Content Strategy Hack: Understanding the Buyer Persona

Written by Dave Martin on December 19, 2018

What keeps your members and sponsors up at night? Does the content you provide target their concerns and help them sleep more soundly?

Associations tend to speak about “the association” as an all-encompassing whole, without thinking about the audience on the other end of their communications. We can make content more relevant for audiences by understanding the buyer persona. Personas are essentially semi-fictional representations of your ideal member, prospective member, exhibitor or sponsor – anyone you’re trying to appeal to.

(An aside: Sometimes people get uncomfortable with the term buyer. Why call them buyers? The bottom line is that our members are buying from us on a regular basis. They expect a good customer experience. In order to take this seriously, we can embrace language like “buyer”, “sales” and “revenue”, instead of treating them as dirty words. We can look to for-profits for best practices in technology and strategy, while keeping in mind that membership organizations are unique.)

Associations heap a lot of focus on communications. The content of these communications is all about what the association is doing and what the association provides. Email is used to blast information to everyone, as if everyone needs the same thing.

I believe we need to shift our marketing strategies away from a “spray and pray” method, sending out a general message and hoping that a few people take the bait, and move towards a focus on personas, using data and marketing automation tools like Hubspot to guide people through a truly valuable buyer’s journey.

One tactic I’ve tried when developing buyer personas is conducting interviews over the phone. When you’ve done enough of these interviews, you can refer back to the transcript and see patterns emerge in the salient points from each conversation. Look for their triggers.

For example:

“Why did you decide to become a member?”

“On the day you did/did not renew your membership, what was going on for you/your organization/your business? What was keeping you up at night?”


“What were you looking for/thinking about the day you decided to register for this webinar?”

This helps you find out how your buyer makes decisions. Then you can create content and messaging that will go to the core of that decision-making process. It will be personalized and it will resonate with them.

At the American College of Radiology, we divide up these interviews between our different audiences: those members who are residents, those who are students, those who are further advanced in their career. We then find out how to speak their language. This is the first step towards much more specific and refined personalization, which can be achieved using technology that tracks an individual’s interests over time.

Dave spoke in the “Content Strategy and Designing for Relevance” session during SURGE Optimism 2018, an interactive virtual conference hosted by on November 7th-9th. Click here to watch the sessions on demand.