Although content marketing isn’t a new concept, I hesitate to say it’s “maturing,” because it’s so closely tied to current trends. Content marketing is really more of an evolving, moving target. The pressure to create more personalized content, the growing number of ways to deliver it, and the worry that it won’t be effective can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Content mapping can help focus and clarify your content marketing strategy.
Making content marketing more manageable
At its core, content marketing is a way to give buyers information that will aid them in their journey. The more relevant the information is, the more valuable it is — particularly at critical decision-making moments. The goal is to attract and retain high-quality leads and convert them into buyers as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In my experience, the key to successful content marketing is strategic simplicity. When you have a complex product or sales cycle, it can be overwhelming to imagine how you’ll find the time and energy to develop a content marketing program that drives a true return on investment. A lot of the clients I’ve worked with have felt that way … at first.
Given how complicated it can be to prove the ROI of a content marketing program, it’s no wonder marketers worry that management won’t see the value. A recent survey by Gleanster Research indicates that ineffective content costs B2B organizations upwards of $958 million a year. Allocating resources is another challenge: As much as 57 percent of B2B marketers say they simply don’t have enough time to devote to content marketing, according to the Content Marketing Institute.
Fortunately, you can address these concerns by answering one question, one I’ve helped many clients answer in the past:
How can you tell what content will convert people?
The answer lies in content mapping.
What everyone tries first
When marketers are struggling to shape their content marketing program, the first place they often turn is real-time personalization (RTP). Now, RTP can be a great tool, but it’s not a strategy in and of itself. It’s most powerful when paired with optimized content. Same goes for account-based marketing (ABM) and predictive analytics. They have their place, but neither will automatically improve the effectiveness of your content.
Another angle many marketers take right away is to add distribution channels and bump up the frequency of their marketing outreach. The problem is, if you’re hitting buyers with irrelevant content to begin with, sending more won’t matter. In fact, it’ll do more harm than good: They’ll get the impression that you don’t know who they are or what they want. And unless you’re content mapping, you really don’t.
The real solution: content mapping
Content mapping is how you meet your buyers where they are in the buying process. Think of your personas and your buyers’ journey as your primary content mapping tools. As you follow your personas through their journeys, drop a pin where each persona intersects with each stage. Those are the targets you’re looking to hit with your content. That’s the beginning of your content map.
Of course, you need to have consensus on your personas and the stages of your buyers’ journey first. That way, you know exactly what to say, to whom, and when.
Three general stages of a buyers’ journey:
- Understanding the need / recognizing the problem
- Evaluating ways to satisfy the need or solve the problem
- Picking a solution
Each stage is distinct, as are the actions you want the buyer to take during each. In addition to defining the path to purchase, you also need to know who’s traveling it.
Maybe you’ve invested time and money developing personas that everyone on your sales and marketing team is 100% bought-in on. Or maybe you haven’t gotten that far yet, but you have started segmenting prospects — perhaps by job function or some other distinguishing characteristic. Whatever makes the most sense for your business.
Regardless of where you are in your persona development, what matters is that you think about what you want each persona to know — and what you want them to do at each stage of the journey. That combination should start to illuminate your content needs.
Mapping a path through the sales funnel
Your mission is to make a content map for each persona — one that will get them from the top of the funnel to the bottom as quickly and effectively as possible.
While you’re doing that, identify which points in the journey represent significant hurdles. For example, maybe you and your sales team agree that there’s a point when your buyers can’t seem to shake their emotions when making a decision, and you need them to think more rationally. Or maybe they’re thinking rationally, but can’t justify the cost of your product.
These moments might require a little more attention — and maybe some specialty content. Something interactive, perhaps?
It’s important to think these things through in advance, because it’s easy to get carried away in the moment. Interactive content, in particular, is so trendy that you and your creative team might feel tempted to create too much of it, or to invest too much time and effort in something that doesn’t wind up being effective.
Interactive content can be challenging to execute, but when planned strategically, it plays an important role. It is especially helpful when you need to shift your prospects’ mindsets or overcome specific objections. That’s how content mapping can really pay off.
- When buyers are in the first stage of their journey, they may need hard proof to believe there’s a problem that needs solving. A calculator is a great way to demonstrate what they’re missing out on, or what they’ll lose if they stay the course.
- On the other hand, if a buyer understands the problem they need to solve and is at the stage of evaluating solutions, social proof from a peer can go a long way. This is an ideal time to serve up a testimonial video.
You’ve got this!
Content mapping is a key strategy to put in place to focus and clarify your content marketing strategy. Once you’ve got your content map in place, the next step is to get creative about how you create your content. And believe it or not, you can do it without blowing your budget or bogging down your valuable resources. In a future blog post, we’ll show you how to brainstorm creatively to come up with the specific content that meets those needs — stay tuned!