronavirus world?
- How do you build a content strategy in the wake of coronavirus?
Other amazing (and essential) how-to articles
Content management 101
- Top 4 problems all content managers will face (mandatory reading)
- 4 critical tips for first-time content managers (mandatory reading)
- Brutally honest dos and don'ts of managing freelance writers
- 23 world-class blog post examples for content marketing (mandatory reading)
- The ultimate blogging tips guide from yours truly (ungated)
- If you want to be a rockstar content manager, you need this one skill
- What is content marketing? (great 101-level primer for anyone on your team)
Working with subject matter experts
- How to build rapport with any interview subject
- 5 essential tips for publishing great subject matter expert interviews
- How to give feedback on a bad draft (without breaking someone's heart)
Tools and templates
- Top 17 content marketing tools and apps you need (mandatory reading)
- Case study template + how to create a case study
- How to create a content style guide + content style guide templates
- How to write a blog post + blog post template
- How to create content that makes money every time + content planning grid
HubSpot certifications you should get
- Inbound certification (great if you're new to inbound marketing!)
- Inbound marketing (yes, this is different from the first one)
- Content marketing
Also, check out our full (and recently updated!) ultimate guide to HubSpot certifications.
Books every content manager must read
Y'all, just read these three books in this exact order:
- They Ask, You Answer (mandatory reading)
- Everybody Writes
- Long Story Short: The Only Guide to Storytelling You'll Ever Need
There are lots of other great marketing books out there, but these are the three you need to start with.
Online content manager virtual peer groups, masterminds, and Facebook groups
Sometimes the best resources you can have as a content manager aren't like the articles and resources I've listed thus far, where you need to proactively take the time to learn and grow in your role.
Instead, it's in those moments when you're really struggling with a problem and you just need someone to help you right now that you find out who really has your content management back.
I'll be honest, since content management is still an emerging space within digital marketing, there aren't a ton of these groups out there. But, there is good news — the ones that do exist are super active:
- My IMPACT+ content manager virtual peer group. I run this group personally and it meets monthly.
- The content strategists Facebook group. Lots of great advice and tips, as well as announcements on really cool content-specific events.
- IMPACT Elite Facebook group. Although it's open to all digital sales and marketing pros, there are tons of threads and discussions that are content management-specific. So, get in there, start asking questions, and help out your fellow content nerds!
Content manager training events
OK, we've already recapped some of the best digital marketing events and conferences for you — almost all of which have a lot of valuable content for content managers looking to level-up their skills.
But I do want to call out something specific that I, personally, am very excited about. Digital Sales & Marketing World (previously known as IMPACT Live) made a huge pivot this year from a single-track event to a multi-track event.
As part of that pivot, we're running an exclusive content managers track with content manager-only content.
Am I talking about our own company's event? Yes. Yes, I am.
Am I also talking about a part of an event where I'm going to be a speaker. Also yes.
But the reason why I'm tooting our own horn, so to speak, is because I would have killed to have something like this back when I first got started at as a content manager. The learning curve for me would have been much shorter, and I would have started getting better results much, much faster.
I don't know of any other event that has this kind of hyper-tailored curriculum that's just for content managers.
Again, as I said at the start of this, conferences like...
...are also valuable to attend, but you'll have to do some strategic planning about what sessions you'll go to. Also, what you'll get out of these conferences as a content manager will depend greatly on what pitches are submitted from speakers.
Meaning the volume and quality of content manager-specific topics at those events will often drastically vary from year to year.
One last resource for you
Look, our industry still has a lot of work to do in terms of creating training resources for first-time content managers — and I'm not excluding IMPACT from that narrative. But trust me when I say I'll be updating this article very, very soon with new materials from IMPACT just for content managers.
Until then, however, I want to let y'all know I am here as a resource.
So, if you're a first-time content manager, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I know how hard it is to feel like you're totally adrift without guidance when you first start out as a content manager. I've been in your shoes. So, know you're not alone, and I've got your back if you need anything.
Wondering where to begin?