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The entrance into the digital age and the emergence of the new buyer experience economy has challenged our understanding of who the buyer really is. As we entered this year, I predicted that it may very well be the year of the buyer. And the pronounced use of the term buyer has undoubtedly increased substantially. The buyer however can easily be referred to as an object of our inside-out efforts and represent a shell of which we do not really know what is inside. In essence, we do not know the soul of the buyer.
Since post World War II, we’ve engaged in our view of the buyer in a very factual and quantitative way. We could call it something like “object thinking”. We relied on numbers and facts to tell us exactly who buyers are. Treating buyers as objects in the larger scheme of producing products and services where, particularly in the B2B context, we delivered the product or services to the buyer. This seemed to work – merrily in fact for many companies. This all changed when the Internet came along. It seems like slowly buyers were set free from the delivery mechanisms that existed in both B2B and B2C worlds. Buyers were suddenly allowed to search for other ways to get the products or services they needed.
In a previous article, I offered up the notion that we are entering into the new buyer experience economy. This shift into a new economy based on buyer’s demanding rewarding buying experiences means peering into the soul of the buyer. Finding ways to break through the current mode of the buyer as a shell and learning what is inside. And this is where experience matters. Experiences allow us to learn the how and why of buyer journeys, behaviors, and decisions. These types of qualitative variables come together to give us a window into the soul of the buyer.
The world of social networking and advances in B2C experiences has caused consumer sentiments to overlap into business sentiments now. Putting it plainly, the expectations of B2B buyers are starting to mirror that of B2C buyers. Why shouldn’t they receive the same level of buying experiences that they may get from a Zappos for instance? At issue is how to examine the soul of the buyer – or – how do we get inside the soul of the buyer?
Many of us have had soul searching moments and periods throughout our lives. In life, soul searching takes contemplation, deep thought, struggle to makes sense out of what seem to be disconnected moments, life changes, and most of all time. To examine the soul of the buyer in this transformative period, should we not take the time to learn qualitatively about who the buyer really is now? Should we really be taking shortcuts or continue to work from decades old assumptions? What would we learn if we treated the idea of giving the same amount of time and examination that we may give to personal and life affecting soul searching?
Gathering deep buyer insight, whereby buyer persona development is a rich qualitative means to do so, gives us clues to buyer character, thoughts, attitudes, perceptions, behaviors, and most importantly goals. Perhaps emerging from the economic crisis of the past few years, just as we see consumer sentiments blending with business sentiments, we are seeing life goals blending with business goals. Thus, learning about buyer goals is essential for this reason – our failure to do so means we will continue to view the buyer as soulless. The buyer remains an object of our efforts to deliver products and services as well as lacking in understanding about exactly who the buyer is.
How we hold our view of buyers has significant implications for the world of marketing strategy whereby content strategy, content marketing, demand generation, and the changing role of sales is on center stage. Leaders in C-Suite roles are making decisions today in these areas and also in the trajectory of their organizations as they navigate the turbulent waters of the changing economy and buyer behaviors. The view they hold of buyers directly affects the decisions they make and the trajectory they chart for their organizations. If a C-Suite has an “object view” orientation of buyers beholden to traditional methods of factual and quantitative data, or shall we say buyers without a soul, then where they take their organizations into the future may be a place undergoing a dwindling buyer population.
The overriding imperative appears to be that C-Suite leaders will need to change their view of buyers and will need to gather deep buyer insights. Recognizing that when they change the way they look at buyers, how they view buyers will change. This recognition will allow for a window into the soul of the buyer that ultimately changes the trajectory they chart for their organization.