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Content Mapping 101: Deliver the Right Content, at the Right Time

We’ve all said the wrong thing at the wrong time — don’t let your marketing do the same. Content mapping helps you create pieces that resonate. Here’s how.

Content is king, one of the best tools that marketers have to attract, engage, and win new customers. But even with masterful writing, the perfect CTA, and a solid distribution strategy, not all content succeeds the way it should. 

After years of being bombarded with irrelevant marketing messages and off-base solutions, today’s consumers have no problem tuning out if your brand’s content doesn’t resonate. To succeed, you need a content strategy that ensures each piece — blog, webinar, landing page, ad, or otherwise — speaks to your audience’s pain points and ushers them through the buyer journey. That is, you need to start content mapping. 

In this guide, we’ll show you how to build an effective content map in five steps. 

What is content mapping, and why do it?

Content mapping is the process of planning your content based on who your audience is (buyer personas or market segments) and where they are in your marketing funnel. It’s an extremely useful framework because it removes a lot of the guesswork from your content marketing strategy.

Even experienced marketing teams can draw a blank from time to time, wondering what to talk about next, which type of content to create, or which channel will work best. A content map gets out ahead of these common roadblocks, providing a set of tactics your team can reference year-round.

Content mapping is also an auditing and troubleshooting tool. For example, if an ebook stopped converting leads or an audience segment is engaging less and less, you can dig into why. After going through the map-making process, you may determine that you don’t actually need to create new content — you need to optimize existing content that has decayed

In other words, you should be content mapping because: 

  • It gives you a deeper understanding of your target audience and allows you to create relevant content for each segment. 
  • It sparks new content ideas so your team isn’t constantly starting from square one. 
  • It helps you identify content gaps and fix underperforming pieces. 
  • It improves your lead nurturing campaigns and ability to convert. 

The end result? More effective, personalized campaigns and prospects who want to engage with your content and learn about your solution. Get there faster by following the content mapping walkthrough below. 

How to build a content map in 5 steps

Although there are multiple steps, we can boil content mapping down to two main objectives. First, you’ll dive into your customer research and market data to map content to each funnel stage. Then, you’ll look for any holes or weaknesses in your current content assets and make your new marketing game plan.

1. Define your buyer personas

If you don’t already know, a buyer persona is a fictional character that represents a real market segment. It goes by many names — customer persona, audience persona, ideal customer profile, marketing persona — but drives at the same thing. They’re your ideal buyer, the type of person or business that will get the most value from your product. 

Most marketers create content for at least three different audience segments
Xtensio offers a free user persona template with tons of customization options for each of your unique customer segments.

The most meaningful buyer personas are created by directly reaching out to the different slices of your target audience. Use tools like surveys and focus groups to understand their pain points, goals, buying patterns, and more. It’s vital to see your content from your buyers’ perspective and shift far and away from a one-size-fits-all mentality.

2. Review your marketing funnel

What does your customer journey truly look like? What questions do your personas have at each stage? The answers are the key to delivering the right content at the right time. You can specifically tailor the topic, angle, format, and distribution channel for your next piece to the different stages. Not only does it show that you truly “get” the person consuming your content, but it can increase conversion rates across the board. 

illustration of how you map content to a marketing funnel

Every business will have a path to purchase that looks roughly like the following:

  • Top of the funnel (TOFU): Also known as the awareness stage, this is when your audience realizes there’s a problem and goes on the hunt for helpful information to solve it. Marketers give this stage the lion’s share of attention and resources because it’s the starting point in the conversion process and the most populated journey stage. 
  • Middle of the funnel (MOFU): Also known as the consideration stage, this is when your audience is evaluating the different ways to approach and solve their problem. 
  • Bottom of the funnel (BOFU): Also known as the decision stage, this is when your audience has weighed their options and is ready to choose the best one. 

3. Understand the best content types by stage

Aligning the type of content with your audience preferences and funnel stages is one of the most important content mapping steps. Different types of content work best for each stage — here’s an overview. 

Top of the funnel

Best types of content:

  • How-to guides
  • Blog posts 
  • Infographics 
  • Checklists 
  • E-books 
  • Webinars 
  • Landing pages 
  • Videos 
  • Social media posts

Why? A majority of TOFU visitors arrive via organic search, looking for the best answers to their early-stage questions. It’s hard to go wrong with educational posts and webinars. According to SEMrush, 72% of marketers say that how-to guides attract the most traffic and engagement from the TOFU. And more than half of marketers say webinars generate the most high-quality leads.

Middle of the funnel 

Best types of content: 

  • Product overviews or comparisons
  • Case studies
  • Webinars
  • Customer success stories 
  • Landing pages
  • E-books

Why? MOFU leads have an appetite for longer and more specific content. They want to confirm which solutions could truly solve their problem, get to know the field of competitors, and start narrowing down their options.

Bottom of the funnel 

Best types of content: 

  • Product overviews and comparisons
  • Customer reviews and testimonials
  • Use cases 
  • Landing pages
  • Case studies 
  • Video tutorials 
  • White papers
  • E-books

Why? At this crucial point, BOFU content needs to hammer home your unique value proposition and clearly explain why customers can be confident they’ve found the superior solution. This message can come directly from your brand. However, it may be more effective to let your satisfied buyers and brand advocates do the talking in the form of customer testimonials and reviews. According to BrightLocal, 79% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

As you validate the types of content that work best for your funnel stages, consider your buyer personas and which content is most relevant to their consumption habits and buying process.

4. Do a content audit and identify gaps 

Many marketers hear the phrase “content audit” and want to run for the hills. Is it really worth it to comb through your content marketing assets? Absolutely. Knowing this will help you understand what’s worth keeping, revising, or tossing. 

You don’t want to go through the content mapping process only to discover you’ve created duplicate content pieces that are competing with each other for traffic and conversions behind the scenes.  

Your audit doesn’t have to take several lifetimes. Check out the Content Marketing Institute’s excellent writeup on conducting a content audit. Get with your team to define the scope of your analysis. For instance, you can evaluate content quality factors by answering questions like: 

  • How much search volume and traffic is the content receiving?
  • Does the content use search engine optimization (SEO) best practices
  • Is the topic still relevant to our brand, product, or service?
  • Is the information accurate and up to date?
  • Is the content still aligned with the company’s goals? 
  • Does the content match our brand voice and meet our grammar & style guidelines? 
Here's a content audit flowchart example from ahrefs

With that done, you can decide whether to create new pieces of content, consolidate content to make a single, stronger resource, optimize existing content, or delete assets that you and your audience no longer need.

5. Outline new topics and strategies in your content map

You’re at the finish line. Distill your findings into specific content ideas and map them out according to buyer persona, funnel stage, and any other relevant differentiators. You can save time by using  free content map templates or build yours from scratch with a quick and easy tool such as Lucidchart or Creately. From there, you can use your content map to build an editorial calendar and start executing on your new content strategy. 

Conclusion

Marketers may not be mind readers, but thanks to the content mapping process, they can deliver content that makes them sound like they are. Creating a content map can be a time-consuming process, it’s true, but it’s a game-changer when it comes to getting relevant content in front of your audience every time. 

Looking for more expert help in growing, scaling, or optimizing your new and existing content? Schedule a consultation with us