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persona image resized 600The world’s most remarkable marketing conference, HubSpot’s Inbound 2013, did nothing if it didn’t land on today’s prevailing theme: context, context, context.

Mitch Joel contended that mobile devices are now the remote controls of our lives. Seth Godin reminded us that The New York Times’ Best Seller List isn’t just one list anymore; it’s two dozen and growing because modern consumers have created so many distinct tribes. Brian Halligan actually showed us how Pandora customization lets him and his dog rock out to their favorite Dead Head jams.

And HubSpot’s own latest technology—a content optimization system (COS) that’s billed to deliver “the most personalized web experience possible”—screamed segmentation, another way of saying that every one of your site visitors should see and hear exactly what they want.

But for the average B2B business, how realistic are these contextual marketing goals? Sure, responsive design and web analytics give you the tools to market across all the different screens and for the different “tribes.” But does knowing someone’s name, occupation, or mobile browser really prepare you to get personal?

I’d argue that cramming your big marketer hooves into buyers’ shoes isn’t just a technology challenge. To understand different customer preferences/needs—and to individually address them with the right content—you need to bust out the humanities. (Or let us do it for you.) Here’s the curriculum:


Barry Feldman spelled out the secret to effective content marketing when he recently blogged about analyzing your customers’ nightmares. The full post is worth a read; here are some highlights:

“We need to prod, pry, and then produce…dispense with the advertising mentality. It might be convenient to conclude a product you offer is the antidote to every problem, but such a strategy won't work in content marketing.”


“As marketers, we must not only strive to tap into those brain waves that strike fear and frustration but also nurture the nightmares. We need to present the problem and amplify it. Otherwise, it may not surface.” Pretty Freudian, right?

Lit Theory

Most schools of literary theory remind us that stories aren’t told within a vacuum. They’re rooted in our experiences—personal and collective. And readers receive stories with a heavy dose of context.

Since content marketing is about telling stories too (case studies, About Us pages, blogs), don’t be afraid to step outside your value proposition and draw ties to the world around you. Make efforts to address, support, or even challenge the perspectives of your different buyer persona with your use of images, cultural references, industry statistics and citations, or even direct newsjacking. What’s newsjacking?

As defined by Mark Sherbin, newsjacking is the process of injecting your brand into the day’s news, creating a twist that grabs eyes when they’re open widest.” Read Sherbin’s full how-to on newsjacking here.


Aristotle would have made a great inbound marketer, according to Amy Harrison’s post. Back in the 5th century BC, he was already  clued in to context marketing (in the form of persuasive arguments).  The right combination of logos and pathos (proof and feelings) can work on your buyer personas, too. Says Harrison:

  • "Use stories to enhance visualization
    (be descriptive about your readers’ pain or problem and use vivid examples of what their life could be like).
  • Ask questions to engage (particularly when a response proves your argument or gets them to articulate their problem).”

So to recap: there are some pretty cool tools on the way to support your context marketing. HubSpot’s COS is a big one, and we’ll have more for you on that front soon.

Meanwhile, remember that your tribes need your help in different ways. Millennials, moms, vegans, zombies…  They all deserve custom content experiences. Stay tuned for more of our thoughts on best practices in context marketing and personalization—i.e. when it’s okay to go crazy and when crossing personal boundaries may actually start to get a little creepy.

About the Author

Liz O'Neill
Liz O'Neill

Content marketing specialist (and current Director of Marketing at C&S Insurance), Liz O'Neill enjoys writing informative, engaging copy about pretty much anything—helping companies and their customers cut through all the digital noise; find each other faster; form deep, abiding relationships; and ride off into the sunset (while Instagramming the entire journey).

 Tags: B2B Marketing Sales Enablement

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