A funny thing happened on the way to the conference.

As I was exiting the hot, gritty NYC subway en route to B2B LeadsCon, I started to head up one of four flights of stairs standing between me and W 54th. As I began the climb, I noticed another passenger rolling up behind me. His leg had been bound in a full cast and he was utilizing a combination of scooter and crutches to get around. Realizing he had emerged onto a platform without a functioning elevator, he sighed in resignation and was, well, stuck.

Without more than maybe 5 seconds passing, three passengers who had just hurried off of our train car stopped.  I too doubled back on the stairs to offer some assistance. We each took turns carrying his scooter up the next flight of stairs, waiting for him to hobble up behind us with his crutches. Each empathic soldier hurried off to their final destination, passing the baton to the next of us. I stayed behind for the last leg of the journey (pun SO intended… sorry) and took the opportunity to ask the man if this was a common occurrence as he traveled around NY. Without skipping a beat, he reminded me, in perfect New York fashion, “we’re not all a**holes.”

I stood there, smiling as he rolled down the street towards Central Park, and continued to the conference hotel.

In that moment I was reminded of the prevalence of empathy. It was an unexpected infusion of pathos in a day that had been full of hurried trains, taxis, and commuting.

It’s Empathy, Pure and Simple

At the end of the day, buyer personas, customer intelligence, all of it is really all about one simple thing: infusing some empathy into the work we do as B2B organizations. When we can feel the pain of our buyers, and understand their challenges, we make decisions that are not only relevant, they’re more empathic. When we can understand our buyers beyond their job title, we can tap into the emotion and the humanity behind each of their decisions. We take for granted that many employees in our organization fail to ever meet a customer face-to-face. Our personas, in essence, are that proxy.

This theme of empathy carried into my presentation at the conference, “Buyer Personas: It’s What You Don’t Know that Matters.” I took the opportunity to speak to a packed room full of marketers on the subject of understanding buyers. It was a fantastic opportunity to reiterate some key points:

  • Our role as marketers is changing. We’ve got more technology than ever, more budget, and with it, more top-line responsibility. We’re creating more content across more channels than ever before.
  • But none of this works if we don’t understand who this is all for in the first place: our buyers.
  • Most companies are the center of their own universe. Content, websites, sales messaging, and marketing plans are all rotating around product-oriented strategies. Maybe it’s how business has always been done. Maybe it’s a lack of bandwidth or training. But it’s a problem, regardless.
  • 60% of b-to-b organizations admit they do not understand their buyers, according to SiriusDecisions. This is a critical time in our profession where we can make a decision. Do we continue with business-as-usual? Or do we change course as marketers, and re-orient our businesses around a common understanding of our buyers?
  • Understanding buyers is not only table stakes, it’s becoming a sort of competitive advantage. The company who understands their buyers best, wins.


If you were able to catch the session, thank you for attending. Download a full copy of my slides here.

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