I’m writing this as I return from the Sirius Decisions Summit 2014 and the words on everyone’s lips are “The Audience.” That’s right – I’m capitalizing it. Virtually everything in B2B marketing is about the audience, and yet that’s still something a lot of firms are struggling with. But logic and market realities make it clear – messaging must start with the audience. Buyer personas are the Holy Grail. Content needs to be about them, not us.

“Most B2B Content is as narcissistic as a selfie,” said Sirius VP Marisa Kopec.

Amen. So let’s stop that juvenile behavior, and start creating content for the audience.

Despite plenty of evidence that the audience no longer wants to be shouted at about how awesome your solutions are, most marketers can’t break out of that old muscle memory; most companies still feel compelled to talk about themselves. Kinda like teenagers with smartphones.

Sirius, the analyst group whose annual summit has grown to include 2,000 marketers, sales and product pros, unveiled its new messaging methodology – the Messaging Nautilus – at the event. It’s meant to be a roadmap for how marketers should craft and deliver their messages so that they have maximum impact. The concept is based on the Fibonacci number, a mathematical sequence that builds upon itself in an exponential way. Ya know, like you want your marketing to do.

So, while most marketing organizations default to starting their messaging by talking about their products, and others talk about their vision, Kopec and her colleague Erin Provey say they’re doing it wrong. “We start with the audience,” said Kopec.

Doing this is meant to transform the way B2B marketers create content and connect with buyers to enable growth.

The Messaging Nautilus consists of eight “arcs,” and the arcs align perfectly with best practices for content marketing:

Audience “isolation.” Messaging should start with a clear identification and understanding of who the audience is, including its distinct messaging needs. This takes time. You need to map out the entire audience ecosystem. This is the foundation, so the better you understand the audience, the better your marketing will perform.

Persona Context. Obviously, this builds upon the understanding of the audience you’ve just mapped. Creating buyer personas by defining the buyers’ key attributes can seem laborious, but interviewing your customers about their wants and needs can help to build relationships – and give you some great ideas for the content they want.

Intent. Get agreement on what you’re trying to accomplish with your content. Is your business a new concept that requires you to evangelize for the idea? Are you in an established market and seeking to compete with other established players?

Value proposition. This is not your elevator speech. It should be the value of your company’s offering for the primary buyer in the audience. Importantly, the best content does not state your value prop; rather, it’s going to be the story behind the story. 

Inflection Points.  The audience’s needs change as they move through the buyer’s journey. Different content is needed as the buyer’s knowledgebase expands. Identifying these points helps to create and deliver the right content at the right time.

Narrative elements. Now we start to think about specific content elements, starting with core messaging components and focused on a logical progression that moves the buyer through the sales funnel.

Activation mapping. Wow, that sounds wonky. This is your editorial calendar, and should include the format each effort will take – when to use an infographic, when to use video, when to create an eBook, and how to atomize it for specific delivery channels – blog, social media, etc.

Operationalize.  Now we’re creating and delivering content. Finally.

That might seem like a lot of work. Why can’t you just dive in to writing blog posts? Well, you can – you’re just not going to have as much success if you don’t build the framework; you must think and act strategically in order to have the success you’re seeking.

It starts with the audience.