What’s the Secret to Content Creation? Discover the Power of a Roadmap

What’s the Secret to Content Creation? Discover the Power of a Roadmap

As a brand owner who is looking to start creating content for their brand, there's nothing more intimidating than a blank content plan document. You already know why you have to create content; you've heard all about the real power of effective content: increased brand awareness, customer trust, conversions, and sales. But maybe you’re struggling to decide where to begin. Don’t worry, we've all been there.

Luckily, once you get the process started, the rest will follow rather intuitively. There are ways to make the content creation process much easier and much less intimidating. For starters, you can create a content roadmap that includes:

  • Audience information
  • Goals
  • Existing content data
  • New content ideas
  • A content plan

By identifying content gaps and creating your own content roadmap, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

The key to streamlined and optimized content marketing success is knowing what to create. Let's take a look at how to determine what's missing from your current content strategy and how to get your content marketing efforts up and running smoothly with long-term success in mind.

What Is a Content Gap?

A Venn diagram with two circles. The right circle is labeled "Your Content." The left circle is labeled "Audience Interests." Within the left circle are the words "Potential Content Gaps." Where the circles overlap is labeled "Content Marketing Mix."

Right now, you're probably overwhelmed with all of the content options out there, wondering what's best for your brand. Should you start with an ebook or a blog post? Should it be specific to your product or should it be an educational piece about the larger problem your product solves? It’s a lot to think about at the beginning.

The two most important questions you need to ask yourself are:

  1. What content have you already created?
  2. What is your target audience seeking information about?

After you find the overlap between the answers to those two questions, you should be able to see where you’re meeting your audience’s needs and where you are not. The second part of this equation is known as a content gap. A content gap is what's missing from your existing content marketing mix.

How Do You Find Content Gaps?

Now, it's time to find where your content gaps overlap with your target audience's content needs.

In a content gap analysis, you identify content opportunities based on where your missing content intersects with your target audience's needs. A content gap analysis requires the following:

  • Analyzing your brand's existing content to determine ways to better provide value and fulfill the search intent for your audience
  • Identifying topics that are not sufficiently addressed and answered in your competitors' or industry's content
  • Understanding your customers and audience so that you can provide answers and information that helps them through their buyer's journey
  • Identifying your competitor's high-performing content

What Is a Content Roadmap?

Identifying content gaps is a great start. It gives you a destination. However, you will also need a roadmap with scheduled stops along the way.

It's hard to drive in the right direction without a map guiding you. A content roadmap helps keep your team's content strategy on track and aims your trajectory in the right direction.

Content strategies have a lot of moving parts. You have to decide what type of content to produce, like a blog post, case study, or whitepaper. You also have to decide who your audience is, what stage they are at in their buyer's journey, and the goals of each piece of content. Producing the right content mix is not easy, but a content roadmap will help you make sense of all of this.

A content “roadmap” often looks like a spreadsheet or chart that contains different elements to help you along your content journey:

  • A timeline
  • Funnel stages
  • Team roles
  • Content ideas
  • Content types
  • Workflow guidelines

Your content roadmap will eliminate much of the guesswork that’s been holding you up.

How To Find Content Gaps and Create Your Content Roadmap

To make a content roadmap that provides a good content mix, fills content gaps, and sets you up for success, it’s best to follow these steps:

Step 1: Create a Content Marketing Mix

A content mix involves creating and distributing valuable content that fulfills the needs of each of your customer personas at each stage of their buyer's journey.

Making sure you have content for each specific funnel stage and each customer persona is essential. Otherwise, you risk leaving gaps in your content that competitors might fulfill instead, or you might disappoint any audience members looking for information you don’t currently provide.

To create your content marketing mix, you must first lay the foundation for understanding your audience, their buyer's journey, and your marketing funnel:

Create Buyer Personas

A graphic that depicts four persona templates.

Buyer personas are a representation of each of your customer types. Having buyer personas helps you cater your messaging and your content to the right audience, at the right time, and in the right way. Creating buyer personas involves conducting audience research and collecting data about your customers' demographics, pain points, motivations, buying behaviors, and more.

Detail Their Journey

The time from when a person becomes aware of a problem they’re facing to when they make a decision to make a purchase (or hold off for a little longer) is called the buyer's journey. It’s important to understand what each of your persona’s full journeys looks like in order to know what type of content you need to make to capture their attention, provide valuable information, and ultimately convince them to buy your product or service. (Find out more about the buyer's journey here!)

Map Out the Funnel

Your buyer's journey has many steps and actions, but they can typically be grouped into different categories that align with the marketing funnel's awareness, consideration, and decision stages. At each funnel stage and each step in their buyer's journey, your buyer personas are looking for specific, valuable information to answer their questions.

Different types of questions are asked at each funnel stage, so different content types are needed to properly address each one. Our article about funnel mapping walks you through the entire process of creating content for each of the funnel stages.

Create a Content Roadmap Spreadsheet

A graphic of a spreadsheet with the Three Funnel Stages labeling the start of each row and four different buyer personas labeled at the top of each column.

You're now ready to start creating your content roadmap. One way to do it is to make an Excel spreadsheet with rows for each funnel stage and columns for each persona.

Step 2: Conduct a Content Audit To Find Content Gaps

Now, it's time to examine your existing content and identify gaps that you can fill in your existing and future content.

For your content audit, go through your existing content with a critical eye. For each piece of content, add this information to your spreadsheet from the previous step:

  • Publication date
  • Topic
  • Where it belongs in the marketing funnel
  • A grade based on factors like quality, length, and originality
  • A value of high, medium, or low based on what degree it solves a problem or answers an important question for the specific audience
  • Difficulty level for how long it will take to update or create based on how much research and resources are required. For example, creating an original whitepaper is harder than adding a few sections to an existing blog post.

After you do that, or if you don't have any content, turn to your competitors' content with the same critical eye. To expedite the content audit and competitor analysis process, use tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Buzzsumo to quickly locate and analyze content.

Advanced Tip: If you already have lots of content, add metrics to the spreadsheet as well, like web traffic metrics from Google Analytics, number of ebook downloads, or social media engagement stats.

Advanced Tip #2: Add an SEO notes section to your spreadsheet, including info like where the content fits into your SEO strategy, keyword difficulty, keyword search volume, potential keyword variations, and more.

Step 3: Brainstorm New Content Ideas

Thinking of ideas to write about may seem like the most intimidating part, but there are actually so many great ways to go about creating a long content ideas list. To identify content gaps and generate content ideas, you can:

  • Ask your sales and customer service teams: Your internal, customer-facing teams know your customers better than just about anyone. Ask them what questions they are commonly asked by customers.
  • Use AnswerThePublic: Type in topics related to your industry or product, and ideas will be generated for you.
  • Browse forums, like Quora or Reddit: See what people are talking about and asking about your industry on internet forums.
  • Ask your audience: Interview customers or ask your audience on social media or other channels what they want to know more about.
  • Use Google's "People also ask" and "Related searches" sections: Type in industry-related keywords, and see what other related questions come up.
  • Look through competitors' content for gaps: Go to your direct competitors' websites to see what types of content and topics they have. You can even perform a  content audit on your competitors like you did with your content. Look at your SEO competitors' content as well by searching for keywords from your content and looking through the articles that have a high search engine results page rank. Audit their content to see what types of questions they answer and haven't yet answered.
  • Get inspired by trending topics, news, or popular media: Keep up with the latest news or trends and connect it to your industry or product.
  • Use typical article formulas: Think of ideas that could work with classic article formulas, like "How to," "X Tips", "Best of", or "This vs. That."
  • Brainstorm with a group: Put ten minutes on the clock, and see what happens.
  • Turn to content curation: Hire a guest writer or create a compilation article that curates related content with your brand's spin on it.

Note for B2B Marketers

If you're in a "boring" B2B industry, you may feel like your industry is too technical or complicated for people to want to read about it, but this "problem" is actually an opportunity in disguise.

Think about it this way: you may not normally want to read about the intricacies of the steel industry, but as soon as your company needs to source steel parts to produce your product, you are ready and willing to consume all the information you can about steel to find the best solution. Your target audience is the same way.

All of the ways to brainstorm content ideas still apply to highly technical industries. The difference is that your content will have to do things that make it more approachable, like explaining technical terms and providing your audience with more context.

Step 4: Design Your Content Workflow

A graphic of a workflow checklist. It's labeled: "Choose a topic, Research, Outline, Write, Review, Edit, Approve, Publish, Promote, Optimize, Update"

Each time you want to update or create a new piece of content, you shouldn't have to recreate a new workflow each time. As you produce more content, you’ll already have roles assigned, the workflow designed, and a system in place to track content as it moves to each stage. Tackle these administrative things now, so you don't have to spend time on them later.  

After you follow the workflow once, you can document how long the process takes, and then optimize this workflow as you continue to add to it.

Create the Workflow

Whether you want to write a 50-page ebook for the consideration stage, create a short blog post, or make a podcast episode, most of the workflow steps should remain the same for each unique content piece. Most content creation workflows follow a similar formula to this one:

  1. Choose a topic
  2. Research
  3. Outline
  4. Write
  5. Review
  6. Edit
  7. Approve
  8. Publish
  9. Promote
  10. Optimize
  11. Update

Customize this workflow to meet your company's needs. For example, if you have certain regulations for making public statements, add a "Get Approval From Legal Team" step to your workflow. Make it your own, but don't feel like you have to reinvent the content workflow wheel.

Since you are writing down your entire workflow now, you shouldn’t be missed important steps down the line, like realizing you have to write a social media caption last minute. All the steps will be accounted for in your workflow.

Assign Roles

Whether you have writers, editors, and content producers in-house, or if you want to use freelancers or external agencies instead, you still need to assign roles or create a system that assigns external roles, like choosing who in your team will make the content brief and which job sites you'll post your content requests on. Make sure you have an honest conversation about your team's abilities, skills, and resources.

Beginner Tip: It's OK to turn to specialized experts for help! Hire freelancers and/or contact a professional digital marketing agency. You don't have to do it all on your own.

Create an Editorial Calendar

If you're brand new to content creation, it can be challenging to guess how much content is realistic for your team to produce in a month, or how long each piece will take to produce. It's OK to start small, like two new articles a month, but the key is having the initiative to start in the first place. Realistically, the timeline for creating content from start to finish is weeks (or even months) for long-form content, rather than hours or days.

To set up your editorial calendar, choose a project management tool that can help your whole team stay on the same page, like Monday.com, Trello, or Asana. Many of these tools also have integrated automation capabilities to speed up the workflow process, but creating an Excel spreadsheet is another option.

Step 5: Set Goals

Before you start creating content, ask what you want to accomplish with this next piece. Do you want to drive website traffic and attract new customers? Then, this piece will likely belong within the awareness stage and should cover a more general topic. If your marketing mix needs more decision stage content and your goal is to close sales, you will need to create a detailed, product-specific piece of content that answers those final questions buyers are asking before making a purchasing decision.

Step 6: Start Creating

Even if you don't feel ready to start creating content, by following the previous steps, you are more than ready to start executing this process. With your buyer persona profiles, content roadmap spreadsheet, ideas list, and content workflow, you have already set yourself up for success. Even if some of these steps are incomplete, you can still start executing ideas to break that initial content creation ice.

Where should you begin? Start with updating and improving any content you already have. This should be the easiest and least intimidating step, considering this content already exists. If you’re still unsure, look back at your content roadmap spreadsheet to see which personas, funnel stages, or topics need content. Choose one and run with it.

When choosing which content ideas to prioritize, focus on high-value content with low effort needed. Remember, you are keeping track of difficulty and value on your content roadmap spreadsheet. For example, start by updating an existing blog post with a few more questions and answers related to that topic, instead of creating that whitepaper or video series you've brainstormed.

A graphic showing an Effort vs Value chart.

Once you start creating, this intimidating process will hopefully seem much more manageable.

Step 7: Optimize

Once you have some content created and published, the real, data-driven fun begins! You get to start optimizing your content based on data.

Optimization takes on many forms depending on what you are optimizing for, like search, user-friendliness, or social media engagement. Here are just a few ways to start improving your content and content strategy:

  • Try other distribution channels based on where your buyer personas seek content
  • Recycle your successful content into other mediums, like turning a high-ranking blog post into an infographic
  • Try new promotion methods and content types
  • Create a content series that breaks down one larger topic into smaller pieces
  • Use A/B testing tools, like AB Tasty or Optimizely, to tweak your email or website messaging and strategies
  • Start adding SEO efforts to your content strategy

Track your analytics to determine what is and isn't working, and then shape your ongoing content strategy based on the results.

You Have the Tools—Now, It’s Time To Start Creating Content

Instead of panic-searching for ways to create marketing content, you can now look through your list of valuable content ideas and your content roadmap to see what you should write about or update next.

Investing in content helps you supplement your paid efforts and advance your organic ones, so taking the time to create these roadmap resources for yourself will ultimately help in the long run. Your team will be able to efficiently produce the right content for your audience and goals. After you create enough content for each stage of the funnel and each persona, you can start collecting valuable data that will help guide your content creation efforts and improve ROI.

Creating a content roadmap, finding content gaps, and optimizing your content are not easy tasks. To get an impartial, skilled, and compassionate view, contact Steel Croissant. We are a team of experienced digital marketers that is eager to help you launch a successful content marketing strategy.

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