If you’ve ever received an annoying mass email or seen an irrelevant Facebook promotion, you already know content isn’t one-size-fits-all. Sharing the wrong content at the wrong time is a marketer’s worst nightmare. Think about it, you spend significant time and resources to craft a piece of content only for it to fall flat—or worse, annoy your audience.
So, how can you reach the right audience? How can you convert that audience into paying customers? And how can you determine what type of content is going to resonate with your prospects?
The answer to each of these questions and the key to content marketing success is something called content mapping. Content mapping is the process of strategically aligning your content to your buyer’s journey.
When you map your content correctly, you can serve exactly the right content, to exactly the right people, at exactly the right time. Today we teach you how.
The Buyer’s Journey
The first step to effective content mapping is analyzing your buyer’s journey—or the path a prospect takes to become a customer. If you only take one thing away from this blog post, it should be this next sentence—so listen up. If you don’t understand the prospect’s path to becoming a customer, your marketing will always be subpar.
Here’s why: Today’s consumers not only prefer marketing content to be tailored to their specific needs—they’ve come to expect it. Your audience doesn’t have time for content that doesn’t apply to them. In fact, if it’s not exactly what they want to see, when they want to see it, your content is considered a nuisance. This not only makes it difficult to attract new customers, but it leaves potential buyers with a tarnished opinion of your brand.
Allow us to illustrate the importance of timing and personalization below. Here’s what the typical buyer’s journey looks like in relation to your content:
1. Pre-Awareness Stage
The buyer hasn’t recognized they have a problem. They don’t currently have a need for a product like yours. This audience isn’t even close to making a purchase and will require significant nurturing before they become a customer.
Example: This person purchased a new car last year. As far as he knows, the car drives fine and has no issues.
Content: The content that resonates with someone at this stage is typically vendor-neutral. They’re not looking for a sales pitch and will likely shy away from branded or salesy content.
Using our example above, our car owner might take the time to read a blog post, scan an infographic, or even listen to a podcast about cars. But, they aren’t actively seeking out car-related content. Instead, they stumble upon it organically through channels they’re already using—like social media for example.
2. Awareness Stage
The buyer realizes they have a problem. They may not fully understand their problem or even be able to put a name to it. This person still isn’t ready to make a purchase but they are willing to examine their problem to learn a little more about it.
Example: This person purchased a new car last year and it’s starting to feel a bit off. They notice a slight squeaking noise once in a while and also that their car is taking a little bit longer to come to a complete stop.
Content: The content that resonates with someone at this stage tends to move beyond “interesting” and is slightly more educational. They are now intentionally seeking content to help them identify their problem.
Continuing with our example, this person might do some online research. He googles things like “why is my car squeaking,” “how often do cars need new brakes,” and “issues with Toyota Corolla brakes.” He then clicks on the first search result, which happens to be a blog post from a national auto repair shop that has locations all over the country.
3. Consideration Stage
The buyer starts actively searching for a solution to their problem. They have identified a pain point and are ready to find the remedy. This person is likely to make a purchase but doesn’t know the details yet. They might be comparing retailers, reading reviews, or requesting company-specific content.
Example: After conducting online research, our car owner now understands there’s likely a problem with his car’s brakes. This person makes a decision to have the brakes looked at and repaired if necessary.
Content: At this stage, the potential buyer has decided they’re going to make a purchase and is actively conducting research before spending their money. The content the buyer consumes at this point is generally more salesy and vendor-specific. It touts the benefits of one company over another and often serves the purpose of converting a prospect into a buyer.
Sticking with our example, the person begins to research how much the car repair is going to cost. They look up reviews for three or four auto repair shops near them. They even start calling around for estimates.
4. Decision Stage
At this stage, the prospect is ready to purchase a product or service to solve their problem.
Example: After comparing different repair shops, the buyer feels ready to make an educated decision. He books an appointment with his vendor of choice.
Content: At this stage, the buyer might not be seeking content. But, if the correct content is served, it could be the final factor to influence their decision.
Let’s use the same example. Remember the first blog post our car owner read? The one authored by the national repair chain? Through a retargeting program, this company continued to serve the car owner highly personalized advertisements on websites he often used. After seeing a discount code for “$50 off brake repairs,” our buyer decides to move forward with this chain repair shop.
A Comprehensive Look at Your Buyers and Their Journey
To fully understand your company’s unique buyer’s journey, consult with the people who know it best—the buyers. Select a handful of your best customers and interview them to get a better understanding of their path to purchase. Here are some sample questions to get you started:
- What led to you making a purchase from our company?
- What makes you trust a company’s content?
- Why did you choose our company rather than our competitors?
- What led you to look for a solution or product like ours?
- What typically influences you most when it comes to buying products like ours?
- Is there anything that would have led to you making a purchase sooner?
- What types of content do you consume most often?
- Where do you typically do your research when looking for a product or service like ours?
- What types of content do you consume most often?
- What type of content do you find to be most helpful?
- How do you prefer to receive marketing content from companies—email, social media, etc.?
- What is your preferred content format?
- What can companies do better in terms of marketing and marketing content?
Once you consult with your customers, do the same with the other departments within your company. Whether it’s sales, finance, or HR—each department has a different view of the customer. By compiling these different viewpoints, you are left with a more comprehensive understanding of your customer base.
Content Mapping Tips and Tricks
It’s not enough to understand the relationship between content marketing and the buyer’s journey. You must turn this information into actionable insight and apply it to your content marketing practices.
Considering what you’ve learned, take each asset in your content library and assign it to a specific step of the buyer’s journey. We mean this quite literally. Don’t just think about it—actually reorganize your shared files and resources.
Once your content is grouped and labeled, do the same for each of the channels you use. Just as content isn’t one-size-fits-all, neither are your channels. Carefully consider how each buyer moves through your sales funnel and the outlets they use to access your content along the way.
It’s important to note how granular this process should be—don’t just list your channels and call it a day. Consider individual social media platforms—do they each speak to same stage of the buyer’s cycle? How about different pages on your website—does a piece of content make more sense on your home page than in your resource library? The more specific you get during the content mapping process, the more successful your content marketing strategy will be.
As marketers, we constantly hear how important personalization is. And it is—over 75% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized experience (source).
Yet, 83% of marketers say creating personalized content is their biggest challenge (source).
Although it can be a tedious process, content mapping is essential to creating personalized marketing content. Without content mapping, it’s truly impossible to write and distribute marketing materials in a way that makes sense to your audience.
Remember, the days of batch-and-blast email sends are long gone. With today’s technological advancements we know more about our customers than ever before. Using the resources at your disposal, compile important marketing and sales intelligence. Then, use it to inform your content mapping process. Doing so will not only improve your marketing efforts but it will also allow you to connect with potential buyers in more meaningful ways. What are you waiting for?