How to Use User Journey Mapping to Build a Robust Content Plan [Framework]

User journey mapping

When I start to work with a new client, one of the first questions I ask is ‘do you know your customer?’. It might sound naïve, but after the initial shock of hearing that question, (because yes, it can come across abrupt) and after a few follow-up questions, the answer is often ‘not as well as we thought we did’.

To be clear, I’m not referring to the target audience and the people they want to reach through content, but their customers. The people that willingly part with their cash to buy something from them already.

Completing a purchase in any circumstance amounts to a certain level of decision making. The more reassured a person is by a company and their communications, the easier it is for them to make a purchase decision.

So why do we make it so hard?

Let’s talk about customer journeys.

A customer goes on a journey with you when they first encounter you. This can be a quick thanks-but-no-thanks, abrupt end kind of journey, or it could be a sail off into the sunset, you make me so happy kind of journey.

It is SO easy for a customer to exit and drop off at any point along the journey. All it takes is one bad experience and they’re gone. What we’re trying to do as content marketers, is to convince a customer to hang on until the next stop. And the stop after that. Until they complete the goal you want them to, and they do so in a way that benefits them, that makes them feel good about the money, or email address, or whatever they’ve just parted with because of the nice journey you brought them on.

But most brands have forgotten about the journey.

They slam out comms and content with haste and panic, without thinking about what the goal of the content is, what’s in it for the user and what point along the journey that specific piece of content is being produced for. They react to the weather, the news, the latest social media trend, the wave of incessant viral videos making their way around the internet, the ice bucket challenges. (Side rant: What has a dog food brand got to do with the ice bucket challenge? Why can’t brands find a more relatable cause for their customer? One that makes sense for them to be involved with. The band-wagon is at breaking point, people. And nobody needs reminding of that painfully awful Pepsi ad. Many influential marketing writers are asking brands to rethink their cause marketing and to tread lightly when it comes to identity politics.)

Ok. Stop me if this sounds familiar:

You’re caught in a loop of poorly planned and reactive content churning, but you don’t know the quick-fix because you have no time, because there’s pressure from above to keep content coming, and you don’t know where to start.

Good news. The answer lies in a simple framework. And if you’re anything like me, this excites you because frameworks are the best.

Plot the path you want your customer to take, and then map content to it.

Here’s what it looks like:

User journey content map basic

And once you’ve put in into practice, you’ll end up with a strategic plan for publishing content that might look something like this:

User journey content
User journey content

Here’s how you can get there and put it into practice. (Warning: some pretty dodgy sketches follow!)

Step 1: Establish your top traffic drivers

In other words, where do you customers come from? Take a look at Google Analytics. Go to channel and source/medium. Where are customers before they are on your website?

Step 2: Note the state of brand/solution awarenesss these users are in

We can make a somewhat educated guess at this by looking at the channel. If the user comes from organic search, they have most likely googled a solution to their problem:

  • How can I…
  • Where does…
  • What happens when…

And so on. These people are solution aware, but unaware that you provide it or how good you are at it. These will need convincing that you are the one to solve their problem, unless they have searched for you by name, in which case they are in a separate bucket called ‘brand aware’ and they want you for the gig. These people are easier to convince as they already know you, so they’ll need a different content sell.

If they’ve come from a social media referral, they’ve probably clicked on something shared by someone they’re connected with. This means a certain level of trust and social proof has been established. They might not be solution aware but they are brand aware. These will need convincing of the solution and reinforcing the need for that solution.

If they’ve come from a paid source, they are somewhere in the middle and are probably skeptical about you as a brand, advertiser and solutions provider. This customer needs a different kind of sell.

Here we have three kinds of customers, in three separate states of mind and awareness, with three different pain points. Do you think the same blog post, video, article, landing page will address each of them? Nope.

You can probably guess by now that we’re not creating the same post with three different slants, we’re creating tailored content to address each user’s pain point along the journey. In sales speak, we’re considering the funnel stage.

You need to create tailored content to address each user’s pain point along each step of their journey. #ContentStrategy

Step 3: Get sketching.

On your best whiteboard or a blank sheet of paper, sketch out the current content you’re creating and how it speaks to and addresses our three customer types above. Does it? And at what stage(s)?

User journey content map step 1

Step 4: Mix it up.

Do the same again, but start with start with the customer mindset/type at the top, and slot in the relevant content you THINK will address them at the funnel stage they are at. Top tip: Colour in the gaps to see where you need to create more kinds of content. 

User journey content map step 2

Now that we know this, we can sketch out where we want them to go next. Their journey.

Step 5: The Journey

Plot out a journey that takes the customer from the first contact to conversion on your website.

Step 6: The Map

Map a piece of content at each possible fall off point that you think will drive them to the next stage.

User journey content map step 3
Example user journey content map

You now have your customer journey content map.

This is a high-level framework that will now guide your editorial calendar. It will ensure that the content you produce serves a purpose; it addresses a customer pain point at a particular point along their journey.

Now you can create calendars and write, create, promote to your heart’s content. Here’s a sneak peek at The Content Strategist content calendar so you can see how what you’ve learned above can form the basis of a workable document. Choice parts blurred out 🙂

The Content Strategist content calendar

What do you think? Do you have a similar strategy for mapping journey based content? I’d love to see how it works for you! Let me know in the comments below.

And of course, I wouldn’t let you leave without somewhere to go from here (a journey, if you will). Check out some more resources, and some tips on content strategy here.

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