In our last installment of the customer journey we discussed the need for sequential content planning. That is, a content plan that “that successfully leads the reader from one desired brand interaction to the next. Each piece of content addresses a reader need and organically encourages and/or directs the reader to continue onto the next piece of relevant content.”
In that post we discussed this as a two-dimensional process, with stories acting as a step-by-step pathway from point A to point Z. But it's not always that simple.
Many times the content that we have, isn’t content that we produced ourselves. It could be content we “inherited” when we took the job. Often, content is a patchwork pieced together from many different departments and representing many different agendas, budgets and styles. This results in a Jenga-like stack of stories that creates a customer experience more akin to a game of PLINKO or Chutes and Ladders than it does a clear and consistent messaging path.
And then there is the problem with “point of entry.” Sometimes, customers don't start at point A. Best practices say that there should be multiple entry points to get users to engage with your content. This means that prospects take as many different pathways through the content we provide.
It’s no wonder we wrestle with getting them from point to point. What if we could develop a content plan that would make that so much easier -- for marketers as well as for customers?
INTRODUCING THE CONTENT PYRAMID.
The content pyramid offers a new way of thinking. It provides a four-layer framework to guide our readers with purpose. It considers how readers engage with content naturally (needs, answers, lengths, formats) and guides them to where we’d like them to go.
LAYER #1: FOUNDATION STORIES
We start from the foundation up. And, like all solid pyramids the base is comprised of many smaller, tightly aligned pieces, in this case, stories. The base is the home of the short and sweet, and the content pieces that support our broader narrative. These stories tend to address narrow topics and answer specific reader questions; for example: “how to,” “why that,” and “where to go.”
LAYER #2: ROUNDUP STORIES
The next layer of the content pyramid is home of the roundup. Base stories are “rounded up” into bigger themes that help customers make informed decisions, serve as a resource and deliver a broader perspective -- article topics like “what path is right for me?” and “what considerations should I consider?” and “what are the five best solutions?” Customers land on this information when they’re just beginning to explore one or multiple ideas. The important thing to emphasize here is that, in an ideal world, roundups should address customer needs and respond to bigger questions, help customers feel confident about making a choice. eBooks and longer reads live here.
LAYER #3: THE THINK PIECE
The third layer of the content pyramid is where we get to have some real fun. This is the land of the “think piece.” Instead of answering reader questions, think pieces get the reader engaged with topics that make them think about their work, their industry and the marketplace. The reader likely isn’t searching for this content so it has to be timely and compelling. This is the catnip that gets customers to engage with you further up the funnel. It positions your brand as a thought leader and trusted advisor. Whitepapers, industry reports, and data-first stories live here.
LAYER #4: (IN)SPIRE
At the very top of the pyramid -- the apex -- is where you can take your marketing beyond the ordinary and into the big leagues to create memorable, meaningful content that builds powerful brand image that define who you are and what you stand for. These stories answer the age old question “so, what’s your story,” at least insofar as it pertains to your brand. This is where the brand and its values come to life. It serves as your brand-beacon and thus its message should be well supported by every piece below it and viewpoints and values shared should be clear as day. Human interest stories, brand anthems, and manifestos live here.
Like any good pyramid the further we get to the top, the fewer pieces we need. But every layer is crucial to the customer journey. If you’ve already begun asking questions like:
- Do we have the right content mix?
- Are we creating the right amount of content for each channel?
- What themes require bolstering?
- What should I do with this content I already have?
- Are we working with the right mix of partners?
Graduate by asking yourself:
- Does my content plan take into account a multi-dimensional customer journey?
- What pieces do I have that are truly omnichannel? And which should never be?
- What layers of the story stack are disproportionate or missing altogether?
- Do my content investments adequately represent my story stack goals?
- Are my partners sophisticated enough to help me evaluate and design my story stack?
These aren’t easy questions and they will take time to address. Perhaps you oversee your company and aren’t certain whether your team is thinking about this properly. Borrow the above questions to gauge where they stand, and then bring in an expert to help them construct a plan.
Don’t sit atop of your content organization, much less your entire organization? That’s alright, you can create mini-pyramids with your own work and borrow the content pyramid for your own strategic rationale.