How to use customer journeys to plan content

The ‘customer journey’ is a concept that’s probably not new to you. Marketing, branding and advertising professionals have long relied on this vital planning tool to steer a myriad of decisions. The classic version of the customer journey maps out the experience of the customer as they move through distinct phases:

  • Awareness
  • Engagement
  • Evaluation
  • Purchase, and
  • Post-purchase

A customer content journey is a similar concept, however it focuses entirely on every item of content your customer will potentially encounter as they move along the phases of the customer journey. When you understand this interaction from your customer’s perspective, you’ll gain valuable insight that can guide and inform your content planning.

Look beyond your website

Your customers have goals, and they’ll use content to reach them. Your task is to map the different paths your customers may take to get to the content they need. Yes, they may go straight to your website or app, but they could also use review sites, social media, news outlets, or any number of third party publishers. You need to think broadly to capture all possibilities.

Similarly, you’ll need to brainstorm beyond the online realm. Content includes any words or images that send a message about your brand. Think billboards, flyers, posters, emails and letters. Consistency and usefulness should be your guides.

Identifying the customer persona

Every content decision has to be user centric. Step number one is to identify the likely customer personas within your target market. You’ll give them a name, age and occupation and detail their motivations, goals and behaviours. You might create one or two personas, or you may need to do several more to capture the majority of your market.

Setting up the spreadsheet

List your customer personas in column one. Column two should be ‘goals’ – the objective(s) of each of your personas. For example, Chris, 23, from Melbourne, wants to find an app builder for his new project. He already has a recommended agency in mind (yours), but he wants to compare prices.

Column three is ‘channels’. Where would Chris go to source information? He will likely to go to your website to view past projects, he will check your social media pages and those of your competitors, he may visit a review site, listen to a podcast, or pick up one of your flyers in a co-working space. List these possible channels.

Column four is ‘content’, where you list the specific pages, articles, emails, flyers that are likely to guide Chris towards his decision. You can also add a column five – ‘personalisation’, to detail opportunities to tailor content to Chris’ location and personal preferences.

As you complete the spreadsheet, you’ll probably start to identify some gaps and inconsistencies in your content messages. Your goal is to make Chris’ content journey as seamless and effortless as possible.

Evaluating the journey

Creatives are human. Writers lean towards hot topics. Graphic designers aim for the wow factor. Social media managers shoot for likes and shares. With all the content flooding our contemporary lives, it’s tempting to just publish anything that will get some attention. However, it needs to be the right attention from the right customer at the right time.

Mapping the customer content journey allows you to step back and look at the big picture. How does your content solve your customers’ information needs? Is every content item clear and useful? More content is not always the answer. You may need to edit or repurpose existing items.

Adapt and thrive

Our suggested spreadsheet approach is pretty simple, and it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution. Whatever tool you use to map your customer content journey, make sure you revisit it regularly to keep your content planning on track. As new technologies come into play, it will become increasingly important to identify where your customers are looking for you.

You can get your customer content journey started with a template from the Content Marketing Institute, or take a look at this different approach from Alexa. Happy mapping!

Key Points

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