As we’ve written about in our recent blog posts, all writers are selling something. Whether that be a physical product or service, or selling their content and asking you to pay for it with your time and attention.

Whether you’ve been doing this for one day or ten years, you’ve probably noticed that selling online is an entirely different ball game. Today, online sales teams can track your buying patterns and tailor content or offers just for you. Likewise, consumers can investigate you and compare your content, products, or services to those of your competitors. With all this info at their fingertips, consumers now expect personalization.

Mapping out the reader's journey is the first step to providing a personalized experience.

What is a reader journey?

A customer journey is a diagram that maps out the steps a customer takes to get from not knowing your brand at all (which is the start of the journey), to buying a service or product and recommending your brand to friends and family members. This concept is important in sales, helping sales and marketing teams identify the right content to send at the right time, but it also can be repurposed for a publisher's content strategy: a reader journey. 

The actual steps to be included in your reader’s map will depend on your objectives for that piece of content. Each step represents a touchpoint or interaction between you and the reader.

Your reader journey map should be unique to your brand. It won’t look the same for everyone, and there are several stages to a reader journey map that are common no matter what industry you’re in.

The journey starts with the reader becoming aware of your brand and ends with them falling in love with your brand, and hopefully sharing their experience with friends and family. This is the ultimate goal for any publisher: someone who advocates for their brand (and does so for free 🤑).

How to create a reader journey map

1. Identify the type of content

In sales, a buyer persona describes the ideal customer for a particular brand. 

In the world of publishing, the consumer isn’t necessarily a “buyer,” at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, our readers consume content, so we’ll want to think about describing our ideal reader.

Before you create this reader persona, you need to identify a type of content around which to build an this persona. After all, readers will react differently to blog posts compared to whitepapers (and so on). 

Common types of content include:

  • eBooks
  • Blog posts
  • Whitepapers
  • Case studies
  • Videos
  • Podcasts

If readers have to invest a lot of time, effort, or money into consuming your content, then that content needs to be valuable enough to justify that investment. 


2. Create a reader persona

Once you’ve identified the type of content, and the investment required by the reader, you can begin constructing a reader persona.

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself when creating the persona:

  • Demographics - How does the audience break down statistically?
  • Pain points - What pain points does the reader deal with on a consistent basis?
  • Needs - What solutions do they require to deal with those pain points? What solutions can you provide through your content?
  • Online behavior (social media, forums) - Where can the audience be found? What platforms and channels do they use most often?
  • Interests & activities - What hobbies do they share? What do they do inside and outside of work? What are some things they’re emotionally attached to?

This step is important because it helps you construct content that engages your audience. There are plenty of great writers out there, but if your content fails to engage your audience, they probably won’t remember your name.


3. Identify Reader Goals

At this stage, you should be asking what the reader’s ultimate goal is and how are you helping them get there. 

When you align your strategy to match these goals, you’ll find that readers respond better to your content. 

Now that they have completed the article or post, how do you get them to read another article? Or come back tomorrow? Or sign up for your newsletter? Ask yourself if you’ve helped them achieve their goal and if not, and how you can help guide them along your reader journey.


4. Highlight Pain Points

It's time to highlight problem areas that plague current and potential readers. The information from your reader persona should help you fill in the blanks on your reader journey. 

Throughout this process, you’ll likely run into areas where you’re already offering quality solutions to some of your readers’ problems. You might also find new ways to improve your products and services, as well as distribution. 

Don’t forget, the absolute best way to discover reader pain points is to just ask them!

Social media is a great place to go when you need to highlight pain points and needs in the community. The best part about social media, is that you don’t always have to ask. Often times readers will take to social media to vent about the problems they face most.

Another way of soliciting feedback is encouraging your community to leave a comment with their thoughts, opinions, or reactions. Where best to get direct feedback than right where your content lives 😉

If you have an engaged audience already, don’t be afraid to ask them directly what challenges they’re facing and where you can improve their experience. Social media polls and surveys are both invaluable tools in gathering this type of intel. This is something that we do quite often, and you can see an example of this here: 


5. Identify Touchpoints

Touchpoints are the steps that make up the reader journey map. Some touchpoints are more important than others. For example, if you send an email to a prospective reader who has never heard of your brand, and it turns them off, you may have just ruined your chance at a great first impression. This email may do more damage early on in the reader journey because the reader hasn’t formed an opinion of your brand just yet. This type of situation demonstrates why it’s important to fine tune every touch point. 

Touchpoints are literally everywhere. So if you’re curious what your potential touchpoints may be, put yourself in the shoes of a potential reader - where do you go for relevant information?

Common examples include:

  • Websites & blogs
  • Signups & order confirmations (Email)
  • Reader support
  • Social media

There are so many opportunities to optimize the message you send to potential consumers, but there are just as many opportunities to mess it up. 


Putting it All Together

To put it all together, there are a number of free customer journey templates and journey makers available. While these tools are aimed at the sales and marketing communities, helping them create customer journey maps, they also happen to be perfect for publishers who wish to create reader journey maps.

Several sites allow you to input information about readers and touchpoints and then visualize the whole process in the form of a map or diagram.

Some of these sites include:

All of the sites listed above have free plans. The best site for you depends on the features you’ll need.

At the end of the day, make your reader journey map with as much detail and data as possible. Take your time on this and it’ll pay dividends in the long run. 

Do you have any success stories implementing a reader journey map to your content strategy? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!