Using personas to feed the content machine

Using personas to feed the content machine

In my first week at Aberdeen, I’ve been immersing myself in the Marketing Effectiveness & Strategy research that’s currently in the online research library.  For me, this is a great exercise to see what we have for research as well as identify areas that are green-field and ripe for exploration.  There is some pretty interesting stuff and a TON of it!

The most recent report I read, Alchemy of Intent: Content Marketing in the Lead-to-Revenue Cycle, has some really good insight about how “Leaders” (companies performing in the top 35% across a variety of critical marketing metrics) are tackling their content creation for nurture.

Modern nurture programs require a torrent of content and the marketers I’ve spoken with, at firms both large and small, are struggling with identifying precisely what and how much they need, whether to staff or outsource it, and how to track its success.

One of the tidbits in this report (definitely worth a read) is the apparent disconnect between vision and execution.  While 92% of participants indicate that “producing high quality content” is “valuable” or “very valuable” (4 or 5 on a 1-5 scale), a great number of them don’t report the same when it comes to the ability to execute.  In fact, only 54% rated their level of execution as “effective” or “very effective” (4 or 5 on a 1-5 scale).

I’m a firm believer that, if you are willing to listen, your buyer will tell you everything you need to know to successfully market and sell to them.  Good content marketing begins with buyer research.  This is why I am such a proponent of persona-based marketing.  Haven’t used personas before?  Here are some of the big-picture steps to getting started.

Identify your target buyer:  Please don’t rely on anecdotal information.  Persona research is an exercise in precision and you’ll want to ensure you have it right. Start with your sales database and determine the titles that are most frequently involved in deals, both as the decision maker and the influencer. Identify any other interesting firmographic or demographic information you can glean.  For example, are you heavy in a certain industry or company size?

Interview your target buyer:  During this process you’ll want to speak with both customers and non-customers. More than just win-loss interviews, these discussions should ferret out exactly what each of your buyers wants to know at each step in their evaluation process. You’ll want to speak with customers, those who chose a competitor, and even people who have not chosen a vendor for your solution type.

Listen more than you talk: Let the buyer tell real-life stories of how they made their decision to explore, evaluate, and choose a solution (or choose to do nothing at all).  This will give you more accurate information than asking them to respond to a variety of canned or hypothetical questions. Let them share with you their motivations and priorities, how they judge success, barriers and frustrations. Pay attention to the words they use and underlying themes in their stories.  After all, people buy from people, even in B2B, and what makes your customer tick plays a factor in your success in marketing to them.

Translate to your content strategy: When done properly, these interviews should give you a sense of the buyer’s journey, their decision making criteria, and where they go for information in each step.  This information is gold; your buyer has essentially told you what they need you to say in your content and when and where they will go to find it. This is the starting point of your content marketing strategy. You’ll want to document your finding in a content or buyers journey map and conduct a thorough audit of your current content library, determining the usefulness of your current content and any gaps in your deliverables.

A successful content marketing strategy is one that is targeted and on-point with buyers. There is much more to consider, but starting with the buyer is the best way to ensure you’re not spinning your wheels.  I’m interested in hearing: What are your biggest content challenges? How have you solved them?  Or, if you haven’t solved them, why not?

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About the author

SVP of Marketing at Monetate, and veteran B2B marketer. On Twitter @MaribethRoss. Read more at

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