Are you ready to take the leap into content marketing but are unsure how to create engaging, interactive, and thrilling content that will hook your audience and turn them into customers? Well, today’s your lucky day because your friendly neighborhood agency (that’s us) is here to give you the tips and tools you need to create some bangin’ content.
Speaking of tools, that’s going to be our focus on this little outing: One of the handiest and hardest-working items in your content toolbox. It’s the content marketing matrix, and it’s going to change the way you think about content.
What Is the Content Marketing Matrix?
The Content Marketing Matrix was originally developed by Smart Insights to be used as a content mapping tool. It features four quadrants designating the desired outcome of the content type:
The horizontal axis goes from “Awareness” to “Purchase” and follows the typical content funnel model, with those near the awareness stage at the top of the funnel looking for TOFU content, those near consideration in the middle seeking MOFU content, and those near the purchase point having reached the decision stage, looking for BOFU content.
On the vertical axis, the matrix goes from “Emotional” at the top to “Rational” at the bottom, which indicates which content types promote these responses.
By plotting out your content on the matrix, you can see which areas you’ve got covered, and which need some love.
Why Do You Need a Content Matrix?
Okay, so the content marketing matrix looks pretty cool, but what does it actually do? Let’s find out how it can help you boost your content marketing efforts:
Identify Gaps in Your Content Strategy
The content matrix is a visual representation of your content library, so you can see where there are gaps and where you need to work to fill them in.
And, of course, it’s critical that you have a content strategy to get the results you want. In fact, those with a documented strategy were more successful overall, while those who felt their efforts were unsuccessful did not have a documented strategy.
The content matrix can help you piece together your content strategy so you can get it documented and then will help reveal spaces where your content is lacking.
Improve Sales Enablement
To fully leverage your content marketing, you need to ensure you have content available at every stage of the funnel, for every purpose, and for every audience so your sales team has what they need at the ready.
It’s all part of an effective sales enablement strategy.
The content marketing matrix will give your sales enablement a lift by helping you find where in the funnel you’re missing content and where in the sales cycle your sales team might need extra support.
Email marketing is extremely effective when done right, but you have to get leads onto your email list for it to truly work for your brand. A content matrix can help you see where you need to bump up your content to target audiences and persuade them to sign up for your mailing list.
From there, you can also use it to plot out where you need to make contact with them via nurture emails and what type of content they need to contain.
Find New Content Ideas
The content matrix is a fantastic brainstorming tool and will help you generate a ton of fresh content ideas. Once you get your content added to the matrix, you’ll see where you have an abundance of content and where it’s running dry. That will direct your brainstorming to the area in which you have the greatest need, saving you time and making your efforts more efficient.
Gain Clarity Around Unstructured Content
Like structured data, using structured content allows you to quickly and easily update multiple pages or content assets. This standardized formatting ensures consistency, as well as a better user experience. The content matrix will help you figure out what your audience needs wherever they are on the matrix and allows you to make a plan to structure your content accordingly.
How Do You Use a Content Marketing Matrix?
At its core, a content matrix is an organizational and planning tool you can use in various ways.
- Content Audit: Gain a clear picture of the content you already have to understand its purpose, its intended audience, and where it is in the funnel.
- Content Gap Analysis: Discover lapses in content, audiences that are being neglected, or messaging that is misaligned.
- Content Strategy: Plot out your content strategy visually so you can see where your content needs are covered and where it would help to add more.
To better understand how to use the content marketing matrix, we need to examine its structure.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the four quadrants:
This quadrant brings the fun. In this area, audiences are closer to the top-of-funnel awareness stage, where they’re often driven more by emotion. Content here should be lighter, more general, and definitely interactive, including:
- Contests and competitions
- Branded video content
- Quizzes and games
- Social media posts
Much of your audience will drift downwards from the “Entertain” quadrant into “Educate.” They’re still pretty close to the top of the funnel where they’re really becoming aware of your brand and forming a perception, but they’ve also gone from acting on emotions to becoming more rational. At this stage, you’ll want to keep your content broadly appealing but start to provide useful information:
- Blog articles
- Trend reports
- Useful guides
- Relevant press releases
Back up to the top right corner of the matrix, we find “Inspire,” and that’s really the goal here. The point of this phase is to connect with the audience and, now that they’re familiar with your brand, appeal to their emotions once again. Relationships are key in this quadrant, so you’ll want to create content based on that:
- Influencer partnerships
- Celebrity sponsorships and endorsements
- Engagement in online forums
- Social interaction
There isn’t really a linear path through the content matrix; it’s more of an up-and-down, back-and-forth. But when your audience gets to the “Convince” quadrant, that’s when you want to pull out the big guns. Here is where you put all your persuasive power into your content, backed with data, to make them certain you’re the right brand to choose. At this point, they’re near the bottom of the funnel and ready to make a purchase decision, so they’re thinking critically and rationally. Present them with content that appeals to that part of their brain:
- Case studies
- Research reports
How to Create a Content Marketing Matrix
Ready to dive in and build your own content marketing matrix? We’re ready to guide you through it! Take our step-by-step approach outlined here, and get ready to optimize your content strategy and reap the rewards.
Understand the Content Marketing Matrix Axes
So, we’ve talked about the different quadrants of the matrix, but you’ll also need to pay careful attention to the axes as well.
The vertical axis goes from emotional to rational and highlights how your audience is feeling. This is a predictor of how they’ll interact and engage with your brand and determines what type of content they want to see.
The horizontal axis slides from awareness to action and follows the traditional stages of the buyer’s journey. At the left side, your audience is still at the top of the funnel, but they move across the axis as they go down the funnel until they arrive at the action or decision stage.
Understanding the audience’s needs, desires, and pain points wherever they are on the axes will help you provide them with content that delivers results.
Define Buyer Personas
Knowing your buyer personas will help you understand what motivates and influences them. That will also help you figure out where they are on the axes and within each of the four quadrants so you can offer the content they want.
Remember that a buyer persona is not a target audience.
A target audience is a very broad group of people usually determined by demographic data. On the other hand, a buyer persona is much more specific and takes into consideration demographics, psychographics, and behavioral attributes.
Defining buyer personas will give you deeper insights into your audience so you can better understand, anticipate and meet their needs.
Understand the Buyer’s Pain Point
To truly give them relevant, useful content, you need to understand what keeps your buyer persona up at night. There are generally four types of pain points they may be feeling:
- Value: Are they concerned about the financial implications of either buying your service or product or not buying it?
- Time: Do they have worries about managing their time and staying productive?
- Process: Are they hoping to find ways to ease their lives, whether personally or professionally?
- Assistance: Do they want to have support in finding solutions to their problems?
Just keep this in mind: pain points are not the same thing as solutions.
Depending on where your audience is on the matrix, they may not be ready for a solution. It’s more important that their pain points be heard and acknowledged by your brand.
Map Pain Points to Each Stage of the Funnel
Now that you understand your audience's issues and concerns, you can start aligning them with content that will eventually guide them toward the best solutions. To do that, you need to make sure that your content correlates with the appropriate funnel stage that addresses their biggest pain points.
Top of the Funnel
This is often where your brand makes its first impression. At this stage, your audience doesn’t yet know who you are or what solutions you provide — in fact, they may not even know there’s a problem, to begin with. Here is where you provide very high-level information that engages and entertains them and slowly begins to educate them on the needs they may not even be aware of.
Middle of the Funnel
At this point, the audience knows who you are, and they know they have an issue that needs solving. But they also know they have a lot of options to choose from, and they’re just beginning their evaluation process. This is where you can start promoting your brand more heavily, expanding on the solutions you can provide.
Bottom of the Funnel
The audience is much smaller at this point, but also far more motivated to buy. This is where you can really let your solutions shine and offer them content and deals that will help them convert. Typically, this is where demos, free trials, and freemiums come into play, along with webinars and case studies.
You might think that once a customer converts, your job is done. You might also be very, very wrong. The post-purchase stage is extremely important because it’s where customers become repeat customers, loyal customers, and referring customers, bringing others from their network into the fold.
Use CTAs to Guide the Buyer Through Each Funnel Stage
Calls-to-action, or CTAs, are critically important to your content marketing strategy. But using the wrong one can end in disaster. Your CTAs should be broken down by content asset, funnel stage, and audience, and you can use the content marketing matrix to plot them out.
Create a specific version of the matrix just for CTAs, so you can see where they fall on the axes and within each quadrant. Then, you can map your CTAs to each piece of content you’re planning to offer to ensure they align with the funnel stage.
What do you want to achieve with your content matrix? You may want a visual representation of your current content, or you may want to use it to plan out your content strategy and assets for the months ahead. However you’re going to use the matrix, make sure you document your goals. And make sure each one of them is SMART.
Take an Inventory of Existing Content and Group by Personas
As we mentioned previously, you can use your content marketing matrix to conduct a content audit and get a big-picture perspective on where your brand stands. If you have a large amount of content, this is a great way to get a handle on it and begin organizing it. Or, if you feel you’re lacking in certain areas, this will give you a quick, visual way to see where those lapses are occurring.
Once you’ve taken stock of your existing content, you can use the matrix to group them into personas, so you can better understand what pain points your content should be addressing and what types of content will be most likely to move them.
Explore New Content Formats
If you’ve stuck by your blog for years now, it might be time to shake things up a bit by exploring different types of content (caveat: do NOT give up on your blog). Content lends itself so well to this type of experimentation, as it’s been proven that repurposing old content into different formats and distributing it on new channels is one of the most effective ways to utilize content marketing.
So, turn that blog into an infographic, or make that social post into a video. It’s a time-saver and a cost-saver, but best of all, it really works.
Create a User-Focused Topic Matrix
Instead of focusing on the content you think positions your brand in the best possible light — the content you want to create — focus on the content your audience wants to consume.
Create a separate matrix to brainstorm topics for each buyer persona in each quadrant. Then, you can build pillars around each persona and create content that ties to each one.
Also consider the content formats each buyer persona is most interested in and factor that in when planning out your content. For example, we know that video is most effective in the “Entertain” quadrant when the audience is nearer the emotional end of the spectrum. For your buyer persona in this area, you may want to plan to create some splashy, attention-grabbing, evocative video content. Remember that user-generated content (UGC) is also a part of creating a user-focused matrix.
Define Content Priorities
Use your matrix to set your content marketing priorities so you know what to tackle and when. Visually, you should be able to see bare spots in your matrix where you’re lacking a certain type of content, so you can make it a priority to fill in the blank spaces.
You could also use this as a way to find and map out content that’s ready to be refreshed or updated — or anything that needs to be reformatted and upgraded.
Create a Content Marketing Matrix Based on the Insights You’ve Gathered
Now that you’ve gone through all of these steps, you’re ready to build your content marketing matrix and even customize it to suit your needs. In a matrix, you can tailor everything from the quadrants to the axes and the content types, so you have a flexible tool to organize your strategy and achieve your content goals.
Feel free to use the standard content matrix, but experiment with changing things up. For instance, you can create one solely around buyer personas and list them as quadrants, with the axes being the funnel stages or the buyer’s journey. We’ve designed it to be personalized to suit your brand’s content needs.
Update Your Content Matrix When You Create New Assets
You’ll want one version of your content matrix that’s continually updated to represent what’s “live” on your website and across your marketing channels. You can design other versions of your matrix to show different things (like content audits, old content that needs updating, etc.), but make sure there’s one living document you can constantly add to as you create new assets.
Remember your ABCs
It’s one of those old sayings every marketer has heard a million times before: Always. Be. Converting (we know startups are familiar with this). It’s good advice, especially for growth-focused brands. But when it comes to content marketing, conversions can be hard to measure because they won’t always be sales or revenue. You might find that a conversion in your content marketing strategy is actually a download of a piece of gated content or a newsletter signup or email subscription.
Whatever conversion means to you, make sure you’re tracking them all as you use your content matrix to plan out what you want to create. You can even create a matrix based around conversions so you can rank which types of content perform the best and fill in any gaps you find.
Where Can I Find a Content Marketing Matrix Template?
This is a lot to put together on your own, but luckily you can find some great content marketing matrix templates to help you build one (or several) of your own.
Canva’s template is a great option if you’re familiar with the design platform. It’s easy to edit and you can move each individual asset to the quadrant you need. It’s also free with a basic Canva account.
Miro is an online whiteboard with tons of templates you can choose from for organizing, note-taking, and much more. The content planning matrix is a downloadable board template you can customize to your needs. It’s already set up with quadrants for buyer personas and an axis for funnel position.
This is more of a DIY option if you want to build your content marketing matrix from scratch. You can use any of the Google Suite tools you like, but Google Sheets are most common. However, if you’re going for that visual representation of your content, you can also create something in Google Slides.
Content Marketing Matrix Examples
Want to see the result of a content marketing matrix in action? We took some samples of recent video content (in this case, commercials) that were analyzed using a content matrix. We know that video content is continuing its meteoric rise, with 83% of marketers saying it’s becoming more important than ever.
As we know from the content marketing matrix we included at the beginning of this article, video content typically falls in the “Entertain” quadrant, nearer the Awareness/Emotional segments of the axes. We can see in the examples below that they align with the content matrix, as they were created to raise brand awareness by appealing directly to the audience’s emotions (something we now know is more effective than appealing to their logic).
In 2021, this was ranked the top holiday ad in the U.S., and it’s easy to see why. It focuses on the one thing that unites us all — food. The emotional appeal was lighthearted, not at all sales-y, and definitely entertaining.
What sets this Google ad apart is that it wasn’t technically an ad — it’s just great video content. This branded video definitely appealed to the audience’s emotions, and although pretty much everyone is aware of Google, the video still fits nicely in the “Entertain” quadrant. Since it isn’t selling anything, it’s considered TOFU content.
Create a Content Marketing Matrix Designed to Convert Visitors
Ultimately, you can do so many things with a content marketing matrix that will help you move your audience through the funnel toward conversion. You can customize it, replicate it, design your own or use a template.