As CEO and B2B marketing strategist for her Santa Rosa, Calif.-based consulting firm Marketing Interactions, Ardath Albee has considerable insights about results-oriented digital marketing.

Her goal is to create digital marketing strategies for complex sales that are compelling, highly leveraged and designed to engage prospects across the entirety of the buying process, she explained.

By crafting and using persona-driven content marketing strategies, companies can effectively keep existing customers and convert new ones. She emphasizes, "Content marketing isn’t about creating and publishing more content; it’s about creating relevant, lasting relationships that result in profitable outcomes for your company — from awareness to advocacy."

Albee explores those topics in depth in her latest book, Digital Relevance, which provides the techniques and advice marketers need to match content to context and respond to constantly shifting markets.

She believes that digital marketing strategy always begins with buyer personas that help marketers, salespeople and the organization clearly understand who their audiences are, what they care about most deeply and who they must gain consensus from to embrace change. 

She'll share her insights on creating radically relevant digital marketing strategies at CMSWire's DX Summit this Nov. 14 through 16 at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.

CMSWire caught up with her to learn more about persona-driven content marketing, customer obsession and her expectations for the DX Summit.

Creating Smart Marketing Interactions

Walter:  Can you share more details about persona-driven content marketing strategies?

Albee:  A persona-driven content marketing strategy is about moving a segment of your target audience from status quo to choosing to change with the help of you or your product. In a B2B complex sale, it’s also about helping those on the buying committee to reach consensus to solve the problem. One of the most compelling uses of personas is to look at the overlays — the interactions between them that we may not be “in the room” for but can help influence with content.

A buyer’s context changes from stage to stage. The questions they need answered also change. The type of information they need shifts. Push back and obstacles encountered come from others involved in making the decision.

A persona-driven content marketing strategy is designed to address all of these issues to ensure that momentum and next steps are orchestrated throughout the buying process in sync with your buyers’ needs or the needs of your customers — depending on where in the journey the content marketing strategy is focused.

Walter: How do marketers keep their software stack under control with so many tools available?

Albee: Technology has become the shiny object du jour. It’s so prevalent — with more than 3,500 marketing technologies now available — that the temptation is to choose technology before we’ve thought through purpose, process and then people needed to apply it to generate beneficial outcomes.

Marketers need to start with purpose, by answering a few questions:

  • What do we want to achieve that we don’t have the capacity to do today?
  • How will this goal tie into our current content marketing strategy?
  • Will whatever it allows us to do be relevant to our intended audience(s)?
  • Will the outcomes it helps us to get deliver against business objectives in a measurable way?

Next, marketers need to understand and assess what it will take to use the technology:

  • What processes will need to be put in place to execute?
  • Do we have the resources to add this process to our workflows?
  • Is this the best way to spend our budget in relation to our priorities?
  • Does using this technology mean we need to eliminate something else?
  • Is the tradeoff worth it? In other words, what would we be giving up to get this tool/outcome?

Finally, think about the impact on your people resources:

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  • Do we have people with the skill sets to use this technology?
  • Will we need to bring in IT for implementation or support?
  • Do the people we would assign have the bandwidth for this additional workload?

Once you’ve answered these questions, then you’ll have a good idea of whether or not it’s feasible and strategic to add another technology/tool to your software stack. If you choose technology first and ask questions later, then the software stack becomes messy, fast. Technology selection should be driven by a thorough assessment of purpose, process and people.

Walter: What does it mean to have “customer-obsessed marketing?”

Albee: Customer-obsessed marketing is simply putting the customer first in relation to every decision made about marketing programs. This can be a big shift for companies that have always structured marketing around internal goals, such as new product launches or sales quotas.

If the idea won’t be relevant, seen as a value-add or useful to the intended audience, then a customer-obsessed marketer wouldn’t use it. This doesn’t mean that marketing should focus on the customer to the exclusion of the business objectives of their company, but rather that the way in which the idea is taken to market is focused on making your customer the hero of the story — always — not your products or company.

Walter: Why are buyer personas so important?

Albee: If you don’t know your buyers and customers extremely well, how will you be able to create content that’s compelling, addresses their context at each stage of the buying and customer journey, and contributes to the development of a trusted relationship?

A buyer persona is the best construct I’ve found for representing this information in a way that informs a strategic approach to content marketing. When buyer personas are developed in depth, they contain the information marketers need to execute well.

Content marketing is about moving people from status quo to choice. Random acts of content won’t get that outcome. But the knowledge about what matters to a specific segment of your target audience can help you address them consistently, over the longer term, in a way that creates momentum toward the establishment of mutually beneficial and profitable relationships.

Walter: Finally, what are you most looking forward to about the DX Summit?

Albee: Meeting other marketers working on improving performance and the strategies they use. I'm definitely anticipating stimulating conversations.

(If you'd like to learn more about effective marketing content and strategies, Ardath Albee will be speaking at the DX Summit in Chicago on Nov. 14 through 16. Find out more here — and tweet to Ardath Albee.)