How to Visualize Your Content Strategy with Story Mapping

Whether you’re new to content marketing or have been in the game for a while, as a marketer, chances are you face the same problem we all do: trying to get by with an unfocused and scattered content strategy.

“What new content pieces should we create this quarter? Has our content become stale and monotonous? Are we even speaking to the right people with our content?”

These questions are asked by every marketing team at one point or another.

To make matters worse, once we have a solid list of ideas it’s difficult to organize and prioritize which content pieces should earn our focus now or which should be pushed to the back burner.

We lack a concrete way to tie content pieces to business goals and objectives, and inevitably we lose our way.

Here at Facet, we found ourselves in this same pickle. We needed a way to develop a cohesive content roadmap and organizational structure — a repository for good ideas and bad, but where all ideas were mapped to key business objectives and to our customers’ buyer journey.

We developed our first Content Strategy Story Map, and it’s changed everything.

What is Content Strategy Story Mapping?

If you’re familiar with Jeff Patton’s User Story Mapping technique, then you have a good foundation for learning how to do Content Strategy Story Mapping — and how to build a Persona Story Map — it’s all based on the same pattern. You start with an overarching goal, you narrow in and you detail all of the necessary steps to meet that goal.

In the case of a Content Strategy Story Map, you want to map each piece of content, and each new idea, to a business initiative or service offering.

This allows you to create a two-dimensional representation of your content efforts, and will provide you with clear insight as to the areas in which your content is lacking, or where your content could benefit from a boost.

Content Strategy Story Map for B2B Professional Services

Sample Content Strategy Story Map for B2B Professional Services

Organizing in this way helps you group content pieces into buckets beyond content type. Instead, buckets are based on a business initiatives or service offerings allowing you to see if a particular initiative resonates better with your audience, or if one’s falling flat.

How Do You Build a Content Strategy Story Map?

Start with Buyer Personas

Your first step in building your Content Strategy Story Map is understanding your buyer personas. You need to know how they move through your website — and through the buyer journey — and you need a clear picture of each touch point along the way.

Persona Story Mapping will help you identify each of the phases in the buyer’s journey and will allow you to create a link of empathy with the customer.

Persona Story Map for B2B Professional Services

Sample Persona Story Map for B2B Professional Services

Once you’ve identified each phase, brainstorm which types of content will help move potential customers through the buyer journey. Focus on answering their questions, assuaging their fears and leveraging their motivations.

Example: Perhaps you are a realtor, and one of your key audience personas is ‘Young First-Time Home Buyers.’ One of their main fears, identified through a persona mapping workshop, pertains to financing — specifically, they don’t know how the financing process works, or what to do.

To address this fear, you decide you need content on your website that speaks to financing options and that lays everything out on the table for potential first-time buyers.

Group Topics Under Business Initiatives

As you conceptualize more topics (or Epics) valuable to your persona, map them to specific business initiatives.

In our realtor brainstorm, we’ve determined our young first-time home buyers would also have questions around what to look for when searching for a home and the closing process — these become more topics. We group them under our business initiative “Helping First-Time Home Buyers,” and list possible content pieces under each topic.

Just like that, everything is mapped and easy to visualize.

Sample Content Strategy Story Map for Realtors

Sample Content Strategy Story Map for Realtors

The pattern is very simple: Themes (Business Initiatives or Service Offering / Product) > Epics (Topics Important to Your Persona) > Stories (Individual Content Pieces).

Notice we don’t group the content pieces by type. Instead, we use different color cards to denote the types of content.

This changes the question from “Which gated offer should we produce this month?” to “Can we produce an offer that addresses first-time home buyer financing questions this month?”

It’s a subtle, but important, change of mindset. It puts the customer’s needs at the forefront and ensures we’re producing valuable content for each step of the journey.

How Does Content Strategy Story Mapping Help?

Using StoriesOnBoard to map the content strategy, everything is laid out on an organized two-dimensional surface. (If you prefer an old school method, all you need is a bunch of differently colored post-it notes and a whiteboard.) We prefer StoriesOnBoard because you can manage various releases of content, and because we always have a running track record of content produced month to month.

As your content backlog grows, you can easily visualize gaps in your content and see where you might be missing the mark — you now have a bird’s eye view.

You can see important topics that may be underserved, and areas in which you could stand to be a little more creative and wide reaching with the types of content you produce.

Content Strategy Story Map

When communicating with stakeholders about the direction of your content strategy, leverage this visual tool to demonstrate exactly how you’re speaking to your customers.

Stay On the Right Path, and Correct Course

The beauty of this map is it does just what a map is intended to do — keep you focused and moving in the right direction.

As you brainstorm new content ideas, use gaps as a starting place and make sure each idea finds a home somewhere on the map.

What happens if an idea doesn’t fit under any of the columns on the map? Well, it’s a perfect opportunity to have a discussion. Does this idea warrant a new business initiative, a new epic under an existing business initiative, or is it simply an idea not worth pursuing?

Track key performance indicators related to the content you produce for an initiative or topic and make note of what’s working and what isn’t. These are your markers and signs to know when it’s time to move your strategy in a different direction.

Refer to the map and your analytics often, and it will be very difficult to lose your way.

If you’d like to learn more about how we put together our own content strategy and content strategies for our partners, or if you’d like to learn about how we measure content success, drop us a line or start a discussion in the comments below.

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