Guarantee your marketing automation success with persona-based content

Looking to kick your marketing automation up a notch? Columnist Jeffrey L. Cohen explains why you need a persona-based approach to creating content.

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If you really tried to automate all of your marketing, the results would not be good. We have all seen examples of over-engineered, algorithm-based communications, and it always seems to have some element of whatever Hollywood “computers take over the world” scenario is most burned into your brain. Depending on your age, it could be the computer from “WarGames,” “Skynet,” or when the Cylons infiltrated the Colonial fleet.

Marketing automation is not science fiction. It is really about adding technology to marketing in smart ways and automating processes that happen in the background, like collecting data or sending emails.

If you have ever copied batches of email addresses into the bcc: field in Outlook, you know this is not a good thing. I’m not proud to say I have done that. It was a small company, and it was a long time ago.

Marketers who have implemented marketing automation systems understand the importance of personalized messaging because a barrage of nurture emails will only take you so far.

Requests for product demos and 15-minute sales calls may only generate responses from prospects who are in the market to buy. For the rest of your prospects, you need to provide content that will resonate with them.

Providing the right context for your content

Content marketing is having its moment in the sun. Everyone says they are doing more of it every year, which makes content discovery harder than ever.

Why do we need so much content? It gives your prospects an opportunity to raise their hands and say they’re interested — especially when you align your content efforts with your personas. This provides the right context for your content.

Personas are one way to organize what you know about your prospects. Whether you use technology to build look-alike models of your best customers, or you just ask questions of your consumers and prospects, the more you understand about them, the better you will be able to communicate with them.

The right content at the right time in the buyer’s journey encourages customer engagement across all channels, including social, digital advertising and email campaigns.

If you don’t know what you’re saying to whom, based on their activities, it won’t matter how many touches are included in your nurture. Nobody responds to the wrong content.

Content has to be created according to personas and distributed in ways that track those personas.

If a prospect downloads an e-book about lead scoring, but not lead nurturing, that gives you insight into where they may be in their understanding of marketing automation. Combining this information with other online activities beyond your own website — what’s called a prospect’s digital body language — can tell you a lot about a specific prospect.

Instead of creating unique messages for every prospect, you can use this data to inform your personas and create better content for those segments of prospects. Longer-form content, like e-books and white papers, needs to address the business challenges of your prospects, and a persona-based approach to creating that content is a smart approach.

According to a study by ITSMA, 48 percent of B2B buyers are “more likely to consider solution providers that personalize their marketing to address their specific business issues.”

Integrating marketing automation and content marketing

Marketing automation platforms help to set actions as triggers so that prospects get the right information at the right time. As buyers move through their journey to purchase, they should be guided by relevant content.

Many marketers are unable to execute on a persona-based content strategy simply because they don’t have the resources necessary to create enough quality content. It’s clearly a struggle.

A Content Marketing Institute report found that 60 percent of B2B marketers struggle to produce engaging content, while 57 percent can’t produce content consistently. Not enough quality content results in lost opportunities due to lack of engagement.

Aligning content with your personas is part of the process, but when marketing automation and content marketing are tightly integrated into a marketing technology stack, that means that the process is seamless. The right content automatically aligns with your persona-based segments used in your campaigns.

And while it might seem like the all-knowing Skynet has taken over your marketing, your prospects will respond in greater numbers.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Jeffrey L. Cohen
Jeffrey L. Cohen is a marketer, strategist, author, speaker and blogger with a 20-plus year career in business to business (B2B) marketing. He is the director of content strategy at the Oracle Marketing Cloud; co-author of The B2B Social Media Book, which has been translated into Italian, Korean and Vietnamese; and is the co-founder and managing editor of, the leading online resource for social media’s impact on B2B marketing.

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