Mapping Content to the Buyer’s Journey
With Julie Kukesh
Seventy percent of marketers are creating more content now than they did a year ago, but only 38% of them are confident that their efforts are effective [source]. Business decision makers are sick of reading marketing fluff, and the “Top 10” headline has become eye-roll inducing.
What are we to make of this? Is the market for content over-saturated? Is content marketing past its peak? Is it time to look for the next silver bullet?
Quite the contrary. The problem is not with content marketing—the problem is with content that is irrelevant and poorly timed. Buyers still make decisions based on relationships and trust, and sellers still build relationships and trust through content. But it has to be the right content, delivered to the right people, at the right time.
Julie Kukesh, Inbound Marketing Consultant at Hubspot, says the key to effective content marketing lies in mapping your content to the buyer journey—in other words, creating and managing your content in such a manner that it gets to the right people, at the right time. In her Inbound 2014 conference presentation, she outlined the three steps for effective content mapping, and offered this downloadable kit of resources to help you along the way.
Here are Kukesh’s three steps.
Step One: Understand Who the Right Person Is
Every content marketing program must start with an understanding of the buying decision makers, influencers, and stakeholders. This means creating buyer persona documents for each major group that will be involved in the buying process.
But having persona documents is only the start—it is not enough by itself. 56% percent of U.S. email users will unsubscribe from email lists that they once enjoyed because the content is no longer relevant to them.
In other words, in order to remain relevant, you have to target content not only to the right people, but also at the right time.
Step Two: Understand the Buyer’s Journey
The buyer’s journey typically consists of three stages: Awareness, consideration, and decision. These correspond with the familiar “marketing funnel” terminology many Inbound marketers know, and their corresponding content offers: TOFUs, MOFUs, and BOFUs.
Kukesh points out, however, that the marketing funnel is not the same thing as the buyer’s journey. “No prospective buyer in the history of buying anything has ever said, ‘I just want to go from a TOFU to a MOFU!’” she says.
The buyer’s journey specifically refers to three stages: Awareness, consideration, and decision-making. To effectively communicate with buyers in each stage, it’s critical to understand the user behaviors, content types, and keyword categories relevant to each.
During the awareness stage, buyers are looking for context, and to put a name to their problem. They want to know whether others have experienced it, and what types of things can be done about it.
They may be looking at potential solutions, but not yet investigating specific vendors or products. They are most likely to be interested in ebooks, white papers, research reports, analyst reports, editorial content, and downloadable educational materials that answer their awareness stage questions.
Keywords that are most often used by buyers in this stage include “issue” “resolve” “risks” “upgrade” and “improve.”
During the consideration stage, buyers have identified the nature of their problem and now want to know which potential solution is likely to be a good fit for them specifically.
At this stage, buyers are most interested in webcasts, solution papers, expert guides, podcasts, and videos. Keywords may include “solution,” “provider,” “service,” and “supplier.”
During the decision stage, buyers have identified their problem and a specific solution. They now want to narrow down a long list of vendors and make a decision.
Content types that are best matched to this stage are vendor/product comparisons, case studies, trials, software downloads, and product literature. Commonly search keywords include “compare,” “versus,” “pros and cons.”
Step Three: Understand Your Existing Assets
Unless yours is a very young organization, odds are you already have access to significant content assets. Your next step is to create a content matrix to determine how to optimize what you already have, and where you have holes that need to be filled.
When assessing your content assets, consider not only marketing materials, but also sales, new hire training, internal documents, and website pages. Place everything into the matrix. As you do so, here are some common problems you may run into, along with their solutions.
Buying Stage Problems
Problem: Content offers that align with multiple stages. This is a problem because such content won’t feel targeted or relevant in any stage.
Solution: Split the content into two or more pieces, and name each one in alignment with a specific buying stage. Consider using a buying stage specific keyword in the new titles.
Problem: Too few content offers for a specific buying stage.
Solution: Repurpose content to fit. Consider sales materials, new hire training materials, and other internal documents as resources for filling the gap.
Buyer Persona Problems
Problem: Missing personas. You may find that some personas have little or no content aligned with their needs.
Solution: Take the time to prioritize your personas and check that at least the top few have content. Then create a plan to fill in the rest with new and repurposed content, according to their priority.
Problem: Content that aligns with multiple personas and, as a result, is watered down.
Solution: Realign each piece’s messaging to fit exactly one persona. You may find it valuable to split content into multiple pieces and align each with one persona.
Problem: Lots of content on a single topic, not much on anything else.
Solution: Research your buyers to discover other topics they may be interested in and plan to begin creating content on those topics.
Problem: Content topics aren’t relevant to buyer needs. This often happens because we as marketers have favorite topics that may not correspond to what our buyers want to hear about.
Solution: Pay attention to what buyers are genuinely talking about and searching for. Make a plan to create more content on those topics.
We won’t lie. Mapping content to the buyer’s journey requires a significant investment of time and resources. However, with your content tightly mapped to the buyer’s journey, you can expect to see a remarkable increase in conversions and engagement.
Kukesh has taken some of the pain out of the process by providing a valuable kit of Content Mapping Resources. Click here to download the Content Mapping Resources now. Resources available include:
- Buyer’s Journey Quick Reference Guide
- Content Inventory Worksheet
- Content Analysis Matrix
- Short & Long Term Content Roadmap
- Custom Buyer’s Journey for a Buyer Persona Worksheet
- INBOUND2014 Breakout Session Slides “How to Map Your Content to The Buyer’s Journey” by Julie Kukesh
Thank you, Julie.
Heather Head is an author, as well as the founder of Scopcity. When she is not writing, running the business, or chasing down bad guys on Twitter, she enjoys hiking, snuggling with her husband and three boys, and avoiding the kitchen.