Michael O'Neill

You may think that there isn’t much overlap between the worlds of marketing and classic fantasy novels. But if you replace buried doubloons with customer conversions and retention, you’ll see how a map can be just as important for your team as it is for the ragtag characters who populate books like “Treasure Island.”

The Importance of Developing a Content Mapping Strategy

Without a coherent plan for mapping content to your organization’s marketing goals and needs, you’ll wind up with a surface-level approach that attracts or engages prospects and customers for a time but that doesn’t provide them with a concrete next step.

What Is Content Mapping, and Why Should You Do It?

Content mapping is the process of intentionally assessing your overall marketing strategy and sales processes to determine what content you need to create or repurpose to support customers during each phase of the buyer’s journey.

Put simply, a content map is a blueprint for ensuring that your team creates assets tailored to your specific audience, encouraging them to take progressive steps toward conversion.

It’s how you plan your content strategy to coincide with the overarching goals of your marketing playbook.

Content mapping:

  • Supports inbound marketing efforts by ensuring you have collateral that will drive high-intent organic traffic, generate leads and nurture those leads.
  • Enhances outbound marketing campaigns by generating leads for sales representatives and assisting those reps with helpful content for outreach efforts.

How do you use content mapping to create effective content?

When you follow a map, your content marketing process transforms from an operation focused on achieving high-level targets, like driving organic traffic, to a coordinated, strategic endeavor that attracts prospects and gently nudges them toward becoming customers.

For example, without the benefit of content mapping, a business might task its writers with creating a variety of new blog content around a string of designated keywords. These marketers might do a fantastic job at pushing the website to rank for the targeted terms and even for getting new users to click on the headline.

However, it’s possible that they won’t know who their audience is, leading to low-intent traffic. Even if you get the ideal prospect to visit your website, an overabundance of top-of-funnel content or the absence of a clear call to action means these users won’t stick around to find out what your company is all about.

What Are the Benefits of Content Mapping?

Content mapping is a reliable method for ensuring you create marketing collateral that’s closely aligned with customer lifecycle phases, buyer personas and sales team processes.

The Top 5 Benefits of Content Mapping

As part of a coherent and comprehensive content strategy, mapping helps you generate, nurture and convert leads, which produces a host of benefits.

  1. Easy ideation: Content mapping gives you a head start on brainstorming. For example, instead of launching a social media campaign from scratch and wondering how you’ll encourage followers to stay engaged, your marketing strategy will be cohesive, comprehensive and integrated.
  2. More leads: All savvy marketers know that even with the right content, it’s unlikely that you’ll generate a lead on the first impression. With a coherent map in place, you’ll have the content to help users convert after they grow to trust your brand.
  3. Higher-quality leads: When each piece of content is neatly aligned to the needs of your target audience, it’s more likely that those who convert are a good match for your products and services.
  4. Comprehensive campaigns: Content maps pair the customer journey with information and tools that are designed to appeal to users every step of the way. They’re a useful tool for fleshing out full-scale drip campaigns and other strategies.
  5. Satisfied sales reps: Sales teams are incredibly useful subject matter experts. Producing a content map is a great opportunity to swap ideas with those who are out there closing deals.

Sales Enablement: Working Hand in Hand To Support Customers

Once a marketing-qualified lead enters the hands of a trained sales rep, the work of the content map continues. It’s important to collaborate across departments and integrate with sales enablement tools and platforms. This will help marketers support outreach efforts once a lead goes from being an email address and a buyer persona to a real, live person.

A Step-by-Step Guide to the Content Mapping Process

Ready to take your content marketing strategy to the next level? Still wondering what you need to create a content map? The answer is pretty simple:

  • Established buyer personas.
  • A clear marketing funnel.
  • Your own content mapping template.
  • A plan for repurposing or generating new content.
  • Distribution channels that are ready to go.

Below, we’ll break down each of these points and take you through the whole process, step by step.

1. Assess Your Buyer Personas and Their Buying Cycles

An effective content map starts with a clear, shared understanding of:

Buyer personas: These are detailed sketches of fictional individuals who serve as stand-ins for your various customer segments. They each have different concerns, barriers and motivations that drive their purchasing decisions. Work with your sales team to make sure you know exactly who you’re hoping to attract and what they’re thinking.

Sales cycles: The buyer journey is a complicated process, and it varies widely between industries. Some companies can take months or years to close a deal, and that’s totally expected for their market. In other verticals, the customer journey is a very short trip. Define each phase of a prospect’s decision-making process.

2. Use the Stages of Your Sales Cycle To Develop a Marketing Funnel

The customer lifecycle can be plotted against marketing funnel phases.

Basically, there are four distinct stages to the funnel:

1. Awareness
The customer journey buying cycle starts with the customer understanding there’s an issue and looking for a solution. Oftentimes, the awareness stage consists of discovering there’s a problem they may have previously overlooked or a more efficient way of overcoming a known challenge.

2. Interest
The interest lifecycle stage is where the customer is doing their initial research and exploring their options. Instead of pushing your products onto the customer without them showing interest, take this opportunity to be a resource for them, and provide your expertise if pursued.

3. Consideration
At the consideration stage, the buyer is in the process of deciding whether to work with you or continue looking for other options. At this point, it’s your job to sell your product as the best on the market, and show them how it’ll solve the problem more efficiently and effectively than anyone else.

4. Purchase
This is the decision stage of the buying cycle. That target customer you’ve put effort into reaching has made the decision to follow through with your product or service. But the journey doesn’t stop here — now, you have to properly nurture the relationship to ensure they come back for more.

Essentially, audiences derived from your buyer personas form one axis of the grid on which you’ll build your content map, and marketing funnel phases are plotted on the other.

3. Brainstorm Assets That Appeal to Each Buyer Persona at Every Stage of the Marketing Funnel

This is where content mapping begins in earnest.

First off, you have to figure out what type of content you need at each stage of the funnel. This will influence how you allocate work, establish timelines and develop campaigns. Working backward from resource-intensive assets like eBooks and white papers will help you figure out what topics you can explore in blog posts and social media content to help direct users to download larger items.

Some of the assets that work best for each main funnel stage include:

  • Awareness: Blog posts, infographics and social media posts.
  • Interest: Newsletters, eBooks, white papers, webinars, nurture campaigns, explainer videos.
  • Consideration: Case studies, landing pages, personalized emails.
  • Purchase: Demo videos and product pages.

With a content mapping template, you can begin to conduct an inventory that will help you uncover gaps and explore new directions to produce useful resources for your customers.

4. Create, or Repurpose, the Content That Your Customers Are Missing

Before you rush out and start crafting a sweeping new blog post strategy to fill in the blanks on your emerging content map, take a deep breath.

After all, you already have a blog, right? You’ve probably put together a few eBooks already. You may even have a one-off sales deck lying around somewhere.

Start with what’s already in front of you. You may have existing content that neatly fills out some of the missing pieces in your map. Alternatively, maybe you can reoptimize old blogs, turn a recent speech from your CEO into a white paper or otherwise reuse old assets for new purposes.

After you’ve exhausted your current supply, it’s time to get the content machine humming again to create compelling assets that meet your newfound marketing needs.

5. Leverage the Appropriate Distribution Channels for Content Mapping Success

Go where your audience is. That could mean you distribute links to new content, like blog posts, over social media. Just make sure that you’re using the right platform for your intended buyer personas. Marketing is all about getting the right message to the correct audience in the appropriate way at a time when they’re ready to hear it.

Content Mapping: More Effective Than Panning for Leads

Sure, the goal of inbound marketing is to make the customer come to you. But it won’t just happen on its own. You have to actively cultivate an experience that encourages prospects to reach out to you. That’s what content mapping is all about.

Editor’s Note: Updated September 2021.