How to Reach Your Audience with Strategic Planning and Content Personalization

If you want to craft content that generates results, embrace these tips to ensure that it’s well-planned and truly speaks to your target audience.

As a B2B marketer, you've probably read about the importance of content personalization and its direct impact on audience engagement and conversions.

Several studies offer evidence that companies providing targeted and relevant content experiences to their buyers get a higher ROI from their efforts than those that do not. A case study published on Marketing Sherpa shows how Skytap, a B2B provider of cloud automation solutions, increased leads by 124 percent after launching content tailored for specific segments of their audience.

While content personalization may seem daunting, following these suggested guidelines will make the process easier and less overwhelming. Consider this checklist of steps and factors to help you plan and reach your most valuable audiences with targeted content.

Three attributes of strategic content planning

Effective content begins with buyer-centric planning designed to identify and satisfy the needs of your buyers across different stages of the purchasing process. The planning phase needs to fulfill the following attributes:

  1. Strategic content planning is buyer-centric—content assets are most effective when they solve your buyers' problems in the simplest way possible

  2. Strategic content planning is balanced—a content plan also needs to be balanced across all segments of your audiences and across different stages in the buyer journey (e.g. discovery, choosing, and purchasing)

  3. Strategic content planning is aligned—any content you create should align with your business objectives and priority content ideas

After fulfilling these attributes, the next step is to create the actual content plan using a seven-step process.

Seven steps for creating a strategic content plan

  1. Understand your audience and their purchase process and habits

  2. Create your message

  3. Audit, map, and create an inventory of your content

  4. Identify your storylines and audience focus

  5. Create a content brief framework

  6. Brainstorm

  7. Vote which topics and ideas will go on to become content assets

Content planning is one thing, but application is a different process altogether. As mentioned earlier, different marketers and firms have different strategies for targeting content. Blue River uses the following system:

"Persona-ize" rather than personalize

A Content Marketing Institute survey shows that 20 percent of B2B marketers in North America consider content personalization as one of their top five priorities for 2016. Personalization has great value, but it’s difficult to scale.

For this reason, the Content Advisory’s Robert Rose recommends targeting buyer personas instead. This “persona-ization” is a broader interpretation of personalization, which essentially means you can create content with your broader audience in mind without creating content specific to one individual. Your content will remain highly relevant and have a broader reach — resulting in a more effective use of your time and other resources.

Define the experiences

Relevant content experiences are the cornerstone of the online customer experience. When defining content experiences, be sure to factor in each audience's customer journey, effective and relevant content types, and changes in UI and UX to support content visibility, among others.

Content audit review and scoring by unique relevance

Content audits are about building your way towards better content. An audit lets you identify your most effective content assets, as well the most relevant assets according to each of your buyer persona's needs. Create a scoring system to rank your content by how uniquely relevant each item is for each audience. You'll know if you've done well if you find a good distribution of uniquely relevant content across audiences. With the right content platform in place, you can use this data to infer someone is a member of an audience and deliver an increasingly tailored experience. 

Map content to each experience

Once you've audited your content and identified the most relevant content assets for your personas, the next step is to create a map for each persona's buyer experience. Factors to consider when mapping content include:

  • The persona's immediate needs

  • The buyer stage the persona is in

  • Relevant content

  • The next step the persona should take in the funnel

Defining experience triggers

At this stage, you need to determine the circumstances that cause content experiences to be delivered to buyer personas. What happens before a persona comes across your content? What should happen afterwards? Are there key events or milestones we should use to trigger an experience delivered by content personalization.

Measuring success

Content marketing should be driven by a business objective. Usually, it's to build revenue, but whatever it may be, it's imperative that you measure each stage of the buyer process, evaluating how your personas enter and leave the content experience, and how your content influences their behavior.

Always strive for improvement

With content targeting, always remember to find ways to improve. Challenge the status quo and don't just settle for ‘what works.' Always measure your content efficacy, factoring in content formats, arrangement, and context among others.


Content for B2B markets usually involves several groups of people, with the buying process spread out across several months. Targeting content for each buyer's needs, concerns, and challenges can seem like a herculean task, but with a clear framework for planning your strategy, each state of the process should come together naturally.