How a customer journey map will help you align your content to your users

3rd September 2019

What if you had all the content your users needed to make a purchase decision? Well, now you can. In this article, we’re going to find out how to use user journey maps to map content to user intent across your entire user journey and awareness funnel.

Provide the content your users need, when they need it

A user journey map is a visualization of the process your users follow to achieve an objective or complete an action. It’s closely related to the marketing funnel, but there are two big differences:

  1. A user journey map can visualize any process. It’s most frequently used to map the journey to conversion: the steps most users take before making a purchase decision. But it could also be used to map micro-conversions, like newsletter signups or social shares. It could be used also to map actions the user takes in your app, so you can optimize it.
  2. The user journey map is designed from the point of view of the user. A marketing funnel uses your taxonomy to define each stage. In a customer journey map you take the opposite view. This also means you need to conduct research to obtain the data needed to build a user journey map. Quantitative data can be useful, but you need qualitative research to paint the full picture. This means interviewing users, conducting focus groups and using other qualitative research tools. But only 42% of B2B marketers are actually talking to customers to understand their content needs.

Related: You can repurpose Steve Blank’s Get Out of the Building method to talk to customers about their content needs and if you’re fulfilling them. 

The purpose of a customer journey map is to generate awareness of the process and the mental model of the user when visiting your site. You can then use this information to shape the content strategy for your site, so you can make sure you are providing your users with the content they need when they need it.

A blueprint for a user journey map

The first step is to build the customer journey map. Even though 86% of marketers agree on the importance of developing a user journey map, only 55% are confident in their understanding of the customer journey.

Related: Try using Invision or Adobe XD to create your customer journey map. 

The user journey can take a lot of different shapes, but there are certain common elements to all of them:

  • The user persona. The customer journey map is built from the actor’s point of view. This is crucial, as it’s this perspective that will allow you to extract the insights to align your content to their expectations. This also means that you will need as many user journey maps as user personas.
  • The situation the user is in, and their expectations. Here you have to define, based on your user persona, what they want to achieve, and how they expect to achieve it. This could be to find a solution to a problem that you solved with your services or a need that you meet with your product.
  • The stages of the journey. They can differ greatly depending on what situation you are mapping. For most purchase decisions the stages could be divided in:
    • Discovery: In this stage, the user is researching options to solve their problem.
    • Evaluation: Once they have researched possible solutions, they evaluate which one is the most optimal for their needs and budget.
    • Decision (purchase): This is the moment the user decides to take the action and converts. Depending on what you assigned as their objective, it could be a purchase or a sign-up for a trial, or any other micro-conversion.
    • Post-conversion: This is the stage for implementation, support and nurture.
    • Churn: At some point, some of your clients will reduce or stop using your products and services. And of course, you will want to prevent that.
  • Actions and thoughts. Not just what they do to achieve their objective, like downloading a case study or requesting a quote, but also their motivations, their questions, their need for information. The actions can be displayed as a high-level narrative of the events. The thoughts should be extracted and quoted from user research.
  • Opportunities. These are the insights you get from mapping the user journey. Touchpoints and interactions that can be improved and optimized. Here you have to ask yourself how to prioritize opportunities and how to measure their improvement.

These five elements can be summarized in three parts: your user’s point of view, their experience and the insights you obtain.

Use content maps to analyze your content effectiveness

A content map is a tool that you use to align your content to the user journey map. 

First, you need to conduct an audit to see your current state of alignment with your users. The content audit should be a comprehensive inventory of all your content: website pages, tools, white papers, videos, podcasts, courses and more. A content audit is always the first step in content strategy development.

Related: Try using Airtable to to create your content map. Check out some awesome Airtable templates here.

For each item, you should gather some information: location, creation date, when it was last updated, its purpose, target audience and how many times it was accessed, viewed, visited or downloaded. Following that, assign each piece of content to a step in the user journey map. 

In this document, you have now your side of the story: the content you offer to your users. But you’re missing your user’s point of view. So let’s go back to the research you conducted to inform your user journey map, this time to build the other side of the story, the content your users were looking for. 

Using that research, you could build a table of the content the user looked for in each stage. For each content item, you should note the purpose, the channel, if it was found and where, regardless of whether it was found on your site, a competitor’s or an independent site.

Now you have a full content map, detailing the content your users looked for and the content you offered in each stage of the user journey map.

Align your content to your user’s needs

Now it’s the time to finally put all our research and insights to good use. With all of the information you now have, you can make research-supported decisions on:

  1. What content you’re missing on your site by journey step and user persona.
    Using the content map, you can see which content your users were looking for but you haven’t got on your site. This content gap is the first thing you need to address. You can evaluate whether existing content can be repurposed to meet the gap, or whether you need to create it from scratch.
  2. The second step is to identify the content that you can discard.
    Any content type that you have with low traction and that’s not addressing a user need can be safely deleted. Trimming down your content has several benefits. First, it reduces the resources needed for content management. But most importantly, content that doesn’t achieve your objectives and doesn’t meet the user’s needs will damage your brand and frustrate users.
  3. Now you can develop your content strategy fully aligned with your user’s needs and expectations.
    For each journey step you know what kind of content they are looking for, in which format and in which channels you have to distribute it to reach them. You will avoid cluttering your site with content nobody wants by having a clear and user-centred set of criteria to evaluate each new content piece. According to The Economist, 71% of B2B buyers said that content that seemed like a sales pitch was the main reason for content making a negative impression.

Benefits of applying user journey maps to content strategy

Now that you’ve implemented your user journey map to inform your content strategy, you’re probably curious of the benefits:

  1. A significant improvement in content governance and management. You have now data and research to optimize your content investment and identify which content is necessary and which content is only confusing your users. You will probably reduce your content, which will allow you to manage that content more efficiently, keep it updated and relevant.
  2. At the end of the process, you will have your content aligned to your users needs and expectations. You will have shifted your view and become customer-centric in your content production and management. And this will allow you to enable and support your users at each step of their journey.
  3. The result is that you will be able to shorten the time to conversion. As your content is aligned to your user’s needs, they will be able to find what they want at the moment they need. This will allow them to move down the conversion funnel at increased speed. It will also help you differentiate yourself from the competition and increase brand loyalty.

Start creating your user journey map today

By using user journey maps to define your content strategy you are aligning your efforts and resources to the needs of your users. The result is that you will produce less content with a greater focus that will move your prospects more effectively down your marketing funnel. Have you already created a user journey map? Let us know what difference it made in the comments below.

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