Business strategy

What do content marketers do and when do I need one for my startup?

- August 25, 2023 4 MIN READ
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Content marketing feels as if it’s going through a transformation; ebooks are outdated, webinar and Zoom fatigue have set in, and no one wants to put their details in to access content anymore.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though.

New specialisations such as content design are emerging, and a mixture of consumer behaviour, new channels, and search engine preferences are pushing content in new directions. 

Evolutions like this usually mean a big effort to evaluate if your strategy is going to continue working, or if it’s time to change with the tides. With this could also come hiring new talent, whether that’s a strategist to come in on a project and review what you’ve got, a long term freelancer or agency, or full time headcount. 

Let’s break it all down. 

What does a content marketer do? 

The difference between a junior and a senior hire in content revolves around how much strategy they’re doing, how interwoven all the efforts are, and how many mediums they’re covering. A super senior strategist might not do much content production, and a super junior content marketer might only research and write or create content without deciding what it is. 

That senior content marketer will work on turning content into leads, customers, and contract renewals. That sounds easy, but there’s so much that goes into that, aside from channel and medium you’ve also got message, tone, technical skill in creativity, interweaving individual pieces of content into a larger picture, experimenting on new ideas, keeping things fresh while also knowing how to reuse or update old content to get as much ROI as possible out of that. 

A junior hire will execute according to a brief, and will need clear instructions. This could be coordinating production like photography or product imagery, video editing, copywriting, or whatever other medium you’ve chosen to work with. 

Will content work for you? 

Nothing in marketing is a guarantee. One of the worst ways to “give content a go” is to start a company blog and churn out one post a week. Putting a quantity measurement on content is always the quickest way to ensure you produce low quality, ineffective, and costly content

To determine if content is worth experimenting in, you first need to strongly feel that you genuinely have something to offer your audience. This could be: 

  • Educational: how-tos, templates, resources, interviews, product tutorials, thought leadership (EdSmarts blog is a mix of interviews with thought leaders, how-tos, and even a self-qualification piece)
  • Entertaining: memes, jokes, unhinged (see Duolingo for successful unhinged social content) 
  • Something only you can offer: thought leadership, original methodologies or frameworks, user generated content

Something I’ve seen come up more and more from the B2B side is also content curation. Using libraries of templates (check this example from Aussie startup HowdyGo) is one way to also double up on your SEO strategy. 

When does it make sense to hire a content marketer? 

Super early stage, your “content” strategy should be as focused on customer testimonials and case studies as possible, which could be covered by the product team or your generalist marketer if you have one. 

After that, a focus on content can come at any time. One of these might be the trigger for you: 

  1. You’ve been dabbling in founder based thought leadership (or some other type of content) which you’re getting a good response to, and want to capitalise on it 2. You want someone to test and experiment on channels and content mediums, but you also want it to be cohesive 
  2. You want to be louder than your competitors and have the largest share of voice in the market 

Content is one of those roles that can be paired with other duties, can be easily assigned to a contractor, or can be bulk created through project work and then published over a longer schedule. 

Depending on how many and which channels work, you might need a content marketer with breadth across channels and mediums, or depth in one to two specialties. Remember that skill and creativity in one medium doesn’t always mean the same for other mediums so don’t expect a unicorn who can do it all. 

How can you tell you made a good hire? 

Content output is easy to measure, and it’s easy to evaluate whether or not your audience likes it because they’ll either engage with it or they won’t. However, it’s time to caution again that quantity is not always something to measure. Obviously they can’t spend a quarter working on one piece of content, but putting a number on how many pieces of content you want before doing something like a content strategy, research, and planning, is going to lead to a bad time for everyone involved. 

A good hire should be able to lay out what their plan is in really simple terms. They’ll tell you how many of what types of content, what the topic is, how it’ll interweave with the rest of what they’re doing, and what output they think it’ll be able to achieve. If they’re doing the strategy and outsourcing the actual production, they should have incredibly clearly written briefs and instructions. 

A bad hire will piecemeal their work, plan and work on one piece of content at a time, and not have an overarching, “big picture” plan.

Some content does take off in the long term, but you’ll definitely get short term results that give you a quick way to evaluate the quality of your new hire’s output and whether they’re able to resonate with your audience. 

Final takeaways 

  • Only invest in content if you actually have something to say 
  • Planning your content in batches and then rolling out slowly is better than panicking at the end of the week and pushing out sub par content 
  • Good hires should be able to implement a plan reasonably quickly, bad hires will only think short term 
  • Content can (and should) be tested out via the founder, generalist marketing hire, or contractor, before committing to any large investments 
  • Content strategy and SEO strategy are linked but separate strategies!


  • Kayla Medica is a B2B SaaS marketing leader and author of Mehdeeka, the newsletter for solo marketers and small teams. She writes monthly for Startup Daily.