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Content mapping: Who, what, where, when, why and how

Did you know that you can create content for every stage of the buyer’s journey?

This is how you ensure content creation is never a guessing game.

Your content can reach and impact your ideal customer whether they just discovered your brand through your blog or are stuck on your product/service page weighing a purchase – and every stage between those two bookends.

Every piece of content you publish can be a powerful motivator and educator that speaks to the heart of your prospect. 

Every blog, article, ebook, case study, landing page, infographic, video – you name it – can work hard to connect with your audience at the right place and time.

The key to ensuring this happens?

Content mapping.

What is a content map? 

A content map is a plan that details how your business will deliver content to your ideal customers no matter where they find themselves in the typical buyer’s journey.

In other words, a content map plots out exactly how your content will reach your audience at the right time and place.

It also shows you how to personalize your content for your specific personas along their buying journey.

Creating a content map alongside creating a content strategy is a genius idea.

What is content mapping?

Content mapping is the process of creating your content map – the plan that outlines your ideal audience, the actions they may take at each buying stage, and how your content aligns with these things to nurture them toward an ultimate goal.

The ultimate goal of content mapping depends on your business goals. However, the large overarching goal of this endeavor is to create a personalized content experience for your audience. 

Ultimately, a content map helps you plan how you’ll support, nurture, engage, and draw in potential customers no matter where they are in their buying journey.

Why should you do content mapping?

Content mapping is vital to ensure your content marketing is robust and evenly spread across the customer experience. 

It’s not just good for your business but also for your customers. Let’s dig into the benefits a bit more.

Create more relevant content for each buying stage

A good content marketing strategy will help you create targeted content to nurture an audience. 

A great content marketing strategy, one that includes content mapping, will help you create targeted content to nurture that audience at every stage of the buying journey.

Remember, the buyer’s journey is the process of research your buyer undertakes as they become aware of a problem, consider their options, and ultimately make a decision on what to do about it. 

Buyers don’t randomly decide to buy something – they come to that decision through a range of circumstances and actions. That’s the buyer’s journey.

HubSpot - Buyer's journey
Source: HubSpot

With content mapping, you ensure that you’re not neglecting your potential customer as they move forward on the path to purchasing. 

For example, if you have tons of blogs created for the awareness stage but none for the consideration stage, some of the leads you attracted to your brand initially might fall into that gap. You helped them define and understand their problem, but you didn’t show them how they could solve it or achieve their goals.

Another brand with consideration content could swoop in here, picking up where you left off. Now you’ve lost a potential customer.

In contrast, a content map helps you stay with that customer until they’re hovering over the “purchase” button in your website’s shopping cart. In fact, it probably helped get them to that point!

That’s powerful beyond belief.

Get more returns from each content piece

Content mapping also helps you identify a solid purpose behind each content piece you publish.

You’ll create each one with a specific intent that matches up with your goals, the target audience’s needs, and the buying stage they’re in.

That makes each piece pull its weight so much more. 

It’s a stark contrast between: 

  • Hitting “publish” and praying the content helps your business in some way.
  • Or hitting “publish” and knowing exactly what that piece has the potential to do, and probably will do, in terms of results.

Get more engaged, invested, loyal customers

When you provide great content at every stage of your buyers’ journeys, what do you think will happen?

The engagement, connection, and affinity you build will lead to equally engaged, invested customers.

Deliver a great product or service at the end of all that, and you’ll hook them utterly and completely.

This is how you create brand ambassadors. Raving fans. Delighted customers.

Ultimately, the point of content mapping is to ensure you’re helping your prospects at every step along the way. That amount of personalization and care is naturally going to produce customers who are wild about you.

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How to do content mapping

Ready to create a content map?

Before you start, I recommend having a content strategy in place first. Your content strategy will be useful beyond belief because a lot of the work will be done for you – laying out your content goals, researching your audience, identifying and creating personas, and more.

If you don’t have a content strategy yet, you’ll still learn much from this guide. (It may even spur you on to create one quicker!)

Once your content map is complete, you’ll understand how to map each content piece you create to each stage of the buyer’s journey for your particular audience.

1. Who: Research your audience and create personas

Your target audience is the most important piece of the content mapping puzzle. Without intricate knowledge of them, you’ll be lost.

You need to understand their preferences, behaviors, habits and needs to deliver truly personalized content to them at the right time and place.

How do you build that knowledge? Through audience research. 

Audience research

Never guess what your audience is like. Your assumptions can help you at the outset, but you need to test those assumptions and make sure they’re accurate for equally accurate targeting and content mapping.

That’s what audience research is for. There are a few main ways to go about it:

  • Check data that already exists about your audience in studies, statistics, reports, and surveys. This is helpful if your business is new and you don’t have an established following yet.
  • Conduct your own surveys, polls, and interviews with your audience. Get data from real customers (if you have them) and also leads, your social media followers, or people who have expressed interest in what you sell. 

If you can, focus on getting insights from real people in your orbit. This will make your personas more accurate and more helpful.

Of course, if you already have a content strategy in place, you’re a step ahead. You probably already have done audience research and have one or more personas ready to go that distill that research.

Buyer personas

How do you compile the knowledge you gain through audience research and make it more usable? 

By creating buyer personas: fictional characters or avatars representing real data about your audience. Each persona is a conglomeration of the commonalities among your audience.

Buyer persona
Source: Venngage

Think about it: For most brands, you could probably describe a type of buyer who purchases from them. For example, busy stay-at-home moms who run to Starbucks between school drop-offs, meal prepping, and soccer practices. That, right there, is a buyer persona.

If you have multiple types of ideal customers, create personas for each one so you can map their different buying journeys to your content. For example, Starbucks might add a student persona to their roster or a professional.

2. What: Map out the buying stages of your persona(s)

After your personas are set, you can lay out the common buying stages each persona goes through, including their thoughts, goals, and challenges.

We briefly touched on the stages of the buyer’s journey earlier, but to reiterate, they are:

  • Awareness: The buyer is aware they have a problem, but they don’t know what it is yet, or they can’t name it specifically. They are experiencing symptoms of a problem.
  • Consideration: The buyer has pinpointed the problem they’re dealing with. They can name it and define it. Now they’re looking at possible solutions.
  • Decision: The buyer has decided which solution to use and is comparing the best providers or products that offer that solution. 

In each stage, your personas will have different concerns, needs, questions, and goals. Try to pinpoint these for each persona across each buying stage. 

For example, let’s return to the persona of the stay-at-home mom. Based on the challenges and goals we know she has from audience research, we can outline possibilities for her buying journey. Here’s just one:

Challenge: She’s struggling to find free time during the day. Goal: She wants to find time to indulge herself.

  • Awareness: “How do I take time for myself?” 
  • Consideration: “I should schedule a break for myself during the day. What can I do that would relax me?”
  • Decision: “Getting a delicious coffee drink would help me slow down while I treat myself. Where should I go?”

3. Where/when: Map out content types and topics for each stage of the buyer’s journey

Now that your personas are connected to buying stages, we can look at each stage individually to determine the type of content we can create to help them.

Think about:

  • How can you address your buyer’s needs and goals at each stage with content?
  • What keywords might they be using at each stage to research their problem and its solution?

Let’s go through each stage to see the common types of content you can use to target your buyers, whether in Awareness, Consideration, or Decision mode.

Note: Some types of content fit in multiple stages because they help more than one type of buyer.

Awareness content

Awareness content should seek to inform your audience. It should help them identify and understand a problem, why it matters, and/or what they should do next. 

Types of content: How-to guides, checklists, infographics, informative blogs, ebooks, and social media posts.

Examples of awareness topics: 

Consideration content

Consideration content should help your audience choose between various options. For example, you could teach them all possible solutions to a problem and compare/contrast them. Or you could educate them about a specific solution and why it’s the best one.

Types of content: how-to guides, product reviews and comparisons, case studies, white papers, tutorials, and webinars.

Examples of consideration topics:

Decision content

Decision content is all about convincing your audience that your product or service is the right one for their needs. This is not about sales pitches but more about presenting the value and benefits of what you offer in a way that demonstrates your expertise.

Types of content: product landing pages, testimonials and reviews, case studies, demos, and product features.

Examples of decision topics:

4. How: Use your content map to evaluate existing content/plan new content

One of the great things about a content map is that it can help you take a snapshot of all the content you’ve already produced and how each piece helps buyers.

This will help you notice gaps you need to fill – and reach more buyers in a stage you may be inadvertently ignoring.

Categorize old content by which buying stage it helps

First, look at all the content you’ve published and start categorizing it by the buying stage(s) it’s most likely to address.

  • If the content fits more than one category, choose the category it helps the most.
  • If the content fits nowhere, add it to a list of possible content pieces to update. You could potentially edit that piece to be more targeted to a specific buying stage.

Brainstorm new content topics using your content map

Once you’ve categorized your old content, you should have a good idea of the holes in your content strategy you need to fill to address different buying stages.

You should focus on filling those holes first. Use your content map to help you.

By now, your content map should have three types of information:

  • Your buyer personas.
  • The stages in your buyer journey mapped to content types.
  • The challenges, goals, and possible actions of each persona during each buying stage.

As you brainstorm new content topics, use your content map to ensure you create personalized, targeted content for every stage of your persona’s buying journey.

  • Look at your persona and what they need at each stage, including the words they’re using to search for what they need.
    • Research these needs in a keyword tool to find opportunities for optimizing content.
    • Use these terms to find related topics you could also address.
  • Look at the best content types that will help your persona at each stage.
  • Brainstorm a combination of content topics + formats that will touch your persona at the right time to help them move forward in their journey.

5. Document everything in your content map

A content map should be a physical reference you can refer to during the content creation process.

For that reason, document your content map in a way that’s easy to read and understand. Make sure you can continue adding to it as your content inventory expands, too.

For example, you could create a simple spreadsheet that lists your personas, their challenges and goals at each buying stage, and the types of content you should create to target them. Include both formats and topics.

Content map
Source: HubSpot

Start content mapping and create amazing customer experiences that lead to results

Content mapping can seem complicated at the outset.

But if you want to provide your customers with amazing content at every stage of their buying journey, you need a content map.

Learning how to create one is the hard part. 

Once you have the strategy down, you’ll use your content map in ways you never imagined to understand your persona better, get major insights about their buying journey, and come up with content that is personalized to a T for their specific needs.

This is as strategic as it gets. But, as we know in content, strategy = results.

The post Content mapping: Who, what, where, when, why and how appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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