Starting a content marketing program from scratch can feel like an overwhelming task. Content marketing differs from traditional marketing in several fundamental ways, and it will require you to develop and field a very different portfolio of marketing assets.

In this series of articles, I’m describing three preliminary steps that will make the content development process more manageable. The first step is to identify your core customer value propositions because they define the central messages that your content resources need to communicate. The second step is to develop buyer personas because they provide the information you need to make your content resources relevant to your potential buyers.

The third preliminary step is to audit your existing inventory of content resources. A thorough content audit serves two important functions. First, it enables you to create a complete and accurate record of your existing content resources. In my experience, most marketers don’t have a complete picture of what content resources they already have. Second, a content audit can be used to identify where gaps exist in your content portfolio, which helps you determine where to focus your content development efforts.

There are three basic steps involved in performing a comprehensive content audit. The first is to document basic information about each of your content assets. The second step is to associate or “map” each content resource to one or more of your identified buyer personas. In the final step, you map each content resource to one or more buying process stages on a per buyer persona basis.

To collect and organize this information, I use three spreadsheets, and I’ve provided example versions below.

Basic Resource Information

The spreadsheet below shows the basic information that I collect about each content asset. Most of the information required for this spreadsheetis self-explanatory, but I’ve included an “Instructions” row in the example.

Buyer Persona Map
The spreadsheet below is the tool I use to associate specific content resources with buyer personas. When mapping resources to buyer personas, the basic question you ask is whether a resource contains content that will appeal to a given buyer persona. Does the resource focus on the specific problems and challenges facing the buyer persona? Is the resource targeted for the persona’s job function and industry?
You should be able to associate most content resources with at least one buyer persona, but there may be some resources that are so generic that it’s just not reasonable to link them to any buyer persona. If you complete your buyer persona map and have any buyer personas with no (or very few) assigned resources, you obviously have a significant gap in your content portfolio.
Buying Stage Map
The final step in the content audit process is to associate your content resources with specific stages of the buying process. When mapping content resources to buying stages, the basic test is whether the resource contains answers for the major questions that a potential buyer will have at that stage of the buying process. The spreadsheet below is the tool I use to perform this step.
In this step, I find it easier to create a separate spreadsheet for each buyer persona. For illustration purposes, I’ve used a buying process that contains three stages – Discovery, Consideration, and Decision. To create a buying stage map, first select a buyer persona, then go to your buyer persona map and identify all of the content resources that you have assigned to that persona. List these resources in your buying stage map and link each resource to one or more buying stages. Repeat this process until you have a buying stage map for each of your buyer personas. If you don’t have content resources for each buying stage for each buyer persona, then you’ve identified gaps in your content portfolio.
A content audit won’t eliminate the work required to develop the content you need, but it will help you prioritize your content development projects.
Read Part 1 of the content marketing series here.
Read Part 2 of the content marketing series here.
Read Part 3 of the content marketing series here.