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New research from Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, and demand-generation agency Bulldog Solutions confirms that even high-performing marketers struggle to consistently produce compelling content. One point really caught my eye. Of the 250 B2B marketers surveyed between June 2009 and January 2010 for the Executive Benchmark Assessment, less than half (46%) have developed buyer personas.

CIOpersonaI wrote recently about the value of developing buyer personas, giving the example of how they can help shape content to make it more relevant to prospective buyers. In last week’s B2B Content Marketing Summitsponsored by Ten24 RainToday, I explained why it’s not sufficient to think of your target audience in broad terms, such as the “CIO” or “those in charge of developing applications.” The problem with that approach is that generic categories don’t tell you enough to make a meaningful connection with the reader. and

Take this example from research conducted by Forrester. In the chart below, you see the top five information sources preferences for both application developers and enterprise architects. If you assumed these two seemingly related roles fit into the same tidy box, you wouldn’t understand the best channel for reaching them.

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Or consider this summary of the three archetypes featured in CIO Magazine’s State of the CIO 2009 report. In the table below, you can see what the three CIO roles were focusing on in 2009.

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It’s clear that all CIOs are not created equal – each category of CIO has its distinct goals. If you produce content for CIOs under the assumption that all CIOs are the same, your white papers, reports, case studies and other content are not going to be relevant to any of them.

Why does this matter? According to IDG Communications, buyers only find relevant content 42% of the time. And this lack of relevant content reduces the vendor’s chance of closing the sale by 45%.

On the flip side, look what happens when you deliver content that your prospects are seeking. Research from Genius.com and DemandGenReport — Inside the Mind of the B2B Buyer — revealed that almost 95% of recent buyers said the solution provider they chose “provided them with ample content to help navigate through each stage of the buying process.” Furthermore, 66% of respondents indicated the “consistent and relevant communication provided by both the sales and marketing organizations” was a key influence in choosing that company as their solution provider.

The way to deliver relevant content is by understanding who you’re trying to reach and what they care about. And that’s where buyer personas come into play. The beauty of buyer personas is that they enable you to get inside the head of your prospects and walk in their shoes. By changing your perception of the reader from a vague, faceless entity to one you can actually envision and relate to, you can produce content that matters to your prospects. And that’s key to nurturing relationships throughout the buying cycle.