As a marketer, you know the importance of great content. A value-driven content marketing strategy is the bread-and-butter of effective inbound marketing.
That said, you can always have too much of a good thing. Publishing a high volume of content merely to attract traffic is as risky as not publishing at all. The beauty of content marketing is its ability to take your leads through their buying journeys. So, while you’re roadmapping your pipeline, you should map out your content as well.
A content map is vital for your overall content marketing strategy. Read on to learn the essentials of content mapping and how to get started.
Content as a Source of Value
To build your content map, you must understand how people seek and respond to content. People encounter content throughout their day. How they engage with that content varies depending on their intent. When mapping your content, you must consider each audience segment’s intent and how it can lead to action.
There are several core types of content, each with its own effects on consumer intent:
Content such as TV ads and marketing emails is considered interruptive content. People do not expect to see them, so the content is typically designed to be highly eye-catching (or it should be). Interruptive content taps into your target audience’s pain points with a sense of urgency to drive immediate action.
Today’s consumers spend a large amount of time seeking content. They ask Google or their pocket A.I. for answers, or they search the Web and YouTube for how-to guides, checklists, or encyclopedic information. These users likely don’t have a high buying intent, but that doesn’t mean informational content isn’t a crucial hinge-pin in your inbound marketing strategy. It demonstrates your reputability and subtly leads people to the point of purchase.
Informational content can be divided into two subtypes:
Curiosity content: This content answers a user’s questions and/or provides useful information. It may not overtly offer solutions but rather speaks to their interests and general curiosity. Curiosity content is similar to the Ask Jeeves of the early Web: it’s meant to answer questions. Examples include basic SEO blogs, how-to guides, topical overviews, etc.
Pedagogic content: This content is meant to educate and instruct, particularly for those who are actively seeking solutions. There is a clear learning objective and proposed argument (e.g., “Here’s why you need antivirus software.”) Examples include webinars, DIY guides, video tutorials, and so on.
When they’re not actively searching for information, people are scrolling social media or browsing YouTube. They want to be amused, inspired, and connected to others. So, social posts and videos combine the most engaging aspects of interruptive and informational content.
Inbound marketing makes the best use of the latter two types: informational and entertaining content, or a blend thereof. By publishing content that captures users’ interests and entertains them, you’re more likely to meet all three components of the “Know, Like, Trust” branding model.
Charting the Course of Your Content
Imagine your target customers as seafaring travelers. As they pursue their destination, they must stop at various port towns to stock up on supplies, check their bearings, and take time to rest. Your brand comprises the friendly vendors, bards, and wise guides at each stop.
If your audience consistently gets the information and entertainment they need in each town, they’ll come to trust your brand’s authority. Content-wise, this means building upon their experience at each previous port of call.
In other words, to most effectively engage your target audiences and guide them to purchase from you, you must:
- release regular content across multiple channels where they’re likely to “make port”
- publish content that aligns to their user intent and interests on each channel
- know which port they’ll visit first and guide them to the next
Randomly releasing content may earn you some views, but to truly engage your target audience, you should leverage your content to gradually build a relationship with them. Also, in today’s noisy digital world, content is much more likely to fade into the background. You can avoid that by giving your content purpose.
That’s where a content map comes in.
Creating Your Content Map
A content map lists all your content’s key topics and how they are delivered across multiple channels, as well as which content piece leads to the next. It should align with your target customers’ buying journeys.
Obviously, that varies depending on your industry, each segment of your target audience, and where they encounter your brand. Some content pipelines can run shorter than others; for example, people who are searching for “how to set up a home gym” have a higher buying intent than those Googling “best workouts to do at home.” However, that only means they need fewer touchpoints before they’re ready to buy — you can still warm them up with high-value content.
To start mapping your content, you must first map your buyer’s journey. For each target audience segment, what will bring them to the purchase point?
Let’s say you run a lawn care and landscaping business. Your two main target audiences are (A) homeowners who want routine maintenance of their lawns and (B) homeowners/property developers who may commission you for landscape design.
- Segment A has a clear pain point: they’re tired of doing all the hard work of lawn maintenance. They’re eager to find someone else to do it for them.
- Segment B wants to make an investment. They may take longer to get to the purchase point as they review different companies’ services and pricing.
At the early point of their journey, Segment A may not feel their pain point yet. Perhaps they Googled “how to get rid of crabgrass” or “why is my lawn turning yellow?” and the answer made them frustrated. Now, they’re realizing they should hire someone. That curiosity content — ideally published by your lawn care company — has moved them forward in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, Segment B knows they want to hire a landscaping firm, but they’re not sure what style of landscaping or which local companies are the best fit. When they encounter your reel documenting a recent project (entertaining content) or your Landscaping 101 guidebook demonstrating your expertise (pedagogic content), they’re more likely to trust you — which means they’re more receptive to a sales pitch.
The Best Content Type for Each Point in the Buyer’s Journey
There are many different models of the customer lifecycle, but most of them boil down to three main phases: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. In an inbound marketing approach, these phases align with the marketer’s three-step process: Attract, Engage, and Delight. Notice how these align with Know, Like, and Trust!
Each content type lends itself to a certain phase. In particular:
Awareness: Informational content attracts new leads based on their interests, while entertaining content captures users’ attention to introduce your brand.
Consideration: Provide more value to your leads with detail-driven curiosity content that more directly speaks to their pain points. Pedagogic content
Note: You can still use interruptive content in an inbound marketing approach. The key is to tap into consumers’ known pain points once they’ve already met your brand. Retargeting content such as SharpSpring ads is a way to engage leads in the Consideration phase.
Decision: Pedagogic content that directly addresses your target audience’s core pain point is highly effective during the Decision phase. This type of content both demonstrates your expertise and persuades your leads to accept your solution — completing the “Know, Like, Trust” triad.
Because users are not necessarily thinking of a “pain point” when they search for information, your content doesn’t need to urgently propose a solution (i.e., ask them to buy). Rather, tune your content in your target customers’ “interest points.” People don’t purchase things solely to ease pain. They also want to satisfy their interests and improve their lives.
Moreover, there may be a pain point they’re not yet aware of. By focusing on their interest points, your content can help them discover that pain point — and start desiring a solution. By providing that value, you gain their trust so you can (eventually) make your sales pitch.
Applying informational content:
For example, let’s say someone is searching for “winter gardening ideas.” They have a low intent to buy at this time: they’re looking for inspiration, i.e., curiosity content. They encounter your article about frost-resistant plants and eagerly dive in.
As they read about the importance of good drainage to avoid freezing, they realize they need to improve drainage in their flower beds. Now they’ve uncovered a pain point. And they frantically click the link to your related article, “How to Improve Garden Bed Drainage,” which moreso constitutes pedagogic content.
Now, they’ve formed a relationship with your brand, and they’re primed to seek out more answers from you. You’re helping them “Know, Like, and Trust” you. And now, when they see a call-to-action to buy from you, they’re more likely to take that action.
Note: Be wary of introducing a CTA before someone can “Know, Like, and Trust” you. That includes both mailing list pop-ups before they’ve had the chance to read an article and sales pitches too early in their buying journey.
|Social Media (including YouTube)||
Tips and Tricks
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Social media and community-driven content benefit from the interruptive aspect of paid advertising, but without the immediate push to buy (and with less impact on your marketing budget).
When people are idly scrolling Facebook or YouTube, boredom puts them in an impressionable state, meaning they’re more likely to click on unexpected content — if it’s entertaining. By contrast, when users are actively seeking information, they’ll ignore overt marketing they perceive to be in their way.
Entertaining content plays an important role in inbound marketing: it enables discovery. It’s safe to say that not all your target customers will start their buying journeys with a Google search that lands on your curiosity content. By entertaining them, you help fulfill the “Like” aspect of “Know, Like, Trust,” and you can get them into your pipeline where you can deliver more information-rich content.
Note: Your entertaining content can and should have a CTA, but usually not to buy. Rather, invite them to follow your page, subscribe to your mailing list, or take another low-commitment action.
Entertaining Content Types
Meet the Staff
Holiday/Commemorative Day Content
Content Mapping for Your Industry and Market
Your content marketing needs will vary by industry sector and audience segment, as well as your business type (B2C, B2B). While every brand is different, here are some general guidelines:
B2C businesses benefit from a strong mix of curiosity content, entertaining content, and interruptive tactics. Depending on the industry, target customers may or may not have a high buyer intent when they first encounter the brand. A B2C content marketing pipeline often starts with aspirational topics (e.g., “easy healthy meal ideas” or “hair growth tips”) and leads into more authoritative content (cheatsheets, e-books, etc.)
B2B businesses must establish their authority over multiple touchpoints to land their accounts. Their target personas typically have no time to waste, but they’re willing to spend time on content that delivers high value. Many B2B marketers leverage interruptive tactics (email newsletters, etc.) leading into detailed pedagogic content (case studies, webinars, etc.)
Retail businesses have both high competition and high demand. They can best attract customers through entertaining content that taps into their core interests. Compared to other industries, this is where you speak to those pain points and pitch your products relatively soon.
Service-based businesses can benefit from a blend of curiosity and pedagogic content. Industries that require specialized skills (e.g., personal training, accounting) must demonstrate their expertise, so a robust pipeline of high-value content can help establish that trust. High-competition industries (e.g., beauty, lawn care) may need to leverage more entertaining content to initially attract leads.
Putting It All Together
Now that we’ve covered all that, let’s create your content map. Before you start, sketch out at least two target audience segments or personas. It can also be helpful to identify your content pillars — topics on which you can speak authoritatively and that align with your brand’s key differentiators.
Then, follow these steps:
Step 1: Map Each Persona’s Buying Journey
For each target audience segment, flesh out their buyer’s journey and which content type will most appeal to them at each stage.
Step 2: Create Topics to Guide the Buying Journey
Generate some content topics for each stage of that journey and its relevant content type (pedagogic, entertaining, etc.). Think about which topics will both resonate with their pain points/interests and establish your brand authority.
Step 3: Brainstorm the Right Content Piece
Compare the content ideas to the channel(s) your prospects are most likely to use at each stage, then brainstorm ideas for content pieces (checklists, templates, webinars, etc.). Remember, pedagogic content should be more in-depth to provide value to warm leads.
Step 4: Build the Content Pipeline
Create points of connection among the content pieces to move leads forward in the pipeline. Each piece should build upon the previous piece. Identify the call-to-action (or next action) at each stage of the journey. You can then automate your content delivery to send the right message at the right time.
Tip: Don’t go too broad with your variety of topics. Select your brand’s core topics, then create content pillars that you can expand upon for each segment/channel in your pipeline.
Strategy leads to success. While you may feel pressure to constantly post and publish, what’s the point of creating content that doesn’t drive results? Take the time to plan out the right content for each stage of your pipeline. Content mapping is a worthwhile investment that can save you money and generate more revenue and loyal customer relationships.