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The Ultimate Guide To Content Mapping: What Is It and How It Can Help You Deliver Effective Content?

By | March 8, 2022

Content marketing aims to get into your ideal customer’s mind, understand their needs, and deliver content that will match those needs to attract and lead prospects down the sales funnel.

But, if a customer wants to learn more about a problem and you’re bombarding them with in-depth content about your product, then they’re likely to click away. The same happens if they can’t find information about your product when looking for it.

That’s what content mapping is for — it helps you create content that matches your customers’ intentions. But how does it work, and how can you create your own content map?

In this article, we’ll explain what a content map is and why it’s important, along with a detailed guide on how to create a content map for your business.

What is a content map?

The basics of a content map and why it is important

A content map outlines a strategy to deliver the right content to your target audience at the right time. Content mapping can also help you analyze your current content strategy and identify gaps or new opportunities.

You can use a content map to support the customer journey, from casual viewer or reader to potential buyer and then paying customer. Delivering content to match each stage of this journey helps generate and nurture leads effectively.

But to do it right, you need to start by researching and understanding your customers. That’s why most content maps start by defining your audience with one or more “personas.”

Buyer persona

A buyer persona represents the ideal customers for your product. This persona is fictional, but it includes important insights that help you create better content for your customers.

Typically, you use surveys and interviews of existing customers to create the persona. If you’re not at that stage yet, you can do market research and talk to potential customers.

A good persona will help you address the customer’s pain points and cater to their needs and behaviors.

Lifecycle stage

Next, you need to create content for each stage of the buying lifecycle. Did they just discover your company, or are they close to buying your product? You need content for each of these scenarios to nudge customers along the way.

There are three stages in the buyer lifecycle:

The different stages of a buyer’s lifecycle

  1. Awareness: In this stage, a person has started to discover a problem that your product could potentially solve.
  2. Consideration: Here, the person has clearly defined the opportunity or problem.
  3. Decision: In this stage, the person has decided exactly how they’re going to solve a problem or capitalize on an opportunity.

For example, if you’re selling smartwatches, a buyer in the awareness stage realizes they have the opportunity to be healthier. In the consideration phase, they decide that tracking their steps and activity is a way to reach that goal. In the decision phase, they realize that a smartwatch is a convenient way to do this.

Combining these two factors can help you create a content map that reels customers in, keeps them engaged, and encourages them to make a purchase.

Typically, content mapping is done by the head of the content program. This could be the Content Director, a marketing manager, content strategist, or the head of the content marketing team.

The benefits of content mapping

Organizations should use a content map since it helps them understand their customers and improve the return of their content marketing. Let’s take a closer look at all its benefits:

  • Understand your customer
    When creating a content map, you must analyze and understand the customer journey. That helps you understand their motivations, problems, and doubts related to your product or service.

    By understanding these factors, you can refine your marketing strategies. It could also uncover problems or frustrations your target audience has with a product.

  • Provides an overview of content
    To create a content map, you need to audit your existing content. This gives an overview of all your content. You can build a central catalog or content library. A library where you can see all published content helps you avoid repeat topics and identify new ideas.
  • Maximize content benefits
    With a content map, every piece of content serves a purpose. It ensures you aren’t creating filler content that has little to no impact on your audience. A content map ensures that you only produce relevant content.
  • Lead customers through the sales funnel
    You have a clear content strategy that leads customers down the sales funnel. A content map helps you create engaging content for prospects and leads to nurture them into customers. You can also create content to nurture existing customers to build loyalty and attract repeat customers.
  • Save time and resources
    Without a content map, you’re likely just creating content based on random keywords and popular results on search engines. This is ineffective since it doesn’t target your customers’ actual needs and wants. You end up creating tons of content that serves little purpose.

    With a content map, you save time and money by creating personalized and targeted content that’s relevant to your audience. What you develop drives results rather than just filling up your website and social media feed.

  • Match content with marketing channels
    A content map gives you insight into your content marketing strategy. Instead of posting the same thing on all channels, you can align different content types to the platform they’re best suited for. Using the right content types boosts your content marketing efforts.

How to create an effective content map?

The 8-step guide to creating a content map

1. Define the purpose and target audience

Before creating a content map for a specific content marketing campaign, you need to define why you need the campaign and who it serves.

Analyze your content marketing strategy and list which business purposes or goals this campaign aims to achieve. Goals could include increasing subscribers, convincing readers they need this product or service, creating a loyal reader base, and boosting sales.

Next, highlight how the content marketing strategy provides value to your target audience. If your target audience is “casual runners aged between 30 and 40 years,” then you need to explore the pain points your product can fix or any new opportunities it can create.

These two factors will guide your content marketing strategy and are crucial for your content map.

2. Segment target audience into different buyer personas

Do a deep dive into your target audience to truly understand their interests, needs, and concerns. To create content that addresses each of these areas, you first need to understand them.

You can use customer surveys, in-depth interviews, website analytics, and social media metrics to gather data. Use this data to define:

  • Common characteristics that groups of customers have: age, job, income, interests, followed sites/creators, etc.
  • Why they are or were interested in your product
  • What they wanted to achieve by using your product

Use this data to segment your readers into different buyer personas. You can create one, two, or 20+ personas depending on the audiences you’re trying to reach. Hubspot estimates that using three audience segments is the most common.

Here’s a basic buyer persona:

Examples of a buyer persona

Your buyer personas should include information like:

  • Demographics: Location, age, gender, education, marital status
  • Professional role: Job title, industry, income
  • Personal data: What their professional and personal goals are, personality traits, lifestyle
  • Problems: Pain points, frustrations, professional or personal issues
  • Influences: Favorite books, tv shows, blogs, influencers
  • Shopping habits: Online shopping or in-person, where they shop, if they make buying decisions by themselves or with others (such as a spouse), how much they’re willing to spend, factors that will stop them from buying.

You can also use the buyer personas to develop a tailored brand story. This story tells readers why your brand was started, what it does, why, and what value it provides to customers.

3. Map out the customer journey

Understand the decision-making process of your customers by outlining the steps in their buying journey. Use the personas as a guide to illustrate a customer’s path to make a purchase.

Map out your customer journey

To create a customer journey, think about their emotions, thoughts, how you can help them, and the content that brings value to them.

If you’re mapping a customer journey for a shop that sells high-end sneakers, your personas will likely include sneakerheads, wealthy customers, and collectors. Each of these people visits your shop with the same intent – to buy shoes, but their overall goals and customer journeys are entirely different.

A sneakerhead wants to get their hands on the latest shoe within a price range ASAP, a wealthy customer buys sneakers to complement their style/outfit regardless of the price, and a collector wants to buy specific shoes that they can store and resell later.

Understanding their journeys makes it easier to create content that provides them with real value.

4. Match existing content to each stage in the customer journey

Audit your current content and create a catalog. Divide the catalog into the three stages of the buyer lifecycle – awareness, consideration, and decision. Then, assign each piece to one of these categories.

In the Awareness stage or the top of the funnel (TOFU), there is informational content that helps a user who has just realized a problem but isn’t aware that you provide the solution.

In the Consideration stage of the middle of the funnel (MOFU), the content should be product-oriented. Users that have done research are in this stage. They have a clear understanding of their problem and potential solutions. Convince them to use your product with how-to guides, comparisons, etc.

In the Decision stage or the bottom of the funnel (BOFU), your prospect has already decided to buy your type of product. Any content that proves that you provide the best solution, such as customer reviews, success stories, and case studies, goes into this category.

According to SEMrush’s report, 95% of marketers create TOFU content, 86% do MOFU content, and 76% create BOFU content.

Semrush study showing which buyer lifecycle stage most marketers focus on

(Image source)

You can create your own stages to match your customers’ journeys. Divide each piece in your catalog into these stages, and you’ll realize:

  • There is redundant content
  • There is content that does not fit into any stage and is thus useless
  • There are content gaps
  • There are new opportunities

5. Identify topics for future content

After you’ve audited your current content, it’s time to build a content map to plan for future success. Use all the research from the previous steps, such as customer difficulties and content gaps, to identify new topics.

First, list broad themes that you can cover. These will be the main topics. Use these topics to create topic clusters.

In a topic cluster, the main topic is at the highest level. You create a content pillar for this topic that is long-form and includes sub-topics. You can then create individual pieces for every sub-topic.

Conduct keyword research on the main topic and the sub-topics for an effective topic cluster.

Use the topics to decide the content types as well. For example, 53% of marketers said webinars were the TOFU format that generated the most high-quality leads in 2021.

6. Create a promotion strategy

You need to get exposure for the content you’ve created, and to do that, you need to promote it. Common content promotion tactics include search engine marketing and social media marketing.

Other methods are email newsletters, guest posts, paid social media ads, and sponsored content.

The ideal promotion method depends on the type of content, your budget, the platforms that your target audience most uses, and the stage in which they use it. Most marketers use their budget to start a paid content campaign and then build organic growth.

The platforms for promotion can differ for different stages of the buyer lifecycle. For example, the awareness stage can be dominated by social media, while the consideration and decision stages primarily rely on search engines.

If you want to optimize your ranking on search engine result pages (SERPs) for essential keywords and streamline your content distribution, check out HOTH X.

7. Create an editorial calendar

Use an editorial calendar to summarize all the information from the above points. Mark due dates and publish dates, note the content type of each piece and where it will be published, and the assignee for each content piece.

If you’re using online calendar tools like Google Docs or a calendar integrated into your project management platform, you can use colors and symbols to denote different publishing avenues and content types.

You can also create multiple calendars to create different content schedules for each stage of the buyer lifecycle.

Your editorial calendar can be a simple collection of task names and deadlines, or it can have columns for content details, keywords, target buyer personas, pages to link to, and more.

8. Establish goals and monitor progress

track progress towards your goals with key metrics

(Image source)

See if your content map is effective by tracking the progress of your content marketing campaign. Semrush’s 2020 survey showed the most popular metrics used for each funnel stage.

The top metrics for each stage were:

  • TOFU – number of visitors and conversion rate
  • MOFU – conversion rate and number of leads
  • BOFU – conversion rate, the number of payments, and total revenue

Use a tool like Google Analytics to track web metrics and conversions. Real data can show errors in your current content map and what you need to do to improve it.

Create milestones for your content map to judge performance. For example, your milestone can be “Generate 350 organic leads in the next six months.”

Ideal content types for each lifecycle stage

The best types of content for each buyer lifecycle stage

A large part of your content map is dependent on the content types. Here are the best content types for each stage of the buyer lifecycle:

Awareness

The content for this stage is about giving customers concrete information about a problem or opportunity that they just realized they had. Here, you can use:

  • Long-form blog posts
  • eBooks
  • Tool guides
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Infographics

Every piece of content must be informative, provide value to the readers, and doesn’t always need a heavy focus on your product.

Consideration

Here, you can explicitly showcase your product and how it could solve customer problems. Buyers in the consideration stage are researching their options, and you can nudge them in your direction with:

  • Comparison guides and “versus.” posts
  • Case studies
  • Whitepapers

Decision

Buyers are ready to make a purchasing decision, so you need to really market your products or services. You can convince them to complete the purchase by using:

  • Testimonials
  • Reviews
  • Free trials
  • Demos
  • Landing pages
  • Retargeting ads
  • Late-stage FAQs
  • Coupons
  • Consultation offers

This is just a general guide to get you started. The content types in your content map will largely depend on your target persona and their interests.

Conclusion

Content mapping can elevate your digital marketing campaigns and help you reach your goals.

With a thorough outline of the content you need to create, the purpose of each piece, content types, and publishing platforms, you can cater perfectly to your ideal customers. This targeted marketing can lead to more conversions and better customer relationships.

Learn how you can streamline your content creation and distribution process with The HOTH’s services. Schedule a call to get started today.


Director of Brand Strategy

Rachel is The HOTH’s Director of Brand Strategy. In 2016, she launched The HOTH’s content department, including HOTH Blogger. Rachel speaks at 1-2 industry conferences per month while overseeing The HOTH’s organic content and brand strategy. To book some time to chat about content creation, SEO, and SEM, click here.

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