When prospects first come to your business page, they probably won’t just click and buy your offering immediately. They’ll most likely be searching through your site to learn more about it, gauge the level of trust people have in your company, and be on the lookout for resources to help them achieve their goals. You can create this experience by content mapping.
Content mapping allows you to create highly targeted, personalized content at every stage of the buyer’s journey, helping to nurture leads and prospects toward a purchase decision. In this post, we’ll go over what a content map is and how you can start content mapping for your brand.
Let’s get started.
What is a Content Map?
A content map is a plan to deliver the right content, to the right people, at the right time. Content mapping takes into account the characteristics of the person who will be consuming the content and their lifecycle stage so that it better meets their needs with the different types of content they provide.
For example, if your business is building a brand new website, you’ll have to begin creating a content map based on why the customer is going to your page. If customers are coming to your website looking for a credible solution worth paying for, they’ll want to trust the company.
The marketing team can then align the goal to build trust, and apply it to their marketing portfolio.
What Is Content Mapping?
Content mapping is the process of creating the content plan that addresses buyers at different stages of the customer lifecycle. Each piece within a content map is designed to meet the needs of the buyer at a certain point in their journey — with the ultimate goal of driving them toward a purchase decision.
Why is content mapping important?
Content mapping helps you plan for content creation that supports the customer journey and creates a more cohesive, personalized customer experience.
When it comes to content, one size rarely fits all. They have to serve different purposes as prospects are looking for varying information as they progress in the buyer’s journey. To ensure that your company's content is effective at generating leads, you need to deliver diversified content that covers different topics that they’re searching for each step of the way. Content mapping is the process of doing just that.
But coming up with the actual topics that make for a highly targeted content strategy isn't that easy. However, content mapping with the audience in mind can help you put together a strategy in a more manageable way.
How to Create a Content Map
1. Download a content map template.
To help you brainstorm and map out content ideas for targeting specific segments of your audience, we've created a new free template resource: The Content Marketing Planning Template.
The template includes an introduction to content mapping, a crash course on buyer personas and lifecycle stages, a content mapping template (plus examples), a website content map template, and bonus buyer persona templates.
With the template, you'll:
- Learn how to understand buyer personas and lifecycle stages.
- Identify problems and opportunities that your audience needs help with.
- Brainstorm highly targeted content ideas that incorporate personas and lifecycle stages.
2. Identify the buyer persona you want to target.
Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. They help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better, and make it easier for you to tailor content to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups.
The strongest buyer personas are based on market research as well as on insights you gather from your actual customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.). Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas or dozens. If you’re just getting started with personas, don’t go crazy! You can always develop more personas later if needed.
3. Consider that persona’s path to purchase (lifecycle stages).
The buyer persona you target with your content is only half of the content mapping equation. In addition to knowing who someone is, you need to know where they are in the buying cycle (i.e. how close they are to making a purchase). This location in the buying cycle is known as a lifecycle stage.
For our Content Mapping Template, we’re divvying up the buying cycle into three lifecycle stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.
- Awareness: In the awareness stage, a person has realized and expressed symptoms of a potential problem or opportunity.
- Consideration: In the consideration stage, a person has clearly defined and given a name to their problem or opportunity and is looking for a solution.
- Decision: In the decision stage, a person has defined their solution strategy, method, or approach and is looking for a provider.
By combining buyer personas with lifecycle stages, you can hone in on specific segments of your audience and tailor content to resonate with each of those segments.
4. Brainstorm questions the personas have in the awareness stage.
Your awareness stage content should target early in the buying cycle. People in this segment are just becoming aware that they have a problem. At this stage, think of how your content can help people become more informed about the problem in general, and you'll (hopefully) find that they continue moving closer to a purchasing decision.
Important questions to start thinking about:
- What problem are they likely trying to solve, and what are the symptoms that are causing this problem?
- What information will help them to identify their problem(s) and that our product or service is designed to solve them?
- How can we build trust and provide more value than our competitors from this early stage in the journey?
5. Identify awareness stage content.
Taking your buyer personas' questions into account, you can turn them into topics for awareness stage content.
The content you want to provide them should speak to their current needs, not jump straight into product-focused content. This can take the form of insightful blog posts, webinars, ebooks, or social media posts that give information to solve initial concerns and slowly familiarize prospects with how your product can help them.
6. Brainstorm ways to position your solution as your persona enters the consideration stage.
At this point, you’ve provided your prospect with enough information to become fully aware of their problem, and they know it can be remedied.
This is when you should begin trying to move them closer to a purchasing decision and become more interested in your product offering, using consideration stage content.
7. Identify consideration stage content.
Your consideration stage content can more explicitly mention how your product or service could potentially solve a problem. At this point in the buying cycle, people are still evaluating their options. Your purpose now is to help them narrow down the solution that works the best and provides them the most value.
The types of content used for the consideration stage can look like this:
- Videos comparing and contrasting offerings
8. Brainstorm objections that would stop them from buying in the decision stage.
Now that you’ve identified the “why”s behind your prospect choosing your solution, it’s time to consider the “why not”s.
Some competitors may have a more affordable solution, different methods of remedying issues, or more authority (popularity) in the market. While some of these aspects cannot be changed, you can still appeal to the prospect and move them closer to purchase if your offering is a real value add, regardless of the rest.
9. Identify decision stage content.
At the decision stage of the buyer journey, you can primarily lean into marketing your products or services. If someone has reached this stage, they've already identified a problem and a solution, and are now getting ready to pull the proverbial trigger toward a purchase decision.
This is where you can directly present the prospect with examples of positive experiences or success derived from your product or service offering, with decision stage content like:
- Case studies (social proof)
- Customer testimonials
- Product demos
10. Determine how these content pieces work together.
Now that you’ve identified all the different types of content that buyers of each stage are looking for, it’s time to map the ideas.
This content mapping visualization keeps the marketing strategy focused on the goal specified with all the steps necessary to gradually reel in buyers. Our template can also help you to schedule when you want content published on a monthly or quarterly basis if you want to manage it in one place.
You can approach content mapping to serve more specific strategies this way, too, as we’ll discuss content mapping for your website in more detail.
Website Content Mapping
Website content mapping is the process of planning the pages, blog posts, and offers you’ll publish on your site and identifying which buyer personas those pages and posts will serve. Website content mapping also identifies which pages and posts address different lifecycle stages.
Website content mapping is a key element of website personalization. In essence, you’ll create different pages, posts, and offers to address different buyers at different points in the buyer’s journey.
To give you a better idea of website content mapping, let’s run through a simple example of one.
Content Map Example
The buyer persona (and a key problem or opportunity that persona is struggling with) is at the start of the grid. Jenny is a gym owner and her problem is that she needs gym equipment, but has a limited budget and has taken to the internet for a solution.
In the awareness life cycle stage, she’ll be looking for introductory content to gain knowledge about the types of equipment necessary to bring customers into her gym.
In the consideration life cycle stage, she’ll have a better understanding of her need for equipment and price expectations and will be looking to create a more clear budget for different items and consider how long this investment will last — seeking templates that outline that information.
Finally, in the decision stage, Jenny has identified her needs and is looking for a provider to fill them. She will feel inclined to request demos, consults, or quotes from a company that has guided her through her journey to their solution of cost-effective gym equipment.
This type of content map works because of how it segments personas as they progress through the buyer lifecycle, and if you have more than one persona to cater to, then you can expand your map into a segmentation grid.
Content Segmentation Grid
A content segmentation grid is a tool to help businesses plan the content they will produce based on the different types of audiences they want to reach.
A common mistake marketers make when it comes to content planning is that they’ll understand the need to make personalized content for customers as they navigate the buyer stages — but ignore the need for individualized messaging.
A content segmentation grid solves that problem as marketers will be able to better serve every customer segment at each stage they reach. So instead of writing messaging for one buyer persona, you can potentially increase engagement and conversions across different audiences.
So you now know what content mapping is, and you’ve seen how you can get started. What type of tools can you use to start content mapping?
Content Mapping Tools
Content mapping may seem like a difficult task that requires highly specialized software. It’s not true — it requires simple business tools you may already be using in your day-to-day.
We’ll start with the most basic tools you need to start content mapping, such as word processors and visualization tools.
1. Google Docs
First up in your content mapping tech stack is your preferred word processor, Google Docs. It has the feature to draw and insert different types of diagrams into documents, which can be translated into a content map to align your marketing mix with your goals. We highly recommend this tool because it makes it easier to share work across your team, and you never have to worry about backing up your content map once you’ve created it.
Pricing: Free Basic Plan; Individual Plan;$7.95/month, Team Plan; $9/month, Enterprise Plan available upon request
If you’re more of a visual person, then a flowchart tool is a must. Also, if you’d prefer to create a content map with lines and diagrams, then you need a more sophisticated tool than Google Docs. Lucidchart’s flowchart maker is a top-of-the-line tool that also allows you to connect different apps and services. Like Google Docs, it allows you to work collaboratively, but Lucidchart takes it a step further and provides users with more visually appealing formatting.
Before you can even begin to create a content map, you need to identify the buyer persona(s) you’re creating content for. HubSpot has a buyer persona tool made to build and save professional buyer persona documents with its intuitive generator.
And if you want to take it a step further, HubSpot has a list containing even more buyer persona resources to build out your customer profiles for your business, too.
Pricing: Free Basic Plan, Starter Plan; $45/month, Professional Plan; $800/month, Enterprise Plan; $3,200/month
In the Marketing Hub, there is an SEO Topics tool that provides content mapping capabilities to help users organize their ideas for organic-focused awareness stage content. With this capability, your team will be able to collaborate and execute your content map once it’s ready for deployment.
Tools to Help Implement Your Content Map
1. HubSpot CRM
HubSpot’s CRM is the one tool you need to compile all of your data from current and prospective customers. The CRM will allow you to discern different lifecycle stages and pinpoint commonalities between customers who are ready to purchase based on lead scoring. Your content map can help someone build a lead scoring system to identify high-value leads who have consumed the content close to a purchasing decision.
3. CMS Hub
Pricing: Starter Plan; $23/month, Professional Plan; $360/month, Enterprise Plan; $1,200/month
A content management system is probably the most important tool for your content mapping efforts. A CMS will allow you to publish personalized content that targets different site visitors at — you guessed it — different stages of the buyer’s journey.
CMS Hub is fully integrated with HubSpot’s CRM platform and Marketing Hub, allowing you to create a seamless experience for your customers as they receive the content you’ve designed for them. It will help you execute your content map flawlessly. Even more importantly, with CMS Hub, you can continue testing and retesting your content for better results.
So are you ready to begin creating your own content map? Before you start, let's hear some tips from marketers who attribute part of their success to this strategy.
Content Mapping Tips From the Pros
1. Educate your audience.
“We all have to create compelling content to attract our ideal clients, build an active and engaged audience, and get daily sales. Spend time building your audience by educating them and engaging with them. No one has built a business by posting the same image or type of image every day on socials and not having convoys with their audience. It is not just about showing up, but doing so with intention so you can attract your ideal clients who will buy from you.”
2. Give your prospects the information they need before they ask for it.
"With content mapping, you can give your prospects the information they are asking for before they even ask for it. Buyer personas and lifecycle stages allow you to be one step ahead of the game by mapping out what your prospect's next steps are and delivering them the content from numerous different avenues.
We create buyer personas as part of our onboarding process and everything we do from content offer to daily tweets is centered around that document. We also always ask ourselves, 'Would business owner Bob open this email, click this tweet, or download this offer?'"
3. Provide different conversion paths for different personas.
"When mapping out content for your site's visitors, it's important to remember that when it comes to purchasing decisions (BOFU conversions, especially for B2B and high-priced items), there are some personas out there who would rather speak to someone on their terms rather than fill out a form for a consultation. Understanding how they are most comfortable when it comes to making decisions can help you understand what points of conversion will be the most relevant and successful for that persona.
Optimizing your site pages (landing and thank you pages, as well), TOFU & MOFU offers, and workflows with direct contact information (phone #, email, etc.) is a great way to ensure that visitors, prospects, and leads who may shy away from form submissions still have readily available, alternate means of converting."
4. Create specific content that appeals to specific personas.
"Mapping out buyer personas and lifecycle stages is extremely important when creating content. In terms of buyer personas, it's easy to see that a Marketing Director will have different questions, information needs, and interests compared to a CEO. Both of these personas may be searching for your product or service, but they'll be looking for different topics. By creating content that appeals to each audience, you can be more effective in attracting that specific audience.
By the same token, each persona of yours may be in a different stage of the buying process, so it's important to think through and create content that appeals to someone looking for basic, high-level information such as an ebook, as well as specific information like a pricing guide or case study.
One tip I'd suggest for anyone with pretty different personas would be to dedicate an entire section of your site to each audience. That way, when you pull in your audience, all the content is directed toward them.
We actually took this concept and went a step further by creating unique brands for each one of our vertical markets. Each brand has its own section of the website, its own blog content, and its own premium content (downloadable offers). It's really helped us attract and convert visitors at a higher rate because all the content is more relevant to that persona."
4. Pull content topics from your sales process.
"By taking the buyer and buying stage into account when creating content, you can be sure that you're designing content to help move them through the buying process.
In addition to mapping content to the buyer profile and buying stage, we regularly pull topics from the sales process. Then we offer the content in later sales calls. This helps us not only evaluate the relevancy of the content but also the interest of the buyer. We encourage clients to do the same."
Content Mapping is Key to Your Company’s Growth
Delivering the right content at the right time can do wonders for your company’s growth. By meeting prospects’ needs based on their persona and lifecycle stage, you’re delighting them at every turn, boosting your chances of winning a loyal customer and turning them into a brand evangelist.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in March 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.