Yesterday, Cintell was a proud sponsor of a Marketo webinar with Ardath Albee on the topic of content marketing and buyer personas. You can watch the recording here if you missed it.

In the event, she revealed that content output in the past 5 years has increased by 78%, but content engagement has decreased by 60% (according to TrackMaven). What’s more, 75% of buyers believe vendors give them too much material to sort through, 62% of which is considered useless (Forrester).


So how can we as marketers combat this wave of irrelevant content, and spend our cycles on creating content that matters to our prospects, and moves them to action? One strategy is to ensure your foundational targeting strategy, that is, your audience understanding, is up-to-date and highly relevant.

Buyer personas done right make content marketing decisions crystal clear. 

So what goes into a content-ready buyer persona? Ardath shared 9 key components that can be used to ensure the personas you create actually guide content marketing to be more relevant, effective, and engaging.

“We have to remember that we are not our buyers.” – Ardath Albee

1. Objectives

What do these personas need to accomplish? What are they responsible for? We must get beyond high-level, overly broad objectives such as “Growing revenues.”

Characteristics of this attribute are specific, and situational, such as “eliminate inefficiency to speed time to market.”

2. Problems

What’s in the way of achieving their objectives? These details aren’t always obvious to buyers, as they likely have workarounds in place to address these problems.

Rather than “inefficiency” which doesn’t do much to illustrate a specific problem, a good example of this would be “lack of automated workflows adds months to product launches.”

3. Obstacles

What could keep this persona from taking the next step at each stage of the buying process? What stalls their progress, hinders their decision-making, or creates uncertainty?

“Price” is not a helpful obstacle in this context. Instead, think of obstacles as questions like “What do I need to know to convince Tom (who might be the purchase decision maker)?” or “What if our people won’t adopt the new workflows?”

4. Questions

Related to obstacles, what will the persona ask as they choose to take each step in their research and evaluation?

KEY TO GETTING THIS RIGHT: Consider internal workarounds in place that are your prospects’ current status quo.

What do they need to know to gain the confidence to change? This is not an opportunity to list the features of your product, but rather address questions from your persona, including:

  • Given my situation, why should I care?
  • How do I eliminate X to achieve Y?
  • What can I do now that I couldn’t do before?

5. Orientation

What appeals to this persona? What personality traits are common across the segment? What is their professional demeanor and career background?

The truth is, “married with two kids and a dog” doesn’t cut it when your intent is to use these insights to guide content marketing and other business strategies. If you’re selling to consumers, go forth. But in B2B, details such as “20 years in career” and “confident leader” and “detail orientated / logical thinker” help to inform what kind of content and messaging will best resonate with this persona.

6. Keywords & Phrases

Aside from SEO, this section of your persona research serves to illustrate exactly how you can maintain relevance in the context of your persona’s objectives. These should directly describe their problems and goals, such as “reduce time to market” or “product launch best practices.” If you’re focused only on product related keywords, you’re missing an opportunity to meet your prospects where they are.

7. Engagement Scenarios

Here is where you should map out the steps of what it will look like to engage this persona, from attracting their attention to moving them toward purchase. Include the channels and types of conversations that could be used, and don’t forget to consider their interaction with other personas.

Ardath recommends against one-off short-term campaigns, and instead recommends thinking of engagements across a continuum that spans the entirety of the buying process.

8. First Person Scenarios

These scenarios are written from the perspective of the persona. It puts you in their shoes as a “Day in the life” of the persona told in first person, as if they’re directly speaking to you.

Not good: “Sally is a hard worker who is determined to make product launches more efficient.”

Better: “I’m struggling to get products to market faster because our processes are too convoluted but my boss is worried that changing them will create more chaos.”

Pro tip: This often serves as an easy-to-digest summary of the persona.

9. Social Media & Online Destinations

Find out where your buyers are, and what they will engage with in each place. When asking customers for this insight, folks tend NOT to have an accurate answer for “where do you go for information?” Try asking, “What do you have bookmarked?” instead.

Remember LinkedIn groups and topics, and industry associations as your personas may be engaged with them. This insight tells you where to put content so that it has a better chance of intersecting with its intended recipient.


To learn more about creating buyer personas as active tools, download the free Intelligent Guide to Buyer Personas. This 32-page resource will dig into more detail on each of these 9 key components, demonstrate the difference between user/customer/buyer personas, and reveal the role personas should play in your organization. Download it today!


BONUS: Infographic – What to Include in a Buyer Persona