July 25-27, 2018 / Vancouver, BC

Mapping Content to Customer Journeys

September 2, 2015

Speaker - Kathy Wagner

Thank you for coming today.

I'm not going to talk a lot about myself because this is a fairly short presentation. You can find out all about me online if you're interested.

We're not doing a Q and A session afterwards, so if you have any questions about this presentation or if you have any experiences to share, please reach out afterwards. You'll find me at the party or online all over the place. Pick up the phone, even. I always like to talk about content and customer experience. So enough about me.

Before we get into the presentation, I want to learn a little bit about you.

How many people here have actually worked with personas? How many people have actually worked with customer journeys? Most of you, that's great.

And how many of you really believe that content is a core aspect of customer experience? Yay. All right.

That's very similar to the clients we work with. When we work with clients, personas and customer journeys are a familiar part of their toolkit. They may not use them for every project all the time, but personas and journeys are certainly things clients can take out and use when they are needed.

Every client we work with believes that content is an important element of customer experience. If they didn't believe that, they wouldn't have hired us. So these are givens.

One of the questions that I've always struggled with is this: If our clients are familiar with user experience tools like personas and customer journeys, if they're committed to customer experience (which they are), then why is content not being integrated with the tools that they’re using, like personas or customer journeys?

I have a theory about that. My thought is that it’s kind of like this lobster up here. This lobster kind of has the same shape as a telephone receiver, kind of the same size. If you don't really understand how a telephone works, you might look at that, and say, “Yeah, that's kind of like a phone receiver, I'll get that.”

But people who really understand how a phone works, this is just kind of absurd, right? Weird? That makes no sense whatsoever.

That's kind of how I feel when I ask my clients why they aren't integrating content. “If it's so important, why aren't you doing it?” What I hear is, “It's not a priority,” “No budget,” “No time,” “It's not my responsibility.” On the surface these sound like reasons, right? We're all against these things all the time.

But in my mind it makes no sense. The truth of the matter is that I think they just don't know how.

So part of it is you don't know the steps to follow, the process to do, you don't know how to walk through it. We're going to talk about that for most of this talk today.

More important than that, it's really that you don't know how easy it is. Right? If you're already using these tools and most of you have raised your hands and most of you are using these tools at least some of the time, it doesn't really take any extra effort to think about content as we're doing them. It's just one more lens to look through.

It doesn't mean that you need to add extra scope or work if you don't have that time. It's maybe just a matter of putting content considerations on the table at the outset when you're doing customer journey mappings.

You can never map every single thing that you want to map about your customer. You have to prioritize. What's more important? The needs, the motivations, the expectations, the channelings, the emotions, all sorts of things that are really important to map. Content is really one of those things to consider up front.

I think you also don't really understand how helpful it is. So it's not just about the design team. Business stakeholders find this really really helpful to be able to prioritize content, to understand content requirements, to understand the content scope and how it affects users at different stages. The design team, of course, helps to figure out the requirements for how the content is going be to displayed or the frameworks that they need to build to support it. And it's really important for the content team to start to get a sense of the scope of content so that they can come in and start collaborating and having discussions with the design team much earlier in the cycle.

So for those of you who are or are not familiar, maybe content mapping looks kind of like this, you roll out some paper across the wall, you start mapping things out. Maybe it's just sticky notes, it doesn't really matter, but this is representative of how a customer journey is ... how you work through the process.

What we're suggesting you do is just add one more sheet of paper to the bottom. So while you've worked through your needs and expectations, your emotions, your challenge, your touch points, your opportunities, all of these things, you're just going to add one more roll for content considerations.

Whatever you choose to map as far as content goes depends again on your project. Today we're going to talk about these four things: Purpose Topics Types and formats Messages

But it could be other things. Channels certainly you're going to want to talk about. That's pretty common. Could be content triggers or call to actions. Maybe based on Sara's talk this morning [Sara Wachter-Boettcher, “Everybody Hurts: Content for Kindness”] you want to add in some of those stress scenarios and how content supports those things.

Depending on what it is that you're looking at, you're going to define a set of criteria. Agree on definitions. It's really important to get alignment from everybody in the team who is contributing. And also from all of the stakeholders that will be on the receiving end of this so that they understand what they're going to get at the end, and it's useful to everybody on the team.

So we're going to go through the process kind of how we would go about a mini version of mapping content to a customer journey.

First we're going to talk about the definitions of purpose. At this stage we're not getting really detailed about page objectives or conversions or goals or anything else. It's really: what's the main point for this content? Is it to inspire them to change behaviors or take an action or to feel something? Is it to educate them, which is about building on their foundation of knowledge where they can integrate that into their lives? Are they just looking for information about something that will help them in the moment? Or do they want to be entertained, persuaded to something or the signpost which is another way of finding a way to direct them on to more relevant information.

You really don't have to go beyond these definitions at this stage, and keeping it high level really helps the focus, right, so you're not trying to do everything all at once, but here's the main focus. And everything can ladder up to these higher purposes later.

Topics. This is really what most people think of when they're thinking about content. If a customer is going to your website, it's because he's probably looking for a specific topic, right? If she picks up the phone to call customer service, she probably has a topic in mind that she's thinking about.

Content types and formats. I like to define types as the content that shares a common structure and purpose. The left-hand column has examples of content types, so product detail is always going to share a common structure, and the purpose will always be the same: to inform about the product details. Formats, on the other hand, are how that content is being displayed. So what you'll notice is that you mix and match. You can have a “how-to” article that is conveyed through web content or through HTML. You can have it conveyed through video or audio or PDF. It doesn't really matter. The content is going to remain the same, but the format is going to change.

Content types are usually closely associated with the journey stages, so a product detail or a case study might be very relevant during the research stages, but not very important through the advocacy stages. They're very tied to those support stages. The formats, on the other hand, are most closely assigned to audience preference, and also your corporate brand, the way you want to represent your brand and the resources that you have available.

Content messaging. There's lots of different ways to define messaging. You often think of brand messaging and to me that kind of helps to create the emotion, or answer the question, “Why do I want to do business with this company?” What will make me feel good about it? How can I feel confident in spending my time or my money with this organization? Product or service messaging hits that more intellectual side: “How do I know that this is exactly what I need in this moment for me in this situation?” So you need to cover both of those things.

When you get into the journey stages, you don't want to get into the weeds trying to figure out the wording. Super-important: Think concepts, not copy, okay? There's lots of time later for writers to come in and carefully craft the language. It's quite a time-consuming process, and it's also a time-consuming process for all the approvals. So this stage is about the concepts. Leave the writing of the words for later on.

We know the project considerations that we're going to be mapping. What do we need to get started? In an ideal world you will have a persona. Based on research, a solid understanding of who your audience is.

Meet Austin. He's going to be our persona for this afternoon. He is a book author, and he's just finished a North American book tour, and he's really exhausted, so he's looking forward to a get away. He really wants to escape from everything he's been doing. We're working for a travel company that happens to cater to adventure travelers, people just like Austin.

You've had a CX team come in and create a customer journey map. We've taken a lot of poetic license with this representative customer journey. I've never actually seen one that looks like a treasure map, but it covers all the bases you would see in a regular customer journey map. It goes through the phases before he's even aware your company exists. How can content support him in becoming aware of what you offer? The decision being made is really, “Can I do it? Am I really going to commit to it?”

Support and then advocacy. How do you turn your audience into advocates for you to get that extra marketing on your behalf? And you can see he's got some happy faces and some not so happy faces and he's got some thoughts and his needs all mapped out there. Your customer journey won't look like that, but it's the same kind of idea.

Ideally, again, all this is going to be based on research. We want to try to avoid making shit up because that just gets us in trouble.

Having said that, I know that some of you will be thinking of a project where you don't have personas, or you won't be doing customer journey mapping. Or maybe you do, but you have no research and you need to be aware of what's going on. You're having those thoughts, right?

So it's that lobster trying to creep back in and pretty soon it's going to be back on that phone and you won't recognize it any more.

It doesn't matter. If you don't have personas, if you don't have customer journeys, you don't have research, you do the best you can, right?

So what I do if we don't have the research to support this stuff is pull together a small but representative group of people in the organization who are closest to the users. Hopefully, they have a bit of a diverse perspective that connects them in different stages through the journey with that organization. They can bring something else to the table and you work through it, you make your educated guesses, and you do the best that you can.

One of the things that I always do if this is the case: I never state anything as fact. I state it as a hypothesis of what content is needed at these stages and then, “Please, go get it validated when you've got a budget for research.”

Okay, so now you've got all of your pieces, your personas, your journey maps, your research or not, it doesn't matter, but you're going to ask yourself the question, “What content will support Austin on his journey with your company?”

You know the stages that you're working through, you just work with them one by one.

For example, content purposes. We know that Austin likes to browse through his social networks over his morning coffee. He likes to be entertained. He likes to be inspired. He likes to be able to picture himself in different situations. So those are purposes that are going to be relevant to this audience at that stage.

During the research stage, he wants to be informed. He wants to know what the options are. If you stopped and tried to entertain him at this stage, he would be annoyed with that. He would just tune you out.

In your decision-making stage, maybe he's looking for information, still, but it's a different kind of information. Maybe he's looking for prices or timing, and stuff like that, and maybe he needs to be persuaded. He's sitting on the fence. He really wants to do it but he's not sure, right? So, why is it a good time for him and how can content support that decision?

You go through that with all of the different stages, then you go on to the next consideration.

Content topics. Austin is not sure whether he wants to go to the Grand Canyon or whether he wants to go visit penguins. He wants information on both of those. He's narrowed it down to two. During the decision making he says, “Okay, I really want to go see these penguins, I’ve always wanted to do that.”

During support, once he's down there, he doesn't care about that stuff anymore. Maybe he needs to know how to contact somebody if something goes wrong, or maybe he needs to know what's happening exactly, where he's going. Again, what content is going to support him while he's on his adventure?

Then you move to content types. During the awareness stage, we know that he likes to read travel articles and we already know from earlier that he wants to be entertained and inspired by them. During the research stage he's looking for package details, reviews, upgrade options, so there's different topics that he's wanting to learn about there.

And advocacy, right? Once he's completed his vacation with you, maybe he wants to to write a review or share his story.

We know content formats are not so closely aligned to journey stages, so we'll just think about how Austin likes to consume his content. Let's say he likes to read article, he likes photos, he likes videos. We'll put that up there.

And messages. So during the research stage he may know he's looking for adventure and we know he's looking for something affordable so we don't need to get into the copy. These are not words that are necessarily going to find their way into the page copy but these are messages that he needs to come away with a sense that it's affordable and it's an adventure. Same thing with support. I have huge pet peeve with text that says we're here to help, right? So again, not page copy, but this is perfect example of content, not copy. If you think about how content can do that, it's often by providing the right content, not about the right language that you're using for content. If you really want to support people through content, you can provide them with the right content at the right time. And through advocacy, right? So we know that we want, you know, as an organization we want him to write positive reviews, we want him to share his story, but what's in it for him, right? People are not so inclined to take their time to write content for you, if it's positive. They're more inclined to do that if it's negative, so what kind of messages do you need to convey to inspire him to take that action? So it might be if you share your story, you enter to win a free trip next year, so stay connected, maybe he's been able to create this sense of community with people he went on his trip with and he wants a way to stay connected with them and there's a way to make content help to do that.

So once you've gone through all of your considerations and moved them over to all these journey stages you'll start to see little ecosystems of content, right? So you start to see a different journey stages or different channels, support, different purposes, or different topics, or a different focus for different audiences and you can start to really shape each of those things in a different way so it's not a matter of, you know, good luck, free for all, you're going to scatter your content everywhere.

Because ultimately it's about making sure that Austin gets what he needs out of it, making sure that your organization gets what they need out of it, and content can have a pretty significant role in making sure all of that happens.

So in the real world, this is more often what it looks like. We're content people, so we don't have those really pretty designs that the designers create as they're doing customer journey mappings.

This is an example of when we were doing a content mapping exercise for a company that had very little research. Just scarecrow personas and no customer journey mapping to speak of. But we didn't let that stop us. The red sticky there is representative of the persona that we had identified and gotten approval to use. The blue represents the content considerations that we were working with.

We filled in the gaps with everything that we knew to be true, first that we had evidence of, and then we filled in the rest with educated guesses. We shared that around the organization, got approval, and again communicated this was the best guess hypothesis at the time. It provided a really good framework for them to go and do research.

What I find sometimes is organizations don't do research for content because they really don't know know what to do. So if we use this as a starting point, it gives them a basis from which they can go and validate. Often we'll provide a work table. Or a spreadsheet.

Again, we're not the designers in the room. What it does is allow the design team to take this and integrate. They can pull the content elements out and put that into a more visual format. It lets the business stakeholders see, at a glance, what the priorities are and allows them to provide approvals around that, And it allows content teams to start planning the content much earlier in the cycle. It allows them to collaborate and share their expertise and content much earlier in the process.

One of the things that's important to note is, particularly around topics and messages, we always keep it very high level, because you can get lost in the weeds. Especially with topics if you're doing a website, for example. Every page should have a topic, but if you're dealing with a 6,000 page website, you don't want to put that in an Excel website, right? Everything will bubble up into those larger topics. If you start later on in the process coming up with topics that are not shown here, it doesn't mean that that's wrong. It just means that either they're not supporting the main customer journey, and maybe that's fine. Or maybe it's just a topic that's important to the organization, and maybe there's discussion about whether that needs to fit at all. But at least it's a starting point to say, “Hey, this is the framework. Things will fit within it. If it doesn't, let's have a discussion.”

That's essentially the steps and the processes that we go through to make this stuff happen.

You've all been listening today, and you're going to go back next week with a whole bunch of great ideas and enough of an idea that you can integrate this into your own toolkit. But at the same time, I know you're going to go back, and work is going to be busy, and you're going to be out of time, and you might legitimately say to yourselves, “Yeah, she's full of crap.”

You don't have time to work through all of this journey mapping and all these stages. It's just not going to happen. And I'll see this little lobster crawling along. Fair enough. We don't always have time to do everything we want to do. If you don't have time for the full meal deal, sometimes the quickie is it the best solution, right?

So here are quickie tips. How to get the highest impact from the effort that you put into things.

You can keep it really high level. Look at all of your personas, look at all of your journey stages, and figure out the common truths, the shared experiences between your different audiences. Imagine that with this travel company, they're targeting people like Austin as an adventure traveler, but maybe they're also targeting family vacations, or romantic get-aways.

If you start to break it down and look for those shared experiences, or the commonalities between them, you might realize that they all are looking to be entertained or inspired during the awareness stage. They might all be looking for destination details and package details during the research stage. They might all be looking for prices and timing during the decision-making stage. You'll always find some sort of commonalities, so maybe that's what you want to focus on for your content considerations if you're wanting to hit the broadest group of your audience.

The other way to do is it to get ultra specific. Just choose one persona. Which persona represents your priority audience for your organization or for this particular project? Which audience is it going to make the highest difference?

If you're working specifically on the website or working specifically on the app or something else, you'll find that it's quite targeted on a specific journey stage, so just focus on that one. What content topics? What is the most relevant purpose? Zero in on that.

Both this picture and the one before are pictures of New York, but they're going to resonate differently with people. This one, obviously, will be relevant and personal to the people who know this little boy. To his family, that's going to be a personal reflection of New York City. The one before, with the skyline, that's going to appeal to a much larger base. It’s not as personal, not as specifically relevant to them.

It depends on which is the better solution for your project or your client or your organization.

The other thing that we want you to remember is that you're not alone.

We work with a wide variety of clients, from tech and financial, to retail and higher ed. We work with agencies. Never once have we gone into an organization who has actually integrated content into their toolkit, in the customer experience toolkit, before we got there. The fact that we're all talking about it and we're at a conference that combines content and design, actually puts you pretty far ahead of the curve as far as most organizations go.

The last thing I want to leave you with is the idea that the regular working world will interfere with content because it's not yet a habit, for most of us, to think about content at the same time we're thinking about design.

We think about customer experience as separate from content. We know they're the same thing, but we practice them separately, right? So it's just a matter of conditioning yourself to, every time you hear a reason why you are not integrating content, to question yourself, to question whether that reason is real, or whether it just looks kind of real.

Once you know how to do it, it doesn't really hold a lot of water anymore.