In a previous post on using a PPC campaign to capture B2B leads, I wrote the content being offered in exchange for a lead’s contact information has to align with the interests of the targeted persona and where they are in the buying journey. It’s a point worth exploring in greater detail.

Specifically, what are the most compelling topics and content formats for different people at different stages in the buying cycle?

Using that information, you then further refine your content options by clarifying what the intention of this piece of content is. Meaning, what do you want them to understand or know after having consumed this piece of content, and what do you want them to do next.

Taking a Closer Look at Personas and the Buyer’s Journey

B2B purchase decisions are never made by one person. Yet any single piece of content should only target one person. When a company is considering which CRM solution to buy, the interests and needs of the IT director differ from those of the HR director. You must know exactly who your audience is.

BuyerBe sure to know the journey the buyer has to go through

Regarding the buyer’s journey: It’s no longer as linear as it used to be. Different personas may be at different stages in the journey at the same time. This is one reason why you shouldn’t limit yourself to running a B2B PPC campaign just for brand awareness or to gather leads in the early funnel stage. The right content topic and format can entice a B2B prospect at any stage of the buyer’s journey.

Many organizations segment and map out the buyer’s journey in different ways, using different terminology. For our purposes here, there are four key phases:

  1. Initial research

  2. Solution research

  3. Short listing

  4. Decision making

Let’s dig deeper into what type of content topics and formats are most compelling in each phase.

Initial Research:

Socrates famously said that true knowledge is knowing that you know nothing. Welcome to the initial research stage. This phase is where you get to establish that “thought leadership” stuff everyone is talking about.

At this point, your prospect may or may not realize there’s a problem (or “opportunity” if you prefer) to be addressed. So you can develop content that helps them realize the problem. If they are aware of the problem, you can provide content that educates them more about it, such as cause and impact. Valuable content topics at this phase include:

  • benchmark studies or analysis

  • industry trends, news, or opinion

  • high level “how-to” or basic education

Then consider the format the target persona might prefer, such as:

  • reports

  • on-demand webinar or podcast

Continuing to use CRM as an example, consider this scenario: Your target persona is someone in the sales department. She is likely already using some sort of CRM tool, even if it’s just a clunky spreadsheet. So she likely doesn’t need to be educated about the problem. She’s living with it. She’s curious how other sales teams operate.

Potential content: Report titled “Why Sales Needs to Care About Marketing Automation”

What will she know after reading it: Shows evolution in marketing automation as it relates to providing better qualified leads to Sales.

Where you want her to go next: Research some of the advanced functionality she learned about. How does it work exactly? How does it translate into better quality leads for her? In other words, to the solution research phase.

Solution Research:

Content at this stage still isn’t mentioning your company’s specific product or service. In this phase, the salesperson is doing web search on “marketing automation” or “get better leads with marketing automation.”

The-SolutionThe phase in which a prospect is researching for the desired solution

Valuable content topics:

  • how does a solution work

  • comparing benefits of different solutions

  • analysis of company readiness to implement a certain solution

Suggested content formats:

  • white papers

  • infographic

  • checklists or worksheets

  • webinar, video or podcast

Potential content: Webinar titled “How Marketing Automation Identifies Qualified Leads Faster”

What will she know after reading it: That an organization can use automation to hold the business rules that qualify a lead, making sure Sales’ time doesn’t get wasted following up with poor quality leads.

What should happen next: She wants to know who offers such fine automation!

The solution research phase is an ideal time to tempt potential prospects with content they can use to convince those who control budgets that this problem has a solution worth the investment. For example:

Potential content: Infographic or short explainer video demonstrating how companies using marketing automation to qualify leads before they get sent to sales reduces the average customer acquisition cost.

What will she know after reading it: More important is what she has; a tool she can use to convince higher ups to make buying a marketing automation tool a priority.

What should happen next: Either want more content in the solution research phase, or ready to look at vendor-specific content.


This is the critical point of divergence, where your company needs to make a case for itself. Let’s say the salesperson was successful in getting the Director of Sales to make the case to VP Operations. Let’s also say it’s not your content that’s gotten them there. You can still enter the playing field.

Now people making up a selection committee are researching. The IT representative in the committee is searching on “implementing marketing automation solution.”

Valuable content topics:

  • comparison charts of features and benefits

  • case studies

  • vendor selection criteria or buying guide

  • product/service sheets or overview

Suggested content formats:

  • white papers

  • infographic

  • checklists or worksheets

  • webinar, video or podcast

Potential content: Collection of case studies sharing stories of how organizations of a certain size or in a certain industry have successfully implemented your company’s marketing automation solution.

What will he know after reading it: Some of the implementation planning and execution challenges, and how they’ve been managed by similar companies.

What should happen next: He wants more detailed product and specification information from your company.


If a buying committee has reached the decision-making phase and your company isn’t on the short list, the content you offer in a PPC campaign should focus on the types of tools the committee will want to use to evaluate the vendors they have. The goal here is provide such a valuable analysis tool that their interest in your company as a solution provider is now piqued.

Potential search topics that should guide content topics:

  • total cost of ownership marketing automation

  • marketing automation solution benchmarks

You get the picture. Topics that provide a framework to assess the practicalities of a group of vendors’ solutions.

Suggested content formats:

  • interactive calculators or infographics

  • trial downloads or video demos

  • detailed product/ service guides

  • case studies

Making Content Relevant To IT Buyers: Part One: Matching Content to the Buying Cycle

Where in the Journey Should Your B2B PPC Campaign Be

The earlier along in the process you can get your content in front of a prospect, the better off you are. You have more time to establish the trust and credibility to be a serious contender during the short-list phase.


Even better, if you get contact information early on, you have a higher degree of control over what content gets in front of a prospect than a company still waiting to be found.

Yet new people in different roles do enter the prospect company’s buying journey as it moves forward. If your company has the resources to create multiple pieces of content and PPC campaigns that reach out to a variety of personas, by all means – do so.

Lastly, I don’t want to overlook the “what should happen next” step. You have an idea where you want the prospect to go. You can use that information to build a call-to-action at the end of the content you just provided. Or it can be the next offer in an email drip campaign you send to them.

Use your thank-you page to provide additional content options that align with place in the journey where the prospect already is.

But that’s another topic for another day….that post is coming soon.