Content mapping part 1: Understanding content elements

Start with personas and customer journeys

Content mapping part 1: Understanding content elements

Updated March 2023

Personas and customer journeys are fantastic tools to help understand who’s interacting with your organization, how, and why. But what about the content? By mapping content to existing customer journeys, you can show stakeholders how content impacts customer experience and then design for better content experiences.

As a prerequisite to mapping content to the customer journey, you need two things:

  • Personas
  • Customer journeys

Your personas tell you who your key users are, and your customer journey tells you why they interact with your company in different ways. There are lots of great resources on these activities online, so take a few minutes to read up or refresh your knowledge.

For this article, we use a customer journey with six stages: awareness, research, decision-making, purchase, support, and advocacy.

In your organization, you may choose more or less stages, and you may have different labels. The point is to identify customer behaviours and motivations that map to key business-relationship stages. Make sure you label them in a way that your project stakeholders can relate to.

Impact the customer experience through content

Every customer touch point is an opportunity to impact the customer experience through content (or lack of content). We’re not just talking websites or social media channels. Call centre scripts and printed brochures are also content. Trade show demos and interactive voice response systems require content.

By walking though each customer journey with each persona, you can figure out what content is needed when, where, and why. Here are six things to think about for each persona, in each journey stage:

  • Content experiences
  • Content topics
  • Content types & formats
  • Content messages
  • Content triggers
  • Content distribution channels

We explain each in more detail below.

Content experiences

When a customer comes looking for content, they have a desired experience. That desired experience will vary depending on who they are, who the company is, and which customer journey stage they’re in.

For example, if someone is interacting with a travel company, the experience that may be important to them during the research stage may be very different from what’s important during the advocacy stage.

During the research stage while they’re researching travel options, customers may want to experience content in a way that makes it easy to compare options, and quickly find information on their mobile phone in their preferred language. After they’ve had their vacation, if they’re happy with the service they received, they may become advocates for the travel service. At this stage, it may be more important to have information delivered directly to them that they can easily share with friends and family and that is targeted to their specific travel preferences.

People have different expectations of content experiences at each stage of the customer journey and it’s important to consider the distinctions.

Content topics

Topics are what you explicitly talk about through your content. They’re the informational needs that customers most often come looking for and are often the easiest way to give your customer exactly what they need.

Topical needs change dramatically throughout the different journey stages.

Using the same example of a travel company, important topics during the decision-making stage may be things like cost, dates, and travel requirements. During the support stage, important topics may include how to cancel travel plans or what to do in an emergency situation while on vacation.

Content types and formats

Content presentation is a combination of content type and content format.

Content types share a common purpose and editorial structure. Some examples of content types include product details, case studies, how-to’s, and educational articles.

Content formats refer to the actual format of information. Some examples of formats include html, video, audio, images, and PDFs.

You can mix and match content types and formats. You could communicate product details through html, video, or any of the other formats. You could use video to share a case study, or a how-to, or any of the other content types.

Content types and formats are related because they both impact the presentation of content, but there is no set rule that says a specific format is best for a specific content type. It depends on the situation.

You’ll find that content types tend to map to customer journey stages in distinct ways. For example, product details and case studies are more relevant during the research and decision-making stages, how-to’s are important during the support stage, and educational articles may be important during the advocacy stage.

Content formats, on the other hand, are not usually tied as closely to customer journey stages, but are impacted more by persona preference and the way in which your company wants to convey its brand.

Looking at types and formats together ensures that you’re getting the right type of content to your customer at the right stage, in the format that they prefer and that best reflects your brand.

Content messages

Messages can be explicitly stated through your page copy, or implicitly conveyed through underlying context and imagery. For each journey stage, think about what messages will help your customers feel confident about your organization and offerings.

People make decisions both emotionally and intellectually, and you want a mix of messages that appeal to both of these decision-making needs. Emotional messaging is often related to the brand. They’re what make people feel good about doing business with you. Intellectual messaging is often related to the products or services being offered.  They’re what make people understand that your product or service will meet their needs.

As you work through each customer journey stage for each persona, think about the messages that will make the customer feel good about doing business with you and assure them that your product or service will meet their needs.

Content triggers

Content triggers help to move people from one journey stage to the next, or take a specific action of some sort. There are two parts to content triggers: motivational content and enabling content.

Motivational content prompts people to make a change or take an action. It’s what triggers people to want to do something. For example, on a financial website motivational content may paint a picture of why it’s important to start investing in your future early.

Once people want to make a change, it’s important to provide a quick and easy way to take action. This is enabling content. It’s what triggers people to actually do something. On websites, these are the call-to-actions and contact numbers.

As you work through each customer journey stage for each persona, think about what motivates them and how you can make it easy for them to take action.

Content distribution channels

Distribution channels are the ways you provide your customers with information.

There is a lot of talk these days about the importance of specific channels (web apps, anyone?), and which channels are losing importance (do millennials even use email?). But, again, this depends entirely on your audience, your company, and the stage in the customer journey.

Often, social media channels are great for the awareness stage, websites are suited to the research stage, email is important during the support stage, and web apps may be important to move people towards advocacy. Think about how your audience wants to receive information at each journey stage.

Once you understand the various content elements to consider, you’re ready to begin mapping content to your customer journey.

Next steps

Content mapping part 2: Mapping content to customer journeys