By Mark Walker published July 26, 2015

How to Use Visual Maps for a Balanced Content Marketing Strategy

visual-maps-content-marketing-strategy-cover

Many people prefer to read visually. Yet when it comes to how we display information in our companies, we tend to be stuck on text and spreadsheets.

Most strategy documents end up being created in long-form text – paragraph after paragraph explaining how we’re going to rock a particular initiative such as a content marketing program. If we’re lucky, there might be some graphs and bullet points to break up the reading experience.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Surely it would be easier to have quick visual reference guides to help us see gaps in our plans or particularly over-resourced tactics or distribution channels.

A visualized guide would help avoid situations where grand plans are constructed and external consultants deliver a tome of great advice only for it to be ignored by the team because it’s not easily digestible or referenced on a day-to-day basis, effectively becoming an expensive paperweight.

Visually map your content portfolio

One area that will benefit the most from visualization is your content portfolio. Make sure you’re balanced in your approach to content marketing because even a single persona will have many different preferences for content consumption. Some will prefer entertaining content, others want just the facts; some might love videos, others a checklist. To cater to all these preferences, it is a good idea to have a blend of content types and tactics.

As you track what works and what doesn’t, you may begin to favor some forms of content over others, but if you’re just starting out and documenting your strategy for the first time, it’s good to have a range of content on the radar.

So, what’s the best way to ensure you’re covering the right balance of content? A big, long list on a spreadsheet or a mind map of your content ideas against your different customer needs?

You also need to ensure your content covers the buyer journey, from awareness to the decision (and purchase) to avoid having a gap in the marketing funnel.

To map this visually and ensure I’m not missing anything or focusing too much or too little on specific tactics, I like to use this handy content marketing matrix template provided by Smart Insights.

smart-insights-content-marketing-template-image 1

Along the horizontal axis, plot content according to its relevance in the buyer journey. For example, if prospects are generally unaware of your brand or whether they have a problem your service can solve, it’s not helpful to provide content like case studies, pricing tables, or anything product-related such as user and how-to guides.

Instead, you need to focus on general awareness content, which might be delivered in the form of fun videos, blog posts with relevant pop culture references, or research-backed findings into the audience’s general topic of interest.

Along the vertical axis, plot according to your content’s appeal, from emotional to rational.

Here’s a tip: Don’t be fooled into thinking all your B2B content should be geared toward rational – you should absolutely appeal to emotions, too.

Similarly, don’t leave out rational content – consumers sometimes buy on impulse and emotional ties, but on other occasions they carefully weigh the features, benefits, and economic value of your products or service.

If you want to go more in depth on the buyer journey to ensure you’re covering content for your potential customers at each stage, from “bored at work” to “negotiation” and “purchase,” Eloqua provides a nice visual infographic that you could replicate or modify for your own template.

eloqua-the-content-grid-infographic-image 2

Map a balanced distribution plan

We all know that if content is king, distribution is queen. Therefore, you should pay as much attention to mapping the promotional strategy as you do to the editorial calendar.

Generally, this exercise is ongoing as you continue refining your promotional channels to find the optimal mix. To begin, however, make some educated guesses as to which channels are likely to drive a lot of traffic to your content, and which will garner less volume but more targeted leads that have a higher conversion rate. Here’s an example of a content distribution matrix from Smart Insights.

smart-insights-content-distribution-matrix-image 3

If you are starting from scratch, plot the different channels at your disposal. Those in the “low-volume, low-ROI” quarter will be the bottom priorities or tested with small budgets; those in the “high-volume, high-ROI” quarter will be high priorities with bigger budgets.

As you track your hypotheses, your map will change – making for an interesting visual journey of how some worked and others didn’t.

Summary

Well-documented content marketing strategies are incredibly important – as the B2B Content Marketing 2015 Report found – with 60% of companies that have a recorded strategy considering themselves successful at content marketing.

However, if content marketing strategies are difficult to digest and access, there’s a danger that the good work put into them will be left to gather dust because it takes too long for everyone to pull out the relevant details.

To help combat this, it’s a good idea to pair easy-to-understand, at-a-glance visualizations of your content marketing strategy to keep it alive and used on a daily basis.

Don’t have your content marketing strategy documented – visually or otherwise? Start with CMI’s 16-page guide with the 36 questions every content marketing strategy should answer.

Cover image by Chriss Klinger, Morgue File, via pixabay.com

Author: Mark Walker

Mark Walker is a blogger, speaker and the UK content marketing and social media manager at Eventbrite. He prides himself on always delivering both business results and genuine value to his audience; and on learning something new every day. You can get his 14-point checklist for consistently creating brilliant content at his blog WeLiveContent and connect with him on Twitter @jfdimark or on LinkedIn.

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  • norarcarr

    fdf

  • http://www.saxest.com/ Blasko

    Damn, I should have thought of this myself .. :) GREAT idea. It will help me and my team not only plan for content in general but also track the stage of what we’ve to do this month (and next and the one after that….).
    That’s what I call an actionable post. Thanks Mark

    • http://welivecontent.com/ Mark Walker

      Thanks Blasko, really glad you found it useful!

  • Jonathan Henley

    I have been fiddling with creating graphical guides for my teams for a while now, and whilst it’s great to see it was a good idea in the first place, it’s even better to have some guidance to help me finish the damn things! Brilliant and Thanks!