I live in St Louis which is home to one of the best zoos in the country. (If you ever get to St Louis, definitely go to Forest Park and the zoo… it’s free, and it’s pretty awesome!)
Coincidentally, I think the zoo lays out a great roadmap for content marketers.
The zoo builds all kinds of attractions for all ages and all interests.
Personally, I love the big cats in the “Red Rocks” section. My youngest loves “Discovery Corner” where there are all kinds of interactive exhibits designed specifically for her age level. And my boys like “River’s Edge” where you get the feeling you’re meandering an ancient stream in Africa.
And we all love the seal show at Lakeside crossing.
So what does this have to do with content marketing?
The starting point for every content marketing program is the strategy, and for the zoo, that means exhibits—the content that people actually want to consume. But there’s more…
You see, at the zoo we don’t need a tour guide to show us all of these cool exhibits. That’s because it’s laid out in a way that any person of any age with any interest can follow.
The paths organically steer you from one exhibit to the next in an intuitive self-guided way that meets everyone’s content needs. Some speed walk the whole thing, never stopping, but taking it all in. Others read every work of every placard.
There are live exhibits, video exhibits, interactive exhibits, and plenty of places to just sit and rest. Most importantly, there are maps everywhere that tell you exactly where you’re at. And because they don’t force you to follow THEIR predetermined path, you can cut through the Historic Hill from the lions in Red Rock to see the Gorillas in The Wild.
You could take days going through it all, or just spend an hour checking out what interests you most. You can even split up and agree on a meeting place so everyone in the buying committee (oops, I mean family) can see the parts that are important to them. And every time you come back, you learn more; there is always something new, yet the base map stays the same so you become more comfortable with it over time.
So what does your content map look like?
Does it start with GREAT content that people will actually want? How will they get to you? Email, social, or search? How will they navigate once they find you? Do you force them down a path using a predetermined “lead life cycle” drip campaign to get your content, or can they consume it when and where they want?
And most importantly… does your content have a point? Or is it just there to entertain and engage? If it’s just there for entertainment, you are using content for branding, not lead generation—and that, of course, requires a bit more thought.
Let’s talk about your map.
Regardless of who they are, what their preferences are, and what stage of the buying process they are (or aren’t) in when they find you, your content strategy must incorporate both the pathway for them to self-navigate, just like at the zoo, and the option to consume it in such a way that they want, in the medium they want, at the time they want, and on the device they want.
Now, a lot has been said in this space about creating content for different phases of the buying process (the Y axis in this chart), but a lot of marketers suggest producing content for each of these stages based on persona.
While I don’t think that's bad in and of itself, we advocate for developing content that aligns to the high probability problems you solve rather than personas you serve. This is because you can and should tailor campaigns to specific personas, but not all people are alike within the construct of a persona and therefore have unique content preferences.
This isn’t a big deal for content that lives on your website where prospects can navigate to it on their own. But, it’s a big deal when you try to nurture those leads with drip campaigns because now you’re guessing at what they want—and you’d better guess right (but it’s not possible to be right 100% of the time when your campaigns are organized by persona).
It is however possible to say that anyone, regardless of persona, who consumed the article, whitepaper, infographic, video, or whatever else on topic XYZ, is interested in XYZ. And therefore, you can bet that any nurture campaigns on the same topic will also be of interest—regardless of persona.
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