How to Create a Content Matrix

A content matrix is one of the most fundamental and important tools that a content marketer needs to have when developing a content strategy. Although it’s a basic resource (let’s be honest, it’s really just a grid where you compile valuable information), it takes time, effort, and discipline to put together something that’s really useful. Once you do, however, you will find that you have a solid framework in place to align, prioritize, and fuel a successful content strategy.

This guide outlines the steps that you will need to follow to create your own content matrix and start putting it to use.

Creating a content matrix is an exercise that forces you to think about four of the most fundamental components of any comprehensive content strategy and how to get organized around them. Those components are:

The components of a content strategy that you will capture in your content matrix.

Before we can create a content matrix, we need to take a closer look at each one of these components.

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Your audience’s contextual situation

To create great content and develop a successful content strategy, you have to understand your audience (your buyers) and the journey that they are on. Doing so means investing some time and effort up front into researching them and the journey that they are one. The first step is to create buyer personas, which are just short but very useful descriptions of your target buyers.

Even though lots of people talk about buyer personas, they often use them as an end product rather than as a tool to gain the insights they need to design a successful content marketing program. That’s a real mistake. Creating effective buyer personas takes a lot of work and you want to make sure that your efforts are put to use throughout your content strategy.

To create effective buyer personas you really need to get to know your buyers. Depending on whether you are a B2B or B2C business, the information you’re after will vary. Generally speaking, you will want to get answers to questions like these:

If You’re Targeting B2B Buyers

  • Who are your buyers?
  • Where do they work and what are their titles?
  • What do they need?
  • What’s going to motivate them to make a purchase?
  • What are their pain points and what concerns do they
    have that could potentially prevent them from buying?
  • Are they the ultimate decision-maker?
  • Are they an economic buyer or a technical buyer?
  • Who influences them in terms of their buying decisions?

If You’re Targeting B2C Buyers

  • Who are your buyers?
  • How old are they and where do they live?
  • What do they need?
  • What are their personal tastes and preferences?
  • What are their pain points and what concerns do they
    have that could potentially prevent them from buying?
  • Are they the ultimate decision-maker?
  • What is their lifestyle like and how does that impact
    their buying decisions?
  • Who influences them in terms of their buying decisions?

There are lots of different ways to get this information, but the best is to just talk to your buyers or to the folks who do. Once you’ve compiled as much information as you can, use the most relevant details to create a description of who your target buyer is. Here’s a fictitious example of a buyer persona that a B2B software company specializing in e-mail recovery might put together:

iStock_000023732550Medium

Susan is a VP of operations and needs a better e-mail
archiving solution. She finds her existing service frustrating
because it is too slow and unreliable,
but she doesn’t know there
are better solutions available. Susan is the final decision-maker and,
while price is an important motivating factor when making a purchase,
she is most concerned with functionality and ease of use.

This is a very simplified buyer persona, but it still offers some useful contextual information that can help us as we build our content matrix and strategy. For instance, we have articulated what Susan’s problem is, what role she has to play in making the purchase, and what she cares about most when making the decision, all of which are important details that will come in handy later on.

In addition to understanding your buyers, you also need to understand the journey that they are on and where on that journey they are most likely to get hung up or stuck. Below is a very simplified buyer journey that I’ve created to represent the steps that Susan might go through leading up to a purchase. In this example, Susan’s buyer journey consists of five stages:

Buyer journey with five stages.

She starts out unaware that there is a better solution available to solve her problem. Next she becomes aware and goes on to become interested in learning more about the solution. From there she conducts the research she needs to understand what the best options are for her to solve her problem. And finally, after doing all of that, she decides whether or not to make a purchase.

Invariably, there are going to be points along the way where Susan gets hung up or stuck in the process. At the awareness stage, which is where buyers often get hung up, it may simply be that she’s not finding the right information. Or at the research stage, which is also a common sticking point, it may be that she has concerns with the new products she has discovered that she hasn’t been able to address.

The key is to know where your buyers are generally getting stuck, and why, and to then do whatever you can to get them unstuck by providing them with highly relevant content that’s designed to resolve their concerns and give them whatever information they need to move forward with confidence. When you do that, it’s possible to turn those sticking points into leverage points that can help propel your buyers through their buyer journey and drive them toward a purchase.

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Your Conversion Goals
 for Your Audience

That brings us to the second component of your content strategy that you want to capture in a content matrix: your conversion goals.

A conversion is simply an action that you want your audience to take as a result of consuming your content. For example, imagine your audience receives an e-mail from you, thinks the subject line is really interesting, and decides to open the message. That’s a conversion.

You should have a conversion goal for every piece of content that you create so that each piece is poised to help you move your buyers down the path to purchase in some way. There are lots of different types of conversions you could be trying to achieve. Some are big and some are small. For example, your conversion goals may be to get your buyer to:

  •        Subscribe to your newsletter
  •        Visit your website
  •        Sign up for a free trial
  •        Download a white paper
  •        Follow you
  •        Read a blog post
  •        Tweet something

Of course, ultimately you want them to pull the trigger and make a purchase. The important thing to remember is that the conversion goals you set need to be appropriate for where your buyer is in their buyer journey. Someone who’s at the unaware stage isn’t going to sign up for a free trial, let alone make a purchase, because they aren’t going to be ready to do so yet. But, they might be far enough along in their journey that they’d read one of your blog posts or watch a short video.

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As a result, you can’t just focus on the ultimate conversion (the purchase) that you’re trying to make happen. Instead, you have to think about potential conversion paths — the series of smaller conversions along the way — that will ultimately lead up to it. Of course, they don’t always happen in a nice neat row like this. In fact, sometimes they take a bit of a different path, or go forward and then backward, and then forward again. That’s ok as long as they ultimately help drive your buyer toward a purchase.

As important as it is to set conversion goals, getting people to actually convert is also essential. There are lots of different tactics you can take to do so, just a few of which are listed below:

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Make sure that you are getting people’s attention. That means paying close attention to your headlines and subject lines, using really compelling images, and making sure that your content is interesting. It’s also important that once you’ve got people’s attention, that you make it really clear what it is that you want them to do with clear calls to action.

create dedicated landing pages
It’s also helpful to create dedicated landing pages for your most important conversion goals whose sole purpose is to drive conversion. When you do so, make sure to regularly A/B test them to see what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes something as seemingly insignificant as changing the color of a button or the font of a call to action can make a really big difference.

incentivize them
Another thing that works really well is offering some kind of incentive. In the case of the software companies, for example, offering people a free t-shirt is often an amazingly effective way of getting the IT professionals that they are targeting to do something. Of course, often times the only thing you need to give people is really compelling content. By gating your best stuff, you can ask your audience to share their contact details in exchange for the ability to download your content.

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The Tactics You Use to Contact Your Audience

The third component of your content strategy that you need to track in your content matrix is how you are going to actually deliver your content to your target audience. There are lots of different ways to get your messages out to your audience, but generally speaking they fall into three main categories:

types of contact: outbound contact, inbound contact, and contact through othersWith outbound contact, you are actively contacting your buyers, whereas with inbound contact your buyers are contacting you. There’s also contact through others, where other people (such as friends, colleagues, or industry analysts) contact your buyers or your buyers contact them.

There are of course many more ways to make contact than what you see listed here. The important point to note is that you have to be very selective about which forms of contact you use and once again think about your contextual understanding of your audience. There’s no sense trying to use Facebook to get your messages out if your audience isn’t really on it, or sending direct mail to people who prefer to consume their content digitally and are just going to throw it away.

Here are some other general guidelines for you to follow:

  • Your method of contact must be effective enough to drive whatever conversion you are after
  • Less expensive forms of contact are often better than more expensive ones
  • Plan on needing multiple points of contact with your buyers using multiple contact vehicles and programs — just one isn’t going to cut it!
  • The less work you have to do to make contact the better. In other words, why spend all your money doing fancy campaigns if you calling your audience will work? And why spend all your time calling them if you can just get them to find you through search engines?

Again, it’s important to be selective when choosing your methods of delivering your content to your audience, and to always think about your contextual understanding, your conversion goals, and where your buyers are in their journey.

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The Content You Create for Your Audience

The last component of your content strategy and content matrix is the actual content you’re going to be producing. There are certainly lots of different types to choose from:

Word cloud of different types of content
When you think about your content, make sure you consider what you already know. Specifically, based on the contextual information you have about your buyers and the stages of their journey, as well as the conversion goals you want to achieve and how you plan on delivering your content, what format should your content take?

When you think about those points it should help you narrow down the options and get you to a short list of content types that make sense for your strategy. Here are some guidelines to follow in terms of which types of content to use at which stages of the buyer journey based on the goal you should be trying to achieve at each stage:

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 12.23.54 amYou also need to think about what the topic of each piece of content will be and what key messages each piece needs to communicate. Here again, revert back to your contextual understanding of your audience to decide what’s most important and is going to resonate best.

Creating and Using Your Content Matrix

With all of the information about your buyer and their context in hand, as well as what you know about your conversion goals, methods of contact, and content types and topics, it’s time to enter all of that information into a content matrix that looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 12.18.17 am

In this sample matrix, the buyer journey listed across the top, with our two sticking points outlined in black. Below that comes the contextual information that is going to be relevant throughout the entire buying process. And then finally, we have all of the other details about the conversions, contact, and content, each of which is aligned to the particular stage of the buyer journey it corresponds with.

One you have this framework in place, you need to do two things:

  1. Conduct an audit. Determine which pieces of your existing content fit into this framework (and where), and which pieces don’t. In the process, you will find that some things work well in this framework and others don’t. That’s ok, but use that knowledge as a baseline for determining where to concentrate your efforts going forward.
  2. Identify where the gaps are. Are there stages of the buyer journey where you don’t have enough or, worse, any content? If so, you’re going to want to fill these gaps as soon as you can. Keep in mind that you will need multiple pieces of content for each stage.

call to actionOnce you have filled in your content matrix for one buyer, move on to the next until you have covered eac one individually. Over time, each matrix will become a sophisticated document that helps you get organised, focused, and poised to create a solid content strategy that will help you meet your business objectives.

This guide is adapted from my presentation at Content Marketing World, which you can access here.

 

28 comments

  1. Kevin, thank you. This is a fantastic resource. Gives a great holistic view of content strategy and its milestones, and is presented in a digestible and engaging format. I’ve flagged your piece to go through in more detail and apply to my work, so may have more comments and questions then. Will certainly be sharing, thank you.

    Like

  2. Kind of in love with this breakdown. Very rich in terms of substance – no fluff. As a mid-level content strategist I find this extremely helpful and illuminating. Thanks for sharing and inspiring!

    Like

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