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Move over content marketing, content mapping is here - Main Blog Image

Move over content marketing, content mapping is here

What the heck is content mapping?

Oh no. Another blog post on content marketing. How original. I can just hear my old marketing professor, John Ceneviva, say, “Ryan, I hope this isn’t going to be a waste of time.” Well, the only way to tell if that’s true is to read this bad boy.

So you know the basics of content marketing. Work hard at blogging, build up social authority, and carefully generate leads one at a time.

You likely also know the intermediate rules of content marketing. Write original content. Write something that really has value. Write from your own perspective and only write about topics you’re an expert in. Blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard it all before, right?

Wrong. Your content may be getting lost as white noise amongst all the messages out there if you aren’t strategically mapping it. What is content mapping you ask?

Content mapping is the process and strategy of creating and publishing the right content, to the right people, at the right time.

Content mapping is the process and strategy of creating and publishing the right content, to the right people, at the right time.

That’s a pretty boring definition. It took me a couple of times to read past the first five words. But once I did, I zeroed in on the important part: the right content, to the right people, at the right time. Like any good strategy, if you’re missing one of those aspects your content strategy may be falling on deaf ears.

The goal is to target interesting content according to these three main characteristics:
1. Customer personas
2. Customer lifecycles
3. Customer channels

Customer personas

To better target content, segment your audience by creating fictionalized representations of ideal customers. Creating these personas helps you understand whom you’re talking to and how to tailor content to them. Each persona you create has its own characteristics, including behaviors, needs, hopes and dreams. Have some fun here.

Content mapping and content marketing image for Creative Triage blog

To illustrate, imagine how much easier it is to write content targeted at Johnny Appleseed, age 39, a senior product engineer at a niche plastics company. Johnny lies awake at night knowing that he has to prepare recommendations for the board every quarter. He typically reads several industry newsletters every week, and his main goal is to bring a major win to the board in December. He also probably plays golf. Okay, I made up that last part, but unique insights like that can help you use metaphors and write from perspectives that Johnny really understands.

Industry and market research is crucial in developing customer personas, and reveals insights you never considered. How many personas you have depends on your unique business and situation. If your business is in one industry and has three products, three personas may be enough. Other markets may require 10 to 20 personas to capture all of the potential audiences.

Questions to develop customer personas

  1. What is their demographic information (age, gender, education, geography, etc.)?
  2. What is their job title and level of seniority?
  3. What is their main business pain?
  4. What is their main business goal?
  5. Where do they get their information?
  6. What are the main reasons keeping them from purchasing your product/service?

Customer lifecycles

Now that you know who you’re targeting, you need to know what customer lifecycle stage they are in.

What is the average length of time from a typical sales lead to actual sale? What are the major milestones along the way? Define the number of stages in your sales cycle and who the decision makers are in each stage. Here are some examples of lifecycle stages to spur your creativity.

Blissful ignorance
In this stage, a prospect is aware of a business problem that needs to be solved, but may not know that your product or service could solve it. For example, Johnny Appleseed knows that a particular plastic part used in airplane engines hasn’t been performing up to his client’s standards. But he doesn’t know what to do because, like most Johnny Appleseeds, he doesn’t look beyond the first three Google results. You know that Johnny could benefit from a higher performance plastic designed to withstand extreme temperatures and friction, but he doesn’t even know you exist.

Content mapping blog inset image

Straddling the line
Johnny Appleseed is now aware that your plastic could solve his problem because of the content you targeted to him in the blissful ignorance stage. Maybe he’s filled out a contact form online, asked material spec questions, or even requested product samples. Depending on your business, this stage may have many sub-stages like research, testing, approving, etc. These are all opportunities for targeting rich content.

Now, Johnny Appleseed is in the final process of reviewing information gleaned from the straddling the line stage. He may be seeking approval from higher up, or he may be holding onto the information for the right time in his own business lifecycle to implement the strategy.

Use this knowledge to segment each persona by each lifecycle stage and create hyper-targeted content.

Use this knowledge to segment each persona by each lifecycle stage and create hyper-targeted content.

If Johnny Appleseed is straddling the line, email him once a week with links to case studies showing how your plastic saved the R&D department at XYZ Company $80,000. Or promote a blog post targeting his company on LinkedIn about how your plastic can help a company’s new product pass all the six sigma quality assurance tests.

In the deciding phase, give real incentives to help close the deal. Create a PowerPoint illustrating high-level benefits of your product and include a competitive comparison chart explaining what differentiates it. Offer a deal, promotion or limited trial that could push your prospect into action. It’s helpful to put content in this stage in a format that can be easily forwarded to final decision makers (purchasing department, vice president, etc.).

Customer channels

So you’ve got the who and what down. Now you need to know where your audience consumes their information.

Content mapping inset image for Creative Triage

Each persona has unique communication channels to target. What platforms do they use? Do they read industry newsletters and periodicals? Are they active participants on niche blogs or specific social media sites? Would they respond better to a phone call or an email? Do they use smoke signals or carrier pigeons?

For example, organize a guest post on a popular niche plastics blog. Or create an automatic list of tweets that revolve around #aerospaceplastic and promote them on Twitter targeting the company’s Twitter account.

Tailor your content to whatever channels they use. Image or text heavy? Long copy or short?

The hardest part – execution

By now you’re thinking, “Awesome. But how am I supposed to do all of this when I’m already super busy?”

Answer: set it and forget it.

Use an automated CRM system to help manage lead generation campaigns. I’ve used Base CRM and hear fantastic things about HubSpot. These inbound marketing and sales platforms help automate outreach emails, categorize leads, track lifecycle stages, and even schedule content.

Whatever system you choose, make sure it supports analytics and testing. Continually optimizing your strategies by measuring what type of content generates the most qualified leads is an essential part of effective content mapping.

Final thoughts

If you’re still reading, I want to say thanks by sharing a quote of mine that’s taped on my wall to look at before I write anything,

“Boring content fails, interesting content succeeds.”

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