Content is at the core of inbound marketing; it’s the magnet that attracts prospects and leads them through your sales funnels. To create outstanding content, it not only needs to align with the questions and objections of each buyer persona, it also needs to be presented at the right stage in the buyer’s journey.
With content mapping, you plan which targeted content you need to create. As you can probably guess, this is the stage that comes before you start writing, filming and bringing your content to life. Just like a map, it represents a journey and various destinations along the way, which helps your team and audience to avoid any unwanted, time-consuming detours.
First, let’s have a quick refresh...
What are buyer personas?
Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers—those who bring you the most revenue, with the least opposition over the longest period of time. They’re based on real data about customer demographics and online behaviour, along with educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations and concerns.
What is the buyer’s journey?
The buyer’s journey represents the stages a buyer travels through to become a customer and provides context for your inbound content marketing campaigns. It’s split into three parts..
- The awareness stage: The buyer realises they have a problem.
- The consideration stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it.
- The decision stage: The buyer chooses a solution or various solutions (which hopefully involves you).
How to map content for each stage in the buyer’s journey
You know your personas, you know what they need from each stage in the buyer’s journey—here’s how you take that insight and turn it into real-life content.
Create content with value
Look at each stage in the buyer’s journey in isolation—what do each of your different personas need to know at each different stage to move them closer towards becoming a customer?
The value your content provides is determined by how relevant it is to the reader’s questions at that time (this is where an understanding of your personas and their journey is key).
Mapping valuable content at the awareness stage
At this stage, the buyer is doing research to clearly understand and identify their problem. General educational content is important at this stage. You want to ask:
- What problem are they likely trying to solve and what are the symptoms that are alerting them of this problem?
- What information will help them to identify the problem(s) they have that our product or service is designed to solve?
- How can we provide more value than our competitors to build trust from this early stage in the journey?
Mapping valuable content at the consideration stage
By this point, the buyer knows the problem they’re experiencing and they know a solution exists—they’re simply trying to work out which solution(s) could be best for them. In-depth guides are important at this stage as the prospect has already consumed a great deal of content and is well-educated. Ask these questions when mapping your content:
- How can our content help our personas to narrow down their options?
- What argument can we build through our content that explains why our solution is best for the persona-specific problems and symptoms that were identified in the awareness stage?
- How can we create a consistent stream of valuable content across all touchpoints, from guides to sales calls? (A study by HubSpot showed that 60% of buyers want to connect with sales during the consideration stage, after they've researched the options and come up with a shortlist.)
Mapping valuable content at the decision stage
By now, the buyer has clearly defined their problem, they’ve narrowed down their options and they’re looking to make an informed buying decision (as the name suggests). After all that work, this is the chance to really sell your product or service. When creating content for the decision stage, ask these questions:
- How can our content help them make the most educated buying decision possible (preferably in our favour)?
- How can we use data, examples, case studies and testimonials to support our claims and make the buyer feel more confident that we’re the right choice?
- How do we make our content more personal at this stage? Consider your content for on-the-phone consultations or a trial.
- What is our call-to-action and how do we capture leads?
Choose effective content mediums
From case studies and whitepapers, to podcasts and videos—the possibilities of content are endless. Once you know what you want to say to your personas at each stage in the buyer’s journey, you then need to decide on how you’ll present that information. This will have a direct impact on the content mediums you choose. Before making any decisions, ask these questions…
- In general, what are the most popular content mediums? According to HubSpot, video has become the most commonly used format in content marketing, overtaking blogs and infographics.
- Where do our personas go for information?
- Who influences our personas? Do they listen to certain influencers, or publications?
- Which mediums have worked on our personas before? Have a look at your insights and analytics for answers.
- Which types of content do our personas consume?
- Which mediums best present the level of information required at each stage in the buyer’s journey? Eg: In-depth guides in the form of whitepapers or videos are particularly effective at the consideration stage.
- Realistically, which mediums can we produce to a high standard within the budget and resource that we currently have?
- How can we A/B test different formats to inform our ongoing content strategy?
Increase the value of existing content
- Updating old blog posts with new content and images can increase organic traffic by as much as 106%.
- 51% of companies say that updating old content has proven to be the most efficient tactic that they’ve implemented.
- 90% of marketers find repurposing content to be more effective (from a time, cost, a results point of view) than creating new content from scratch.
In other words, it pays to be resourceful with what you have. Taking this approach during the content mapping process will not only increase the ROI of the content you’ve previously created, it will give you a starting point for new content. Ask these questions in the process…
- Which stage in the buyer’s journey does this piece of content best serve?
- Even if the full piece of content isn’t relevant, are there any statistics, paragraphs or references in the content that can be repurposed for new content?
- Can we create multiple pieces of content from one piece of hero content?
Build links between content
Each piece of content is a stepping stone in the buyer’s journey and the links you create between those pieces of content help your audience skip from one stone the next. The relationship between each piece of content is as important to the content mapping process as the content itself and requires a lot of planning. Here are some questions to ask yourself…
- Is every piece of content strong enough to stand on its own? Even though you want your audience to move through a desired stream of content, there’s a chance that they won’t. For this reason, each piece of content needs to be understandable in isolation too.
- Which content, in which order will help us to meet the needs of our different personas at each stage of the journey?
- How many ‘content steps’ do our audiences need to take in the awareness, consideration and decision stages?
- How do we build links between each piece of content and make it easy for our personas to go through the journey?
- What is the primary call-to-action for every piece of content?
Earn trust through content maintenance
In a brand sentiment study by Edelman, 81% of respondents said, ‘Trust in brands is an important part of my purchase behavior.’
The Harvard Business Review states that trust is built on three key elements—positive relationships, good expertise and consistency. From an inbound marketing perspective, that means creating content that’s relevant to the needs of your personas, updating your content on a regular basis so it’s always a reliable resource and ensuring that your content is consistent across all touchpoints in the business.
An important—and often forgotten—step in the content mapping process is the plan of action for content maintenance. Here are the questions to ask your team…
- Which content can be evergreen and which content needs updated regularly?
- How often will we update our existing content?
- Who is responsible for the upkeep of our content and how do we record it?
- What is our process for ensuring that information is consistent across our marketing, sales, customer service and product development teams?
Content mapping is designed to help you create the most valuable content to your buyer personas at each stage in the buyer’s journey. By approaching content in this way, you will also attract highly-targeted traffic from search engines such as Google.
An inbound marketing strategy ensures that the right person is landing on the right content piece at the right time. This maximises your conversion rates as well as the overall efficiency of marketing and sales activities.
With our Inbound Strategy Blueprint, we look at the questions your buyer personas ask at each stage in the buyer’s journey and create a clear, actionable 12-month content plan as well as a structure for the lead nurturing sequences.