The company era is over: how to scale a personal buyer journey in the customer era

Estimated reading time
7 minutes
25th November 2020
Author: Kate Terry
Posted in: Customer insights, Personalization, Strategy & planning

Mark Kilens, VP of Content and Community at Drift, and Nick Mason, CEO and Founder at Turtl, discuss how marketing and sales teams can stand out, deliver value, and increase engagement and conversion at scale.

Key takeaways:

  • Many B2B marketing and sales teams are using tools and processes from the company era, where messages and materials were static and broadcast one way. 
  • In contrast, top performing companies are seeing huge growth and loyalty gains by embracing the customer era, where customers are given the control, two-way lines of communication are opened up, and a data-driven feedback loop enables effective and personalized communication.
  • B2B websites and content are stuck in the company era, missing opportunities for interaction, insight, and conversations.
  • To embrace the customer era, create and deliver exceptional content, personalize your content and journeys, and spark conversations along the way.

(If you’d rather watch this than read about it, scroll down here)

The company era vs the customer era

Nick explains the success of companies who have embraced the customer era:

Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, Uber, Amazon: what do they all have in common? When we look at some of the true success stories that we’ve seen from businesses over the past 10 to 20 years, we’ve seen some amazing companies emerge. They’re now household names; it’s almost impossible to imagine life, particularly at the moment when we are stuck in our homes, without these companies.

One of the most striking things about all of these businesses is the excellent and exceptional experience that they all offer to their end customers and end users. And those experiences are typically very tailored to the individual user.

That gives the user or the customer or, you know, whoever’s interacting with their applications and their services, a tremendous degree of control over what they experience and what they don’t experience as part of their time with that company. Human beings like to feel in control and empowered: we like to feel like we are in charge of our own destiny. And that sense of control that these businesses are so successfully able to provide for their users and customers is a key part of their success. It brings about tremendous degrees of loyalty and repeat business. 

Remote control in front of TV

Another way to put it: these businesses have made the transition from the company era into the customer era. They place the customer at the center of everything they do, and they provide the control over the relationship to the customer, rather than reserving it for themselves.

What are B2B websites missing?

Mark looks at evolving buyer expectations and the current experience gap:

How we communicate as people fundamentally has changed. The way in which you as a consumer or buyer expect to receive information has been transformed because of the rise of the mobile platform, and then software platforms or communication platforms or ecosystems within the overall mobile hardware platform.

80% of buyers who visit a B2B website today will never want to fill out a form. Most websites have a 1% conversion rate: that means just one in one hundred people going to engage with you. 

The problem? We haven’t made our websites actionable. Our business websites today are informational. Going back to when the company had control of all the information and they would broadcast all the things they wanted to say and would control the buying process.

But because in our consumer life, or just everyday life, all of that has changed, we as businesses haven’t quite adapted fast enough. We have to keep up with how people buy today, especially now that digital transformation has accelerated from a three to five year timeline to  three to five month timeline.

Why doesn’t traditional content work for today’s buyers?

Nick weighs in on how content misses opportunities for interaction and data:

B2B is very content heavy: white papers and case studies and reports are really valuable assets that we have and that we pour a huge amount of time and money and resources into. And they contain some of our most important information and a lot of the story around our business. 

But yet, again, similar to the websites, it appears from the research that’s done that these are falling short in similar ways. Almost 60% of people say most vendor content is useless (Forrester via Sirius Decisions 2020) and 94% of people surveyed are annoyed by communications that they receive from businesses (Twilio). 

Content really hasn’t changed a lot since the days of print. In the days of print, you would have hired a copywriter, you would have hired a designer, you would have got them to lay the thing out, you would have produced a PDF, and you would have sent it to the printing presses. 

Woman holding a blank piece of paper

You wouldn’t have got any data back, there wouldn’t have been any interaction, there wouldn’t have been any two way communication. Because you can’t do that with dead trees. Right? Fundamentally, it’s just not possible. 94% of B2B firms struggle with content insights. 77%, as a result, can’t deliver and activate effective content and 39% of content is not relevant or useful for the buyer journey (Forrester via Sirius Decisions 2020).

All we’ve done now that we’ve entered the digital age is we’ve just taken that PDF, and rather than sending it off to the printers, we’ve just stuck it on our website. And so all of these opportunities that digital provides for interaction and for engagement of the data to be collected is completely non existent.

How can we create a better buyer journey?

Nick outlines the opportunities for sales and marketing teams to exceed buyer expectations:

We need to make sure that we are creating and delivering truly exceptional content. What does that mean?

When we’re talking about content we should be thinking about all the pieces across our entire buyer journey: from our ebooks, to our website pages, to our case studies, to our reports, to our white papers, to our sales pitches. Everything that someone experiences, down to the emails that we send.

As an example, people switching from PDF to something more engaging and interactive, have been proven in independent empirical studies to show 73% more engagement than they were getting with the PDF.

Lumen research: side by side heatmaps of a PDF vs Turtl Doc

By switching from PDF to Turtl Docs, Cisco had 7x more buyers engaging with their content. 

And that wasn’t because the words were different, it wasn’t because the message was different. It was because the content itself was actually a joy to interact with, it was actually something that people felt gave them control, it gave them autonomy, and it was something that they felt, you know, they wanted to spend time with. 

How can we start having more valuable conversations along the way?

Mark on conversations that build relationships along the buyer journey

I use a simple framework. Engage, understand, recommend. It’s how a person would have a conversation with another person. 

There’s some type of engagement that happens for a given reason. There has to be a shared understanding that comes from that conversation or that happens during that conversation. And then there’s recommendations that flow back and forth, like you’re passing the ball back and forth as you understand each other and as you ask questions.

Ultimately, there might be a recommendation at the end: hey, let’s meet again tomorrow to talk more about this, or let’s take these action items and follow up.

Businesses need to start thinking about how they can give that type of experience to their customers with their content. 

It’s about guiding someone to that next piece of content, understanding more about them, and you are helping them understand more about your business and your solution. Along the way, creating a more immersive experience that’s pulling on their emotional strings.

Content that drives results and revenue

Nick explains the power of personalized content for hitting ambitious growth targets:

Despite the fact that the vast majority of marketers say that customers now expect a personalized experience, and the fact that we see a direct correlation between the amount of personalization and for example, email reply rate, the amount of content that we actually see being personalized for us is super limited. 

We’ve been using personalized content for our outbound outreach.

It has been automatically personalized: doing simple things like pulling through their name, pulling through their logo, pulling through their homepage, so that when someone from this company reads it, they see that it’s for them. And the content inside the material that we’re choosing to show this company has been selected based on what we know about them: about their size, about who we’re speaking to, about what their problems are, etc. They’re receiving a fully personalized experience from the front cover all the way through to the back cover. 


If we send this piece off to someone else, they’re going to receive a different set of pages, a different front cover, and a completely different experience with the information that is relevant to them.

We’ve seen impressive results: one in two meetings over the past six months have been booked because of personalized content. In that same period, we saw a 60% increase in meetings booked by sending this more personalized, directly relevant content. 

Mark on content to accelerate revenue growth:

If you’re trying to produce revenue, content is already probably a pretty good top performer for you. But how can you create that pipeline faster? If you start to engage with people faster, that’s great.

But number two, if you update your content and create a better experience with your content, people will be better educated, more informed, have a higher amount of trust in your organization, and feel that there is something different about your organization versus a company who doesn’t provide that same experience. This is an intangible edge that gives you a competitive advantage because there are probably many alternatives to what you sell.

To dive deeper into these topics see more examples and action steps, watch Mark and Nick’s full masterclass here: