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B2B business strategies were much simpler back in the day. In the pre-Internet and pre-digital age, the target of one customer or buyer was an accepted viewpoint. We are no longer back in those days.

We are in the new digital age. This new age consists of more complexity, collaboration, co-creation, and new emerging buying behaviors. Recently, I introduced the concept of the Persona Buying Cycle™. It represents a view of understanding new buying behaviors via the B2B buying cycle. Designed to help us address not only new behaviors – but address new complexities.

The Why

Last year, I suggested a single view of the buyer was a dangerous road to travel. This view wired into B2B Business for nearly a century. We now live in a new digital age of audiences, influencers, procurement policies, buying teams, committees, social collaboration platforms, and more.

Mapping content strategy to this new world means factoring in more views than a single buyer. For B2B businesses, the dynamics of audiences, nurturing, insight, experience, and “consumer-like” branding are all new. These new dynamics are fast emerging as success factors for succeeding in the new digital age.

One of the key insights behind this thinking, gained through a collection of on-site qualitative buyer interviews over the past two years, is this:

Over the course of the complex end-to-end B2B buying cycle, multiple people come in and out of this cycle. They exhibit different goals, behaviors, as well as personas depending on where they are in the B2B buying cycle.

The key here is mapping content to the goals and behaviors of people participating in the B2B buying cycle.

(Let me note here a single person’s goals and behaviors can change throughout the course of a long buying cycle. They can take on different persona behaviors depending on where they are in a complex B2B buying cycle.)

The How

From a strategy perspective, we want to map business and content strategies to the 5 phases of goals and behaviors discovered in your industry’s B2B buying cycle. Here is a simplified illustrative chart to serve as an example (click on image for larger view):

Persona Buying Cycle Content Mapping

I also use for this illustration the Customer Decision Journey suggested by McKinsey. It is a realistic B2B perspective. This chart is incomplete in a few areas for a very important reason. What we want is an outside-in mindset. This illustration is meant to highlight the need for understanding the goals and behaviors of B2B businesses as well as the people within them. With this understanding, we can best be informed on developing content strategies.

The Operation

There are seven considerations for the B2B CMO and his or her team to ensure successful development of content strategies, which this chart helps to illustrate:

  1. Personas were founded and based on goal-directed understanding of users/buyers – don’t lose sight of audience and buyer goals
  2. Personas are a decision tool to help inform strategies – map strategies first before jumping to tactics
  3. Behavior focus helps us to understand what audiences/buyers do, how they do it, why they do it, and how they think – important elements for developing content
  4. Understanding goals and behaviors happens with on-site perspective. Best results come from 3rd party qualitative customer research expertise.
  5. To make customer and buyer focus operational, we need to develop specific tools –personas – to align with the efforts of teams most central to each stage of the Persona Buying Cycle. Single view buyer personas only collect dust.
  6. Mapping the Persona Buying Cycle helps unite the enterprise around a common understanding of people who live within target B2B businesses and industries.
  7. Content Strategies and tactics become more targeted and focused. Avoiding the pitfalls of being overly product-centric or sales-centric. Or, avoid seeing what content spaghetti sticks against the wall.

This is a continuing dialogue on one of the big questions for B2B marketing this year: how do we operationalize content marketing? This view and approach not only helps to operationalize content marketing. It helps us to operationalize a consistent buyer and customer focus throughout the B2B buying cycle.

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