To The Modern Buyer, The Human Experience Is Everything


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Creating satisfying interaction experiences for buyers today is proving to be more complex than most organizations had guessed.  Various surveys and reports continue to put satisfaction with content and information at or below 35% range.  The translation for me, when factoring in the qualitative interviews conducted with buyers over the past year, is not only is there a lack of satisfying content, but also a lack of meaningful experiences.

Value The Human Experience

A lesson learned over the past few years is there is a risk of making content and the digital experience too self-referential.  Meaning we create content and digital interaction based on our own ideas of what is “cool” – not based on insights into buyers and buying behaviors.    Many “I think it is great” strategies and programs have ended up on the heap pile due to the lack of insights into what customers and buyers are wanting to accomplish.

In the past five-years, we have seen an amazing adoption to a digital world.  We are a multi-synched society linked to multi-devices 24/7.  Our professional and personal lives internetworked by multiple devices.  Impacting buying behaviors where immediacy and relevancy are determined in split seconds.

Yet despite this evolution, we are seeing the desire for the human element to either not be lost or to be put back into the equation for digital interactions.  Buyers today are seeking what we all seek – the human experience.

Human-Centered Marketing Approach

Developing a human-centered approach towards designing the interaction and buying experience involves looking at this approach through three (3) human lenses:

  1. Knowing your customer and buyer.  Designing the buying experience – and to design it as a human experience – requires us to know our customers and buyers deeply.  By this, I refer to knowing them not in a Big Data way – but in a qualitative human way.
  2. Know the goals of your customers and buyers.  Understanding the goals of customers and buyers, in human terms, gives us the knowledge of what they truly want to accomplish.  In the world of marketing today, we see plenty of mistaking business-oriented objectives for goals.
  3. Know how your customers and buyers can accomplish their goals.  This is the greatest need organizations have today.  Which is, figuring out how customers and buyers can accomplish their goals.  It requires us to have deep knowledge of human behaviors related to activities and interactions customers and buyers are likely to engage in.

How To Know Your Customers

How do you get to know your customers and buyers through these three human lenses?  The simple answer is – as humanly as possible.  It involves human interaction to know customers on this level.  Four steps companies can take to know their customers and buyers on a human level are:

  • Interview real customers and buyers.  There are no shortcutting understanding people than through first-hand direct qualitative interviews.  What you seek is clear understanding of the goals and motivations of the people you will communicate with.
  • Create in-depth personas.  The purpose of personas, in this case, is to guide and inform decisions related to digital and human interactions.  Personas are a translation of the robust insights gathered from first-hand qualitative interviews.   They help marketing and sales teams to have a common understanding of their real customers and buyers.  In today’s digital climate, companies must gain in-depth persona understanding at the customer, buyer, and user levels and how each influence purchase decisions.
  • Focus in on the goals customers and buyers pursue.  We seek to understand the true motivations of people when it comes to buying.  Far too often, particularly with the rise in popularity of buyer personas, we see companies incorrectly perceive business objectives as goals.  Knowing business-speak priorities, for example, are intended for sales-oriented buyer profiling and stop far short of understanding true goals of customers.  And – stop far short of a human-centered approach.
  • Employ the use of scenario analysis and design.  To understand how customers and buyers set out to accomplish their goals, uncovering their goal-oriented behavior towards this end is essential to a human-centered approach to marketing.  For instance, a recent decision management software company I helped uncovered five (5) specific scenarios customers and buyers engaged in to accomplish their goals.  These led to a very targeted and specific content, sales enablement, and conversation plan on how they could help accomplish goals in each of these scenario settings.

Human Experience Is Everything

Where is business going in 2014 and beyond?  As we look towards the future, we are seeing more intersections of business, professional, and personal lives.  Which will increase the desire to have very real humanized experiences.  The human experience will become everything because as the digitization of every aspect of life continues to evolve – the fear of losing the human touch increases.

Businesses looking ahead will need to adopt a human-centered approach to conducting business.  Utilizing the important analysis tools of understanding goal-oriented behaviors and learning new practices such as scenario analysis and design.  The intent is to distinguish themselves by not only understanding their customers deeply, but also by understanding how they can help accomplish their goals.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


  1. Hello Michael,

    Thank you for the comment. The value of humanity is becoming more important for organizations to understand. Thus – I agree – with enthusiasm as well!


  2. Hi Tony – I sort-of-kind-of agree with you and Michael. I’d jump in all the way were there not a missing lens. Here it is – #4: Know what is likely to delight or to provide surprising value to your customer.

    I’ll examine an online clothing purchase looking through your three lenses:

    1. Know your customer/buyer – a male or female working professional holding a full-time job, supporting a family, and responsible for caregiving for one or more parents. Lives in a house, owns one or more cars, still paying off student loans . . . etc. etc. etc. etc.

    2. Know the goals of customer – look good in stylish, comfortable clothes that are affordable and easy to take care of.

    3. Know how customers want to accomplish those goals – they want to see a well-organized website, navigate easily between categories, select from different styles, and have a wide range of choices, but without feeling overwhelmed. And they’d like to complete a purchase in less than ten minutes, using no more than four steps.

    But if I really want to distinguish my company from my competitors, I’m still bumping into a wall. Based on these 3 insights, we can create a buying experience that squeaks by and accomplishes these outcomes, but I believe it won’t be particularly delightful, memorable, or unusual in a good way. It’s still fairly bland and, hate to say it – commoditized – the kiss of death for profits.

    Adding the 4th lens requires creativity and the ability to experiment on what might be valuable, and – most important – having the financial capacity for failure. As sophisticated as we might think we are with our algorthmically-driven customer experiences, the painful fact, as you point out, is that we aren’t. We’re still nascent, and there is great opportunity in that. In the early days of online search, the delight didn’t come from getting the BEST results, it came from getting ANY results (think back, and I’m sure you’ll remember, too!). Similarly, the riches will go to companies that can clear the minimum threshold for your three lenses, and pass the fourth with that special something that’s hard for others to replicate. Now THAT would be cool . . . !

  3. Hi Andy,

    Thanks for commenting and thoughtfully as you always do! I like the 4th lens and the way you progressed through your thought processes. In the 4th step of “How To Know Your Customers” I outlined, I mention scenario analysis and design. This step is at the heart of developing marketing creativity and innovation. Both from a user and a buyer perspective. What you do show is the value of insights for informing on how to be creative and innovative in aligning with customer/buyer goals. Which – as you say – is very cool!



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