Too often, business owners fall back on a common misconception: “Content creation is easy. Simply choose a topic you think will hit home with your target audience and write about it.”
The problem here is creating engaging content your customers find valuable, and also driving results on your bottom line, is not that simple.
You need a plan and a guide for how those content assets are drive business initiatives forward and engage customers to the point of conversion.
“But we have an editorial calendar?”
Your calendar simply measures how often you post—it doesn’t give you insight into the type of content you produce, how that content ties to business initiatives and where you have gaps in focus.
Content Strategy Maps give us a two-dimensional view of all our content pieces and how they tie to our key business goals, as well as our customer’s needs. With this focus we are able to deliver on customer needs, answer the right questions and make better decisions for which content pieces we need to prioritize.
How Does Content Strategy Mapping Help My Business?
Content holds no value unless it has your business goals and your customers in mind. But content done the right way holds exponential value. As such, the ultimate goal for your website should be to create a repository of content that builds conversations around the touchpoints, motivators, demotivators, and hurdles your customers face as they move through the buyer journey.
We use Content Strategy Maps to ensure we maximize the value of every content piece.
This becomes a live document that visually connects content ideas to key business objectives or service offerings and the customer’s buyer journey.
Essentially, these maps:
- Offer a clear way to visualize content gaps
- House old and new content ideas
- Identify KPIs related to content, so you can make note of what’s working and what isn’t, and when it’s time to steer the content strategy in another direction.
How To Build & Use a Content Strategy Map
Step 1. Set up the Map
- Create a Content Strategy Map with a Story Mapping solution (we use Stories On Board).
- Lay out your key business initiatives or services, using blue cards. Note: the business initiatives should not be your KPIs, rather your overarching goals. For instance, this example map defines “Marketing Strategy”, “Digital Strategy”, and “Marketing/Business Intelligence” services, among others.
A list of business initiatives seen in two-level board view
Step 2. Create a Release
We prefer to think of our content schedule in releases—this means we plan our content to be published in 1-month intervals. So, we keep all of the content pieces we plan to release in August, for example, in one release and the content planned for the following month in a separate release.
This allows the team to have a clear visual representation of when certain types of content pieces are released, and when it looks like you’ll have a gap.
- Create a release by clicking on the ellipsis (...) symbol and selecting “Manage Releases,” then “Add Release.”
A look at what should appear after you press the ellipsis (...) symbol and select “Manage Releases”
Step 3. Outline General Content Categories
- Document your content categories across each business initiative, creating yellow cards directly under your blue cards. These yellow cards should lay out different content series that have a consistent theme or related topic.
- These will not be your specific content topics, but rather buckets in which you will place your specific content ideas.
Our business initiatives and content categories in two-level board view
Step 4. Groom New Ideas and Content Strategies
- With this 2-D organization in place, you can start to brainstorm new content strategies and ideas for your business. Individual content pieces on the map are represented with white cards, which should be placed under the service offering to which they are tied.
- There is no guiding structure here, you can be as detailed or as high-level as you would like—refining the content map will come later as you try to take your initiatives and make them executable.
- Take into account your current marketing assets and infrastructure when building out ideas—it is important to consider how much of an investment each strategy will require.
- With a map of initiatives, you might start thinking that there is simply too much on the map to define any clear priorities—this is the benefit of thinking in releases.
Step 5. Schedule Your Next Agile Release
- Timebox your team to 2, 3, or 4 week intervals. This will help you know your team’s velocity. We find scheduling Agile Releases in month-long intervals works well for us because we often have retainers or monthly tasks that align with this agile month. You will also find monthly releases align well with a monthly editorial calendar.
- Pill high priority content pieces into the first release, and save the rest for subsequent releases.
Step 6. Push your Agile Marketing Release into a Project Management Tool for Delivery
- Once your content pieces are groomed, you can push them through to the project management tool of your choice! (We Use JIRA.) Stories on Boards works with Jira, Trello, GitHub Issues, or Pivotal Tracker. You also have the option to manually export the map as an Excel file—by clicking the ellipsis symbol—and manually import it to your project management tool.
A partial view of what a ticket looks like once it is pushed through the map into Jira
Step 7. Track Performance
- First, make sure you have an understanding of the expected outcomes and results for each content strategy. You don't want to push content strategies into an agile sprint without defining an expected outcome—or at least a plan to track the outcomes!
- Try to surface the metrics that really matter: revenue, expenses, and any micro-conversions directly correlated to your content strategies.
- Setting up Reporting Dashboards with a tool such as Cyfe can give your marketing team insights into ongoing progress without too much clutter. Localizing results around the campaign will give leadership focus, and prevent analysis paralysis from pouring over too many different reports.
An example of a Cyfe dashboard
If you have questions as to how to set up this process to specifically fit into your team’s workflow, connect with us, or ask questions in the comments below.