In an earlier post, I talked about defining the journey your customers take from being casual browsers to your biggest fans. Now, I want to look at how that’s useful when it comes to actually mapping your content marketing to your customers’ journey.
When you define your customer journey, you start to get a clearer idea of what your customers want out of your content — which means you can be highly targeted in delivering it to them.
- You can get them your “how-to” videos when they’re looking for DIY solutions
- You can get them your thought leadership articles when they’re hunting for a new way to approach old problems
- You can get them your most “sales-y” content when they are on the verge of buying
In order to do that, you need to thoughtfully map out how each piece of content fits along your customer journey. This creates a robust content marketing strategy that deliberately leads potential customers through each stage of the journey, ending with them purchasing your product or service.
The best way to think about creating content is as a series of laddered services leading from free to premium, with each rung on the ladder taking your lead that much closer to converting into a customer.
But right now, you may just have a pile of ladder rungs with no rhyme or reason.
We’re going to fix that.
Step 1: Audit Your Existing Content
Chances are, you already have a great library of existing content out there in the world: a blog, guest posts, podcast episodes, LinkedIn Pulse articles, newsletters, etc. But if you haven’t been creating it with your customer journey in mind, it may not be converting the way you want it to be.
Sometimes, the reason is because you’re targeting the wrong audience. You may have a popular blog series on how to land an interview out of college — but if your core service is coaching small business owners, you’re speaking to the wrong crowd.
(For example, I still own an abandoned hobby blog about crafting and bicycling that still gets almost 10,000 hits a month — but it’s never convinced anyone to hire me for content strategy or copywriting.)
Other times, the content may be perfectly geared toward your audience, but you’re presenting it to them at the wrong stage of the journey. For example, you may be aiming a masters-level summary of your consulting method at an entry-level prospect who doesn’t yet know what problem they need solved.
Or, your content might be perfectly targeted — you just don’t have a clear call to action (CTA) telling your lead where to head next.
It’s tough to tell until you can take a step back and look at the big picture. Take an inventory of all your existing content. What topics have you written about, and where? What videos have you made? Where have you been interviewed?
Gather all this in a list. It’s time to see how it measures up.
Step 2: Grade Your Existing Content
To help you evaluate the content you’ve already created, I’ve created a handy content audit rubric that grades content and indicates where it fits along the customer journey. (You can get that for free here.)
When you run your content through the rubric, it will help you prioritize what content needs updating, understand where to cut the fluff, and identify gaps in your content marketing funnel.
As an example, let’s look at a common customer discovery path for a consultant or service-based business: casual browser —> email newsletter subscriber —> customer.
Take a look at the type of content that moves people along that journey:
- They may discover you on your personal blog, through a guest post, podcast interview, or social media post. (I call this type of content your Billboard content — it alerts passersby that you exist.)
- They decide to sign up for your email for some reason, perhaps because of a freebie you’re giving away in the form of an ebook, guide, or email course.
- They decide your list is valuable because your autoresponder series provides them with interesting insights and helps them to get to know you better.
- They’re intrigued by an offer in one of your emails: to join you for a webinar, or take you up on the offer of a free call.
- They enjoy the information you provided in the webinar or free call so much they decide to hire you.
For this example, you’d want your Billboard content to have a fairly low Journey Score; it should be free to your target audience and easy to consume in order to attract the widest number of potential subscribers. Your freebie might score a bit higher, depending on how you want prospects to engage with it, and your initial emails should be a mixture of low to medium scores. Your webinar should have a higher score, since you’re targeting people who already know a fair amount about your topic.
Everything should have a high Relevance Score.
Step 3: Optimize Your Content
Now that you have your existing content organized in terms of where it fits in to the customer journey, it’s time to optimize each piece to make it perform its best.
At this stage, you may end up junking old pieces that no longer align with your current content strategy or business mission. It’s natural to want to keep up irrelevant blog posts and other pieces that no longer fit — especially if they’re a big traffic driver for your business. But remember, even if they bring in more hits than the rest of your efforts combined, they’re not doing you any favors if they’re not attracting the right audience.
Take the remaining pieces and ask yourself:
- Does each piece of content have a clear signpost pointing to what your reader should do next?
- Is there a strong CTA leading each customer further down the content marketing funnel?
- Is each piece written to the right level of understanding for the stage you’re using it?
- Does each piece of content relate fundamentally to a service or product you offer?
Going back to our email example, does your Billboard content tell people to “sign up now” and explain why they should? Is your lead magnet geared at the right knowledge level for a prospect at that stage? Does your sign-up form explain exactly who will benefit from your freebie, and tell them to “click here”? Does each email in your autoresponder series invite the reader to stay tuned for the next bit of correspondence, or encourage them to hit reply to get in touch?
Step 4: Fill in the Gaps
At this point, you should clearly see the gaps in this content funnel. Maybe none of your Billboard blog posts, podcasts and guest articles are along the same topic as your mailing list. Maybe your freebie is attracting the wrong type of subscriber. Maybe you’re not nurturing them with an autoresponder series. Maybe your monthly newsletter articles don’t really relate to the core service you’re trying to sell.
It’s time to fill those gaps. Use what you’ve learned about targeting your audience at each stage of the journey to write compelling content perfectly tailored to draw potential leads further into your funnel.
You’ve got this!
For a more in-depth look at this whole process — and a guide to writing content that fills in the gaps — check out my book, Get More Leads: How to Create a Constant Flow of Inbound Leads with Content Marketing.